In a refreshing turn, the costume designers of two new films stay away from brands. Instead, they raid street stalls and thrift stores to create unique looks.
Select filmography: Bunty aur Babli, Don, Dostana, Tashan, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, Kambakkht Ishq, Rockstar, Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl, Agent Vinod, Barfee, Housefull 2 loves the styling of Gulzar’s Mausam, The Dirty Picture and The Namesake. "Since I am from Calcutta, I would have killed to have styled that film".
When Aki Narula read the script of Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar, his first thought was that Ranbir Kapoor’s character of Janardhan Jakhar, aka Jordan, cannot be a clichéd rockstar. “We set out to create our own Indian rockstar, which we have achieved with a juxtaposition of mulmul (vulnerability) and leather,” says Aki. The second thought was to create a wardrobe for Jordan. “So every chapter is a continuation of the chapter that has gone by. He wears something from Prague in Dharamshala and something from Kashmir in Prague. And almost everything was sourced in those places,” adds Aki who created 123 looks for Ranbir.
Another character trait that is worked in subtly through costuming is Jordan’s affinity for collecting things. These are visible as souvenirs on the black thread around this neck and on the strap of his guitar, adorned with a boondi from his mother’s mangalsutra, his guitar blade, Free Tibet badges, the keys of his suitcase, feathers etc. “The film is about his journey, his life and the clothes change, connecting those chapters,” says Aki who did not rely on research or references but on instinct. “I knew that with every chapter I had to keep my eyes wide open in terms of what I noticed the local people or gypsies were wearing. I had to pick immediately and prepare the costumes overnight while we were on location. So my tailor had to travel everywhere with me.”
He recounts how he bought a phiran from a salesman on the road in Kashmir. "But I bought the one he was wearing. There was such a stench from it that we emptied two cans of deodorant on it before Ranbir wore it." For the Dharamshala chapter, quilts and shawls have been converted to costumes and many outfits were sourced from flea markets and vintage stores in Prague. "To give the home-grown feel, we got Punjabi women in north Delhi to knit sweaters because we figured that Janardhan’s mother either knitted sweaters for him or got them from a friend who knits. We have also kept him in the same two pairs of slightly tight, high waist jeans. The idea is that with every subsequent scene you never really forget the chapter he’s come from."
Niharika Bhasin Khan
Select filmography: Khoya Khoya Chand, Rock On!, Band Baaja Baaraat, Delhi Belly loves the styling of Monsoon Wedding, Dil Chahta Hai, Kareena Kapoor in Kambakkht Ishq, Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai and Helen’s films. “I’ve used Helen influences for the cabaret numbers in The Dirty Picture.”
Everything South Indian – that was the starting point for costume designer Niharika Bhasin Khan when she was enlisted to style The Dirty Picture based on the life of Silk Smitha. She watched many of Silk’s films and researched South India and South Indian films, fabrics and saris.
Niharika’s biggest challenge was to dress Vidya Balan to look "amazing" and be every man’s fantasy without looking "slutty or cheap." The canvas was vast, challenging and vibrant, but she had to be careful that it did not become garish or a caricature. "The first time we did a look test with Naseeruddin Shah, I got carried away because I was so excited with the South Indian thing.
Everything was beautiful and detailed but we felt that we had made a caricature. We reminded ourselves that we were making a south Indian film but for a north Indian audience. And that we were addressing a very serious subject – about an actress who kills herself – and you don’t want to be laughed at," says Niharika who created 130 costumes for Balan alone, besides dressing Shah, Emraan Hashmi, Tusshar Kapoor and the secondary characters.
Besides being a period film, within the story, Niharika also had to account for the passage of time – from when the girl comes to the big city from the village (where she is dressed in printed petticoat-like skirts with long blouses and a chunni) to her days of struggle when she shows skin, to her stardom and finally her decline. "There are four phases of transformation during which everything changes – the texture of fabrics, body shape etc. At times I have had to tighten the outfits to ooze fat. As a designer, you have to work that in," explains Niharika adding, "I have never worked so much on a film. We had look books, drawings and swatches for every scene."
Silk Smitha’s (played by Vidya Balan) outfits tell the story of the rise of sexy south Indian film star.
Check out these two sultry, filmi looks
While almost all the materials, accessories and garments were sourced from around Mumbai, Vidya volunteered to accompany Niharika to Matunga, a traditionally south Indian enclave in Mumbai, to shop for saris, lungi fabrics and accessories. Says Niharika, “Putting together the colour palette of the time and choosing the right fabrics was very important. Hair, make up and wardrobe were really in synch. And the art direction and cinematography departments have made me look good.”
From HT Brunch, October 30
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