Designer duo, Rimple and Harpreet Narula, will be stepping into Bollywood with critically acclaimed director Sanjay leela Bhansali's magnum opus, Padmavati. This period drama is based on life of Rani Padmavati from 13th century era in Chittor and is slated to release in November this year.
The movie features Deepika Padukone in the lead role, with Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh playing important roles.
Padmavati being your Bollywood debut, how much elated or anxious are you about this project?Is it a dream come true?
From the very first meeting, Mr Bhansali and his team, along with the lead cast, have been very warm to us. Being totally new to the ways of Bollywood, Mr Bhansali has guided us at every step of the process, be it inputs on history or actual design elements that work on screen. The entire experience has been surreal and deeply enriching as designers.
How was your experience of working with one of Bollywood's ace directors?
Working with Mr Bhansali is a fabulously inspirational experience for us as designers. He is a master of his craft, a perfectionist with a great eye for detail as we all know.The process of creating the costumes for the project was a constant evolution, a new learning experience every day.
It is interesting for us as designers how our perception of drama in clothes has also undergone a change while working on the project; how at times "less is more" given the moment in the storyline or "more is less", how various elements need to be layered for a cohesive look that is in sync with the director's vision. Mr Bhansali is a person whose vision grows every day.
It is fascinating how the characters he envisions become real people who we interact with every day on the sets. Besides showcasing our creations on three of the finest muses a designer can have, we have understood that he does not want mere clothes but clothes that speak a language, express the character's nuances and bring out the emotional journeys these characters undertake as they make their way through the narrative.
How were you roped in for this magnum opus? Tell us about your experience of the selection process.
Our collections have always been researchbased, digging into the vast archive that is found in our cultural and textile heritage and reinterpreting centuries-old techniques.
In fact, our last two collections ~ The Eternal Wanderlust was based on the nomadic tribes and drifters of the North West Frontier Province while Maharadjah and Co was based on the erstwhile Indian rulers of the Raj-era ~ along with our other past work with various royal families is what most probably caught Mr Bhansali's eye as his latest venture deals with royalties of 13th century India and he saw in us the potential to create looks imbibing the essence of history, travel and royalty.
We got a call from his office for an initial meeting and instead of taking our existing work we did some research on Rani Padmawati and pulled out various old textiles from our personal collection, which we thought would make interesting points of reference. The whole meeting went off quite well with some impromptu look tests using those textiles we did with Mr Bhansali and during the course of the meeting it became apparent that we were in sync with his vision and what he was looking for in terms of costumes.
How challenging was it to work with Bhansali?
Besides having a great eye for detail, visionary opulent sets and a larger than life depiction of grandeur, Mr Bhansali is a great story teller. During the initial stages of the project, Mr Bhansali and his team took us through the script in order to understand the flow of the narrative and nuances of each character as the garments have to enhance the same.
We have used robust, earthy, luxe-kitsch elements and as designers it was very interesting since various contradictory cultures come together through the course of the narrative ~ the Sinhalese princess who becomes a Rajput queen, the Afghan invader who becomes the Sultan of Delhi.
The elements used show how every region leaves its stamp on the textiles and costumes, how one motif can have different meanings given the region and the culture. For example, the Paisley can represent both a date sapling in Islamic iconography or a raw mango (keri) in Hindu traditions.
How did you recuperate from the damages after the set burnt down? How difficult was it to get the costumes ready again?
The incident was a huge set-back for us emotionally. A lot of hard work, sweat and toil had gone into creating the costumes that got damaged and many of the pieces had actual antique textiles that were incorporated in the designs, which were irreplaceable. Luckily we had managed back-ups and the really ornate pieces had already been filmed. We had to come up with certain replacements but that was the need of the hour and thankfully everything is back on track now.
How much research was required for this project?
Since it is a period piece, we had to be extra careful when it comes to maintaining the authenticity of the costumes for it is an extremely challenging task to envision and design garments as they were worn by the royals back then as not much is documented. Keeping that in mind we have done intensive research on the period by way of going through old travellers' accounts from that era as well as regular visits to the Calico and Jaipur museums to get the touch-feel-look right. Also, we had to refer to a lot of miniature paintings, murals and frescoes to get the nuances of the styling as close to how they used to be.
As you have worked with many of the tinsel town's leading actresses, who do you think looks best in your couture?
All the female actors nowadays carry themselves with much aplomb and each has her own innate charm, which makes it very difficult to pick a favourite.
Would you continue to work as costume designers in Bollywood?
As of now, we are totally consumed with the execution of this project as the looks are extremely detailed and researchoriented. As designers we are always on the look-out for a fresh perspective, a new stimuli that fuels the creative process. So perhaps once the work on the movie concludes we will explore other such avenues as they come along.
Tell us about your latest collection Qafila.
Every collection takes us on a new journey and evolving as a designer is all about juxtaposing various layers of your life over your craft. Sometimes it is all about research and technique exploration, sometimes it is about interaction with artisans and sometimes it is more instinctual and spontaneous. Qafila is a tale of travel and transcendence and we have explored antiquated surface ornamentation techniques such as "Warq ka Kaam", block printing and gotta embroidery on handloom Chanderi silks and cottons and classic silhouettes-kalidars, shararas and long capes.