Chandrakant Sonawane has come a long way, from working on the fields to designing clothes for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films.
Fashion design is about channelling one’s creativity, skill, and aesthetic in new and exciting ways. Many students aspire to be a part of this expensive profession and style Bollywood bigwigs, but only a few get to rule the chart. Among them is costume designer Chandrakant Sonawane, a farmer’s son from Jalna district of Maharashtra. He bagged Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Ram Leela just after completing the designing course at International Institute of Fashion Design (INIFD) in Pune.
“One of my college friends called me one day to assist Maxima Basu, who was the designer for Ram Leela and I agreed,” says Sonawane, who was made to do odd jobs on the fields as a child. “We weren’t financially stable; we only had one piece of land which was my father’s life long earning, and he had to give half of it away for my education,” recalls the designer, adding that his parents broke all ties with him after giving away half of the land. “But now things are fine. They don’t quite understand what I do, but they have accepted my profession for whatever it is,” he smiles.
As a school student, Sonawane too didn’t know what his calling was, and it was a news article about fashion design as a career that caught his attention. “I just read the piece and knew I want to become one. I told everyone that I wanted to become a fashion designer, so I had no other option,” he confesses and adds that one of his friends pushed him to visit the fashion institute in Pune. “At the institute, my teachers helped me a lot. I was given concession in my college fees but still, I still didn’t have sufficient money, so I started working just after two months in the city,” he recalls.
Sonawane’s life at Bhansali Productions wasn’t easy either, especially during Ram Leela, which was followed by Bajirao Mastani and Padmaavat, starring Deepika Padu-kone, Ranveer Singh and Priyanka Chopra Jonas. Those familiar with Bhansali’s work can easily imagine the grandeur of his films’ costumes. “Bhansali gives importance to the detailing of every costume used in the film. Everything has to be proper for him. You need to do a lot of research before meeting him, because he wants to know everything— from colour palettes and fabric to the details of where the fabric was made. No director does this sort of work. Every day comes with a new challenge, so you need to work a lot on your designs and concepts,” the designer reveals.
Before getting Bhansali’s extravagant films, Sonawane had worked with a few Marathi and Gujarati directors as well as a few Film and Television Institute (FTII) diploma projects. He then got the opportunity to dress Madhuri Dixit in her Marathi film Bucket List, Vivek Oberoi in PM Narendra Modi, Sanjay Dutt and Aditi Rao Hydari in Bhoomi, and also the team of Housefull 4.
“Every director has his own idea about fashion and costume for their actors. Not many give importance to the details because they think the audience would only look at the actors,” he says. Sonawane personally likes Ranveer Singh, Madhuri Dixit and Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ style the best.“Madhuri ma’am carries Indian clothing like no one else in the industry, as does Priyanka ma’am. If she is wearing Indian clothes, she would present it in a typical ethnic way and you can see the boldness in her appearance in Western clothes too. She maintains a very fine line in her dressing,” he explains.
Since Ram Leela, the designer has travelled across the world for shoots and research, but the Gujarati clothing from the film still stays with him. “I love visiting Kutch and Bhuj in Gujarat. There is a lot of creativity in every house. I love the way they make embroidery on clothes,” shares the designer, who loves to read biographies chronicling people’s struggles and achievements.
“At times I watch historical films and web series to see the innovative costumes, and apply those ideas to my work,” says Sonawane in conclusion.