Filmmaker Mira Nair’s new movie, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (TRF), is set to release soon, and yet again, Delhi-based designer Arjun Bhasin has been in charge of the actors’ costumes. “I’ve worked with her since Kamasutra in 1995, while I was still in college. She’s very exacting and visual; we’ve established a good creative partnership,” says the designer-stylist, who also dressed the characters in her films Monsoon Wedding (2001) and The Namesake (2006).
TRF is about a young man chasing success on Wall Street, but post 9/11, he finds himself torn between his American dream, a hostage crisis and his homeland, Pakistan. In the film, Bhasin has blended Pakistani and western costumes for a gamut of stars. He talks about his experience.
You have worked with Hollywood biggies like Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland. What was that like?
It was surprisingly easy. They’re all remarkably professional. Actors play such a big part in the design process — their physicality, body language and instincts. They all had very clear ideas of how they wanted to play the parts. But they were also interested in hearing my ideas and collaborating with Mira and me in bringing the characters to life.
How did you go about your research for the looks?
A lot of the research, for the mood and milieu, came from the TRF book and also from Moth Smoke (both the books have been written by Mohsin Hamid). I had also planned a trip to Pakistan, but I didn’t make it due to scheduling issues. Instead, I had the author’s sister, Nisa, helping me out with design ideas to keep the Pakistani outfits looking authentic. For the colour palette, Mira and I referenced the work of artist Amrita Sher-Gil.
What was your biggest challenge while working on this film?
Time constraints; we shot in Atlanta for (the parts of the film that are set in) New York, and then in Delhi for the interiors of Lahore and Istanbul. It was a massive challenge to maintain the authenticity of the places and recreate them elsewhere with a limited budget and time. I had two separate crews — in India and in the US. It was hectic.