Entertainment Kollywood 04 May 2017 Brahma of Mahishmati

Brahma of Mahishmati

Published May 4, 2017, 12:00 am IST
Updated May 4, 2017, 6:48 am IST
‘Baahubali is released in Malayalam too so it can be considered a Malayalam film’.
Sabu with Rajamouli.
 Sabu with Rajamouli.

Mahishmati, the mythical kingdom in the Baahubali franchise, is built around a mountain with beautiful palaces, gardens, towering statues, temples and moats and has its distinct inhabitants and culture. Everything about the kingdom is larger than life and a huge part of the wonder that Baahubali evokes are the sets that pay attention to every intricate detail and set the stage for a tale of intrigue, deceit and love to unfold.

The man behind the awe-inspiring sets is National Award-winning art director Sabu Cyril who has lent his magical hands and creativity to films like Krrish 3, Enthiran, Om Shanti Om, etc. But Baahubali has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge till date for the production designer.


Baahubali, he says, gave him a canvas to showcase his talent and was a dream for any art director because the budget was also gargantuan. He says, “The film had to do well because so much money has gone into it and we could not afford to waste that.” The huge success of the first part has only been an advantage as he reasons, “Yes, we became conscious because we had to do better than the first part. The audience was waiting and that became a moral responsibility for all of us.”

If Mahishmati captured the imagination of every cine-goer in the first part, the kingdom of Kunthala did the job in the second. The rocks, gardens, marble structures and mighty pillars along with the chariots, weapons and trees may look real enough, but Sabu says all those were ‘created’. “I used aluminium hydroxide to make the palaces look like it is made of marble.” He also lets on a little secret, “The chariot Rana drives in the film’s climax is actually a Bullet-powered engine with a steering driven by a man inside.”


Sabu says that every prop needed for the film was a challenge but on being prodded, he names the most difficult one. He explains, “The scene where Kattappa kills Baahubali was to be shot in Chambal Valley but the unseasonal rains had turned it green and we had to finalise another location in a very short period. Finally, we zeroed in on a huge 70-feet high quarry, painted the rocks and made 60-feet-tall trees. That was a huge and very challenging task because we had no enough time.”   

He stays mum for a few minutes thinking of other such instances and fails, “I keep forgetting about a lot of things I did. It is just that when the challenge is over, I move on to the next film so that project becomes the next big challenge.” Sabu’s next is another big period film Sanghamitra.


Sabu started his career in Malayalam so why is he not seen in any recent Mollywood films? Sabu answers that he had been an integral part of Priyadarshan’s films and missed the director's last three projects because of his commitment to Baahubali. He quips, “Baahubali is released in Malayalam too so it can be considered a Malayalam film.” He reasons, “I sign films two years in advance. In fact, when I signed up for Baahubali, I had also signed up for Sanghamitra. I have a lot of commitments I need to fulfil first.”


Malayalam films are progressing in the right track as far as art direction goes — he says, “I was appreciative of the work done in Diamond Necklace — the aesthetics was good. Most films are doing well in the art department given the constraints of the budget.”

The work of an art director has evolved over time and Sabu recalls a time when most films were shot in real time environments, locations or a studio floor. But art direction has evolved to a major scale to accommodate larger-than-life films with extensive CG. “The experience of cinema has changed and everything has to be done on a huge scale which necessitates huge sets, especially for period films.”
He also points out a major hindrance, “It has also become impossible to shoot in public places without any sort of restrictions, especially in hospitals, schools, roads, and crowds which are tricky.”


Sabu has been staying in Mumbai for the past 14 years, but for the past five years, he was in Hyderabad for Baahubali. Before he signs off, Sabu says, “I am lucky that my hobby became my profession. So I enjoy what I do and I cannot ask for more.”