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'Thanks to KGF, the art department finally gets its recognition’- Cinema express

'Thanks to KGF, the art department finally gets its recognition’

In this freewheeling chat with CE, art director Shivakumar J talks about the creativity, the process, and the difficulties in creating the world of director Prashanth Neel’s KGF  

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Published: 04th April 2022

At the recent trailer launch of the much-awaited KGF Chapter 2, director Prashanth Neel proudly declared that he has worked with the best technicians in the world for the film. There is no doubt that the chief among those technicians is art director Shivakumar J, who is one of the strongest pillars of this Yash-starrer.

The State award-winning director, who did his fine arts degree at Chitrakala Parishath, made his debut with the Ravichandran directorial Aham Premasmi (2005). Having worked in over 30 films, Shivakumar won his second State Award for KGF Chapter 1. Ahead of the film’s release on April 14, Shivakumar talks to us about how the film has just got bigger in all imaginable facets with KGF Chapter 2. He begins by crediting his team who toiled extensively and worked together to creatively bring to life the vision for the film.

Talking about the popularity of the film, Shivakumar says, “The KGF sets have become a landmark now, and people often make their way to these locations in the State.” This popularity also converts into expectations, and Shivakumar assures us that the artwork in KGF Chapter 2 will be 10 times bigger than the first film. “It isn’t like we decided to mount the sequel on a bigger scale only after the success of the first part. It was always there in the script right from the developing stage,” he says.

For Shivakumar and the team, KGF was their second home right from the time they began working on the sets. Sharing the working process of KGF Chapter 2, the art director said that Prashanth Neel did give time for exhibiting their creativity and never pushed them with a deadline. “Right on the first day of our work, Prashanth said ‘We will begin shooting only when you are done with the set work and design’ and it allowed us to go into great detailing. In fact, I felt we could finish our work in 1.5 months, but it took us three,” he explains.

Having made almost 20 major sets and 15 smaller sets for the film, Shivakumar asserts that the set design is original and is not inspired by any other films. “We studied and watched documentaries, and accordingly, we planned the sets. Every artwork that one sees in KGF is original and is something that will not be seen in any previous films. We came up with a number of concept sketches. We made sure that our artworks gave scope to cinematography as well.” says Shivakumar, adding, “We would often have discussions with the director about the kind of activities that take place in a particular set, and we plan and work on it accordingly.”

Shivakumar says that there has been a lot of improvisation made for KGF Chapter 2. Giving specifications about the tone used in the film, he said that the dark shade in KGF was given to showcase the pain that the labour class goes through. “I have specifically considered the lighting techniques and colour combination of Dutch artist Rembrandt, which is very dramatic. Every artwork in KGF looks like a painting, but has commercial elements too.”

Discussing his working relationship with Prashanth Neel, Shivakumar says, “Creating a big canvas for KGF was possible because of the director’s imagination and producer Vijay Kirangadur’s support. Since Prashanth Neel had studied in-depth about his film, it came as an advantage to us. He is a director with clarity and had clear instructions about what he wanted. We didn’t find it tough because he gave us the right input.”

Revealing an interesting detail about KGF Chapter 2’s artwork, Shivakumar says, “Except for a few items like telephones, we have avoided plastic in our artworks. Instead, we bought second-hand army tents to build the labour colony. It was also important that even the costumes worn by the artists should go hand-in-hand with the background.” Shivakumar also reminisces about how the weather often played spoilsport for KGF Chapter 2. “Rain would play havoc with our plans. Sometimes we couldn’t analyse the loose soil, and the granite stones would create obstacles while erecting the sets. Rain would dampen the sets, and the colours would get faded. It was difficult to bring back the same sets because artwork cannot be done mathematically. We cannot come up with the exact same setup every single time. But we have managed to achieve the best,” says Shivakumar, adding, ‘’Everything about KGF felt simple because we enjoyed working on it. Every single lesson I learned as a Fine art graduate came in handy while creating the world of KGF.”

Shivakumar, who plans to watch the film, on the first-day first show, continues to assert that both the KGF films were never a one-man show. “Till the success of KGF, the art department wasn’t widely recognised. Today there is a lot of importance given to the creative side of filmmaking. I’m thankful to all who have brought us to the front row,” he signs off.

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