Exclusive Interview With Art Director Sabu Cyril

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Ace art director Sabu Cyril’s repertoire is vast and he is a workaholic. The only holiday he takes is while he is travelling but that too it is on some official work. The Kerala born has his home in Mumbai but the last three years he had made Hyderabad his home as Rajamouli wanted his complete focus on Baahubali. In an exclusive chat with telugu360.com, the multi-faceted personality gives us a peek into his childhood and how he took to arts despite stiff opposition from his father. Sabu Cyril doesn’t talk about Baahubali much here;

On his academics: I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I would read books on practical chemistry, and particularly a Russian book Physics For Entertainment was my favorite. It was eleven rupees fifty paisa for two books (volumes)and I bought it with my own pocket money. I was in the sixth standard at that time. I would paint and draw, would go to dad’s workshop and help him and today it has helped me as an art director. I was academically a good student, would get 100 in everything – in paintings and science exhibitions. I never knew I would land in films, my dad is an all-rounder but he is not into films. My uncle is a cinematographer and mom’s dad is an artist, painter, photographer and maybe I am the only one who took off after my grandfather. I wanted to join school of arts and came from Coimbatore to Madras but dad was totally against it. He said people are struggling to get into science and here I am joining arts. I had a major argument and he said he won’t pay my fee and I did it. I would give tuition, do logos and folders, pamphlets for pharmaceutical companies. I am lucky as I have taken hobbies as a profession.  Even if you are an artist or a sculptor they need to spend money and buy their material but here my producer spends on my hobby but I do justice to my work and I enjoy what I am doing.

[pullquote position=”left”]If it is easy everyone would have done it, I love challenges where I learn and people too benefit, says Sabu Cyril[/pullquote]

Is he simple or flamboyant in his designs ? Films that I do are big, simplifying things in this world is most difficult. You can’t re design a pin, a safety pin has been designed so many years back and still it is existing. My home reflects my taste, Mumbai flat has no colors. It is white and grey. If I go to the sets I shouldn’t get bored. If I have yellows and reds and other dominating colors at home, it would influence my work on the sets. If art direction is easy everyone would have done it, I love challenges where I learn and people too benefit, says Sabu Cyril. My house in Hyderabad is rented, furnished. A few things I brought without drilling nails onto the wall, to make it feel it is my house and not feel alien for one week or two week. It is not my place basically.

Why do art directors get branded? Most art directors don’t want to grow. we shouldn’t reflect our taste, we get branded as our taste comes in and we repeat because we like it. We should do what the subject demands and what is good for the particular film. We should not repeat and do justice. Even film is different, even though it is period. Even Hey Ram and Ashoka was different, I tried keeping it separate. When I did advertising I really learnt a lot, when we did Ra.One It did a lot of detailing in video games.  I always do research, take references and then change according to what the subject demands. I am not a film buff but generally see if someone tells me something unique was there in the film. I get magazines from America, a quarterly which I was subscribing from 25 years. I have updated myself well. I get influenced by the places I visit and use it from my memory be it churches or anything. I try tasting different local cuisine when I travel, I love to know about their history and lifestyle.

What are the issues you face daily ?

Every day is a challenge, today you solve a problem, there will be a new one. Even if I am repeating, something crops up which I don’t imagine will happen. When challenges come to me I love it, and love solving it. I am called for usually mechanical and technically complicated designs. I love futuristic things and I am mostly inspired by such films. When I travel I consider it a holiday, when your hobby becomes a job you won’t feel you are working. Moreover I haven’t even gone for a honeymoon, my wife cribs and says don’t call me for a holiday when I am sixty year old. I was here for 3 years to do Baahubali, so I took up a place. You can’t serve two masters and this film required my involvement and was too demanding. Rajamouli as a director expects total attention.  Hey Ram also was demanding .. Kamal Hassan was a task master, I put heart and soul into the film and I never got any recognition. For an artiste, more than money you need appreciation. When a small ordinary film gets a national award and you don’t get mentioned despite doing so much, it hurts. What to do? The world is like that, you have to accept the way it is.

How does it feel when structures are pulled down eventually? We kept working till we understood what he (Rajamouli) was looking out for..we had to highlight his vision. We could communicate through sketches and get his approval. When you see the rushes, it is like child birth, you forget the labour pains. We know it will be pulled down, so we work that way, we are conditioned that way, and there is no attachment

(Interviewed By :  Sunita Yalavarthi )

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