Tamil Concept Artist Viswanath Sundaram has grabbed the attention of film buffs thanks to his extensive work in the magnum opus Baahubali franchise where he will get credit for Concept Design and Visual Development.
Viswanath says Rajamouli had thorough ideas about minute details that go into the making of fantasy world Mahishmati. “Rajamouli will have his ideas and will be particular about the positioning of structures. To design the fort of Mahishmati, he conceived the location and structures and even had shots corresponding to them. During discussions, he will first give his insights, and then we will work towards it.”
Viswanath lauds Kamal Haasan and Shankar since they have been using storyboards and concept arts for their films since a long time. “Director Shankar has been implementing concept art in his films for a long time. After SS Rajamouli had used concept designing in Baahubali, this sphere got some exposure, and many are following suit nowadays. Hollywood filmmakers use concept design in almost all films; they will develop visuals based on the inputs of concept artists. Tamil Director Vasantha Balan used it in his period drama Kaaviya Thalaivan. Kamal Haasan has been following storyboard consistently for his projects, though I am not aware how frequently he uses concept arts,” says Viswanath.
Viswanath has also worked on the character design part in Rajinikanth - Shankar’s mega-budget flick 2.0. He designed the character sketch of Akshay Kumar, who plays a scientist-cum-crow-bot in the movie.
“Rajamouli Sir will utilize concept designers according to their prowess. I also worked on ‘environment designing,’ and ‘prop designing’ in Baahubali, whereas director Shankar used my craft to devise characters. In 2.0, I have been asked to do only character design. I redesigned the ‘Chitti’ Robo character and its hairstyle. When I was asked to sketch the villain character, Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was supposed to play the role. Later, they used that look for Akshay Kumar,” says Viswanath who has also collaborated on Bollywood projects such as Salman Khan’s Kick and Akshay Kumar’s Brothers.
“I created designs for the mask and the vehicle in Kick. In Brothers, I worked on the set designs and backdrops.”
Viswanath is elated that concept artists are gradually getting due recognition from the industry peers and cinephiles. “It is a very healthy trait. There were days where the audience was only mindful of the hero and heroine. Now, the viewers are evolving, and they are concerned about who the director is, who the cinematographer is, and now there is a substantial amount of film buffs who are aware of the CG and VFX people involved in the movie too. The industry and media are now educating the audience about the people who are out of the spotlight,” says Viswanath, who showers praise on Kamal Haasan for acknowledging storyboard artists for a long time in the title credits.
Viswanath says it’s difficult to satisfy both Rajamouli and Sabu Cyril, but he managed to wow them once with his design for a pivotal scene in the second part.
“It is a challenge to get a pat on the back from Rajamouli Sir and Sabu Cyril Sir. In Baahubali 2, there is a majestic shot of a key event that happens at Mahishmati’s fort. After I emailed him the sketches, Rajamouli Sir immediately replied with a ‘Wow.’”
Baahubali: The Conclusion, starring Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Anushka Shetty and Tamannaah Bhatia, is slated to release on April 28th worldwide.