Ashok Kumar, nephew of late filmmaker Bharatan, studied visual communication at the College of Arts, Chennai. He got his first break soon after graduation, to design the titles and publicity of a film by Pratap Pothen in Malayalam. So impressed was the filmmaker, that he entrusted Kumar with the film's art direction as well.
Kamal Haasan then made him art director of his Telugu film Indrulu Chandrulu. It was Kumar's first Telugu film, and it introduced him to Rama Naidu. Today, he has managed the art direction of over 100 Telugu films, along with a few Hindi films. He is considered one of the top art directors in Telugu, having won the Nandi Award (Andhra Pradesh State award) for Okkadu, one of the most successful films in recent times.
His current project is Jayaraj's film, Atbhutham. He says he took it on mainly because he found the idea of finishing a film in record time very challenging. We asked him to elaborate on his plans
When Jayaraj told me the story, I did a lot of research on the kind of hospitals in Oregon, and the equipment used for a person terminally ill with pancreatic cancer. Thanks to the Internet, that kind of research is possible today.
Erecting a hospital set is easy, but here, what we have to take into account is the deadline Jayaraj has set. We are planning to erect the set on one of the huge floors at the Ramoji Film City in Hyderabad. The dimension of the floor is 100/150. As the film is going to be shot in record time, we cannot erect a normal hospital room. Here, what I am mainly looking at are the requirements of the cameraman. Because of the time constraint, everything will have to be ready for all shots. So, there will not be any lights on the floor. What we are planning is concealed lights.
Another thing is the presence of glass panes inside the hospital room. Normally, we break shots so there won't be any refection but here, we do not have that luxury. So, we have to think of materials that will not create any reflection. This is, again, a big challenge. And we have to take all precautions.
Another specialty of this set is that almost all the walls are moveable, with wheels attached to them. That is done because we don't have time to move the walls for the easy movement of the camera.
I sincerely hope everything will come out well on screen because this is one film where we cannot make any mistakes. I have already begun working on the set, and hope to have everything ready by December 15 for rehearsals.
Although I have done more than 100 films in Telugu, the kind of excitement this film gives me is incomparable. I accepted it even though I was already working on six films, only because I find the idea of making a film at such short notice exciting. I am very proud to be part of an endeavour like this."