National Award-winning art director Thota Tharrani has disclosed that temples provided the best reference for his team to create sets for director Mani Ratnam’s much-awaited magnum opus Ponniyin Selvan 1, the story of which is set in the tenth century.
In a video clip released by Lyca productions, the firm that is making the film along with director Mani Ratnam‘s Madras Talkies, the ace art director is seen saying: “I am doing this film with Mani (Mani Ratnam) after 28 years.”
Disclosing that he works out whatever he wants first on paper even today, the Ponniyin Selvan 1 art director says: “Whatever I want, I work out on a paper. I work out on a graph, even today.”
Stating that the Latha Mandapam was the first set that the art department did for the film, the Ponniyin Selvan 1 art director says: “Mani explained to me that he needed a little water front. So, what we did was to erect the whole water pond –two bodies and then the centre passage. It would lead to the exterior of the wall.”
Giving details of how they went about recreating the monuments of that era, he says: “We had a person to research on what was used at that time. For instance, did they write on palm leaves or on leather? Yalis were not kept like this. They were only kept in certain areas and things like that. One major source of information is the temples. These are the best references we can get. Two pillars cannot be the same. Only alternate pillars would have one design.”
The art director also sheds light on the enormous challenge his team faced while working on this epic film.
“We had some people to get dresses made for the animals. It was not easy. Everyday morning, (one had to) dress up the horse and give the actors — swords and the spears. Plus, dummies were made. We had to do it in wood, we had to do it in fibre glass and we had to do it in steel with fibre glass and supply them whenever they wanted.”
However, the Ponniyin Selvan 1 art director and his team seems to have relished the challenge.
“We are making something which is already an epic. So, we have tried to work out on the epic,” he signs off.