This year, Rajkummar Rao has established himself as an actor of fine talent who will do all it takes to slip into a role and make it authentic; including scarfing down 20 rasgullas first thing in the morning. For his role as Subhash Chandra Bose for Alt Balaji’s web series Bose: Dead or Alive, Rao gained about 12 kgs to look like the heavy-bellied but nimble-footed freedom fighter. This is only one of the many minor details that went into creating a character that goes through various changes and disguises through the telling of the story.
From the style of his glasses to the fountain pen he carried in his pocket, stylist Shivank Kapoor researched everything, starting at the Bose Museum in Kolkata where he found photos of the leader from when he was 3 years old. “Bose was a well-travelled man from a wealthy family, global in his style and he enjoyed dressing up,” says Kapoor. We asked him to take us through the various looks of Rajkummar Rao as Bose, and what it took to create the many period styles:
As A College Student
At this point, Bose is just 18 years old and a student of Presidency College in Kolkata. Unlike other students who wore dhoti-kurta to class, he would dress up in a more western way because after college he had plans to go to England. At that time, most of the fabrics available were either British made and imported or cotton that was made in India. I got shirts made of Mercerised cotton in organic colours such as cream, white, sandalwood, and his pants are wool blends, textured and with self stripes, which is very relevant to those days.
Meeting With The Prince of Wales
In this scene he is wearing a suit to be able to blend with the British crowd. It is a dark brown suit with a contrast waistcoat and a red tie. We tried to recreate the wool striped suits that were popular in the 20s. The lapels in the suits then were broader and single-breasted three-button jackets were in style. The fits were much loser, shoulders broader and suits were not cut to the body like they are today. I showed old references from those times to my masterji in Mumbai who made these suits.
Bose – The Krantikari
During this period, Bose mostly wore a dhoti-kurta with a shawl. Back in the day people had a peculiar way of wearing shawls that went across their body. Bose wore pashminas and hand-embroidered shawls, which we sourced from Delhi and Lucknow. The shawls have very thin borders on the hem and are in basic colours such as cream, white, brown, fawn, beige. We got the kurtas stitched in Kolkata because the kind of finesse the tailors there possess is not available in Mumbai or Delhi. The kurtas were hand-hemmed and we used the traditional Bakhiya stich, broad facings inside the kurta and jaali stitch around the neck.
Time In Europe
By the 1930s he was travelling to Vienna, Austria and Germany often. We created suits of pure wool in checks, stripes or solid colours, contrast ties or bows worn with trench coats in tweed or houndstooth or other woolen fabrics. I have taken a bit of creative liberty in his outfits in the lighter moments of the series when he is with his wife – we have colour co-ordinated outfits for the two, for example his tie or bow with her scarf or dress.
In A Sherwani
Every time Bose travelled back to India he would wear his black achkan, the same look that was on his Time Magazine cover. We created a traditional hand-stitched achkan with buttons made out of fabric and pockets on both sides of the chest unlike modern styles that have a pocket only on the left side. He would always carry a fountain pen in the pocket of his achkan. In India he wore it with a white kurta and dhoti and while travelling abroad he would wear the same achkan with trousers instead.
Bose In Afghanistan
At one point he escapes the British, travels all the way to Peshawar and goes to Afghanistan. Once there he had to look like any other Afghan man, so he wore their traditional outfit called a poshto with woolen coats, waistcoat, shawl and a pagdi around his head. I sourced these fabrics from Delhi and this is the first time in the entire series that you see him in any kind of colour.
Now in his 40s he has matured so we have given him a double-breasted suit, inspired from the actual photos. He was very up-to-date and well co-ordinated in his style. With Indian clothes he wore mojris, leather chappals and jalsa shoes, while with suits he wore brogues and oxfords in brown, tan and black. By now his glasses frames were also more modern. While traveling to cold countries in Europe he wore hats and double-breasted trench coats in heavy wools. We bought them in vintage shops in Poland so we could get the old coats that were longer, with broad lapels along with wooden or shell buttons.
Bose In Japan
Every time he escapes from one place to another he is not carrying his clothes but arranges for them where he is. In this part of the series he is wearing two-button suits, but the fabrics are mainly cotton and linen. This is his last look in the show where he has a long beard and is wearing cane hats in bamboo fiber that are very relevant to Japan. We washed the clothes so they would look worn and he could blend with the crowd.