Exclusive : Art Director Gandhi Nadikudikar Interview

Gandhi Nadikudikar’s rise in the past few years has been phenomenal and one must say that he put in great effort to be what he is today. In short it has been a slow but steady climb for Gandhi. The art director lives in Hyderabad. He passed out from a Telugu medium school in Nagarkurnool, near Mehbobnagar in 1994 and after SSC, due to financial issues, he relocated to Hyderabad. Here, in a chat with Y. Sunita Chowdhary of Klapboardpost.com, discusses his beginnings and the way he operates at work. How did you learn about art direction? “I like films, knew none from the movie field and after two or three days, I began hovering around a film studio and found a job at Annapurna Studios. I would stand and stare at the studios because some people would tell me that I would definitely find some odd job there. “I was assigned the job of cleaning the floor in the studio, after a couple of days. I was around 22 or 23 years old.” Gandhi came from a rural area and had no hopes of finding a job. His father passed away and the only determination he had was to find a job. He would keenly observe the workers at the art department and pick up the skill. He too wanted to be one amongst the art directors and was attracted to the craft. Later, he learnt that work comes to those who owned a union card. An art director Bhupesh R Bhupathi commented Gandhi had a knack of picking up things fast but he needs to develop communication skills. He immediately upgraded his work and style from Youtube and also simultaneously worked on his networking and communication. He saw how directors spoke in English and wanted to speak the language. He finally did it.

He adds, “I didn’t have time to attend any institute to learn English. So Yutube became my guru and I picked up anything and everything I wanted. From Nagesh Kukunoor and Shekar Kammula, everyone spoke English and I wanted to be like them. From art director Ravinder Reddy, I learnt quite a bit. From Nizar Shafi who got a direction opportunity I was introduced as an independent art director.I used to draw one lakh per month as an art director but after becoming assistant director, was drawing one lakh every year. That is because the producers say that they are giving us a break and we need to prove ourselves. I was associate director for Mahanubhavudu and other films and my debut film as an independent art director is Seven. After that I worked on George Reddy, Rakshasudu and Johar, Bangaru Bullaodu and Narappa. Challenges? Every day we need to go for a new visual and it has to be close to reality. I have done 8 films as an art director and 30 to 40 films as an assistant art director. The films that are soon to be released are Khiladi, Arjuna Phalguna, Chor Bazar, Shakini Dakhini, Dongalu Unnaru Jagrattha etc, Pitha”.

Budget is always an issue in a film, how does Gandhi tackle it? “I always give importance to the story first and then the technicians. How to make it easy is always on my mind. You can construct a wall by many methods, you can do it with plywood, cement etc. I go for reality and whatever the background is, I know it is not on the field so I make optimum use of resources and lessen the budget. I do my work perfectly and don’t bother about things that don’t concern me. I always want to be known as an art director who is helpful to any production.” Any decision that helped in the output of the film? “George Reddy didn’t have the budget that was thought of initially. In little money I had to replicate an iconic structure i.e Osmania University. I used all the experience I had to make it look real and saved plenty of money for the producer. The film fetched me a lot of fame, recognition. I went there and studied the structure, campus. I spent a lot of time on the research and worked hard to put the project together.” Ask him how an art director multitasks and he says he has a team and they are always in touch. The only problem is …they hardly get time to sleep. By the team they reach home at 12 midnight and they wake up in the morning by 4 am during shoots.

Are there any last minute differences and pulling down of sets? Gandhi says with clarity, “I always inform the director, DoP or those concerned about what I am doing and seek their approval; I don’t approve last minute changes or pulling down something because it doesn’t match the vision of the director, so at every stage I am in touch with them. My team is my backbone. I always make sure they are happy and content. Sometimes when there is no shoot, production doesn’t pay..I handle that area. They are family to me. We do have differences but that is never personal.” What does he do to improve his knowledge in his area, when he hardly gets time to rest or go home? Gandhi responds, “To upgrade my work or that of my team, I have an office where there are few employees who are designers who follow latest versions, follow it up, inform us and suggest changes because they see all films and make note of things. My studio is Gandhi studios and the boys are employed by me. I might be a production designer soon once I get a grip of all departments, this comes with experience. I can right now do only art direction but production design requires thorough knowledge of all the departments. Narappa was a challenging task. Venkatesh is a big hero and director and DoP have proved their talent and I was the only new guy around. The film was set around a period when I wasn’t born. The Tamil film was raw and we had to give something similar and I think I pulled it off.”

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