Ashutosh Gowariker with his Jodha
Source: Mumbai Mirror
Date: November 10, 2006
Through the looking glass
Nitin Desai has used more than 2 million mirrors to re-create Sheesh Mahal for Jodha Akbar
More than 50 years ago, K Asif's magnum opus Mughal-E-Azam went on to become the first film in Indian cinema to create the opulence of Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors) on the sets. Five decades later, art director Nitin Desai is trying to recreate a similar set for Ashutosh Gowariker's Jodha Akbar.
Desai is currently engulfed by work, spending 12 to 18 hours a day constructing this set which has been erected at Nitin Desai Studio in Maharashtra.
"I am using 2 million glasses and mirrors to re-create the magic of Sheesh Mahal. I consider art director M K Syed from Mughal-E-Azam my mentor and since childhood it was my dream to work in a film which would give me the opportunity to be part of the magic of Mughal architecture," says Desai.
The Sheesh Mahal will play an important part in the film. It will be used for song sequences and a few romantic scenes between Hrithik and Aishwarya. Incidentally, Nitin is planning to make a glass floor for the palace. "It's difficult but not impossible," he says.
Desai recently returned from Jaipur where Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai have begun shooting. Agra Fort is the main location for the film and Desai had to spend more than a week with the management to get the correct measurement.
"We have created a 1200 feet long, 50 feet tall fort in my studio. Immediately after the Jaipur schedule, Hrithik and Aishwarya will be in Karjat shooting for the rest of the film," he says.
He has already created the famous Amar Singh darwaza, Diwan-E-Aaam, Diwan-E-Khaas and the residential palace for Akbar and Jodha. "We have also created a temple which will be used for Jodhabai's puja sequences. I have tried to amalgamate Hindu and Muslim architecture in the sets," he informs.
Currently, hundreds of workers are working on re-creating Sheesh Mahal. Nitin studied extensively about the light and prism function before embarking on the project. "I did my research before creating the rough draft of the palace. I remember when Syed had created Sheesh Mahal, K Asif faced a lot of problems while shooting. Due to the mirrors all over the set, the images would be reflected. I don't want Ashutosh to go through a similar problem on my sets," he says.
* I remember when Syed had created Sheesh Mahal, K Asif faced a lot of problems due to the mirrors. I don't want Ashutosh to go through a similar problem on my sets – Nitin Desai
K Asif had constructed Sheesh Mahal to picturise Madhubala's dance number 'Pyar kiya to darnaa kya' in Mughal-E-Azam. The bangle artists of Firozabad recreated the famed Sheesh Mahal, which had cost Rs 7 lakh then. But the director was confused about the lighting and it seems that he had to consult Hollywood cinematographer Sir David Lean, who dismissed the idea, saying it was impossible to film. The producer of the film was shocked when K Asif suggested razing the set to the ground and creating a new one. Finally, K Asif took a chance and shot the song in both black-and-white and colour. The black-and-white version was impressive, but when the producer saw the colour version, he apparently said, "Forget the movie, just give me this song and I will collect a crore of rupees with it."