If you thought you had seen onscreen opulence at its Bollywood best with Bajirao Mastani, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has managed to up the ante in a way that only he can. In Padmavati, he brings together Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh once again. Deepika features in the title role as Rani Padmavati and Ranveer as Sultan Alauddin Khilji, along with Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh, the ruler of Mewar.
This time it is designer duo Rimple and Harpreet Narula who have woven textile magic for this drama based in the 14th century. Only their first outing as designers for a Bollywood film, their personal obsession with royal style led them to this opportunity. “We had done a show called Maharaja and Co at a fashion week, and have also worked with a lot of royal families of the country including those from Jaipur, Rampur, Baroda, Kishangarh and Gondal. We had the privilege to look into their wardrobes and style them for editorial shoots for various magazines for many years,” says Harpreet. They took their collection of antique and vintage textile samples for their first meeting with Bhansali and that is how it all began.
From discovering the magic of vegetable dyes and re-discovering lost styles of block printing to finding inspiration in museums and murals, the designers spent months travelling and researching. “The actual textile development had to be done during the winter months as the humidity during monsoon affects the quality of the printing. We were working against the clock to get everything ready and would sometimes wonder that if we put that motif, colour or detail into it would anyone even notice? But when we would bring the garment to Mr Bhansali, I would be surprised that he would not just notice but also identify it,” says Rimple.
We spoke to the designers and asked them to detail what went behind creating some of the looks in the movie. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Deepika Padukone’s Ghaghra In Ghoomar
“The ghaghra for this song has 80 kalis so that it could look bigger while twirling for the traditional dance. Because of the weather conditions in the region, mulmuls and cottons were favoured over silks, and we used vegetable dyes for everything. We visited various forts and havelis in Bundi, Kota and Udaipur and carefully studied the murals and frescoes for references. The main motifs that we used - the lady with a parrot, the tree of life, the sun and the moon, the lion and the lotus have deep historical symbolism entrenched in the Rajput culture.
The embroideries were done at different craft clusters spread across Rajasthan, over a period of two months. The innermost layer of the ghaghra has a special gota lafa that we got artisans from Nyla near Jaipur to weave, the brocades were specially commissioned to master weavers after a careful study of old samples from Aurangabad and Benaras that have been archived at the Calico and Jaipur museums. For the odhna, which is much wider than the dupatta we wear today, we used Kota cotton and then got a leheriya print developed on it that came from a 16th century textile sample we saw at the Victoria and Albert museum. It was further embellished with Raato embroidery, which involves couching of gold metal flat wire with a red silk floss thread.”
Shahid Kapoor’s Royal Court Look
“Mr Bhansali did not want us to follow any vague generalisations of costumes that have been depicted in cinema till now, but create garments for Shahid’s character that also expressed the emotional turmoil and complexities the character undergoes. Shahid has an inherent regal carriage and body language and when he donned the angrakhas and robes, it was as if Maharawal Ratan Singh was brought to life in front of our eyes.
We had to get the various shades and tones of royal dressing right. The Calico Museum has a number of examples. For the court looks, we got specialist weavers to develop the fabrics that are gilded with real metal wires. A lot of the embroidery and motif references came not only from old clothing samples we could get our hands on, but also vintage textiles in the form of manuscript holders, canopies, wall hangings and bichhonas.
The formal court looks have ornate turbans with gold leaf and foil printing layered over meticulously done leheriya printing in 24 colours, which were derived and replicated from actual samples of vintage turbans archived at the Victoria and Albert Museum. A specialist from Mewar, who has worked with various current day royals, was hired to drape the turbans."
Ranveer Singh’s Rugged Look
“We wanted to create the look of an antagonist whom audiences would remember for a long time to come. Given Khilji's nomadic Turkish origins, we did a lot of research on the costumes and textiles of the belt, right from Afghanistan to Kazakhistan to the central Asia belt around Turkey.
According to the brief by Mr Bhansali, we had to create costumes that bring out an aura of power and brutality in Ranveer. Elaborate patterning and embellishment on the shoulders and arms were used to achieve the desired effect. Khilji's color palette is dark and ominous given his tribal invader background and we have used very robust nomadic elements layered with different textures and sturdy fabrics to achieve a look that goes with the character's story arc through the film - from a young warrior to the Sultan of India who is besotted by Rani Padmavati's beauty.
Back then these nomadic tribes used iridescent beetle wings and embroidered them along with metal zari and badla wires to give a bejeweled look to the garments. We got special sequins developed to recreate the beauty of this particular embellishment.”