Art director

National award-winning art director Anees Nadodi on building a chapel for the Malayalam film ‘Kappela’

Anees Nadodi reflects on the set design of Malayalam ‘Kappela’ which won him the national award

Anees Nadodi reflects on the set design of Malayalam ‘Kappela’ which won him the national award

When the 68th National Film Awards were announced with production designer Anees Nadodi’s name on the list for Best Production Design for Kapella, he was out with his wife at Marine Drive in Kochi. “When we got the call, we didn’t even know what reward it was. I didn’t know the national awards were going to be announced,” he says over the phone from Malappuram, where he is visiting his mother after the announcement.

“My younger brother called me and asked if there was another production designer with the same name. When I said no, he told me that I had won the national award!

The phone calls started pouring in. “Even then he did not check in. I checked with friends in the media to confirm the news. It took another 24 hours before it finally sank. Almost all films are sent for consideration for various prizes, there was no reason for him to expect a prize.

An interest in drawing and the applied arts led the 32-year-old to quit his job as a journalism teacher in Malappuram to pursue a career in art direction. Sudanese from Nigeria was his first film as a freelance art director; Varathan, Tamasha, Lucas, Kanakam Kamini Kalaham and Mahaveeryar are some of his other films.

Anees’ design sensibility is understated and understated, keeping a real whole. “Choose a movie like Kapella involves the jury researching many aspects and paying attention to the details that go into designing a set,” he says. He explains what happened in the conception Kappela’s ‘kappela’, an abandoned chapel of Mother Mary, which is a kind of sanctuary for Anna Ben’s character. It is a set that is close to his heart.

Kappela set under construction

The Kappela set under construction | Photo credit: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Built from scratch on the edge of a cliff in Poovaranthode, a small village nestled among the nutmeg plantations in Wayanad, it was built with the help of carpenters and welders. The design team built an 18 footer. ramp on which the whole was built.

“Musthafa, the director, wanted it to be on this particular cliff because the scenery is beautiful. The kappela had to be on the edge like a protrusion on the landscape. We have sourced plants and foliage found on the heights of these hills and ‘planted’ them there for added authenticity. As these were soon to wither, we only got these plants once everything was ready and the camera was ready to roll,” recalls Anees. For the other sets, he sourced items locally from villagers, for a real feel.

Driven by the belief that anything can be used and reused, his “modus operandi” involves raiding local junkyards to build sets, because “chances are you’ll find everything you need for a decor. I depend on scrap yards for my materials – an office, a house and a police station can also be built from what a scrap yard brings in.

Although he is a supporter of recycling and up-cycling, design is for him a creative exploration. His current design sensibility crystallized with Lucas (2019) in which the eponymous character was a scrap artist based on Anees’ suggestion. It was a film for which he expected an award. “However, when I look back on my work, I realize that was not enough. My work has also refined over the years.

For now, he’s enjoying the moment, but with a touch of surprise before embarking on his next projects.