Having designed costumes for films such as Bandit Queen (1994), Omkara (2007), Love Aaj Kal (2009), Vicky Donor (2012) and Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (2012), the going for Chandigarh-based costume designer Dolly Ahluwalia is clearly good.
Currently involved in designing clothes for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s upcoming film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children, apart from three other Hollywood projects, Dolly, who was in the city on Tuesday to inaugurate a Movie DVD Festival at the British Library in Sector 9, talked about the various activities that keep her busy.
Her first love, says the actor-designer, is shared by both designing and theatre. “I have a dream to start my own theatre company in Chandigarh, with local talent’s participation and Kamal’s (Tewari, her husband) work and style incorporated in it,” she says.
Since her work as a costume designer has been in the news of late, the winner of Sangeet Natak Akademi award (2001) and Filmfare Best Costume Award (2007, for Omkara), reveals there is immense research that goes into her work. “I research well for the costumes to be designed, reading extensively about the characters that I have to create a look for. Then, I relate each character to an animal, object, flora or fauna. For instance, for Farhan’s (Akhtar) role in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, whom I want to portray as strong as a lion, I kept in mind the traits of the animal while designing for him,” adds Dolly.
She further talks about the actor’s commitment to work, sharing facts such as: “When the entire film crew used to find shelter because of the high heat (48 degree Celsius), Farhan used to practise on field. He is also a good runner. After this film is done, I am sure no one can beat him in 200 and 400 metre race, and in that sense I also relate him to a horse.”
Another challenge faced by Dolly while working for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, was recreating the look of the ’60s. “Fabrics used in the 1960s aren’t easily available now. So what will be seen on screen is 80% authenticity and 20% imagination,” she smiles.
Which brings her to talk about her favourite shopping haunts. “Delhi has a huge variety in terms of fabric; but it is the City Beautiful’s fashion sense that inspires me. Even Mumbai designers look up to Chandigarh fashion nowadays,” she remarks.
Calling herself a pocket-friendly designer, Dolly says she sometimes haggles for as little as R10. “I am not working for money. But when I shop for material to be used for costumes, I bargain a lot. My assistants advise me to let it be, but I feel we should be economical in life.”
This attribute must come in handy for the designer, who recently created 3000 costumes for Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children.
“I have tried to create India in Sri Lanka, where we shot and where my team of tailors shifted with me,” she says. The Punjabi lady is game for designing for Punjabi films, but they have to be challenging for her. “ I love designing for period films rather than contemporary films.”
In an actor’s role, Dolly would be next seen playing a grandmother in upcoming Punjabi film, Saadi Love Story and a mother in Band Baja Denge (by film Chalo Dilli’s director, Shashank Shah) “I consciously do not want to repeat my roles, so every role that I pick is
different,” she signs off.