Whether it’s getting married, chopping vegetables or eavesdropping on the family, the actresses of TV’s prime time serials are always dressed to the hilt, wearing the whole nine yards, complete with matching makeup, hairdos and jewellery.
In the process, they’ve become style icons for millions of homemakers in towns big and small. Ardent viewers of soaps check out the mile-long shimmering saris, dainty cholis, bindi styles and of course, the jewellery that their favourite bahu/maa/beti flaunts, episode after episode.
Television today seems to be more about colourful costumes than contrived storylines (though there’s lots of that too). Here we look at four characters from four shows and get their designers to tell us what goes into dressing up these prime time heroines.Nivedita Saraf as Aaisaheb in Sarvaguna Sampanna
The Look: Typically Maharashtrian, with heavy saris and jewellery (she plays a politician’s wife)
Nivedita Saraf, who plays the Maharashtrian mother in Ekta Kapoor’s Sarvaguna Sampanna (Imagine) was the cynosure of all eyes at the photo shoot we did with her dressed in all her finery – a rich dark brown and golden booti sari, fresh flowers in her jooda, the typical chandrakor bindi, pearl and bead studded nose ring and a sonyacha haar.
Naturally, Nim Sood, Kapoor’s aunt and in-house designer, was beaming. She says, “Give Nivedita any colour and she carries it off beautifully. Mustard, green, orange and maroon look good on her and they are typical Maharashtrian colours.
We have made her wear saris sourced from Kolhapur and other places in Maharashtra, with elaborate borders, as well as brocade saris. The one she is wearing now is what she wore for her son’s engagement in the serial.”
Nivedita’s character couldn’t possibly have been made to wear georgettes or silks and modern jewellery, says Sood. “She is after all the wife of a khandaani politician – they live in a huge wada, enjoy a certain status and have clout in Kolhapur.
So you see her wearing a lot of gold pieces that I have made by a jeweller in Bhuleshwar.” Sood has been dressing her niece Ekta Kapoor’s heroines for the past decade or more. And she loves it.
“The process of creating something out of nothing and then seeing it on the screen gives me a high. Though I wish they had gone a little easy on the pancake/heavy sari look. They have got to realise that characters can’t really go to bed or brush their teeth while wearing dangling earrings or a jadau palla,” laughs Sood.
Lata Sabharwal as Rajshri in
Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlaata Hai
The Look: Bright leheriya saris with gota borders; a real Marwari homemaker. Lata plays lead girl Akshara’s mother in Yeh Rishta... (Star Plus).
Usually dressed in bright leheriyas with gold borders, the actress says she has actually come across Marwari women who dress to the hilt even when they are catching a flight!
Lata, of course, loves every sari she gets to wear. “They are light and I carry them off with minimum fuss.” Her designers, the Deoras, are only too happy to comply. In the business for over a decade, Ritu Deora got her first best costume award for the show Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand.
Sangeeta Ghosh, who played Pammi in the show, was dressed in fitting lycra churidars and sheer bright dupattas. The effect was sensuous. Says Ritu, “Sangeeta carried off our clothes very well. Today we do around 35-40 shows and there is no time to breathe.
While Nisha (the stylist) puts the look together and takes care of the overall styling, my husband and I source fabrics from all over India and take care of the designing. Our work starts when the show goes on the floors, with sittings with creative heads and production teams.
Each character is well researched: we present sketches etc., and decide on the overall look. From the lead pair to the character artistes, we do the costumes for everyone.”
Adds Nisha, “Lata’s look had to be rich as she plays the girl’s mother. We didn’t want to give her a very elaborate look. It had to be a classy Marwari homemaker look.
Besides, we were giving a richer look to the boy’s mother.” The Deoras also design for Sasural Genda Phool and Naa Aana Iss Des Laado. Says Ritu, “These days, TV is veering to more realistic stuff, especially with shows like Laado, so you have got to be very authentic.
We try and bring the look close to what real women wear.” So the result is Ammaji’s carefully put together ghaghra in solid colours, a long sleeved shirt-kurti with a white dupatta strategically placed on her head with a bunch of silver kadas on her wrist and a long silver neckpiece.
Supriya Pilgaonkar as Badi Maa in
Sasural Genda Phool
No-fuss cotton saris.
Ragini Khanna as Suhana in Sasural Genda Phool
The Look: Mostly georgettes with a bit of bling. (She’s a new bride, you see)hallelujah! finally, cotton saris. While most women on TV are ODing on the usual suspects of zari-zardozi-brocade, the Chandni Chowk women from Sasural Genda Phool (Star Plus) strike a chord with their lovely, no-fuss cotton saris.
While Ragini as the new bride Suhana has to wear the georgettes and the sequins, the rest of the women (the buas, bhabhis and daadis) look homely in their crisp cottons with bright borders. And they love it.
Says actress Supriya Pilgaonkar, “I am relieved I don’t have to wear heavy saris. Before signing a show I always tell my producers, I won’t wear heavy saris or heavy jewellery, unless I am playing a queen!”
Partho Ghoshal, who works with the Deoras and looks after the costumes of the Sasural women, sources saris “mainly from Kolkata. We try and keep the colours bright and we sometimes stitch a delicate embroidered lace to Badi Maa’s saris just to pep them up.
Since Suhana is a new bride and comes from a rich family, she has to naturally wear more chiffons and georgettes than her in-laws do, and look more dressy.”
Smita Bansal as Sumitra in Balika Vadhu
The Look: Saris in two contrasting colours, a lot of jamevars, brocades and bandhnis. Smita Bansal is a bit worried these days. Not about playing a mother and mother-in-law to 18-year-olds in Balika Vadhu (Colors), which recently leapfrogged by five years, but about now having to always wear saris draped in the Gujarati style.
“That takes some time. Wearing a ghaghra choli was easier. Just get into the ghaghra and you are ready, but a sari is a different – and more difficult – ball game altogether. The pleats, the drape, everything has to be perfect and then you have to be careful while walking around,” says Bansal.
Her concern is valid considering the number of long-winding electric wires spread all over the elaborate sets of television soaps which can have women kissing the floor in no time.
Says designer Winnie Malhotra, “Since Balika Vadhu is set in Rajasthan, I first thought of bright, vibrant colours. And since Sumitra is the eldest bahu of the main family, she had to wear rich colours.
So I used three colours – one each for her ghaghra, choli and dupatta – though these three pieces had some detailing or design common to them. With the five-year leap now, she will be wearing saris in two contrasting colours. We have used a lot of jamevars, brocade and bandhnis.”
Having worked with designer Manish Malhotra, Winnie says she doesn’t do sketches of clothes when she designs. Rather, she looks at the fabric she has and cuts it up then and there to make the outfit.
“I source fabrics straight from the mills. The minute I see a fabric I just visualise the whole costume; including the dyeing, the embroidery, the lace work, stitching it up. I travel a lot and buy stuff from all over India, from wholesale markets,” she explains.
Adds Winnie, “Of course, I work on the brief given by the production house and the challenge is to stay within the limits of the character, within the budget and deliver in record time. Designing costumes for TV is a continuous process – thinking of new designs all the time to avoid monotony.”
But it’s rewarding too when a NRI family demands a chaniya choli, Anandi-style, and couriers the draft for the expenses straight to the designer. “They were doing some skit in which their daughter was made to look like Anandi. So I had to design a chaniya choli for her! We get requests like this all the time,” smiles Winnie.
She has no problems with the unreality of women characters on TV dressed to the nines 24x7. “I watch TV to check out the clothes and I’m sure all women do that. Why must the characters look dull and boring? The medium is glossy and there is a demand for it,” shrugs Winnie.
Where do all the clothes and jewellery go after the serial is over?
“They go back to the producers or the designer,” says designer Nim Sood. “We have a godown brimming with clothes from all Balaji shows. Can you imagine the number of Gujarati, Marwari, Rajasthani, etc. saris we have from the Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Kii days?”
She adds, “The jewellery, especially the beaded, artificial pieces, don’t last long because of the way they are used. Actresses are always in a hurry while shooting so they don’t take much care while taking their outfits off. The gold jewellery can be melted into oxidised stuff, though.”
Adds designer Winnie Malhotra, “You can’t recycle clothes all the time. There are so many shows, each with a distinct look, that it’s not possible to take something from here and use it there. I have no idea what I will do with Anandi’s small chaniya cholis now! I might have to give them away to the poor.”
What’s the bling budget?
“It can be anything from Rs 5,000-6,000 to Rs 15,000 per episode,” says stylist Nisha Bedi Rai. “It depends on the channel and the production house. Also the clothes of the lead actors will be slightly more expensive than the rest of the cast.”
Explains designer Winnie Malhotra, “The makers and the channel never cut corners with Balika Vadhu. However, at times you wish the costume budgets were increased to enable use of more superior quality material."