Dressing Up Padmaavat

Dressing Up Padmaavat

From draping Deepika Padukone in the heaviest of lehengas to working on giving Ranveer Singh a dark look, Indian designers Rimple and Harpreet Narula tell City Times what it took to work on Sanjay Leela Bhansali's ambitious period drama, Padmaavat, out in UAE theatres tomorrow

By Ambica Sachin

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2018, 12:20 PM

Last updated: Thu 15 Feb 2018, 6:08 PM

A lot of hard work, talent and countless hours have no doubt gone into the making of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's magnum opus Padmaavat. As the period drama finally readies to hit theatres in the UAE tomorrow, designers Rimple and Harpreet Narula are ecstatic. After all they along with the entire cast and crew of the movie have spent the past two years living and breathing the period drama. In a candid interview with City Times the duo confess; "We are really excited for the release now after all the delays. We were present for most of the filming and have seen certain snippets but are yet to watch the whole movie."
The entire team working on Padmaavat has no doubt been on a roller coaster of a ride since the movie was announced. Midway through the shoot when hooligans set fire to a set where the film was to be shot, it not only destroyed the hardwork and efforts of the technicians, but costumes Rimple and Harpreet had toiled on for a long time for over 30 junior artists also got burnt in the bargain. "The incident was a huge setback for us emotionally," the designers admit to us. "A lot of hard work, sweat and toil had gone into creating the costumes that got damaged and many of the pieces had actual antique textiles that were incorporated in the designs which were irreplaceable. Luckily we had managed back ups and the really ornate pieces had already been filmed. We had to come up with certain replacements but that was the need of the hour and thankfully everything was back on track after the incident."
The designer duo who spent two years researching and bringing to fruition the actual garments as worn by the characters on screen had a dedicated team of 30-40 master weavers who created the base textiles for them. "The embroideries were done in 5 different karkhanas as well as various crafts clusters spread across Rajasthan each with 15-20 skilled embroiderers or artisans working on the costumes. Our team visited specialist vendors to procure old gotta and zari while we had special gotta for the laffas used in the ghaghras and odhnas woven at Nyla, near Jaipur."
The designers will be in Dubai this weekend to take part in the 16th edition of SoPritti exhibition on at Roda Al Murooj Hotel on Saturday, January 27. As to what local fashionistas can expect from them in Dubai: "The collection is an eclectic mix of the old and the new, the rural and the urban, the tamed and the untamed...we have used various luxe-kitsch elements juxtaposed over fine handloom fabrics on silhouettes like the classic kalidar and sharara. Various traditional techniques that we used in the movie such as Varq Ka Kaam and Kacchi-Patti gotta embroidery have been used in the collection. The colour pallete consists of earthy pastels, rich golds and some deep jewel tones." Excerpts from our interview:
How did the process of designing for Padmaavat come about?
Our collections have always been research based, digging into the vast archive that is found in our cultural and textile heritage and reinterpreting centuries old techniques. We have extensively worked on various projects with erstwhile royal families as well as leading journals and publications over the years, archiving and documenting royal costumes through the ages and drawing inspiration from the same. This is what probably caught Mr. Bhansali's attention and we got a call from his office and an initial meeting wherein we did our own background research on Padmavati and carried antique textiles from our personal collection as reference points. The meeting soon turned into an impromptu look-test with the same textiles and by the end of it we were quite in sync with his vision and he offered us the movie.
We understand that this is your first Bollywood project. As such what was the most important lesson you learnt from the whole process?
Evolving as a designer is all about juxtaposing various layers of your life over your craft, sometimes it is all about research and technique exploration, sometimes it is about interaction with artisans and sometimes it is more instinctual and spontaneous. Mr Bhansali is a person whose vision grows everyday, it is fascinating how the characters he envisions become real people who we interact with everyday on the sets. Besides showcasing our creations on three of the finest muses a designer can have, we had to understand that he did not want mere clothes but clothes that speak a language, express the character's nuances and bring out the emotional journeys these characters undertake as they make their way through the narrative. As designers we explored new dimensions of detailing, our very perception of drama in clothes changed through the process- how a single element can play a vital role, the alternating play of "less is more" or "more is less" given the point in the storyline- it was a constant evolutionary process working on this project.
What was the basic brief Bhansali gave you before you signed on for the project?
Besides having a great eye for detail, visionary opulent sets and a larger than life depiction of grandeur, Mr. Bhansali is a great story teller. During the initial stages of the project, Mr. Bhansali and his team took us through the script in order to understand the flow of the narrative and nuances of each character as the garments have to enhance the same. He made us understand that his characters and their entangled destinies are the main heroes and the garments should not be mere beautiful clothes that they don but should in fact bring out inherent attributes of their natures as well as the emotional journeys they undergo through the course of the storyline. The clothes have to imbibe all that and more so as to set the main protagonists apart in the eyes of the audience. The clothes have to be in sync with the characters' moods as well as the overall flow of the narrative, bringing out underlying emotions as well as the intricate nature of the characters and the plot, so the colour palette, fabrics, surface ornamentation all had to be worked out accordingly.
What was the most complicated part of designing for Padmaavat for you?
Since it is a period piece, we had to be extra careful when it comes to maintaining the authenticity of the costumes for it is an extremely challenging task to envision and design garments as they were worn by the royals back then as not much is documented of the same. Apart from getting the cultural and period references right, we had to come up with signature looks for all three main characters that would define their personas and set them apart in the eyes of the audience.
Just out of curiosity, what happens to the costumes once the film is done?
The have been archived with the production house. After the release of the movie, we would love to get a platform to showcase them in order for people to see them in real, see the research that went into creating them and the work of so many artisans and craft clusters that helped us achieve the looks. The block printers, gotta weavers, embroiderers are the ones who made it possible for us to bring to life Mr. Bhansali's vision and a platform that is able to showcase their craft would bring them into focus and take a step in helping revive these age old techniques that are losing out to mass production and machine made fabrics and embroideries.
What's on the agenda for Rimple and Harpreet Narula now? Do you foresee yourselves taking on more period dramas?
Having worked on the project for almost two years, our plan is to travel, bond with our son, seek new inspirations and come back recharged. Since our designing is more intuitive than trend based, we are looking out to do something new within our own signature aesthetic. As we hail from Punjab, in the pipelines are collections that will try to imbibe and revive the crafts of the region, going back to our roots and and offering our audience something that is a part of our core value system as designers. As designers we are always on the lookout for a new perspective, new stimuli that fuel the creative process, so as and when we get the opportunity to work on a similar project, we would be open to explore the possibility.
Deepika, the perfect muse
We often hear news from sets of the diva-like behaviour of certain stars. Being their first Bollywood project we wondered how the designer-duo felt on the sets of a magnum opus like Padmaavat. And of course dressing up one of the most-sought after actresses from Bollywood must have come with its own set of pressure. "Not only is she one of the most talented actors of her generation, from a fashion point of view, Deepika is one of the best muses a designer can dress nowadays," admit the designers. "She is extremely emotive with her body language and the clothes have been designed to be in-sync with her character's transformation. It took numerous look-tests to get each and every look perfectly in sync with what Mr. Bhansali had envisioned and Deepika was extremely patient as well as helpful throughout the process. She is the consummate actor, wholly dedicated to her craft and willing to go to great lengths to get the nuances of her character right. She never complained about any discomfort even while wearing the heaviest looks as we were all on the same page with Mr Bhansali and the perfection he desired in each and every frame."

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