'Pushpa' will be released in theatres on December 17. In this interview, the film's art directors talk about the experience of creating an artificial forest set, working with director Sukumar and actor Allu Arjun, 'Pushpa 2', and more.
S Rama Krishna:
Director Sukumar gives importance to art directors. And if he likes someone's work, he sticks to them. In his films, the artwork gets elevated in the best possible way.
After the film is out, it's up to the audience to figure out which scenes were shot on a set and which ones were shot in real locations. Even a forest set was created for this film. Even Allu Arjun garu couldn't differentiate a set from the natural forest. A waterfall was created at a bungalow in Jubilee Hills. The scene was to be shot in Kerala. Due to the pandemic, we had to create a waterfall here.
The backdrop of the story is Chittoor. We created a red sanders backdrop at Maredumilli Forest. Trees were artificially created to mix up with naturally-grown trees. The story takes place from 1995 or so till 2004.
Red sanders are the main property in the film. When you peel its skin, it looks like red meat. We kept on making dummy red sanders throughout the production phase. It's because some of them would get damaged. The machete is a weapon that the hero wields in the film. It was also designed by us.
'Pushpa' was shot in different weather conditions. A set was also created at Sarathi Studios. For two months, the entire studio was blocked by three units of our film since the release date was advanced. The film was shot on multiple sets at Sarathi, Ramoji Film City, Annapurna Studios and Aluminium Sets. We erected 29 sets in two months.
The colour palette was figured out by the director and the production designer at the outset. The colour schema depends on the place in which the film is set. Since the backdrop is Chittoor, the colours are raw and pronounced. The red theme was used for the hero, while the green and yellow themes were used for the heroine.
The producer needs to be daring to produce a film like 'Pushpa'. Most of the producers would back off. They don't even attempt a film of this scale. Mythri Movie Makers is a gutsy production house. They have monetary resources and knowledge as well. They don't restrain the budgets. This is our fourth film with Mythri. Never have they questioned our choices; they let the technicians do whatever is needed.
Recreating a natural habitat like a forest was the biggest challenge we faced. A forest is a God-created one. It's not as easy as creating a fancy, glitzy set. You can't take liberties with how a waterfall or a tree should look like. Moreover, a jungle looks different depending on the time of the day. You have to ensure authenticity if you are creating a jungle set.
About 60% of the scenes take place in the backdrop of a forest. Permissions were not easy to shoot a number of scenes as they involve wild animals, for example. It's for those scenes that we had to recreate the jungle, rocks, snake 'puttalu', etc.
A dam miniature was created to an extent. The remaining part was done using CG. The second part of 'Pushpa' will be mostly on sets and not in real locations. CG is not avoidable. If you want to do it 100% CG, the budget will skyrocket. CG is better used sparingly.
It's perceived that I and Rama Krishna share work and do things separately. It's not like that. We do everything together. We are trained art directors. I come from an architecture background. He is adept at Fine Arts.
We don't have gendered differentiation of work. We do everything together. We brainstorm together. By God's grace, our aesthetic imagination always matches each other's tastes. We also listen to the script narration together.