Three different wooden bridges for the same sequence had to be built for the climactic fight between Vikram and Abhishek Bachchan in Mani Ratnam‘s Raavan. This monument of cinematic architecture between two mountains in a road-less stretch at Malshej Ghat was constructed by famed production designer Samir Chanda and not by the distinguished bridge-architect Sheshadri Srinivasan, as rumoured.
What we would see as one mammoth wooden bridge in Raavan is actually three bridges constructed by Samir Chandra who reveals, “I had to build three bridges, one for the actors’ long shots which was 210 feet long, another for their close-ups which was 70 feet long and the third for just the actor’s leg work (running falling, etc) which was 30 feet long.”
Taking a deep breath production designer Samir Chanda who has worked closely on several films with Mani Ratnam, Shyam Benegal and Vishal Bhardwaj and has an experience of 26 years behind him, takes deep offence at the rumour floating around that the Raavan bridge was built by Sheshadri Srinivasan, though Samir Chandra does admit that “others” had been consulted initially.
“But the bridge that you see in Raavan has been designed and constructed by me and my team from Kulu Manali.”
Forty artisans from Himachal Pradesh were flown to Malshej Ghat to build this 3-avatar wooden bridge…Mani Ratnam would personally stand at the construction site from early morning till late evening, refusing to budge from the bridge-building venue.
Says art director Samir Chanda, “Mani’s enthusiasm was like that of a child. We had first thought of building this bridge in Sri Lanka because they have the infrastructure and the experience of working in Hollywood units which required wooden bridges. Then we thought of building the bridge in Australia, and then South Africa. Finally, I suggested we do it near Mumbai. Why spend crores when the same quality of construction is possible at a fraction of that cost?”
And to get to the bridges, Abhishek, Vikram and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and the rest of the cast had to wade through slush and mud infested with crabs. Abhishek would carry his wife in his arms to the bridge. But who would carry the others?
This is the same bridge on which the climactic fight between ‘Rama’ Vikram and ‘Raavan’ Abhishek Bachchan is fought in the film. “It wasn’t only about safety and architectural correctness but camera angles and actors’ manoeuvring power. Also, the bridge had to look convincing as the actors fought on it. And then it had to look equally convincing being blown up,” says Samir Chanda.