Basking in the glory

Basking in the glory

art director

Basking in the glory

She’s on cloud nine. Preening and pirouetting. “I am simply over the moon, and loving every moment of it,” she gushes, as we catch up in the aftermath of her netting the coveted Filmfare trophy for her work in the critically acclaimed movie, Neerja. Inundated with calls and congratulatory messages, art director Aparna Sud is busy celebrating her much-deserved win. Her first award.

The young creative woman has a repertoire that includes Shiva, Tevar, ABCD: Anybody Can Dance, Dus Kahaniyaan and Bbudhha Hoga Terra Baap. But clearly, Neerja has proved to be the turning point in her career. “We shot the film in 48 days straight and the entire aeroplane had to be made from scratch in record time. So many people told me that I was attempting the impossible. I had a budget to adhere to and 200 labourers on the sets to deal with everyday. That was a huge challenge. I was simply breathing and living the movie during that time,” she shares.

Locating a rambling expanse to set up the aircraft must have been quite a challenge in itself. “We built the aircraft on an open ground in Borivli in suburban Mumbai. Getting it ready was quite a coup though. My director wanted everything functional, from the taps in the washrooms to the geysers to the reclining aspect of the seats. The plane was 220 feet long and walking halfway to check on every tiny detail made me feel tired often. But everything has truly been worth it,” says Aparna.

She is the youngest of three siblings and as an interior designer, trained for three years with an architect in Shimla (her hometown) and then in Chandigarh. That lent Aparna a winning edge in terms of the technical understanding of her work. It holds her in better stead today as she has a methodical approach towards all her assignments.

“For Neerja, of course, I had consulted pilots and aeronautical engineers as well as a couple of stewards to check if the layout, and the ease of movement within the aircraft was correct. I had plenty of references and even made 3D models while referring to web resources and technical manuals of Boeing 747. Each day, when I would approach the sets, the aircraft-in-the-making would appear to be in a different shape. It left me flummoxed, sometimes unsure. Then one day, an auto driver, on looking at the freshly-painted plane, exclaimed that he did not know that there was an airport in Borivli too. That convinced me that things were shaping up just fine,” she laughs heartily.

Aparna’s famous Nike ad film (the ‘Da Da Ding...’ one) has skyrocketed her into the go-to list of many ad film-makers. So much so that she is busy with ad films for the next three months currently. 

So, what does she plan to do after that? “I wrap up Reloaded, with Jacqueline Fernandes and Siddarth Malhotra. My international production, Heartbeats, releases towards the end of 2017,” she shares.

Talking about her working process, she says, “I have a sound team of co-workers in assistants, art construction personnel, prop masters, set dressers and decorators. Things run like a well-oiled machine once I commence work on a project. We research thoroughly to maintain even momentum during the shoot and I have two teams on call all the time. It is vital to have an eye on timelines, as I am constantly working in tandem with the producer and director’s vision.”

Talking about her dream setting, she says, “I have just watched Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and loved it. It is my dream to do a period drama, and work with directors including Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Basu, Imtiaz Ali and Raju Hirani.”

It has been an enriching journey for this Shimla girl who moved to Mumbai to try her hand at set designing. “I love Mumbai. It is a crazy but amazing city that has given me so much. Also, I have realised that there is no substitute for hard work. No pain, no gain,” she states.