Be it for the background score, the iconic dialogues, or the cinematography; movies make a mark among the audience for many reasons. They act as a portal for the audience to travel into times unimagined. 

Directed by Hanu Raghavapudi, Sita Ramam is a musical-romantic-period drama that revolves around three protagonists. As Lt.Ram is set on a journey to find his love Sita,  young Afreen is on a mission to find the truth untold. The journey of Ram starts with reading mysterious letters to wandering in the streets and places of Hyderabad. The movie beautifully captures the scenic landmarks of Hyderabad and Kashmir, for which it earned vast attention and recognition.  

Architectural History as the Teller of Time

The architecture in the movie strengthens the plot by evoking a sense of place and revisiting some of the invaluable historical locations. The movie, set in the 1960s and 1980s, recreates various historical locations, such as the houses of Kashmir, the streets and palaces of Hyderabad, the mud-thatch houses of Kaza, Himachal Pradesh, etc. One such example is Charminar Road in Hyderabad. 

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Charminar road recreated_©amazon prime

Treasures of Kashmir 

Kashmir is more than the beautiful snow-clad landscapes. Yet, Kashmir Architecture barely made it to our textbooks! The Sita Ramam makes it up by portraying the architecture of Kashmir at its best. The movie depicts the Hindu-Muslim relationship between the people in the war-conflicted zone of Kashmir. As Lt.Ram serves the Indian army, the visuals do justice in capturing the diffused light of Kashmir in its finest way. 

The residence of Sita and Ram during their stay in Kashmir, as shown in the film, is Nishati House, Srinagar, a Heritage house built in 1933. A sound example of Kashmir’s local architecture; the house was built to withstand earthquakes; with the ground floor built in rubble masonry, and the first floor built in brick masonry.

“Despite its heritage value and the stature of the guests it has received in the past, not many people outside Kashmir knew about it until recently; it became an eye-catcher for Bollywood filmmakers. Movies like ‘Rockstar’ and ‘Haider’ were shot there.”

(Samanbal, 2018)

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Nishati House, Srinagar_©Barkat-Un-Nisa
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Shah-i-Hamdan Mosque as seen in Sita Raman_© Amazon Prime

The Shah-i-Hamdan, or Khanqah-e-Molla, is one of the oldest mosques in Srinagar. Initially built in 1359… it is the first mosque in Srinagar by a Muslim ruler, Sikander Butshikan, in the memory of preacher Mir Syed Ali Hamdani. (Incredible India, n.d.)

More to the Grandeur looks

Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, a renowned palace of the 19th century, serves as Sita’s residence. Yet, the choice for a majority of the indoor shots was Yusupov Palace, St.Petersburg. Yusupov Palace, also known as Moika palace, Russia, is known for its grand interiors. As fine examples of Neo-classical architecture, the indoor scenes of both these palaces blended well in the movie. 

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Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad_©asigov.gov.in
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A scene shot in theatre entrance, Yusupov Palace_©Amazon Prime
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Theatre entrance of Yusupov Palace_©Olga Minkevich
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Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia_©whereiscookie.com

The dreamy colour palettes: Power of Lighting

Colour tones and lighting go hand in hand. The lighting elevates and sets the mood of the scene. The scenes throughout the movie maintain a neutral mood through its lighting. In technical terms, if the light and shade upon the character (in a scene) have the same exposure, it is called ‘flat lighting’. 

If not all, the movie has flat lighting in most of its scenes, particularly those set in historical locations of the 1960s, letting the architecture and costumes speak for themselves. The colour palette, on the other hand, was inspired by the buildings, landscape, locations, or, in short, the background. The vintage costumes of the characters are amplified shades of the same colour, which help create a balance in the frame.

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Tomb of Zain-ul-abidin’s mother as seen in Sita Ramam_©Amazon Prime
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A scene shot in the heritage streets Hyderabad_©Amazon Prime

Warm lighting, which induces comfort and happiness, has been used widely in the indoor scenes of the movie. Contradicting to which the diffused white lights of Kashmir appear to be a wave of freshness.

Visual interest as the driver of the narrative

Cinematography and composition play a vital role in a movie. The articulation of these two drives the interest, giving the scenes their definition. The filmmakers were keen on choosing the best set (film set) for each scene, let alone the songs per se. 

Visual balance is required to have an uninterrupted flow with the scenes. As the cinematography catches the viewers’ attention, the positioning of elements and their colours play a crucial role in keeping them intact. Photography techniques such as the rule of thirds and symmetry were used to render iconic scenes.  

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Frame within frame shot captured in Kashmir_©Amazon Prime
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Rule of thirds_©Amazon Prime

The use of mirrors and windows: Frame within frame

The use of mirrors and windows as a frame is known to create interest and focus on the subject. The use of frame-within-frame photography is eminent in the movie. Employing such methods can be a great composition tool for directing the viewer’s attention in a particular direction. Framing photography is a great composition technique as you can guide the viewer’s eye to the subject, following a particular path. Watch the movie after reading this article, you will soon see frames everywhere!

A door frame acting as the frame for a shot_©Amazon Prime
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A reflected mirror shot_©Amazon Prime
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A shot taken from a window pane_©Amazon Prime

To Summarize

As Sita and Lt.Ram find their way to each other and traverse through dreamy locations, the story focuses on the display of architecture in the warmest and most poetic form. To not distract the viewer’s eyes, the lighting in the flashback scenes is kept neutral and flat, thereby giving importance to the location and setting.

The portrayal of visually pleasing historical locations establishes themselves among the audience as memorable ones, be it the streets of Kashmir, the Palaces of Hyderabad or the snow-clad landscapes of Himachal. The designers have rendered the movie poetic and dreamy through the music and the visuals, thanks to the music composer Vishal Chandrashekar, Cinematographers PS Vinod and Shreyas Krishna. 

References :

  • www.lonelyplanet.com. (n.d.). Yusupov Palace | St Petersburg, Russia | Attractions. [online] Available at: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/russia/st-petersburg/sennaya-kolomna/attractions/yusupov-palace/a/poi-sig/374443/1336040  
  • Hamilton Basśo, K. (1996). Wisdom sits in places : landscape and language among the Western Apache. Albuquerque Univ. Of New Mexico Press.
  • Dunlop, J. (2015). Use a Frame Within a Frame to Add Depth and Context to a Photo. [online] ExpertPhotography. Available at: https://expertphotography.com/frame-within-a-frame-depth-contex/ 
  • Sen, S. (n.d.). How traditional Kashmiri architecture was designed to withstand even severe tremors. [online] Scroll.in. Available at: https://scroll.in/magazine/837729/how-traditional-kashmiri-architecture-was-designed-to-withstand-even-severe-tremors
  •  Samanbal (2018). Samanbal Samanbal CUK holds first convocation. [online] Available at: https://www.cukashmir.ac.in/departmentdocs_24/SAMANBAL%20JULY%202018.pdf
  • Incredible India (n.d.). Incredible India | Shah-i-Hamadan Mosque. [online] www.incredibleindia.org. Available at: https://www.incredibleindia.org/content/incredible-india-v2/en/destinations/srinagar/shah-i-hamadan-mosque.html 
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