Posted on : 20/02/2020 12:58pm
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Vijay Narayanan, Art Director at Star Sports India, where he works at the strategic intersection of art & technology to bring effective story-telling into sports broadcast.
Vijay talks to Shyam Krishnamurthy from The Interview Portal about his work as Production and Set designer for several TVCs, Feature Films and Events before his current role at Start Sports.
Vijay, tell us about Your background?
I was born in Chennai, but all my schooling & college education happened in Mumbai.
I studied in 2 schools – one was S.I.W.S. Matunga & Sewri, Wadala. The other was Holy Angels High School, Mulund. Right through both schools I was inclined towards art. I was among the best art students in both these schools. Right from childhood, art was an integral part of my life – from scribbling on home walls to drawing on paper and making paintings, art was an important facet of my life. I had the opportunity to learn art with good teachers which helped me hone my skills during childhood. My parents, noticing my art talent, and encouraging me to take up arts in school as well as later professionally has played a crucial role in my working as an art director & production designer today.
In my entire family, I think my inkling towards art has come from my Mom Smt. K.V. Alamelu. She is also inclined towards art & handicrafts. She is really good in making dolls using different materials & traditional rangolis as well! She has a very good understanding of art! So, credit goes to her! Also, my father Shri K.V. Narayanan supported me through my journey. He used to take me to different schools whenever a drawing competition was scheduled to take place, distance wasn’t a matter at all! He also used to buy me different kinds of school bags for my art. My elder brother Ajay supported me too. I used to borrow his colours for my drawings and he let me do that wholeheartedly. Over the years the support system has only grown stronger and become more positive. And now even my brother’s wife Suma and their little daughter Siddhi are important pillars of this sacrosanct support system. Both also offer valuable feedback on my art & design works.
What did you study?
So, art continued in my college as well. After completing 12th in Commerce, i moved to the prestigious Sir JJ School of Art to pursue my BFA in Interior Design & Decoration. It was a 4-year degree course with the first year for art foundation & the following three years for my specialization.
How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?
Before I get into this part of the story, I would like to provide a basic understanding/ meaning of production design & art direction. Production Design is the art of designing for cinema. In this we bring to life the vision of the director, the script/ story writer. It is a specialist art wherein we bring together a premise on which the film’s story unfolds & the viewer is led to believe that what they see on screen is real, even though it is a make-believe world. Among all these, between the production designer & art director, the production designer envisions the final look for the project & the art director realizes the production designer’s vision/ concepts into reality. I have worked in both capacities. The same ethos is adhered to when designing for films, TV commercials, sports shows, stage shows, music videos, weddings, events, etc. So, it is a very interesting field to work on.
Studying in Sir JJ School of Art had a positive impact on my art studies. It provided a firm grounding in the field of art specializing in interior design & decoration. The college ambience itself brought out the best in you, bringing out the artist in you! By the time I was in third year I realized that to be a good production designer & art director you need to have a good sense of space design, drawing, lighting, materials, ergonomics, anthropometrics, camera framing and many more skills, most of these being in common with Interior Design as well. So, after graduation advancing towards production design & art direction was the next logical step for my career. Movies also inspired the creative individual in me. I used to watch a lot of movies back then, which inspired me to tread on this path, designing for cinema, which is where iam today. The fact that the work done by the production designer & art director is watched by millions worldwide and our work tending to stand out & the recognition that we get for our good work in the form of big film awards like the Oscars, Filmfare, etc. also led to choosing this career for myself.
Our professors from Interior Design dept at JJ laid the key groundwork and provided guidance in both Interior design as well as production design fields. Besides academic knowledge, we were also equipped with the necessary on the field practical knowledge. I used the same design principles learnt in art college in the field of production design & art direction. Some of the seniors from college who had done some freelance set design work also guided me with work methodologies of this field. Our professors used to organize sessions with ex- students who were doing good/ offbeat work in the industry. Some of them were working in the Bollywood movie industry we well. My final year thesis was also based on set design for a fashion show – I had done lot of groundwork for this project and it was well appreciated by our professors.
So, all these aspects helped me choose the career that I’m in presently in.
How did you get your first break?
Even during my course at JJ & after my graduation I worked with architectural design companies as that related to the course that I had pursued. I gained necessary practical knowledge and the work methodologies that i learned here helped me quite a bit in the new field. I did internships with architects between 2002 – 2006. Then graduated in 2006 and worked with some more architects till early 2007. Soon I realized that production design & art direction was my real career calling. So, I decided to pursue a course in production design from the prestigious NFTS (National Film & Television School), UK. I took a break for 4 months and worked on my art portfolio, catering to the requirements of this course. I even got selected for the final interview round where I was required to travel to the UK and attend the interview & GD sessions. But due to financial constraints I could not attend the interview and do the course. It was disheartening, but the fact that a prestigious institute like NFTS selected me for the final round instilled some positivity & self-belief & I set forth on my journey in the movie industry in our own Bollywood.
Your advice to students based on your experience?
1. As young students, if you are interested in making a career in art, then please let your parents know about it. Tell them why you like it… im sure just like my parents supported me, your parents will also support you!
2. Sketching & drawing is integral element of art & design – so maintain this habit regularly.
3. As art & design students, it is very important to focus on academic assignments and develop your knowledge in the chosen specialization. Also develop design software skills like Adobe Creative Suite, Autodesk series, etc. to name a few.
4. As art students & as professionals it is important to be a good learner. Keep abreast of all the latest trends in your field of work no matter how senior you are in the industry. Keep walking ahead, keep learning!
5. Develop hobbies, outdoor sports activities outside of your career. It is equally important for one to pursue some activity outside of their careers. It helps you de-stress, develop a disciplined approach to things in life, and also keeps you in positive frame of mind. I pursue long distance running, krav maga & also play cricket with friends regularly. That keeps me fit & active and also helps me have a disciplined and positive approach to my work as well.
To stay focused on my work and keep myself updated with all the latest design & technology trends from my field of work. Keep walking ahead, keep learning!
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