MONUMENTS AND MORE - THE SETS
The idea of making an epic with grandeur entailed sets that would enhance it. Wherein the sets would be monumental, just like the story and the characters.
Keeping in mind a backdrop of the 1930's, immense research went into study of the city of Calcutta and the culture. Discussions, fervent sketching & subsequent prototype models later, the sets were created. Designing the sets alone took nine months. Creating them took even longer. And when they majestically stood, they spoke the story of unparalleled wealth. Mental, physical and actual.
The sets had to be such that the characters had to be lost in the space, yet stand out powerfully. There was a lot of depth in each set as well as dynamic use of space and innovative colours which reflected the characters, their thought processes and situations.
The house of Devdas was grand and tall with huge pillars. The predominant colours used were yellow and green and reflected a 1911 British look. There were around 180 pillars, each 60 feet high. It reflected the aristocracy and imposing nature of his family. The whole house was around 250 feet long. The pillars were effectively placed so that one could see through and through the pillars. Perphas a metaphor of reaching into the depth of the mind of Devdas. ..
Paro was a delicate symbol of beauty. For her house, a mix of pinks and blues were used. The house was made with stained glass which reflected her beauty and mirrored her dreams. Zamindar Bhuwan's haveli in which a married Paro goes on to live was huge with long corridors. So huge that when she wants to meet a dying Devdas at the end, she has to run and run. One sees her becoming smaller and smaller and finally get hidden within the length the mansion. She never makes it to see Devdas and thus came out the pathos. The house also had painted walls with stand-still figures. Thus telling the story of Paro who without Devdas was like the paintings. Viewed as having life, yet quite lifeless.
The biggest set of them all was Chandramukhi's mirror- bedecked, gold pillared Kotha. Perhaps the costliest set of made in the history of Hindi Cinema. The set was created in a Bombay Studio around a lake, as the kotha was to be in 'Benaras' overlooking the 'Ganga'. The Kotha had to reflect the flamboyance and beauty of the courtesan. The hall in which she danced, had 60 explicitly carved domes with a stupendous 6 feet tall chandelier. At night when all lights lit up the 'Kotha', it reflected the brightness that Chandramukhi brought into the lives of the rudderless people who came to her for respite.
The sets gave scope to the characters to appear 'big' when life treated them tenderly and 'small' when happiness escaped into oblivion. ..