When one was running behind one’s parents’ back and watching Sajan Chale Sasural because of the blaring TV from the neighbours house; Cinema was Magic. Also Salman Khan could then be different characters, and not remain as ‘Bhai’.

Then the world just came down upon us. And from words like Phantasmogoric, as we started learning about cinema, we were told one simple thing.

Cinema is Cheating.

The actor cheats by being someone else, the lighting cheats and cheats you time and again, The camera cheats you… Tragically so on and so forth! All these cheating makes us willingly suspend our disbelief. And then starts the leap of faith into a story, that may or may not have much to do with life’s logic and continuities.

From then on, the inability to watch a film as just an audience has become a burden. Because every single frame inspires one to figure out how it all came together. But the cheaters who make the world of the film are Production Designers and the Art Directors.

As art assistant, I learnt that the art department looks after – Character Props, Action Props etc. And the Production Designers make the world. For instance the titanic in the film – TITANIC.


The film’s treatment, even shot taking, all depends on all other aspects of filmmaking. Production designing and Art Direction is the form given to the content. The visual establishing of the space and time of the story unfolding on screen.

As one can well see the direct correlation between production design and the budget of the film. Lesser budget makes for simpler designs of the production. And then again, the lack of a story could sometimes be made up for by opulent production designing. Where every single frame looks like a painting, but all else fails.

Yes I’m coming to it.

Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

Prem Ratan (too much) dhan payo! The palatial opulence of designing of the set, allowed for the geography aware dancers, dancing in formations as the camera on jibs and the works took shots from every possible angle allowed by the time and space dimensions of earth. All kamaal ka! Saiyan, Baatein and mahal etc etc!

Believe it or not; the production designer of PRDP is Nitin Desai. Giving life to cinematic worlds since 1989. From humble beginnings with Parinda to now PRDP; it’s been quite a journey.

His first film as Art director was Parinda in 1989. From the breezy realism in periodic film ‘1942 a love story’ in 1993; he enters our imaginations.

Baadshah’s quirky detective gadgets all made thanks to the scientific aesthetics of Nitin Chandrakant Desai.

Maachis, Mission Kashmir, Akele Hum Akele Tum, Filhaal, all realistic sets and art direction to Munnabhai MBBS and its bright realism.

And then of course Devdas, Lagaan, Khamoshi, Hum Dil De Chukey Sanam, Jodha Akbar, Gandhi, My Father, Harishchandrachi Factory for which he received several awards.


So; he’s created worlds of over 60 films. A multi-award winning wizard!

I’ve had the opportunity to work with this wizard in Manjhi – The Mountain Man. Where he convinced the director, that even if he decided not to shoot on location in Gaya at the Gehlore mountain range, he would make a mountain range elsewhere if need be. His most organized art assistants, who researched through the dates the film went through intricately, as the smallest of things changed as time moved to and fro; back and forth. From old coins to new ones. From Moosahaar Basti living in the shadow of the Gehlore mountain range; their caste and economy intricately investigated through the production design, when Dashrath’s village was created.

The boulder in Manjhi - The Mountain Man

The boulder in Manjhi – The Mountain Man

I remember the most breathtaking beauty his team had created was this large Boulder, which the whole village helps Dashrath with, for the happy ending. A humoungous boulder made from scratch. Of fibre and wood and finally the paint on it, made it look exactly like a boulder out of the original mountain. And what a shot that was. The huge boulder, rolling down the road Dashrath has chiselled out, right after which the villagers led by Dashrath Manjhi walk down the road from their settlement to the Wazirganj city/town.

One still looks forward to other limitations being broken. My production design on-screen fantasy remains to watch a full film on magic realism; pulled off by Nitin Desai. Once you start thinking, we hardly have magic realism explored and experimented within our cinema.

While writing this, I wonder; the magnificence of his achievements transforming impossible scripts and shooting locations to what we see on camera.

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