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P Krishnamoorthy, Award-Winning Art Director & Costume Designer, Dies at 77

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P Krishnamoorthy, the award-winning art director and costume designer, died on Sunday at his house in Chennai. He was 77.

Krishnamoorthy, who predominantly worked in the  Kannada, Tamil, and Malayalam industries, won the National Film Awards five times, thrice in the Best Art Direction category and twice in the Best Costume Design category. He has also been a recipient of the Kerala and Tamil Nadu State Awards. He has worked with several renowned filmmakers, including GV Iyer in Kannada, and Hariharan and MT Vasudevan Nair in Malayalam.

Krishnamoorthy, whose hometown is in Poompuhar in Tamil Nadu, began his career as an art director alongside GV Iyer, in the 1975 Kannada feature film Hamsageethe. He later worked with Iyer in the Sanskrit film Adi Shankaracharya (1983), the Kannada film Madhvacharya (1986), and the Tamil film Ramanujacharya (1989).

Krishnamoorthy began working in the the Tamil and Malayalam film industries with Kann Sivanthaal Mann Sivakkum (1983) and Swathi Thirunal (1987), directed by Sreedhar Rajan and Lenin Rajendran respectively.

Krishnamoorthy’s specialty was bringing natural and authentic backgrounds, even on a small budget and with limited resources, said filmmakers who have worked with him.

Speaking to Silverscreen India, filmmaker Gnana Rajasekaran who has worked with Krishnamoorthy in three Tamil films, Mogamul (1995), Bharathi (2000), and Ramanujan (2014), said, “Ever since I entered the film industry, he has worked as an art director with me. He was the art director for my first film Moghamul. His aesthetics and concept to the background of the film are exceptional.”

“By investing more money, you can bring more, but for people like us who cannot afford [a lot], he was easy to work with. For Mogamul, it was set in Kumbakonam in the 1950s. To bring out that background, any filmmaker had to spend a lot of money, but Krishnamoorthy did it on a small budget. He used costumes and props authentically by collecting material from the same locality.”

Krishnamoorthy’s health condition was not well and he had stayed indoors for the last 2-3 years, Rajasekaran said.

Rajasekeran who also worked with Krishnamoorthy in Bharathi, a biopic on the Tamil poet Subramania Bharati that won Krishnamoorthy two National Film Awards (for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design), said, “We had only limited resource and information to work on the biopic but his tremendous equation with directors and cinematographers clicked for the film. I have always consulted him when the cinematographer fixes the frame. He has now created a vacuum for artistic filmmakers like us.”

Speaking to Silverscreen India, film director Suresh Krissna, who worked with Krishnamoorthy in the 1999 Tamil romantic dance film Sangamam, for which Krishnamoorthy won the Best Art Director award at the Tamil Nadu State Film Awards, said, “[Once] we were shooting at a house in Pollachi where the musicians were living. He did beautiful work with the sets with limited resources. He was naturally very creative. He even did a giant Amman statue for the climax. He was one of the most talented professionals and did not do commercial cinema much, but we asked him to work on the film specifically.”

“He was excellent; a very creative and talented person. He had inputs on every aspect of the film and his specialty was he could do innovative things with limited resources,” Krissna added.

Several prominent figures from the industry shared condolences on social media.

Chimbu Devan, who directed Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei (2006), wrote that Krishnamoorthy was a very important art director.

Veteran filmmaker Bharatiraja shared said he could not believe that Krishnamoorthy had passed, and shared a poem.

Media consultant Diamond Babu said that the final rites of the art director would take place on Monday afternoon at his residence.

Krishnamoorthy’s best known Tamil films include Thenali (2000), Pandavar Bhoomi (2001), Imsai Arasan 23rd Pulikecei (2006), and Naan Kadavul (2009).

He is survived by his wife.

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