In the past 30 years, I have designed costumes for several films. Every movie gave me a beautiful experience and different challenges to deal with. I understood the beauty of costume-making and styling. I extensively worked with Sridevi, Aishwarya (Rai Bachchan), Sushmita Sen, Shilpa Shetty (Kundra), and Juhi (Chawla).
With the availability of a lot of big brands in the city, designing costumes for films has become rather easy now. A lot of stylists have joined the industry and come on board for films, rather than costume designers. Styling has become an integral part of fashion in films. Initially, there were designated designers to work on the clothes of an actor. Sometimes, it even used to be the actor’s mother or sister doing the job. Now, there is a more professional attitude towards costume designing. Commercial films have stylists doing the clothes, and period films have costume designers doing them.
I think the aspect of costumes in films is still a little larger than life, and more animated than realistic. This is because filmgoers have a higher aspiration value when they go to watch a movie. Something that they dream of is what they want to see in films. So, that still remains unchanged.
In the earlier decades, there weren’t so many stylists and brands available in India. But celebrities still used to maintain individual identity when it came to making a fashion statement. They were always receptive to newer trends. The only difference was that back then, costume designers would make outfits inspired by international trends. Today, they can just buy the same things in India. Even today, stars are open to trying out particular styles, but they still want to have their own identity. Eventually, it’s all about carrying off what you are wear, comfortably. In all these years, one person who has remained true to his style is Mr Amitabh Bachchan. Apart from him I feel Deepika Padukone, Salman Khan and John Abraham are very stylish. Rekhaji, too, has her own style in terms of traditional wear.
Even the red-carpet phenomenon has become bigger now. There is a lot more attention on clothes, styling, etc. Earlier, there wasn’t so much focus on the clothes and what the celebs wore. Now it’s become huge.
But there is nothing that I miss about the years gone by. Life is an ever-changing phenomenon, and I love the ever-evolving aspect of clothes and fashion. I’m not the kind who likes to see stagnancy. In fact, I love seeing the changes that are happening nowadays. What I saw in the ’80s and ’90s is coming back with new twists. Like I made Juhi wear so many off-shoulder tops in Darr (1993), and now, it is the hottest trend of the season again. Apart from that, drop waistline, chequered style, and the whole Elizabethan look has been explored in films earlier too.
- As told to Ruchika Kher
(Neeta Lulla has been designing clothes for Bollywood films for the past 30 years. She has styled the likes of Sridevi, Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Mailini, among others.)