Larger than life

Television Trends

Larger than life

Opulent: The set designed for the serial ‘Sangini’.

For those of us who have seen television evolve over the last two decades, set designs for serials in the 80s and early 90s were limited to a small 10X10 room created with cardboard coated with some paint. Props would consist of a sofa set or at most a bed with some side tables thrown in. It does seem unbelievable when you compare that to the multi-crore sets on television today where entire villages and localities are created. Creating sets for television serials has become professional and therefore, many art directors are moving from the silver screen to the small screen.

Take Ajay Verekar, a fine arts graduate from Goa College for example. As a dreamy-eyed youngster, he  started his career 20 years back with a Doordarshan serial called Humrahi, but moved on to creating sets for films within a few years. “In those days if you had to make it big as an art director, it had to be films; serials stood no chance. I did a number of films like Red, Speed, Main Aisa Hi Hoon and others. But after the year 2000, I returned to television and started creating sets for the same full time,” he says. In the last few years he has created sets for popular serials like Hasratein, Justajoo, Alpviraam, Astitwa. “Right now I am doing Gutur Gu, CID and Aahat,” Verekar informs.

But why did he make the shift from films to television? “Films offer you a lot of money, but getting that money is a big task in itself. You need to be very aggressive in the film industry to get your due and I am far from that! In the television industry, things are very different. You get your payments without having to fight for it, which makes you feel more secure,” explains Verekar.

He has a point. The television industry is far more organised than the Hindi film industry, simply because it is a lot more corporate driven. While production houses like Yash Raj Films, Red Chillies Idiot Box and UTV are trying to bring in B-school graduates and streamline their processes, there is still a lot to catch up when it comes to professionalism.

Vinod Bagh, currently handling Sangini, Baat Hamari Pakki Hai and a new yet-to-be-named show by Hema Malini on Colors agrees. The fine arts graduate from Khairagarh University explains, “While films have a much larger canvas, it is a thankless job. Once the film is over, the set is demolished and no one remembers you. On the other hand, in a serial, your name appears in the credits everyday and the set you create lasts for a long time.”

The fact that there is a lot more work in the small screen is also enticing for art directors. But what about creative satisfaction? Isn’t that more in films? After all, films are much grander and no one can deny that. Surprisingly, both Bagh and Verekar disagree and feel it is not just about the scale, creative satisfaction comes from other avenues as well. “It is a misconception that films offer more creative satisfaction than television. I would say it is the other way round. In television things change daily and the charm of thinking and creating new things is unparalleled. For example, in CID and Aahat, situations change daily and I have to create new sets. Though there are some constant sets like the laboratory in CID and a haveli in Aahat, you need to do a lot of research and understand the subject to make such sets. Showing all the forensic details in CID is not an easy job — you need to understand the subject.”

Point taken. It is just that in the 80s and early 90s, no one would have thought about sets of television serials in so much detail. Bagh also feels that the changing face of Indian television has a major role to play in the small screen becoming more attractive for art directors. “In earlier days, television sets would be limited to a 50X60 ft space. Within that, we would have to create a bed room, drawing room and whatever else was required. Today, things are dramatically different. Not only do we have to create a haveli, but other buildings, market places and even parks! While we have to operate on a shoestring budget when compared to films, television work has also become extremely challenging and exciting.”

No wonder television shows are beginning to look better and more believable! Most of them seem to be shot in real locations, while they are actually sets. With more and more channels coming in with bags full of money, things are surely going to improve on the small screen.

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