Sharmishtha Roy
Production designer

Because the UK government was giving massive subsidies, that’s the reason Scotland got selected for Baar Baar Dekho. Banksy, the England based street artist whose real name is not known to people has a tunnel dedicated to him. Anyone can go and paint graffiti and come away. So we took that and converted it into a night-party kind of setup for a song in Jab tak hai jaan.

The Film Commission sent scouts with us. A production designer usually selects a space based on how apt it is for the script, but also hopes that it fits the budget. We also need to see if we can do less and yet achieve the same result. If we had to transform the place (the churches in Jab Tak Hai Jaan), we’d probably be bringing in flowers and things like that, which are typically not available there. It’s pretty utilitarian. I’ve learned over the years to hold back rather than try to impose… See, that is what I’m talking about when I talk about being an Indian. When we go there, we think we have come so far; how can we make the most of it? How can we enhance the beauty? But this is how they live. This is how simple certain things are. And leave it at that.

For DDLJ, I wasn’t taken for the shoot. It was unheard of in those days that the art department would travel with the crew. So they pretty much shot things as they were. And a lot of it was outdoors… If we’ve come here, we’ve come to show the place to the world. And the characters in the films were never meant to be people who live there. It’s about one song in a nice place… the majority of them. That changed because scripts began to create situations that were located abroad or the entire plot was set in a location abroad. During DDLJ, it was still very aspirational. Everyone wanted to see the beauty of the place. And then, most of the interior work would be done over here in Bombay. And now I think it is cheaper to take the whole crew over there, wrap the film in, say, a month, and fly back. One has to have both interiors and exteriors. And I think a lot more work is going into making this more plausible.

All the ethnic props, we take them from here. When we scout, we also scout for prop shops. So you know what to expect. And then you meet a number of art department people to understand… The whole thing is about being upscale. Because our notion of people abroad is that they’re wealthy. The infrastructure is there. Even the poor guy has the microwave and heater. So it doesn’t match with our conception of who is poor.

Now, he (sound designer) can say if we can do something to muffle this sound. Then they’re selecting locations. That’s a very important consideration. How the sound would be impactful. Either it’s the traffic or the wind. Internally, the recce would have sound engineers. Now even the sound engineer accompanies us on the recce.

We were out in very busy locations every day (for Jab Tak Hai Jaan). Right through the station, Trafalgar Square… all those places were only about live locations. To deal with people, to deal with a star on location who’s very well-known to the big Indian population in London. You can’t keep them away. You just can’t.

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