Tuesday, April 16, 2024

‘Avatar art-director shares her lifelong love affair with movies’

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Art director Aashrita Kamath, who has contributed to several feature films and advertisements both domestically and internationally, gets candid with The Pioneer, sharing her journey, working abroad, and more.
What could be a more fulfilling profession than turning the ordinary objects in your environment into visually captivating works of art? The art director handles the specifics of a project, while the creative director provides the overall concept. Art directors are in charge of managing their teams and developing the piece’s look once the concept has been presented. They oversee the project’s completion through the editing, production, and final stages. One such art director is Aashrita Kamath, who has worked on a number of feature films and commercials in India and abroad. As a student at Rishi Valley School, Aashrita Kamath was part of the Film Club. What was, at the time, an excuse to watch an extra movie every week soon turned into a lifelong love affair with the world of movies! Currently, she is working as an art director on James Cameron’s Avatar series, in production in Los Angeles.
While growing up, her mother, a graphic designer, worked out of home, and that exposed her to the aesthetics of design in various forms. “I watched in fascination as she would manipulate type, colour and form on her various projects. I was lucky to be educated in environments that fostered creativity and taught me to think for myself. Living in the city that was the heart of Bollywood, I was constantly exposed to the fascinating world of Indian films. After college, I began working at an ad-film production house, and there was no turning back. As an assistant director working on commercials, I observed the way the different departments came together to form a cohesive commercial. Of all the departments, the art department was the one that I related to the most. I met production designer Aradhana Seth and went on to work for her as a set dresser on West is West.”
From there, she went to work as a prop master on Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, working with designer Suzanne Caplan Merwanji. Both of these experiences were truly one-of-a kind and furthered her resolve to build a career in production design.
While she had worked in the art departments of various movies by then and designed short films as part of class projects, Interstate, one of my thesis films at the AFI Conservatory, really put things in place for her. It was written and directed by Camille Stochitch. “The universal themes of hope, love, and faith are what make the audience connect with the film. I was part of an extensive development and pre-production process during which it became clear that this story couldn’t be set in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood; our challenge was to find a way to portray Los Angeles and its immigrant community in an honest, relatable way. Of course, money was always tight, and finding a crew to donate their time was next to impossible. Despite all the challenges, we made a movie that we were proud of, and it went on to win a Student Academy Award in 2014.”
What part of her work excites us here the most? We ask, and she responds that we should give her the chance to constantly delve into new and interesting worlds. “In the span of a few months, I was immersed in the world of giants (on The BFG, with Steven Spielberg), in a Vietnamese jungle with Kong: Skull Island, in New York City and Syria on I See You, and finally, in the futuristic sci-fi world of Pacific Rim Uprising. What excites me the most is working with the director and the core creative team to help achieve their vision for the story. It is a very rewarding and fulfilling process, and I’ve learned to embrace the challenges and face every project head-on,” she says, adding, “There are some differences between working in India and abroad, but nothing dramatic. The differences lie in certain conventions and day-to-day working practices. At the end of the day, all a filmmaker wants to do is tell her story and have an audience connect with it.”
Well, she loved working on both West is West and ZNMD. It was an incredibly hands-on experience for her, and she was constantly learning and interacting with very talented people. “I learned a lot from the production designers of both movies: Aradhana Seth (for West is West) and Suzanne Caplan Merwanji (ZNMD). They are both incredibly strong and talented women, and they taught me many of the invaluable skills that I use in my work.”
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