Suresh Selvarajan is an acclaimed production designer who has worked in several Bharath Ane Nenu (2018), Acharya (2022), GodFather (2022), Shehzada (2023) etc to name a few. But with Animal, he has got recognition like never before. The monstrous machine gun, depicted in all its glory, in the interval block, has become an iconic prop of Indian cinema. People won’t be surprised if it gets a nomination for Best Supporting Actor! And this speaks volumes about how Suresh Selvarajan’s creation has become a rage. Suresh Selvarajan spoke exclusively with Bollywood Hungama about the war machine gun and a lot more.EXCLUSIVE: Animal’s production designer Suresh Selvarajan reveals the process of making the ICONIC war machine gun: “We took almost 4-5 months to make the gun. We also made 15,000-16,000 dummy bullets. Almost 100 people worked quite hard to bring the gun to life”
Congratulations on the success of Animal! What kind of feedback have you received?
Generally, people make big sets. Those sets will merge with the background and the flow of the story. The success of any set is that it should not look like a set. In the case of Animal, this humongous action prop made a lot of noise for production design. It has become one of the hero props!
What was the brief given to you by Sandeep Reddy Vanga? Also, how was it working with him for the first time?
I was very busy doing Telugu films, Acharya and GodFather. In Hindi, I had taken up Shehzada. Hence, I was wondering if I’d be able to do the film. Now I feel lucky that I was a part of Animal! Initially, when I met Sandeep, it was a brief meeting. 10-15 days before the shoot, I came on board. He told me the story initially in bits and pieces and later, he gave me a narration. I was blown away as it was a crazy plot. Also, what storytelling he had thought of! I told him that this is not a normal story. Before the narration, he had expressed the desire to have a machine gun. After the narration, I understood what he had in mind and the scale of his imagination. Later, he told me that I gave him more than what he had asked for (smiles).
What do you use to call the gun while making the film?
We used to always call it a war machine gun. A machine gun might mean a weapon like an AK-47. This gun is monstrous and showers bullets. The brief given to me was that the gun should be so heavy that it’ll take time to turn it towards the opponent’s side. Lekin ek baar turn kar diya na, toh koi bachega nahin!
KGF - Chapter 2 (2023) showed a ‘badi maa’ gun. Then, films like Tiger Zinda Hai (2017), Kaithi (2019), Vikram (2022) and Bholaa (2023) also depicted heroes using heavy guns to kill opponents. Animal, of course, went many notches higher than these films with the war machine gun. Yet, was KGF - Chapter 2 at the back of your mind and did you take additional care to avoid comparisons?
I am aware of the fact that at present, everyone is knowledgeable, including the kids. Immediately, someone will point out and spread the word that this particular scene or action shot or music is lifted from a particular film. Sandeep and I were clear that forget Pan-India films, one shouldn’t draw parallels even with Hollywood films. I went through all the references from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator to many other films. The machine gun has a different combination. The front wheel mudguard is taken from the shell of the tyre of a chartered flight. We made a dummy so that Ranbir could feel the weight of 500 kilos and gets an idea.
What was Ranbir Kapoor’s reaction when he saw the gun?
He went crazy! He knew the design though. While making the gun, we called him. We had made a wooden structure of the war machine gun. We told him to sit down and operate. The idea was that on the day of the shoot, we should not suffer with regards to the flexibility of the actor. Yet, he never thought the finished gun would look like this. He appreciated it and he went to another level when he used it. It was like a king sitting on his throne!
How much time did it take to design the gun?
If it was like a statue, I could have made it in 2 months. But it’s a working model. You can accelerate, turn and rotate the weapon. I took almost 4-5 months to make the gun. We also made 15,000-16,000 dummy bullets. Almost 100 people worked quite hard to bring the gun to life.
Besides the gun, the golden masks, worn by the goons, made for a great watch. And in this case, you didn’t even have a reference point. How did you get the idea for it?
I am lucky when it comes to masks! I made the first 3D mask for Salman Khan’s Kick (2014). The introductory poster of the film featured just the mask. It was a huge hit. Coming back to Animal, Sandeep is a person who’ll not just concentrate on the story. He’s also an editor and a good storyteller. He felt that the audience should not get bored. Also, he believed that looking at the face of fighters, some might grouse that ‘yeh fighter mota hai’, ‘yeh chota hai’, ‘yeh funny face hai’ etc. Also, he wanted them to look terrifying with the skull mask. Story wise, it makes sense since a well professional team has descended to attack the protagonist. Hence, Sandeep gave the idea of the mask. I gave a couple of sketches and then we finalized how the mask should be.
Did you visit cinema halls to check the reaction in the interval block?
I always do. The premiere was held in all the screens of Inox Maison. We were running to all the 6 screens to check the reaction. It felt very good to receive feedback. The next day, my wife and I went to Gaiety-Galaxy. My family also joined, excluding the kids as it was an ‘A’ rated film! I also visited Inox Inorbit Mall. I enjoyed the experience a lot; it was the first time I got such appreciation for my work (smiles).
You worked with the late acclaimed production designer Sabu Cyril. He was like a mentor for you. How was it working under him?
Earlier, I used to never believe in luck. But I started believing in it after I met him. He was my guru and because of him, I got a chance to work in big films to understand how things work. I worked on Om Shanti Om (2007), Agneepath (2012), Robot (2010), Krrish 3 (2013), Ra.One (2011), etc. It helped a lot. I am here in Mumbai thanks to him. My parameter was only Chennai. But because of my guru, I came to different states and finally settled in Mumbai. Today, I am getting so much appreciation and giving this interview, I feel lucky that I met Mr Sabu Cyril!
You worked with 3 films of Shah Rukh Khan – Om Shanti Om, Billu (2009) and Ra.One. How was it to work with him?
There are a lot of similarities between Shah Rukh sir and Rajini sir. On the last day of Jawan’s shoot, I went on the sets to meet Atlee, who’s a close friend. Shah Rukh sir saw me and said, ‘Your face was familiar’. He couldn’t guess it at first as we met after a long time. Also, I was an assistant art director on his films. Nevertheless, we had a nice chat. He talked highly of Animal. He told me, ‘Tum logon ne kya banaya hai yaar…corridor mein kulhadi aur mask wala fight has heightened my curiosity’. He congratulated me and hence, I felt very good!
Why do you say that there are a lot of similarities between Shah Rukh Khan and Rajinikanth?
I worked on both Ra.One and Robot. Once, on Robot sets, things went wrong. I told Rajini sir, ‘Sir yeh dummy prop ek hi hai. Yeh toot gaya toh dusra nahin milega’. When you inform Rajini sir about such problems, he’ll understand and will give the shot right in just one take. The same goes for Shah Rukh sir. During Ra.One, we committed a mistake. I told him upfront. He told me, ‘Don’t worry. Chill. I’ll (take care of it)’. They’ll always support the unit members.
You made a sprawling set for Chiranjeevi-starrer Acharya and it was used in Salman Khan’s Kisi Ka Bhai Kisi Ki Jaan (2023)…
I switch between Tamil, Telugu and Hindi films. At times, I regret that I am doing more Hindi films than South films or vice versa. For Acharya, I made the biggest single set ever on 23 acres of land. Salman came and shot at the same set. This shows that Bollywood filmmakers are also keeping a close eye on these minute aspects of Southern films. My greed was fulfilled (as I was able to work on two films with a single set!). I felt very good!
When do you start working on Animal’s sequel, Animal Park?
Sandeep told me two lines of the film and it’s amazing! But the full story is not yet developed. I have a feeling that the way he’s imagining Animal Park, Animal will be nothing in front of it!
Which are your other forthcoming projects?
Everything is in the pipeline. I haven’t signed anything. But I can say that I am doing Sandeep Vanga Reddy’s next film, Spirit, with Prabhas. He has committed this film to me.
Hollywood usually displays iconic props or clothes in museums. Is it possible that the war machine gun of Animal can also be kept in a film museum or theme park? After all, this gun has already gone down in history…
(Smiles) Yes, considering how much money this film has made. Also, the makers are putting the gun on the posters. The gun is like the second hero of the film. Sandeep has Arjun Reddy’s bike and Kabir Singh’s bike at his place. The war machine gun is now a part of his collection.
Will there be replicas of the gun that people can buy?
No. There’s only one piece. But besides designing props and sets, I have made a fantasy typewriter for Hrithik Roshan. I do some of his personal designs. This typewriter is such that you can’t type on it. It’s like a showpiece. I also created a 1 foot miniature bike for him. It's junk art. From the beginning, I have been keen to make peculiar art pieces as I am from an art college.
Also Read: Trade experts feel Ranbir Kapoor’s Animal has a chance of crossing the collections of Gadar 2, Pathaan and Jawan: “This is the first time that an actor has spoken such vulgar lines in a Hindi film; target audience is getting a KICK like never before”
More Pages: Animal Box Office Collection , Animal Movie Review
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