It took designers Rimple and Harpreet months of historical and textile research, and numerous artisanal processes, to create accurate looks for Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh
Padmavati’s first looks, posters and songs are making waves all over the internet. A large part of the visual spectacle comes from the stellar cast’s costumes. It took Rimple and Harpreet, the film’s costume designers, months of intensive research into the history, art and textile of the time, along with cultural conventions. They speak with BlackBook about working with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and their endless museum visits, intensive historical research and the artisanal processes involved in creating more than 100 looks between Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor’s characters.
The first look of Padmavati is out, tell us how you both went about designing for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s historical saga?
This project was not just about stunning garments, but also translating the director’s vision for his characters authentically. Bhansali is a master, a perfectionist, with a great eye for detail. The clothes have to be in sync with the characters’ moods, as well as the overall flow of the narrative. The colours, fabrics and surface ornamentation all deal with the intricate plot and the character’s underlying emotions. It required in-depth historical research too, to imbibe cultural influences into each look.
The movie will see two different cultural confluences — Hinduism and Islam…
We had to be extra careful since it is a period piece. There weren’t too many references to work with. It involved intensive research on the period itself, going through travellers’ accounts from the era and visiting the Calico and Jaipur museums regularly, to get the touch-and-feel right.
We have used robust, luxe-kitsch elements, layered with warm, earthy colours.
As designers, it’s been very interesting to bring contradictory cultures together through the narrative—the Sinhalese princess who becomes a Rajput queen; the Rajput king; the Afghan invader who becomes the Sultan of Delhi. The elements show how each religion leaves its stamp on textiles and costumes, and how a motif can have different meanings in a region and culture. For instance, the paisley represents a date sapling in Islamic iconography, or a raw mango (kairi) in Hindu tradition.
Tell us about creating each of the principal characters’ elaborate looks—Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), Maharawal Ratan Singh (Shahid Kapoor) and Khilji (Ranveer Singh)?
Rani Padmavati’s detailed looks involved a lot of technique and numerous processes. We had special textile prints developed in Sanganer and Bagru, some of which have up to 12 different colours. These were layered with Varq ka kaam, by specialist artisan clusters in Rajasthan. The Gota embroidery involved special flat-beaten metal wires, given to weavers near Jaipur. We aged the garments with various concoctions of natural dyes, to achieve natural colours that were prevalent then. Many garments went through the tea-staining process too.
Shahid Kapoor or Ratan Singh’s royal court looks involved studying murals, frescoes and wall paintings at havelis and forts in Bundi, Udaipur, Kota and Nathdwara, along with samples of Pichwais and other vintage textiles in the Calico and Jaipur museums. We commissioned master weavers to replicate archived samples of brocade found in Aurangabad museums. A lot of our motif references came from a range of vintage textile samples we found, on manuscript holders, covers, canopies, wall hangings and bichhonas.
Given Khilji’s nomadic Turkish origins, we studied the central Asia belt from Afghanistan to Kazakhstan, collecting samples of Suzani textiles and tapestries from flea markets and auctions. The costumes had to bring out the power and brutality that Ranveer Singh, the invader, projects, depicting the stature of the nomadic tribe that Khilji hailed from. We relied on manuscripts, travellers’ accounts and writings from court historians and Sufi saints for reference, including the 16th century historian Abd-ul-Qadir Bada’uni. We discovered that the costumes in Awadh were remarkably different from those popular in Delhi, and tried to create the distinction. Khilji’s palette is decidedly dark and ominous, given his invader background, and his look is rugged. It also charts the evolution of his character—from a young warrior-invader to the Sultan of India, who is besotted by Rani Padmavati’s beauty.
Which character was the most challenging to create a look for? How many looks were made for the lead cast?
We asked Bhansali which outfit he would consider the most important and iconic, at the initial script readings. He said to us that between the three main characters, we would need more than 100 looks. Each would be equally important, as it would define a particular moment in the story. Each look involved numerous processes, and was a challenge in itself.
It is not the designer or filmmaker who makes a look iconic ultimately, but the audience.