They are stepping into the world of Bollywood with their creations through “Padmavati”, and hope to live up to ‘perfectionist’ Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s expectation. Designer duo Rimple and Harpreet Narula say weaving ensembles for the historical saga is turning out to be a challenging task with no direct reference point available.
Be it “Saawariya”, “Goliyon Ki Rasleela – Ram Leela” or “Bajirao Mastani” — Bhansali picks up a larger-than-life canvas to paint a story splashed with myriad hues of emotions, drama and music on the silver screen. And the designers narrate a story of wanderlust with their creations dipped into all things that sparkle and are glittery.
With “Padmavati”, Bhansali will once again be opening on the silver screen a historical chapter about the love of Alauddin Khilji, the medieval-era Delhi ruler, for Rajput queen Padmavati. He has roped in actors Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone as the leads, along with actor Shahid Kapoor.
The designers say Bhansali goes into the minutest of details while orchestrating the visuals, adding that he “does not want mere clothes but clothes that speak a language”.
“Working in tandem with Bhansali’s vision, we immersed ourselves in the history of that particular period during the initial sessions in which he took us through the script and the characterisations. It is an extremely challenging task to envision and design garments,” Harpreet told IANS in an email interview from Mumbai.
He added: “As not much is documented of that period, very few actual living samples have survived and even those that have are dispersed all over the world in various museums and archives.”
So how was the whole research process’
Rimple said: “Our love for travel and museums in a way helped us collate a lot of reference data; we have gone through a vast library of reference material, old documents and manuscripts as well as ancient traveler’s accounts to come up with the key looks of the lead star cast.”
She added that “to get the nitty-gritty of the styling and drapes of the period correct, we turned to old miniature paintings, murals and frescoes as well as regular visits to the Jaipur and Calico museums to get the touch and feel right”.
The designers established their brand in 2000 and are known for knitting together the rich and diverse ancient Indian workmanship to their work with a contemporary twist.
Their first meeting with the “Black” director turned out to be an “impromptu look test using the old reference textiles” they carried, and before they could realise they were on board and already chalking out the designs.
“We were totally unaware of how the film industry works when it comes to costumes till we came on board — maybe that is what Bhansali secretly wanted when he roped in new talent like us — and the creative process of working on the project has been one of constant evolution and learning,” Harpreet said.
Talking about the process of the work, Harpreet said: “We are working in sync with his vision so as to bring to life the same in a way that each character leaves an indelible mark on the minds of the audience. The pressure to give him our best is always there but at the same time the entire process is very inspiring to us as designers.”
Harpreet says their perception “of drama in clothes changed” after working with Bhansali.
For the film, the designers “have used robust, earthy, luxe-kitsch elements and as designers it was very interesting since various contradictory cultures come together through the course the narrative”.
“The Sinhalese princess who becomes a Rajput queen, the Rajput prince who goes on to become a king, the Muslim invader who becomes the Sultan of Delhi — the elements used show how every region leaves its stamp on the textiles and costumes. You would find many Sri Lankan influences in Padmavati’s attire while there is a definite nod to Khilji’s Turkish/Afghan origins when it comes to his drapes and ornamentation,” Harpreet said.
For now, the designers are enjoying the “evolutionary process” of working on this project, and excited about it.
(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Sugandha Rawal