Movies have the ability to teleport you to a magical realm of make believe where your imagination is the limit. They can create imaginary worlds and fill them with interesting characters. They can even turn back time and take you back to the past to make you witness the tales of those days. No matter what the story is, movies pull the audience in and take them on an exciting ride. Movies are a form of visual media that resonates with the young and old alike. However, just an engaging script and good acting does not make a convincing film.
A lot of work goes into making a good film. Everything from a good script to convincing acting, appropriate background score to precise editing is needed to create a crisp film. But what truly brings life to each frame are the sets of the film. The sets are crucial to building the atmosphere and the vibe of each scene and filmmakers focus hugely on the sets as that is what truly captures the essence of an era.
Bollywood makers are famous for creating massive sets for their movies so much so that some films have grabbed headlines just for their extensive sets. Filmmakers understand the importance of realistic sets in movies and do not turn away from spending big bucks on making wide scale sets.
Today we take a look at the list of films that have featured the most expensive sets ever!
1. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
A film made in 1960, this film was the most expensive one to have been made in India at that time. It is the story of the love affair between Mughal Prince Salim and Anarkali, a court dancer. Salim’s father, Emperor Akbar, disapproves of the relationship, which leads to a fight between the father and son. It is said to be one of the finest films ever made in India and has gained a cult classic status over time. It became the highest grossing Bollywood film of all time, a title which it retained for 15 years! Reportedly, just the song sequences in the film were costlier than entire movies in that era. The iconic song ‘Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya’ was shot in a replica of the Sheesh Mahal in the Lahore Fort. The set was marvelled upon for its sheer size and its intricate design accuracy complete with pieces of Belgian glass. The whole set took two years to be built and cost a whopping amount of Rs 1.5 million.
2. Devdas (2002)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas was a visually stunning film that paid extensive attention to detail. Being the perfectionist that he is, Bhansali put in almost 9 months of work into designing the sets and the visuals for the film. He went to great lengths to ensure that the sets he was creating were accurate to represent Calcutta as it was in the 1930s. Building the sets took even longer than that. A massive figure of Rs 20 crores was spent on the making of the sets. Out of that, 12 crores were spent on creating Chandramukhi’s kotha alone! The kotha was built in a studio around an artificial lake to make it look like it was located in Benares next to the Ganges. Another intricately designed set was Paro’s haveli decorated with 122,000,008 pieces of stained glass. Bhansali’s efforts paid off as the film became the highest grossing film that year in India and abroad. Despite receiving mixed reviews in India upon release, Devdas was critically acclaimed among western film critics, and is considered as one of the greatest films ever made
3. Saawariya (2007)
By now Sanjay Leela Bhansali had become synonymous to grandeur and magnificence. His next, Saawariya, became the talk of the town even before its release for its extensive sets. First, it was the debut film for Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor and second the film featured a fictional fairy-tale like city that was brought to the big screen right out of Bhansali’s imagination. The film defined beauty and Bhansali made sure that every scene looked pleasing to the eye. Each frame looked breathtaking with magical sets of the snow covered locations that completely mesmerised the viewers. The city was complete with lakes, streets, shops, signages and a clock tower. An entire city for a movie? Only Sanjay Leela Bhansali could do this. The art director Omung Kumar and Sanjay Leela Bhansali worked together to create the magic on screen. Even though the film did not fare well in the box office, it was appreciated for its beautiful set design.
4. Jodha Akbar (2008)
A period film like Jodha Akbar is no easy feat to pull off. With its towering forts, large armies and ancient traditions, a period film requires extreme precision to be made efficiently. Directing a film with a story involving the lavish lifestyles of the Mughal Emperor Akbar set in the 1500’s would make filmmakers have second thoughts even today. But Ashutosh Gowariker brought his vision on to the big screen a decade ago and how! Jodha Akbar was a visual treat in every sense which took us back in time and brought to life the era of the past. Huge sets were created in Karjat, where most of the shooting took place, to recreate the lifestyle of the Mughal Emperors. Their lavish forts with large and meticulously decorated chambers along with entire gardens with fountains were made. Every frame looked grand and visually rich. The sets designed by Nitin Chandrakant Desai, were so detailed that they have now been been opened to tourists!
6. Bombay Velvet
Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet is a story set in the 1960, before Bombay became the Mumbai it now is. The film needed the city to look like it did in the 60s. Considered as Anurag Kashyap’s costliest project, the director asked the entire city of Old Bombay to be built on 9.5 acres land in Colombo. The city had everything built from scratch, from buildings to the interiors of the buildings and even minute details like signage and interiors and décor. Reportedly the sets took 11 months to be built and the whole film was made on a budget of âÂÂ¹120 crores. When asked why he chose to build the sets in Sri Lanka, Anurag said, “We came to Sri Lanka as this is the only country where we could have made the film in the costs we are making it and in the number of days we are shooting it. Due to the influence of the British and the Portuguese in creating Bombay, I visited several countries where the Portuguese went, right from Sao Paulo to Shanghai as many period films have been shot there to re-create my Mumbai till Vivek found Sri Lanka. We chose Sri Lanka for many reasons.” Despite its massive budget, the film failed to perform and was considered as a disaster at the box office.
7. Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015)
Salman Khan’s Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is one of the most expensive films ever made in India. Director Sooraj Barjatya is known to depict an extravagant lifestyle for his characters and he lived up to his reputation with this one too. He ordered huge and expensive sets to be built for his movie. This film tells the story of the rich prince from Pritampur. The Royal Palace, which is said to be the biggest set ever made, was specifically built for Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. It featured massive forts of Rajasthan but the makers also created the iconic Sheesh Mahal to shoot a certain scene in the film. Lights were an important part of the sets and apparently the budget for the illumination alone was around Rs 13-15 crores for the 258-day schedule. Made at a budget of Rs 90 crores, luckily for the director, the splurge proved effective as the film has now become one of the highest grossing films.
8. Bajirao Mastani (2015)
The sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani have gone down in history as the best sets ever in a film. When we thought that Bhansali couldn’t top his last project, boy were we wrong! Not only Bhansali has topped his last project but has raised the bar for the set design so high that only he could dare compete with it. The brilliance of his imagination is unparalleled as he brings to life the eras of the past and makes them larger than life. For his magnum opus, Bajirao Mastani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali created the second most expensive set in history. Reportedly he asked the set of ‘Mughal-e-Azam’, which is considered to be one of the most expensive sets till date, to be recreated for his film. The Aena Mahal has become the second most expensive set after ‘Mughal-e-Azam’s. The set was designed by Sujit Sriram and Saloni and took 45 days to be made. Over 20,000 intricately designed mirrors have been used which were handpicked from Jaipur.
9. Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (2015)
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy was another period film set against the backdrop of a pre-independent Calcutta in 1942. The story is based on the fictional detective Byomkesh Bakshi created by the Bengali writer Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay and starred Sushant Singh Rajput in the lead. The challenge for director Dibakar Banerjee was to create the atmosphere of a war-torn Calcutta with its vintage feel, old buildings and antique cars and the tram. Together Vandana Kataria, the set designer, and Dibakar Banerjee created the look of the Calcutta they envisioned and created the old city. The film succeeded in its depiction of the old city of Calcutta and impressed audience for its extremely detailed set design.
10. Raees (2017)
Shah Rukh Khan’s Raees is set in the early 80s and 90s in Gujarat. It is the fictitious story of a man who builds an empire in the state of Gujarat, the only state that still follows alcohol prohibition. It’s a story about his rise and his relationships, which help him become the single most powerful man in the state. Since the film was set in the 1980s the makers had to recreate the city of the bygone era. Director Rahul Dholakia asked for massive sets of the old city to be made in Mumbai’s Film City. Attention to every minute detail was given tremendous importance as the feel of the film – including houses, buildings, shops, clothes that people wear – had to resemble the 80s. Pictures posted by the director on his Twitter account gave the fans a glimpse of the recreated sets of the city. The efforts paid off and the film was noted as a critical and a commercial success, becoming one of the highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2017.
11. Padmaavat (2018)
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat faced a lot of resistance from groups that were in favour of banning the film. Despite all the protests, the film was released and became the highest grossing film of all time. The audience and critics appreciated the visuals and were in awe with Bhansali’s projection of the Rajput kingdom. The film starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, is a period drama that is a fictionalised account of Rani Padmavati. The story follows the attack on Chittor Fort by Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate. The film was originally to be shot in Chittor, at the Chittor Fort but due to protests the shooting had to be shifted. Bhansali decided to reconstruct the Chittor Fort in a studio in Mumbai and he did a fantastic job at that. The set looked exactly like the original and the film, all in all, looked marvelous to watch.