MONKEY MAN Exclusive Interview With Production Designer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet On Working With Dev Patel

MONKEY MAN Exclusive Interview With Production Designer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet On Working With Dev Patel MONKEY MAN Exclusive Interview With Production Designer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet On Working With Dev Patel

With Dev Patel's directorial debut Monkey Man, we were able to catch up with production designer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet to talk about his incredible work on the film and crafting that badass final fight.

By RohanPatel - May 03, 2024 03:05 PM EST
Filed Under: Movies

In case you missed it, Dev Patel's directorial debut Monkey Man is now available to rent or purchase at home, and following its launch, we were able to sit down with production designer Pawas Sawatchaiyamet to talk about his incredible work on the film, where he worked closely with Patel to craft the film's stunning sets and distinct visual style. 

He was kind enough to join us for a lengthy nearly thirty-minute conversation about the film, so we implore everyone to check out our full video interview, embedded below, for all of the amazing details on how he helped bring this film to life. 

While Monkey Man is now available at home, it's also still playing in theaters and, to date, has grossed over $32.7 million globally on a modest $10 million production budget, which makes it one of this year's most welcome box office success stories. 

The film's synopsis reads, "Inspired by the legend of Hanuman, an icon embodying strength and courage, Monkey Man stars Patel as Kid, an anonymous young man who ekes out a meager living in an underground fight club where, night after night, wearing a gorilla mask, he is beaten bloody by more popular fighters for cash. After years of suppressed rage, Kid discovers a way to infiltrate the enclave of the city’s sinister elite. As his childhood trauma boils over, his mysteriously scarred hands unleash an explosive campaign of retribution to settle the score with the men who took everything from him."

Watch our full video interview with Pawas Sawatchaiyamet below and/or keep scrolling to read a condensed version. Plus, please remember to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more exclusive content!


ROHAN: First off, just for our readers, what were your responsibilities on this film? 

PAWAS: To work and disuss with the Director and DOP. to come up with the Look of the Films, creating Mood and Tone, designing overall of visual aspects included Set design, Set decoration, Props, Visual elements appear on screen & etc.

ROHAN: What were your initial conversations with Dev like when conceptualizing how he wanted the sets to look and feel?

PAWAS: Dev saw the story happening in this specific kind of world. Thinking of Gotham as the dark side of New York City, we created Yatana as the dark version of Mumbai. It was a brilliant, smart idea that stimulated me to see a fresh way to design Monkey Man. Dev was extremely passionate for the story and clearly knew what he wanted. I’m so proud to be part of his debut film.

In Thailand, we have grown up with the India influence for a long period of time, including religion, cultural and mythology. The core idea of Monkey Man is quite relatable to me. The protagonist who comes back to revenge the tyrant, the poor who fight against the wealthy, the underdog from the lowest of society going to battle with the antagonist in the highest—these are all rich textures that represent the different social classes.”

ROHAN: As the production designer, what was the biggest challenge in turning Batam into India?

PAWAS: It was a big challenge from the beginning, once start the project. I have a general knowledge about Batam island since I’ve been working there for many times, it’s important to know how the actual locations in Batam look like, and ready for an adaptation. And thanks for my Set decorator; Yassmin Sethi, she’s from India who came on board to work side by side with me, to assist all the India-ness happened in the Films. In technical we had more controlled of the look inside the Set built in the Soundstages and the Backlot. And attempt to adapt the selected locations in Batam to match the look of the Films.( So, we did a hevilty location scouting in Batam)

ROHAN: Where did you draw inspiration from for the boxing club set and how that would all ultimately look?

PAWAS: From the concept, we would like to make the scene as the Underground fight club, with the pandemic factor, the proper way to suit to the safty photocal when you need hundreds of extra in the set, we decide to create a fight club arena in the Sound stage instead. On the other hands, the booth ticket and the impression of coming to the fight club, we actually set up in the real basement in one of the hotel in Batam.

ROHAN: The film has many levels to it, similar to a video game, where Dev's character Kid is advancing through different floors to reach the final boss. Was that something you had in mind when designing Kings?

PAWAS: This is actually the plot point that I was inspired when I read the treatment, and created the concept of the journey “Rising Up”. The great metaphor that using the changing floor levels in King club, to represent the character growing up. The main scenery that technically I know that it’s quite tricky to recreate since we will not be able to shoot this on the actual location and we need to built up the Set. The elevator also will be the key element, a convincing device for an audience, set up in the soundstage as well.

ROHAN: What was the most challenging set to create? Were most physical locations that you repurposed or was there more creative work required?

PAWAS: The King Club, the combination of several built combined from exterior of the club in the backlot, the restaurant in the real loaction, the restaurant back alley was in the soundstage and the rest of other floors were set design in the soundstage. These were the jigsaw pieces that stiched together to become a King Club. The technical set construction built especially for the fighting chorography.

ROHAN: How did Alpha's temple come together? Was that a physical location you found or was it something you had to make?

PAWAS: A Hindu temple, this is a tricky one, we are filming in the island that has no such a thing. Because of this films has been prep in Mumbai for some period of time. So the material references of the temple were provided enough to understand what it supposed to be. I had designed and separated the built of the temple to be at least two main locations. One was an abandoned wrected concreate residense with an overgrown tree, created a partial set built and decorate to match the Hindu temple look. The other one is built and adapted inside the abandoned building near the Studio.

ROHAN: What was it like working with Dev Patel on his first film as a director? What did you see from him as a filmmaker?

PAWAS: Dev, has a vision and passion for Films, smart and strong determination. Eventhough this is a debut films directorial, I feel he has prepared himself to be here in this position. Dev always been as a leader of the crew, supported and listen to the team all the time.

ROHAN: The present day story is very dark throughout the film, but the flashbacks are lit more brightly. How did you approach lighting the film?

PAWAS: Sharon Mier; DOP., will be the master on this case. The irony of “Kid” life, the more he got into the Tyrant- Corupted World, the World beome darkers, yet lit with an artificial lighting. The good old time when the Kid” young, the Childhood time before his World collapses should be more brighter tone with Sunshine.

ROHAN: There is a lot of red light in the film, giving the film a very cool, distinct look. What challenges does having that much red lighting present?

PAWAS: On my part the color scheme wil be more Tropical India color palette, red brown, pink, red, purple for example The poor class will be more of the cluttering spaces, rich of textures and more mixed of color. The rich will be on to the monochromatic color scheme, hi light with red and gold.(King Club) The King Club will be a mixed used of Dark Brisish Oak brown wood and red and touch of gold. In general Sharon DOP. will painted the scenes by his lighting design that appeared on the redish lighting ambiences.


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Oscar® nominee Dev Patel (Lion, Slumdog Millionaire) achieves an astonishing, tour-de-force feature directing debut with an action thriller about one man’s quest for vengeance against the corrupt leaders who murdered his mother and continue to systemically victimize the poor and powerless.

Inspired by the legend of Hanuman, an icon embodying strength and courage, Monkey Man stars Patel as Kid, an anonymous young man who ekes out a meager living in an underground fight club where, night after night, wearing a gorilla mask, he is beaten bloody by more popular fighters for cash.

After years of suppressed rage, Kid discovers a way to infiltrate the enclave of the city’s sinister elite. As his childhood trauma boils over, his mysteriously scarred hands unleash an explosive campaign of retribution to settle the score with the men who took everything from him.

Packed with thrilling and spectacular fight and chase scenes, Monkey Man is directed by Dev Patel from his original story and his screenplay with Paul Angunawela and John Collee (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World).

The film’s international cast includes Sharlto Copley (District 9), Sobhita Dhulipala (Made in Heaven), Pitobash (Million Dollar Arm), Vipin Sharma (Hotel Mumbai), Ashwini Kalsekar (Ek Tha Hero), Adithi Kalkunte (Hotel Mumbai), Sikandar Kher (Aarya) and Makarand Deshpande (RRR).

Monkey Man is now available to rent or buy at home!

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