It was a drive on the streets of Bollywood city, Mumbai, over two decades ago, that inspired him. “When I was a little boy of around eight or nine, my neighbour at Napean Sea Road was Vyjayanthimala’s driver, and he once took me on a drive in her van.
Fantasy come true
“The idea of being in the movies was magic for me, and being driven around in the van that a famous Bollywood actress used, was the starting point of that fantasy,” says Hollywood production designer Arv Grewal, who has designed the look of international blockbusters such as
Resident Evil: Afterlife
Having spent his initial schooling days in Mumbai, Grewal moved to Canada subsequently. He studied architecture in college, but through a “series of happy incidents,” he ventured into Hollywood and became an art director. His work in the department included, for instance, “designing and figuring out the working of an entire submarine in the Harrison Ford-starrer
, or researching on DNA to explain the medical props to Robert De Niro in
Since the past five years, Grewal has overseen the production design of big-budget films such as the Megan Fox-starrer
and the Milla Jovovich-starrer
, which is currently playing in theatres. He’s worked across genres, but admits that he has a soft corner for dark movies. “When you are involved with designing sequences that include crashes, explosions and action, it’s ridiculous fun,” he chuckles. “And getting to work with genre-inventing directors such as George Romero, David Cronenberg and Paul Anderson, I’ve become drawn to these movies.”
So nothing is cooler for Grewal than designing an entire helicopter from scratch, like he did in
. “The exterior was computer generated but nothing beats creating from scratch every inch of the inside of a brand new helicopter,” he says. The movie was also shot in 3D, as opposed to the 3D effect being added on to it later, so Grewal had the “guilty pleasure” of designing the entire movie in 3D.
“Things like smoke, concrete, and sometimes even glass don’t come out well in 3D, so we had to shoot scenes where a plane lands in fog inside a soundstage auditorium,” Grewal says. “But that’s the fun part about my job. Having studied architecture, this to me is like working with toys.”
But Grewal is quick to add that he’s equally enjoyed working on lighthearted Indie movies such as the Ryan Gosling-starrer
Lars And The Real Girl
. “In action movies, it’s just about shooting people, and you have to get them the biggest gun,” he says. “But the work is more intimate in small movies such as
…, where you get to personally choose every prop, right from forks to the clothes.” Ask him if he’d ever like to design a Bollywood film, and he chuckles, “That would be too intimidating! Those guys are just the best at what they do.”