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Dressing up Padmavati

Published : Nov 6, 2016, 12:03 am IST
Updated : Nov 6, 2016, 12:03 am IST

After rejecting 30 designers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has finally chosen Rimple and Harpreet Narula to design the costumes for his epic period film Padmavati. An exclusive interview with the designer duo


After rejecting 30 designers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has finally chosen Rimple and Harpreet Narula to design the costumes for his epic period film Padmavati. An exclusive interview with the designer duo

Clothes in cinema are far more than mere window dressing. For as long as movies have been made, costume designers have been indispensable to creating a film’s look and defining characters. We were the first to break the news that filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali had rejected 30 designers vying for a spot in his grand period drama, Padmavati. And now, we are bringing to you a sneak peek about the costumes from the movie’s finalised costume designers Rimple and Harpreet Narula.

“We had worked with many royalties in the past. Also, several of our previous collections had been inspired by some of the greatest kings and queens from the country, like Baroda, Jaipur, Kishangarh, etc. Bhansaliji must have taken notice of some of the works and that’s how, we feel, we got a call from him,” proudly shares Harpreet.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s eye for detail makes all his film sets grand and elaborate. So, how rewarding and challenging was it for them to live up to his level of perfection The designer duo quip, “We are mainstream designers working and catering primarily to brides and people who like dressing up. But this (Padmavati) is a full-fledged cinema; it’s a different vertical altogether. Having said that, working with him has been the greatest learning experience we could have come across. It is overwhelming as he is an institution in himself. He has helped us delve deeper into our craft. For the first three months, he just took us through the script, and gave us total freedom to do our research and asked us to travel to specific regions related to the movie, visit museums to collect facts, look into various wardrobes of royal families, etc.”

Elaborating about their research, they share, “We have been very interested in clothing technologies and the effects they had on royal families. It’s a neglected field of study. But when a film is based on the 14th or 15th century, it gets difficult for a designer to get the technique, textile, pattern, work, etc. sourced or replicated. So we visited many royal families and got them to open their paities to give us a glimpse. We also went to local markets of Chittor, Jaipur, Kishangarh, Udaipur for the Rajasthan bit of the movie and during that process we studied murals, intricate designs and crafts inside palaces and old havelis. India, during that century, was free from any sort of invasion and was fondly called the golden bird. So, the garments were rustic, authentic and unaffected by any other culture or religion. That has been a fascinating aspect of our research.”

The job of a costume designer is to thoroughly analyse a film’s tone as well as the mood of a character in each scene and then interpret that visually. Padmavati will see two different cultural confluences, Hindu and Islam, onscreen. Elaborating on that, the designers reveal, “Actually, the movie will show three different cultures rather than just two. Audiences will get to see one completely different culture in Rani Padmini as a Sinhalese Princess as there will be a chunk of the film where she is dressed in ethnic wear that reflects the neighbouring state’s traditions, then her transformation as the Queen of Chittor and the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh of Chittor, then of course the Islamic invasion in Alauddin Khilji.”

Lastly, probe them about their choice of fabrics and the designer duo, without giving out much, reveal, “India at that time was one of the biggest consumers of cotton. Velvets were there but weren’t quite popular with Indian Rajputs. Silks had just started to enter our lives. There was no cultivation of silk. Hence, we are trying to go as organic as possible with our attempt.”