Pawan Kalyan motivated me a lot in my life: Anand Sai
Deccan Chronicle.| Sashidhar Adivi
Art director Anand Sai talks about his comeback to films (after a 7 year hiatus), and about Ramanujacharya statue of equality
Anand Sai with Pawan Kalyan
He has spent more than two decades in cinema, but the last time Anand Sai worked as an Art Director was for Yevadu (2014). In 2015, he did make sketches of Pawan Kalyan’s look in Gopala Gopala but in 2016, he took a decision to move away from films and focus on spiritual matters.
Since then, Anand has been working on two prestigious projects — the renovation of the Yadadri temple and the making of the Statue of Equality featuring Sri Ramanujacharya.
But now, both these projects are nearing completion, and Anand is back to his familiar turf — films. He will be working on Hari Hara Veera Mallu and Bhavadeeyudu Bhagat Singh.
"It feels surreal, but refreshing to be back on film sets," says Anand Sai.
Both the films he is working on are for Pawan Kalyan, who Anand describes as his well-wisher. "Pawan motivated me a lot in life; I like the concept of both the films, so I thought it would be nice to work on the projects," says Anand, adding that Kalyan has been one of his closest friends and that their friendship dates back to more than 20 years.
Anand Sai and Pawan Kalyan sharing a lighter moment
Though acknowledging that ‘out of sight is out of mind’, Anand feels the industry might not have forgotten him completely.
"In the last seven years I have been getting film offers but I chose not to take them up because of temple work. I was however constantly keeping tabs on developments regarding art works," he says, adding, "During Covid times, I had the chance to design a couple of high-profile celebrity wedding sets (for the granddaughter of the Vice-President of India Venkaiah Naidu)."
New focus on details
Before coming into films, Anand did not study any specific aspect of art. "But my experience of working on these two temple projects made me change my approach. I started working on detailing every aspect. I have also realised that every element has to be justified," he says.
His exposure has also led him to realise where costs can be saved on sets.
"Research backed by good book knowledge and being answerable are key to effective work. I will implement these in my next film projects," he asserts.
Acknowledging that films are a platform that gave him identity, Anand says, "If not for films, Tridandi Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji would not have identified me, so my work in films helped me bag the two prestigious temple projects."
And at the same time, Anand expresses happiness that his work has created enough of an impact among filmmakers and others to make them consider him despite the hiatus he took.
The towering 216-foot statue of Sri Ramanujacharya is surrounded by replicas of the 108 Divya Desa Kshetras (Vaishnavite temples across the country). It was executed on the principles of the Agama Shastras and is made of panchaloha, a combination of gold, silver, copper, brass and zinc.
Anand had worked on a few wedding sets for My Home Group Chairman Dr Rameshwar Roa Jupally’s family and the latter had liked the work, and recommended him to Tridandi Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji for work on the statue.
Ramanujacharya's Statue of Equality at Shamshabad
After initial discussions with the Swamiji, Anand came up with basic sketches and conceptual designs for the project. "Since I had an understanding of and liking for temple architecture, I could completely dedicate myself to the project," explains the art director.
Anand travelled extensively and visited the tallest statues in the world as a part of the research. He also collected over 1000 books on temple architecture to give shape to the Swamiji’s vision.
The ‘Statue of Equality’ is scheduled to be unveiled on February 5 to mark the 1,000th birth anniversary of Sri Ramanujacharya. The stage for the opening ceremony will also be designed by Anand, under the Swamiji’s supervision.
Anand shares that the Swamiji, who was impressed with his work on the statue, asked him to do the renovation of the Yadadri temple too.
Mentored by Swamiji
Many were surprised at Anand being chosen as the art director for Ramanujacharya project. But he says his creativity was an asset. "I think Swamiji identified that skill in me and brought me on board. Initially I was a bit apprehensive but Swamiji’s constant monitoring over the last five years made sure that we pulled it off," says the art director.
Anand Sai sharing sketches with Chinna Jeeyar Swamy
He considers the whole experience of working with the Swamiji an ‘eye-opener’, not just work-wise, but also in terms of life lessons. "I am a changed person; there’s sea change in the way I look at life," reveals Anand.