Fan is perhaps the most awaited film of 2016, and touted as Shah Rukh Khan’s most challenging role till date. The story revolves around Gaurav, a happy-go-lucky fan from Delhi, and his obsession with his idol, Aryan Khanna, a superstar actor. Both roles are played by Khan himself, and are complimented with world class VFX and extraordinary production design.

T.P.Abid, who has earlier collaborated with director Maneesh Sharma on projects like Band Baaja Baaraat and Shuddh Desi Romance, is the man behind the production design of this dream project. Here are some excerpts from an interview with Abid, where he talks about VFX, recreating Delhi’s charm and the challenges faced in making Fan.

Production Designer Abid T.P

Production Designer Abid T.P

What was the first draft that was given to you by the director Maneesh Sharma?

Fan has been in the pipeline for very long. In fact, it was the first film that Maneesh wanted to make. Since I have collaborated with him on previous projects, the basic idea for Fan, a thriller involving Shah Rukh Khan, was always there at the back of my mind. Maneesh being the biggest Shah Rukh fan himself, wanted Fan to be the biggest Shah Rukh Khan movie ever! The first draft that I received for the film, had two  requirements. I was to create a different world each for both the central characters, Gaurav the fan, and Aryan the superstar.

Gaurav is a typical Delhi boy. For his world, we had to create an authentic flavor of Delhi. We had to get the nuances and aspects of living right for people who have lived in Delhi. We had to create the perfect lingo that is typical of Delhi to the extent that even without speaking many words, there is easy recognizably of Delhi to the audience. There is a very big spotlight on Delhi. The fact that Maneesh and me are from Delhi and have a certain connect with the place made our jobs a little easier. Even Shah Rukh has his roots in Delhi. For Aryan, we had to create this world that shone of grandiose and elitism. There had to be an aura of exclusivity about it. As the film progresses, there is a clash between both the worlds, when Aryan enters Gaurav’s world.


What type of research went into the film with respect to the production design?

We did an ocean full of research for Fan. For the character of Gaurav, we had to spend a lot of time in West Delhi. It wasn’t that difficult a task though, because we had already studied that area during the making of Band Baaja Baaraat. We had to just connect the dots that were given to us by Maneesh. We spent a lot of time researching on how the interiors of houses there were during the 80s and 90s. We tried to find what would a typical boy’s passions be in those times. Taking a cue from that, we analyzed a lot of local competitions that used to happen in those days. There was cricket, football, singing, dancing, acting, and so on. We had to bracket one such competition for Gaurav, that would given him a sense of achievement, and make him feel closer to his idol, Aryan Khanna. The props used in Gaurav’s room are not random. Each of them are very important to him, and convey a certain time and depth. The audience will feel the charm of Delhi come alive in Gaurav’s world.

The production design for Aryan was even more challenging and interesting. The character of Aryan is based on Shah Rukh himself, and borrows a lot from his real life environment. We studied Mannat (Shah Rukh Khan’s real life home in Mumbai) on a guided tour by Shah Rukh and Gauri (Khan, Shah Rukh Khan’s wife) herself. There is a certain evolution that has happened to Mannat. For instance, when Shah Rukh had bought the land first, he only had a particular amount of area. He later annexed some adjoining area to complete Mannat. I believe that Shah Rukh’s persona has also grown similarly over a period of time. We tried to incorporate similar features like in Shah Rukh’s room in Aryan’s room. There is a similar feel and class to it. We were also particular with the wardrobe and study in his room.

Each of the props in Gaurav’s room are very important to him, and convey a certain time and depth

The film has been shot extensively in Croatia, London and India. What were the key sets that were created in each of these locations?

While abroad, we didn’t create any sets. We shot on location. It is unintelligent to travel all the way to a foreign location to create sets. On the contrary, we did create some sets for foreign locations in India. For instance, some of the action sequences set in Croatia were filmed in India. A little bit of London was also recreated in India. Mumbai is the easiest to shoot in. We built a lot of sets in India, so that it would be economical and at the same time the action could be bigger and grander.


Gaurav's room in Fan

Gaurav’s room in Fan

What was the color theme that you used for the film? Based on what factors was it determined?

The color theme is what helps differentiate between the worlds of Gaurav and Aryan. For Gaurav, we chose more vibrant colors from the palette. Aryan’s world has a sense of monotony with respect to the colors. It has solid colors, which represent sophistication. In a later stage of the movie, when Aryan has to come into Gaurav’s world, there is a subtle shift in the color palette.


What major props were used in the film? And where did you source them from?

There were some props in Gaurav’s world that required more attention to detail. For instance, the award that Gaurav is shown holding in the film’s teaser, took time to get finalised. We came up with quite a few designs. Even Shah Rukh held them and tried to feel them. The award had to look right from a Delhi boy’s point of view. It couldn’t be crystal or glass. We also did some detailing with respect to Gaurav’s room, house and colony. It had to be an authentic Delhi colony, and a little stylised for cinema portrayal at the same time. His environment had to ooze of happiness and content. It had to have a happy go lucky charm about it.

The color theme is what helps differentiate between the worlds of Gaurav and Aryan

How do the visual effects complement the production design in this film?

Thanks to VFX, it is so much easier to add locations to the filming. But having said that, VFX in itself is a very complicated task. To work with VFX is the new art direction. Even with VFX, there has to be an art direction. Without that, it wouldn’t be consistent with the vision for the film. It is easy to physically create sets. VFX is a different ball game altogether. The art director has to be at the same wavelength with the VFX supervisor. Our collaboration with Red Chillies was extremely fruitful. They created some key set extensions. I am proud of the amount of work that we have all put in to make this film.  When one is reading a script, one needs to simultaneously imagine where VFX could come in. A marriage between VFX and art direction is inevitable in films.

A still from Fan outside Mannat

A still from Fan outside Mannat

Fan is a very unconventional film. What unconventional or new elements did you incorporate in the production design?

For the first time, we collaborated with VFX on this scale. I know where the world is going in terms of cinema. It is going to be VFX all the way. And I am not taking small films. I am talking about big budget movies from major film studios. We can now envision the environment according to the character, and detail it to the last pixel. The immediate future is going to be about people who are ‘in-betweeners‘ in terms of multitasking with production design, art design and VFX. Even animated movies require  production designers, who are responsible for the look of the film.


What challenges did you face during the making of Fan?

The biggest challenge that we faced during the shooting was with respect to the character of Gaurav. When we started the film, Gaurav had a certain look. The production design had created an environment that was consistent with that look. But after we completed shooting the first schedule, a decision to change Gaurav’s look was taken. We had to create a new environment which had to be in accordance with the new look and could also accommodate much more VFX. We had to make sure that there is no glass or shiny objects in the design as they hinder VFX.

Photo ofT.P.Abid
Job Title
Production Designer