Production Designer Boishali Sinha has recently designed for two extremely diverse and unique films. In an exclusive chat, she talks about the style and making of Margarita, With A Straw and Gabbar is Back.


How did your foray into this field happen? Any formal training?

I had been trained in Fine Arts from Delhi College of Art, and did my Masters from Cole Des Beaux Art i.e. College of Fine Arts, Paris. I’ve worked with a few French filmmakers as well. I started with painting, but cinema was something that I’ve always wanted to do. A painting is 2D but a frame in a film is 3D. For me a film is like a 3D canvas wherein I focus on the aesthetic aspect of each frame – be it song or scene.

You have two very different films coming up – Margarita, With A Straw and Gabbar is Back. What was it that excited you about each of the films?

I have worked on many different films. My career started with Rowdy Rathore, an out and out commercial film, then did Special Chabbis, a con drama, Crazy Cukkad Family – a comedy and many others. I’ve recently also done Sann Pachhattar, a period film (Currently in post) and then there’s Gabbar is Back. So all the films that I’ve done have been in totally diverse genres. What was really different about Margarita was working on this unique subject and with a diverse crew.

With Gabbar… everything was exciting as it’s an out of out entertainer with a social message. Also it’s my second film with the SLB (Sanjay Leela Bhansali) banner and I was excited to work with the same team after having assisted on Rowdy Rathore.

Tell us about the look adopted for Margarita, With A Straw? Did you’ll work with a particular theme?

The look and theme was that of a regular, middle class, Delhi family. We worked in a real concrete Delhi house, with a typical Delhi house interior. It was very easy for me as I grew up in Delhi and am very familiar with the look and feel of the place. Moreover a lot of stuff in the film, like 80 percent of the house has props from the storeroom of my house in Delhi. My dad had saved these things and they came in handy. We have largely shot inside the house. The rest of it is Delhi college outdoors and then USA. There was a different team for USA, where they shot for around 10 days.


Since you’ll shot in a real location, what were the kinds of props used? Did you’ll have to construct anything?

The story revolves around a 2BHK house. We have done a lot of propping – the girl’s room, her parent’s room and the living room were all heavily propped to get the desired look. We did some minor construction wherein we created a wooden wall bracket for the living room. It was a completely bare wall and we created these brackets to give the room some dimension.

How did director Shonali Bose envision the look?

I had read the script before meeting Shonali. When we met, she told me how she envisioned it – a middle class house, a girl who has cerebral palsy and how this character interprets things. There is a time lapse also in the film – a before and after, which also had to be taken into consideration while planning. Shonali was very particular about detailing even with minute things like the bedsheets used in the house and so on. So it was very interesting.

Was there any research and referencing that you had to do?

There is research and referencing in all films that we do. But as the place (Delhi) was known to me, I didn’t have to do much research.

Please take us through the process that you adopt from designing to execution of a desired look?

I normally sit with the director and he/she gives me a one liner about the film. Post that I go through the bound script and suggest a color palette for the film. The director and I discuss which tone of the color works and the materials – fabrics etc., that we should use.

Once the tone is decided, there are detailed sketches of the sets that we need to design according to the script. We have a sketch for everything and decide the location of things like windows, doors and other props as per the character’s movements. The final set is designed almost 60 – 70 per cent as per the sketches. A few changes are bound to happen while actually designing the place. There is a lot of prep that goes on and different directors have different ways of working.


Which was the most challenging and most interesting aspect of this film?

The most challenging aspect was to shoot in a 2BHK house with the entire crew inside for about 45 days. It was difficult as you’re working in a real house, so you cannot move the walls like you can do on a set. And in Delhi it is difficult to arrange props, unlike Mumbai. In fact while shooting anywhere outside Mumbai, either one needs to go fully prepared or you need to be ready to hunt. Delhi doesn’t have prop shops and getting things on rent is difficult, as they do not cater to the film market.

The interesting part was working with a diverse crew from such different backgrounds – director Shonali Bose, DOP Anne Misawa and others. It was a good learning experience.

Coming to Gabbar is Back, it looks like a masala entertainer. What were the expectations from the production design of the film?

The expectations from the Production Designer are always the aesthetical look and feel of the film. Gabbar… is a masala entertainer but it has a social angle too, so it’s very different from Rowdy Rathore or any other film. We worked with real locations and had several constructions also like Gabbar’s den, and 2-3 other sets that were constructed basis the demand of the script.

Having assisted on Rowdy Rathore earlier, did working on this film come more naturally?

Yes definitely. I have worked with Akshay many times and he is a gem of a person and totally fun to work with on sets. I’m also thankful to producer Shabina (Khan) ma’am for believing in me and choosing to work with me again.

Tell us about the brief that director Krish shared for this film.

Each set up had its own brief. Krish Sir would explain his requirement for the different looks in the film in detail. Around 1-2 days prior to the shoot we would sit and discuss the possibilities and then get things into place. Krish Sir was quite flexible and is a great director to work with.


What kind of props did you’ll source or create? Which markets/places did you source these from? Any markets that you particularly like for sourcing your props?

There are various prop houses where we source things from, it largely depends on the kind of set up we are looking at, weather a village or a town or a metropolitan. Chor Bazaar is one of the best places to source props. There are several prop shops in Mumbai where you can get new, old, modern, ethnic, anything that you want. If there are certain things that we can’t get in Prop shops, we either buy them or construct them.

For Gabbar… we had to make the ‘PWD’ – Power wala Danda that Akshay carries. Also, in the latest poster you can see a tombstone that Akshay is standing on, that too was created by the team.

What was the most challenging aspect of working on Gabbar…?

Nothing is challenging yet in other words everything is challenging. But for me living up to the banner of SLB was the main thing.

How long did the preparation for the film take?

We had around 15 – 20 days for Gabbar…, which is enough time to prep.

Tricky question, but which film have you enjoyed working on most till date?

Rowdy Rathore, without a second thought. It was my first film and I was lucky to have worked with people like Akshay Kumar, Prabhu Deva, co-producer Shabina Khan. Rowdy got me a lot of friends, as I was totally new to Mumbai at that time. It was the first big step, which I will always be proud about. And now working independently with the same company for Gabbar means a lot to me. Besides every film has something special about it.