November 13, 2011 Y. Sunitha Chowdhary
One should never seek to recreate a period. One should attempt to reinvent it – Christopher Hobbs.
A director has a visual on his mind, since he cannot create everything he seeks help from the different crafts of the film industry, they all help him build his dream. The art director is one such technician who helps in solidifying the vision of the director, not by merely recreating the times but the emotional truth of the story and it's characters through the environment.
Earlier the art directors would handle the costumes of the artistes too, the remaining people including the carpenters and the other works men would stay put in the studio till pack up was announced but as time passed by they have been confined to their jobs and are asked to visit the studio only when they have been allotted work. With the decrease in employment opportunities, the respect for them too is waning; the art directors are primarily reputed for inflating the cost of production.
Art director Nagendra and ex-president of art directors association who worked for over 40 films says that their ilk arrive at a figure on paper and inform the producer and the latter gets a clear idea on the table profit he will get from selling the film during the announcement of the project. By the time the story is given a shape and the finished piece is ready, the cost increases, but the producer is still hanging onto the old tariff given by the art director. When the end product is ready, the film is a hit, then no one complains but if something goes wrong the art director is blamed for the huge expenditure on the film.
Another art director who prefers to remain anonymous feels that the producers do not have time to patrol the sets and control the budget. He is happy and content, thrilled on getting the dates of the stars, worried on how to get the finance for the film. If he takes money from a financier for a film, he spends part of it for his personal expenditure like buying a piece of land and pushes the account onto the art department. If a set is completed in ten lakhs, it is billed as twenty and there is no one to question, the art director becomes the scapegoat.
There are times when the art director, director, producer have heated arguments over the accounts, clash and don't talk at all. Also if a set worth a crore is set up, there are over three hundred people working over it like the contractors, mangers, designers, carpenters, etc., and anyone amongst them are likely to indulge in corruption but finally the art director must take the blame for the expenditure incurred. The production managers are paid less and they are tempted to play around with the accounts.
Nagendra says earlier there were discussions at the pre-production level with the director, art director, cameraman and the producer but these days they don't involve them at all. They pick up a design from somewhere and ask us to replicate it within a minimum amount possible. There are around 70 art directors in the Telugu film industry out of which thirty of them have regular work. Ten out of these people are in sound position, the remaining 20 have to struggle on par with the rest.
Due to competition, most of the art directors agree to work for less because of which the conditions continue to remain pathetic especially during inflation. Moreover in this industry where sentiment plays a dominant role, employment is directly proportional. An art director gets a job here only if his previous film is a hit, his skill is not a criterion at all. The sad part is at the end of the day when these folks sit down and predict which film will get an award for the best art direction, a wrong person is crowned..there is truly no recognition for their creative work or insurance for their life.