By Jyothi Venkatesh
Devdas Bhandare is a veteran who has been working as an art director in the entertainment industry for the past 28 years. A couple of days ago a journalist friend of his had called him to understand the situation of all the Art Directors during the pandemic. Though he wanted Devdas to speak spontaneously, Devdas requested for a days’ time to reply him, as it was not an easy question to answer because he too was facing the wrath of the pandemic and hence it took him a while to recall the difficult time he and his colleagues are actually going through. According to Devdas, this is a part of his life he would certainly wish to forget.
“I started my work as an assistant to M.S Shinde an eminent art director who had won several awards including National Award for the film “Saransh” directed by Mahesh Bhatt starring Anupam Kher. Later after assisting for around 12 years I decided to work independently as a freelance art director. Those days’ there were very few freelance art directors and most of them had long association with certain directors or production houses and there was a continuous influx of work round the year. Gradually the number of films getting made started increasing with the advent of digital film making, collaterally increasing the demand of art directors.
“The conventional process of working as an assistant art director for a long span of time stretching into several years and then going independent took a back seat, and thankfully, many assistants became independent at a very early age. This new generation was very well prepared and well versed with the latest technology. The regular method of sketching the sets and then executing was replaced by 3D set designing software. I don’t have any complains against that and I am happy that the new technology has helped art direction immensely and we are heading in a right direction.
“What I miss today is the empathy, as earlier we lived as a one family and the association with the production house used to run for years. Now with every film the team changes as the budget differs from film to film according to the requirement. Being an art director I too work with my team. When I say team it automatically becomes my family. Many times I have to take some small jobs just to see that my team does not sit at home, i make sure that their house runs smoothly.
“Since last year was a tough time for all of us, and we all are dependent on the projects that come our way. And it has been almost 18 months without work. There was no one who could think about us, same was happening with other independent cine workers. I couldn’t disregard my responsibility, I had my team, my family to look after. My children had to drop out from their ongoing education, and my team members had to do menial jobs to earn one time meal.
“I wish at least now we all learn something from this, as we should have a contingency plan for such situation. The government should have some policies where we can save some amount for such situations. Despite coming from a humble background I never thought I could face such a grave situation. This is the first time that I understood what helplessness means, and what it is to have no money at all. I tried to help my team till the last penny I had, as I could not afford to let them starve”.
Affable and unassuming Devdas Bhandae signs off on a note of hope. “Now I am sure things are getting better, and even as we have survived these difficult times, we shall stand again and bring back the gory. I have a feeling, however techno savvy this industry becomes, it cannot surpass human emotions. I still believe in friendship and hard work. Yes. I am 100 per cent confident that we shall bounce back with vengeance and get back to work soon”.