While many of us see and admire actors for the outfits they wear, there is a process that goes behind it. And while we appreciate the gorgeousness of a look, many of us ignore the efforts that go behind styling. To decode that and understand the process, CineBlitz got into an exclusive conversation with Neerusha Nikhat. Read on what she had to say…
What shows are you currently styling for?
I am developing a couple of shows like Ishq Sufiyana, a Muslim costume drama, and Jhansi Ki Rani. Tantra just went off-air. I’m also doing a web-series based on the Mughal Empire.
What goes behind designing the look of a character?
There is a huge difference between a social drama character and a historical character. In social dramas, there is a lot of liberty. But if it is a historical or a mythology show, I have to see to the authenticity of the character and history-related facts. We can’t go wrong, we are answerable to the audience. We have to look at the era, the day-to-day life, what fabrics and metal were there, etc. I was doing Karn Sangini which went off-air last month. I knew that Karn and people related to him were shudra (lower caste), they cannot wear bright colours. Keeping all this in mind, I am bound to style with facts.
You styled for Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, how do you design a God/Goddess? We don’t know how they looked.
For designing Parvati, we didn’t want to go too much beyond her true image, which is a calendar image. If you go through facts, there was no fabric in those times. People wore animal skin. Painter Raja Ravi Verma had a huge influence on costumes, he started painting portraits of Gods and Goddesses that people view as true images. The masses want to see their Gods and Goddesses really elaborate and glamorous. Parvati’s concept was actually a calendar image.
How easy or difficult does it get to keep up with trends in social dramas?
For a stylist today, a social show is more difficult than a mythological or historical, where costume quantities are low and less people are involved in the designing. There is no personal choice. In social dramas, everybody has something to say. Styling now is on the basis of TRPs. If the TRP is good, no one says anything, but if it is bad (which it is in most cases) everyone will give inputs. There is very little liberty. Every day they want some drama or function to happen. This is a new idea where weddings, functions, and elaborate scenes can help create your TRP. But it is complete nonsense.
Styling is important in any TV show because fans follow characters’ looks. How do you gauge what will click with the audience?
If the character and the show are super-hit, everybody will follow. We think about the character and their financial status. Also, what looks good on the actor or actress is important. The process is we finalize the actor, decide a couple of looks and execute it. Then we do look tests, see the pictures and decide. In costume drama, the outfits are okayed in one go. We get a brief and we design a sketch. There may be minor changes, but once the costume is done, the look is locked.
Is there pressure on you not to repeat an actor or actress’s outfit on a show?
It is too much now. It depends on people’s moods. For us the job is very painful, sometimes we have to get approval from ten people on one decision in a social drama and that’s the hardest job.
Have you ever faced creative differences with an actor over an outfit?
Most people work to save their jobs, there is so much insecurity in social shows. I recently had to leave the show overnight because one of the creatives goofed up and it came down on me.
When actors are required to wear heavy jewellery, do they suffer rashes and injuries?
Yes, sometimes they do. But when an actor signs the contract, they are aware that the jewellery is going to be heavy. When you wear a costume for 14 to 16 hours, you know what is hurting, so we’ve come up with the idea of lighter fabric. In Jhansi Ki Rani, for a character Gangadhar, we gave him a normal neckpiece, but had no idea that he had to ride a horse, so it wasn’t staying put. We then stitched the necklace on the fabric. Things like these are a big challenge that our team faces. We mostly need to design and literally manufacture the jewellery for cost-effectiveness.
The wedding sequences on a show are surely not shot in a day. How do you maintain an outfit’s freshness for the days a sequence is shot?
There is a stylist and an assistant on set, and there is a dress department. Our job is to handle the styling process. I make and deliver an outfit, my assistant makes sure it’s worn in the proper way. After that, it is the dress department’s job to look after the dress. Sometimes the dress goes for an overnight laundry.
Which actors are easy to work with? Who is your personal favourite?
Anita Hassanandani is someone who looks good in everything, Mouni Roy carries everything well. There was a time when Divyanka Tripathi had a huge Indian image, nowadays she is wearing everything. The new generation is not as easy as the generation of five to seven years back. It also depends on the bond you share with the actors. Senior actors also are fashion conscious too. A Kamya Punjabi will wear the given costume, but if she has to shoot 16 hours, she asks for a soft fabric and an easy-to-carry dupatta. Actors have a lot of inputs. But there are some actors who make your life hell. 90 per cent of actors know that I know my job. Devoleena Bhattacharya has complete trust in the designer. New actress Yukti Kapoor is one face I want to dress up.
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