Gentle Sepia tones,soft lighting on carved wooden writing desks,grand libraries and elegant dining halls,the charm of the 50s Calcutta and the untouched beauty of Dalhousie every shot of Lootera takes you back in space and time. On the sets of the film though,everything was not as composed as it would seem. art director Aditya Kanwar had to be present in three places at once the sets in Mumbai,Kolkata and Dalhousie locking in on locations,working endlessly on the set detailing,scavenging through chor bazaars,battling the Dalhousie snow and putting in hours of research that go into making a period film.
It was a lot of research work. We frequented old libraries and book stores,picking up as many reference books as we could and read every possible article online. Kolkata was still easier because it has such a rich history and a lot of material,but Dalhousie was challenging. So we had to rely on local families and shopkeepers to understand what brand of toothpastes and pencils they used and what cars they drove, says 30-year-old Kanwar.
Lootera begins in Kolkata and then takes you to Shimla,the parts for which were shot in Dalhousie. We created the sets of the library,dining halls and outhouse in Mumbai, he adds. It took a lot of work to make sure that the interiors matched the exteriors. When a character walked out of the set in Mumbai,they were walking into the streets of Kolkata. We had to get it absolutely right, he says. On the many cancellations of Dalhousies shoot,Kanwar looks amused and says,It was complete madness. When we finally managed to build the set at Dalhousie,there was no snow. The scene required it to be snowing and here we were with the cast,crew and set ready but there was no snow. We prayed and prayed that it would snow the next day. God took our prayers to heart and there was a snowstorm overnight. Kanwar recalls how their beautiful set that was built to withstand three to four feet of snow,crumbled under the 10 feet snow that Dalhousie experienced the following day. We had no choice but to start over, he says.
Kanwar,a graduate in cinematography from Delhi,attended his first film shoot during an internship. I was running all over the
place doing odd jobs. Thats when I fell in love with cinema. I realised that creating a set was as fascinating as capturing it in a frame, he says. His association with his Lootera director Vikramaditya Motwane began with
Udaan. His next assignment is the Dharma-Phantom co-production,Hasi Toh Phasi.
Kanwar believes that since the last few years,more attention is being given to production,sets and art design in Bollywood. He saw this change happen with Sanjay Leela Bhansalis Devdas. But art direction neednt be only reserved for period films and dramas. even Band Baja Baraat had great art direction. It can be any movie the more you go into details and add even the smallest prop,it makes a difference. It makes the story and the characters come alive, explains Kanwar.
In Lootera,he has created the mood by playing with the colour palette. In the Kolkata portions we played around with candlelight using the flickering flames and the shadows on the walls.
Then slowly as we moved to another part of the story,the mood changed again,as we used electric lighting it became more stark and real, he says. While it has been a crazy ride since 2011,when the filming officially began,Kanwar believes it was worth it. We put in a lot of hard work to ensure that the film doesnt only look great but feels great too, he concludes.