Bollywood Style Awards 2015: Haider
Dolly Ahluwalia for Tabu
A Vishal Bhardwaj directorial venture is never short of reality biting you hard. The pathos, the angst and the gravity of the mood that grips the script is accentuated with a closer to life recreational charm. Complementing the screenplay, the costumes play a much bigger role to set the tone for a make-believe world in his tragic-dramas. “They give meaning and language to a character,” says Dolly Ahluwalia, who has designed the look for the entire cast of the movie. “During the ’60s, costumes were given due importance but lost its value in the middle. With the new crop of actors and some talented directors, serious costume designing is making a comeback. Actors have started giving significance to clothes. And for me, Tabu is one of them,” says Ahluwalia.
A pool of heavyweight actors displayed their skills in a plot inspired from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, which the director merged with Kashmir’s conflicts during the ’90s. Looking the part to a T, Tabu’s head covered with a pashmina shawl over an elegant salwar kameez and a cardigan, she nailed the mannerisms of Ghazala — a Kashmiri school teacher and neglected wife of a doctor. Her modest attire was in complete contrast to her chutzpah — a word used to reflect a different, deeper meaning in the movie. Ahluwalia immersed herself in the script and designed Ghazala’s look referencing every detail of the frames that took the storytelling further. She explains, “I wanted all Kashmiri women to relate with Ghazala’s look. The phirans, salwar kameezes and dupattas, each garment was created from scratch to suit the part.”
Capturing the emotional status of Ghazala, her relationship with the other role player in the frame to weather conditions, time placement and location, Ahluwalia juxtaposed all with her own vision. “The actor in me helps to identify and understand appearances of film characters. Rather, it becomes an advantage to get into the skin of the character and choose colours, textures and silhouettes keeping in mind the performer who will sport them. So, I created my version of the common silhouettes worn in Kashmir. Even the colours used were situation-driven. For instance, when Khurram (played by Kay Kay Menon) comes into Ghazala’s life, the styling and colour palette change to brighter but deeper tones.”
Since the plot was set in the ’90s, Ahluwalia had to hark back to her own memories to envision the attire worn by the upper/middle-class families during the decade and give different layers in order to make the actors stand out amongst the crowd. She sourced woollen and pashmina fabrics from Delhi markets in vivid tones of maroons and blacks to pattern the outfits and got them embellished with Kashmiri style embroideries. “I borrowed old shawls from a Kashmiri friend and also utilised an antique phiran that I had bought years ago. Normally, all phirans look similar but Tabu’s height and body line was an advantage. So, I tapered the shape of phirans for a better fit.” Ahluwalia sums up, “Trust and faith are two things that I share with the actors and directors I work with and I really enjoy working with Vishal Bhardwaj because he gives immense creative freedom.”