The Director of Photography, Costume Designer and Production Designer of Happy Ending talk about the details that went in making the rom-com.

mahesh limaye

Mahesh Limaye

Mahesh Limaye, Director of Photography

Why were so many DOPs on the film?

The film was shot in two different schedules. I was suppose to do the entire film but the schedule clashed with my film, Yellow (Marathi). They shot one schedule each in Los Angeles and Detroit (USA) over six-eight months. The remaining portions were shot in India which is when I joined the crew. One song was shot by Sanjay F Gupta and Ajit Bhatt also shot some portions. I had to stitch everybody’s work into a seamless film and also did the DI (digital intermediate) which lasted for two months.

What brief had the directors given in terms of the visual appeal of the film?

By the time I got on to the project 60-70 per cent of it was done. When I saw some of the stuff shot abroad I realized the look was set. When you see films shot in the US you see a mix of cold and warm tones. The earlier DOPs shot a lot of it in the bright sunlight of Los Angeles. I found it quite warm and nice. So I wanted to carry that in the portions shot in Mumbai and give a warmer tone during the DI process. So there were some portions that had to be worked upon to match the tone of the film. Also being a romedy (romance and comedy) the warm tone suited the script.

What camera and lenses did you use for the film?

Red Epic with Master Prime lenses. For songs and a lot of scenes I had a two-camera set-up. It is faster and even the actors don’t have to repeat stuff. Since Heroine and Dabangg I have been using two cameras to shoot.

What lighting set-up did you employ for the film?

Personally I like to use soft lights. I hardly used lights for outdoor scenes and used only silver frames and poly boards. For most indoor scenes I used face lights and kinos.

What was the biggest challenge while working on this project?

Every DoP has his own working style and since there were so many DOPs on this film, putting their work together was a task. Some people use a lot of lights and some don’t. Some just use white boards or reflectors. And every cinematographer gives the film their own look. But when you see the film in totality it has to look seamless.

Karishma Acharya

Karishma Acharya

Karishma Acharya, Costume Designer

Which characters did you style/design in Happy Ending?

I styled Saif Ali Khan, a lot of portions for Ileana D’Cruz and Govinda. The only person I didn’t get an opportunity to dress is Kalki Koechlin. In fact I also designed the look for all the other characters and background artists in the movie too.

What kind of styling did the directors want for the characters in Happy Ending?

By the time I came on board they had already finished shooting 30 per cent of the film. I did the rest of the film, which included the songs, climax and the falling in love portion. Both Raj and DK knew what the characters look had to be.

Saif’s character goes through three phases: success, downfall and love. For the song Haseena tu kameena mein he is a dapperly dressed young guy who has written a very cool book. So I had to make him look really stylish and bring out the glamour. Then he has a downfall, where he doesn’t really care because he has too many problems in his life. So the clothes are not the hero of the film. And of course when he falls in love with Ileana’s character we try to bring back colour in his life through the clothes he is wearing. The clothes had to tell the mood of the person and we had to see these three transitions in the clothing.

For Ileana’s character they wanted a very unorthodox, bohemian and quirky kind of look. So her clothes had to carry that essence and have an Indian twist because she is an Indian who has gone to LA for one of her book launch.

For Govinda I had to maintain his style and form and slightly tweak it and make it classy. His character is an actor who comes to America to do a surgery and becomes uber cool. Instead of giving him his signature yellow shirt we gave him a yellow scarf. He is wearing coloured bottoms, but very stylish ones. His clothes were my idea of a desi Roberto Cavalli outfit.

Which was the most challenging look to put together for the film?

Paaji tussi pussycat was a challenge because it’s not Saif, but Yogi, his doppleganger in the song. We wanted to do something different as it is the most unusual break up song one has heard. Raj and DK wanted it to look like a jazz band performing yet something slightly quirky. So I thought of having the men wear cool fitted suits, substitute the ties with bow-ties and pair it with sneakers. Yogi instead of wearing pants is wearing shorts, a comic con tee and Crocs. Since it was a communion bathroom, I got the women to wear 60s style swim suits.

Which was the most fun look to put together for the film?

I think it would be Haseena tu kameena mein. It’s my personal favourite and why would it not be, you have Hollywood as your ramp and the Nawab as the model. One couldn’t ask for more. He’s got eight changes in the song. I think that was the highlight and highpoint for me as a stylist. I think this is my first film where clothes have been really glamourous, of course it’s not the hero of the film and tells the story. But all my previous films have been very gritty.  That’s the beauty of Raj and DK, they will never make it look extremely glossy. I started my career with Shor In The City and one thing I’ve learnt from them is that clothes should blend in with the character and story.

Rupin Suchak

Rupin Suchak

Rupin Suchak, Production Designer

What was the brief given to you by the directors regarding the production design of the film?

I had worked with Raj Nidimoru and Krishna DK on a couple of commercials and Go Goa Gone. I joined them after they returned from the first schedule which was 15-17 days of shoot in the US. We had to make the film look very modern as it was majorly based in the US. However there was a different brief every time. Also, since we had to replicate a lot of indoor scenes for foreign locations we scouted several locations for each scene. But one of the best briefs was for the song Paaji tussi pussycat. We created the set in Mehboob studios. They wanted a communion bathroom which was something never done before. I had a brainstorming session with my team and we narrowed down on a simple boxy design. Yet it had to be retro and have a completely western look. So I chose to work with a retro colour palate and had to be exuberant, polished, clean and glossy.

What was the most challenging space to design for the film?

In terms of set work I think the scenes shot at Poonawala bungalow. We created Preity Zinta and Ranvir Shourie’s house there. We shot at two-three locations inside the bungalow. Now Poonawala bungalow has been done to death in movies, series, etc. It was a big challenge to recreate the space in a way that it’s not seen before. Structurally things were created as we couldn’t afford to give away what it is. I had to literally extend rooms beyond the geography of the rooms. It was the best as well as stressful time as I thought I may not be able to make it look different. Thankfully, it turned out pretty well. The moment the directors entered the location they were happy.

Another stressful time was creating the set for Paaji tussi pussycat. They gave me three days to create the space. It was a huge set with a huge communion bathroom that had to be created with materials to make it look glamourous. The kind of details I was looking at was a challenge to cope up to. Also there was a live shower in the bathroom so the canaling of the set had to be done in a certain way. So it was a tedious job.

How much of the film is shot on real locations and sets?

A lot of the film is shot on real locations and lot of small bits of sets were created. I would say 70 per cent is set dressing and 30 per cent is set building.

As a production designer what kind of creativity is involved in love songs like Jaise mera tu, Mileya mileya, etc?

We listen to the song, get into the groove and figure out with the director what kind of locations would suit it. Such songs are associated with moments. My duty is to enhance it. For instance if we are showing the guy and girl eating ice cream then I will suggest to make it five scoops. The idea is to create a moment where the audience watches it and would love to do it.

– Rachana Parekh