EVENTFAQS spoke to Neelabh Kapoor about his passion for creativity and business of set designing.
Set designing is the foundation of any event. How come we have very few professional set designers in India?
Well, if one looks at the background of set designing, it has emerged from the requirement of Indian cinema and entertainment. There was a need and requirement for set designing. Set designing is termed as 'stage architecture'. Students get formal training in architecture and interior designing; in a similar fashion, we need professional training institutes that will train students who are passionate and creative enough to become set designers and coach them about the details and specifications that goes into designing. In India, one can see a number of art colleges and interior schools but not a single set designing institute. Set designing as a profession is slowly catching up. Designing is not merely drawing a few lines on paper but planning and executing it well. FFF (Form Follows Function) is the rule that we follow. We have students from JJ School of Arts and NID who are doing their internship with us to study set designing. But unfortunately, we don't have a formal institute who can train people in this kind of work. Having said that, creativity doesn't need any qualification, but yes, an institute can be a good platform to understand the basics of set designing.
Today you are ahead of creative geniuses like Sharmishta Roy and Omang Kumar. How do you feel about being in the number one position?
Needless to say, Omang Kumar and Sharmishta Roy are pretty much senior in the industry and are brilliant at their work. They have been around for decades and I'm still in my 4th year here. So the comparison is not applicable. I may have a long way to go still but I'm already in the league of such names and get an equal chance to pitch for exclusive and prestigious events. It's good to understand how they function but I have never thought of following anyone. I believe in individuality and I have always believed in making my way through.
You have been in this industry for a long time now. How do you think the business of set designing in India is different as compared to international standards of set designing?
It's only been four years since I became a part of the event industry. It's been almost five years in which there has been immense growth in the field of events. Stage architecture and set designing are becoming more professional. The difference between international standards of set designing to Indian set designing is that of time difference. To make any big and unique set is a structural challenge in itself. Even though we Indians started our business professionally a little late, we are catching up. We have skilled labor and we too are highly creative. Abroad, there is more awareness; they are more inclined towards stage architecture. But, we are excelling with time. India will emerge as a winner.
IIFA has been well appreciated by the industry for its sets and designing. What would be the total cost to put up the IIFA set?
Though the figure is confidential, the amount was huge. It's very expensive to do an event like IIFA in UK which is the most expensive place in the world in terms of obtaining materials and man power. As a matter of fact, we designed and executed the entire IIFA set in India and shipped it from here. It helped us achieve exactly what we were looking for. It was not difficult for us to visualize IIFA as the theme was 'Love at first sight', so the idea was to demonstrate something that was technologically savvy. It took us almost 9 days to fabricate the set and another 27 days to ship the set to Yorkshire but in the end, everything was worth it.
Is it necessary to spend that large an amount on the set itself?
It was expensive for sure but the budget was required. We wanted to showcase an event which had international quality in terms of production value, lights and performances, etc. We have created an impact globally and to create such a force, we need a good budget to display our creativity.
Events have distinct purposes and anything that distracts from the purpose is cut away in the west. Why do we require flashy events in India?
Sometimes we have to do larger than life events because there is a need and requirement from the client who wants to flash and exhibit his passion for such huge events. A minimalist and simple look is surely in today. But that does not mean that flashy or detailed sets are not appreciated. Abroad, if one wants to design in a detailed manner, it will take up the entire event cost and hence they shy away from doing anything that's elaborate. Creating flashy sets is subjective to the need of a specific event.
Does it feel chaotic to handle Indian weddings?
Wedding planning is my forte. Being a lifestyle wedding designer gives me more happiness than doing any other event. It gives me a pleasure to work with families and get associated on a personal level. It gives me chance to understand their liking and design something that would be an extension of their personality. It allows me to work with the best budgets and gives me larger than life freedom to visualize and conceptualize something that's not been done before. The Indian wedding scenario is becoming larger year after year. Right from invitations and cutlery, to theme and decor, food, other services, etc. - everything has to be taken care of minutely. By handling the entire event, we can dictate the entire flow of the wedding and it is creatively liberating too. I designed for one of the biggest weddings at the Cooperage ground last year and it's an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. The enriching experience of creating nothing less than a city was worth every effort and pain that my team and I took for over 6 months to plan and execute it.
Apart from doing projects for Wizcraft, what other projects are you working on?
The work that we do is partly catering to in-house work which comes from Wizcraft and partly the work that we get from outside such as channels and production houses. Recently, we did Comedy honours for Star Gold, which was a set oriented job, which caters to clients who are looking for direct set designing services. They are not looking for below the line services but hard core set designing execution services. This is where the need for us arises and we provide them with professional services backed by the experience and expertise of our company. We are planning to have new divisions with more creative people on board. We look forward to making it a more self sustaining unit and doing artistic work.