A fabricator of sets

A fabricator of sets

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A fabricator of sets

If you are a television buff and a fan of the hit show Bigg Boss Kannada, you would have not missed the large sets in the show. I catch up with the brain behind this set — architect and set designer, Shyam Bhatia — who tells me more about his passion to bring dream sets on screen to life.

Shyam reveals that he was always interested in architecture even as a child. After graduation and a couple of months of working as an architect, he got an opportunity to work with national award winner Samit Chandra (late). This stint gave him his first break in the field of set design. He says that he absolutely fell in love with it.

“During my four-year architecture course, my research thesis was called The Elements of Architecture In Set Designing. During this process, I met a few art directors, visited a couple of sites and started liking the momentum of artistic work in this field. Set design gives you the opportunity to display your work to a larger audience on a bigger platform. There is also the opportunity to test limits in set design. In architecture, given the permanence of the structure, not too many people are open to experimenting in terms of concept yet. Set design, by the sheer nature of it, is open to more vivid and experimental concepts.”

So, how was it designing for Bigg Boss? “Well, designing for Bigg Boss is always challenging. Bigg Boss Kannada 4 is not my first foray into this area. I have designed a couple of houses for the Hindi version of Bigg Boss as well. So, while I’m familiar with the concept, I had to ensure freshness and fun in every season. It is challenging to design a concept right from scratch and bring it to life in 45 days. But it is also fun. Apart from many other factors, we also needed to keep in mind that the house had to be foolproof. There is no opportunity for maintenance once the show starts. So, quality is very important, as well as efficiency.”

Naturally, the biggest challenge was creating an entire space in 45 days. “This includes developing the concept on paper, getting the production and construction underway, all the while ensuring quality. We have to be fast in designing and ensure that delivery date is in sync with the date we go on air. There is no scope for extension. We have to deal with all possible interruptions, including unforeseen ones (like bandhs and such) and simply get it done,” he explains.

Shyam has also designed sets for shows like MasterChef India, Miss India, India’s Got Talent, Dance India Dance and Indian Idol. “I have designed more than 200 sets in my career till date. One trend that remains consistent is that the audience wants a fresh canvas in every show. They don’t want to look at even a ‘similar’ set from the
previous season. And it needs to resonate with the audience. Set design has evolved considerably in the last five years and we pay attention to even the smallest thing. HD television has also changed the set requirements, since it brings a more vivid picture into your living room, and I have to design the set accordingly,” states Shyam.

Shyam is currently working on some large-scale commercial architecture projects in Kerala. “Other than set design, I am also exploring opportunities in architecture in Bengaluru. The city’s architecture has a beautiful vibe and such great history. I would love to work on a project in Bengaluru, where we can create something that resonates with the local culture, landscape, be absolutely unique, and something that will stand strong for decades. Of course, that would need a partner or a client with the same vision,” he signs off.