Drona, the good-versus-evil fantasy flick released this week, boasts of India’s “most expensive villain ever”—at Rs22 crore. Touted as a “demon with unimaginable powers”, Riz Raizada, played by Kay Kay Menon, battles Abhishek Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra for the potion of eternal life. With almost no precedent in Indian cinema, director Goldie Behl borrowed liberally from graphic novel anti-heroes, pulling out all stops to create a glassy-eyed, Mohawk-sporting evil sorcerer who skulks around lavish sets in Prague and Rajasthan.
“I wanted a modern-day representation of a dark character, so Riz has Shakespearean and Indian influences in his costumes based on a graphic novel/comic book feel,” Behl says.
The hefty price tag included costumes, sets and, most importantly, the special effects that give Riz his telekinetic and magical powers, including the ability to spit fire from his cape. The sets included three main locations: the Troja castle in Prague, an interiors set in Mumbai’s Film City, and Bikaner, Rajasthan. The princess of Bikaner was persuaded to open up private sections of the Junagarh Fort—which further racked up filming costs. “We wanted to retain the Gothic, Dracula feeling without losing the Indianness,” Behl says.
Big baddie: It took Rs22 crore to create Kay Kay Menon’s character, Riz.
His brief to his sister and production designer Tania Behl was simple: Imagine Batman’s lair. That sent Tania on a location hunt among Prague’s museums, palaces and mansions. Eventually, Troja castle was chosen for its grand, Gothic architecture and used to film the exterior of Riz’s den. “I have used a graphic novel feel, with opulent elements for the sets—like a grand staircase inside Riz’s castle that looks like it’s coming out of nowhere, with gold carvings on the runners,” Tania says.
In Film City, nearly 200 workers toiled for about 20 days to build the interiors set of the villain’s lair. Each prop, right down to the large rug on Riz’s floor, was designed and handmade; and 200 extras made up his black hooded army. “We even had to cut the tiles and reshape them to make them fit, and then the grooves between about 6,000 sq ft of tiles had to be painted red. That itself took 10 days to do. We lacquered the entire set and laid down flooring. I had the material for the rug flown in from Bangkok and had it stitched in Mumbai,” Tania says.
In early meetings, Behl, Tania, cinematographer Sameer Arya and costume designer Anaita Shroff Adajania agreed on a distinct colour palette for the sets and costume. Adajania scoured Mutton Street in Crawford Market for materials that would go into crafting Riz’s look. “I have used satins, silks and synthetic lace in deep purples, black and reptilian textures using faux crocodile and lizard fabrics. His costumes have large cuffs, wide collars and capes and he is accessorized with many silver rings.” Adajania’s research, based on Japanese comic books, helped her individualize Riz’s look, so he wasn’t rooted in a place or time period. The effect she aimed for was a “scratching nails on blackboard” feel.
“My character lives in a kind of Gothic, demonic atmosphere and my make-up, hair, costume and setting give him a flamboyant, majestic, powerful feel,” says Menon, who admits that playing Riz was like a childhood dream come true. It took about 45 minutes just to get his hair done; getting into full costume took approximately 2 hours. “The hair was so solid I could kill someone with it.”
And though there have been other costly villains—most notably Shakal (played by Kulbhushan Kharbanda) in Shaan (1980) and Mogambo (played by Amrish Puri) in Mr India (1987)—their combined movie budgets still stood at well under Rs22 crore. “I have consciously tried to make a departure from them,” Menon says. “Riz is also funny, quirky and has magical powers. I believe even bad guys should tickle the audience. You should hate the character, but love the actor.”
Drona released in theatres on Friday.
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