We’re All Living In Ranga’s World, And Ashwini Kale Designed It

The art director spills the beans on giving character to Aavesham’s wild, wild world
Ashwini Kale on Aavesham
Ashwini Kale on Aavesham

“There is this magic that always seemed to happen on set.” Ashwini Kale is recalling that particularly eerie red wall in Aavesham. The scene is set. Bibi, acting on his instincts, scrapes the wall inside the house, looking for that blood-stained paint they’ve heard so much about. “We did a small patch on another wall to make it peel off in layers of red and white paint. We were a bit worried because, before the shot, it just wasn’t coming off in layers. But when the camera rolled, it weirdly just happened.” Was it Ranga’s “dead brother” that helped pull it all together, the set wondered in jest.

The art director is behind the unhinged atmosphere that we’ve come to love in the Jithu Madhavan film. Loosely based on a Bengaluru gangster Jithu met during his college days, Aavesham revolves around three college kids (Hipzster, Mithun Jai Shankar, Roshan Shanavas) who befriend Ranga (Fahadh Faasil), a Malayali gangster who is as fragile as he is fierce. “Jithu has gone through this in his real life, so he was very particular about every small detail, right from Ranga's look,” she says. “When we made the juice shop set, he actually said that it looked just like the one he had gone to.” 

While Aavesham does unfold in Bengaluru, it’s still a side and aspect of the city that not many are familiar with — at least when it comes to big-screen depictions of the city. From Marathahalli to Kengeri, the crew went all around Bengaluru to bring spaces like the Mayuri bar, Ranga’s house, and the Ranga amusement park alive. “I couldn't reach more than two places in one day, because you know Bangalore traffic,” she smiles. As part of the film’s motto to keep things ambiguous, Ashwini also made sure never to reveal the time it’s set in.

“We kept things a little ambiguous because Ranga's world itself is a little vague. By the end of the film, you don't really know if he killed his brother. It's left up to the audience to decide. That way, Aavesham works in any timeline. We all love a little vagueness, right?” The art director breaks down all the key elements that make up the film’s madcap fabric.

Mayuri Bar 

A lot of our research went into making this bar happen, because this is where Ranga and the kids have the most scenes. We went to real bars and were thrown out of most of them because we were clicking pictures of every small thing like the toilet, walls etc. I have a bank of Bengaluru bars on my phone. Even with the toilet set, we've added the plumbing and the pipes, and on the pipes, you can see beedis, pan masala wrappers and cigarettes crammed into crevices. We saw these details at the bars.

The entire bar was a set we put up at a mill near the Lulu Mall. The floor was there, and so was the industrial ceiling too. I just added a lot of fences, grills so that the ceiling matches the bar. We used a lot of metal and tin sheets.

We were magically finding the colour green everywhere. The kitchen of Ranga's house was green, and I had chosen green tiles for the Mayuri bar urinal in the beginning itself. Green also came as the wallpaper at the house where the kids were staying. And Ranga’s favourite car was green too. We sourced the tiles for the urinal from Gujarat. There were 2-3 shades of green on the wall of the urinal, if you notice. We designed that and got it manufactured.

Soda opener

Ranga is the one opening these bottles and serving people, so he always had the opener with him. It was very smooth working with Fahadh Faasil. He wanted the knife to be with him for a few days so that he could practise with it and get used to the weapon. There were lighter, heavier versions with different materials to see what suited him and what he could work with better. There were a lot of suggestions coming from him as well.

I remember for like a good month, wherever he was going, he was carrying it with him. Once he gets into character, wherever he goes, it's Ranga only. 

The house

Ranga's house was like a blank space. The doors have these wooden borders that we put in. The pelmets for the windows weren't there as well. The small details matter a lot to build the mood of a place from scratch. I was very scared for that house, and was confused whether to make it look haunted or liveable.

All technicians would usually go to the recce and read out the scenes. So what we do at every location is, we discuss all the scenes that are going to unfold in that space and backtrack. Only then we prop it and fit things into place. We have to foresee that these scenes are going to come here. This helps to keep things in order. This helped us especially with that red wall scene.

Red wall

If you notice, we’ve even changed the curtains and the background for every version of Ranga in that sequence. That is where Ranga is at his most vulnerable. He has flashbacks of his mother, brother, and struggles with this feeling of not being liked. The idea was to change the set ups according to his moods. When he has his back to his mother, he's crying. He doesn't want to show his real face to anyone. That's how we came up with this shot.

We had to use a mocobot to do this and we had to change the backdrops quickly as we shot it on the same day.

Ranga amusement park

We had to concrete the entire place because there was rain in Bangalore at the time. This is the song (‘Armadham’) that showed how big and connected Ranga was. The boys are seeing this spectacle for the first time, while Amban is used to it. We just wanted to have fun. We put up the birthday stage, the pool, a big cake, a giant wheel, and also a tiny Mayuri bar on wheels. We spent about ten days on the set. 

From what memory I have, Sameer sir (Sameer Thahir, cinematographer) was the one who suggested me to Jithu. To have this kind of a team where the producers understand every need of ours was amazing. It was a real honour.  

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