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Kaala Paani Production Designer Rakesh Yadav OPENS UP on the visual style of the series, shooting in Andaman, challenges and more

With the official confirmation of the second season of the survival drama ‘Kaala Paani,’ enthusiasts are buzzing with excitement. Anticipation for the release of season 2 is palpable among fans. While fans awaiting the surprise drop, Rakesh Yadav, the skilled production designer responsible for bringing the sets of ‘Kaal Paani’ to life, shared insights into his experiences shooting in Andaman, his personal journey, encountered challenges, and much more.

Can you share some insights into the collaboration between the production design team and the director or cinematographer to achieve the desired visual style and atmosphere for the film?

Film-making is all about collaboration. To achieve the desired visual style and atmosphere, every department must bring on their A-game in the shooting. A film first originates in the director’s mind. To create the universe that director has imagined a very close collaboration between the cinematographer and production designer is needed because what looks real to the eye, looks unreal to the camera and vice-versa. So, a lot of back and forth happens between both the teams under the supervision of the director to achieve the desired result.

“Kaala Paani” has received critical acclaim for its production design. Are there any specific moments or set pieces that you are particularly proud of, and could you tell us about the creative process behind them?

Kaala Paani is very close to my heart, to pick any particular scene would be a cruelty to other scenes. But since you asked, I would say that the final look and feel that we achieved with creation of the interiors of a Japanese bunker is something I am very proud of. Andaman has this World War two era Japanese bunkers scattered around the island to keep a close watch on Indian Ocean. They were built on higher grounds to watch over as much area as possible. When we set about creating the interiors of the bunker in the studio, we had to make sure that we keep in mind the elevation and architectural feel of the World War two Japanese bunkers. We went through as much of documentary evidences as possible to grasp the intricacies of a bunker and what we created after so much effort is something I’ll always be proud of.

What are some of the key differences in production design between Indian and international cinema, and how do you navigate those differences?

The differences between the Indian cinema and international cinema are mostly two-fold. Firstly, the amount of preparation that an international crew does to achieve their specific look and feel is something still missing from our side. We sometimes still leave few things for the last minute or want something new on the day of shooting. Secondly the budget constraint is an issue because it let us to compromise on lot of elements which would have made our cinematic world more authentic. But I would also like to add that with the coming of international OTT platforms we are closing this gap very rapidly.

Technology has evolved rapidly in the film industry. How has this affected the way you approach production design, especially with the use of CGI and special effects?

CGI and special effects have supplemented the effort of a production designer to achieve those things which were impossible few years back. Though some people suggest that CGI will one day takeover the production design department, I strongly disagree with it. A good CGI is only possible when the production design team has created the foundation upon which CGI can work. I am actually looking forward to that day when CGI will become a part of the production design department and not something external to it.

Indian film production often has budget constraints. How do you manage to create stunning visuals while working within budget limitations? Did you face any such limitations for Kaala Paani or your previous projects

Budget limitation will always be there because we need to have those boundaries to set the rule of the game. It only tends to disfavour us when things are not planned accordingly or when some last-minute hiccups come up. For example, in Kaala Paani we wanted to shoot inside the Cellular Jail but when we got denied the permission to do so we needed to create a new sequence in the series because making the set of Cellular Jail for one sequence was not feasible.

Do you have any favorite or influential production designers who have inspired your work over the years?

In India the name that inspired me the most was ofcourse Late Nitin Desai. His work will inspire every filmmaking student in India forever. The other two production designers that I look upto is Rick Carter and Nathan Crowley.

Could you share any insights into the future of production design in Indian cinema and how it might evolve in the coming years?

As the ambition and scope of Indian filmmaking is getting bigger and bigger, I feel that in the coming years the production design will get the attention it deserve and will go on to become the one of the most talk about aspect of filmmaking among the general masses.

Rakesh, been associated with a multitude of projects including ‘Tumbbad’, ‘Laal Kaptaan’, ‘Serious Men’, and ‘Ship of Theseus’, among others. Kaala Paani season one featured a stellar cast including Mona Singh, Ashutosh Gowariker, Amey Wagh, Sukant Goel, Vikas Kumar, Arushi Sharma, Radhika Mehrotra, Chinmay Mandlekar, and Poornima Indrajith, among others. The second season will also be available on Netflix soon.

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