Sketching for the Superstar
Four-time National award-winning costume designer Neeta Lulla talks to T. Krithika Reddy about creating the look for Rajnikanth in Kochadiiyaan, a film that uses photorealistic 3D performance capture technology
Imagine creating more than two dozen looks with countless sketches before zeroing in on one armour suit! Designing for someone known for his individualistic flair can be a daunting task. But Neeta Lulla didn’t give up. She was just focussed on one thing — whatever she created had to be fitting of the man who brought oodles of ishtyle to the Tamil screen.
Like the king’s long mane (Kocha-diiyaan), Lulla’s work too went on and on… “It’s a Superstar film, so I have no regrets about sketching on a range of silhouettes for eight months. Being an animation film, it’s a totally new medium to me. For the first time, after over 300 films, I had worked only with paper and not fabric! While the form and movement of the outfits had to suit the action-every-minute life of a legend, the colours, textures and detailing had to match his royal bearing. It’s a completely new visual language,” she says in a smoothly modulated voice.
For the four-time National award-winning costume designer, all it takes to evolve cutting-edge designs is a deep understanding of the script and the director’s vision. Whether it’s the earthy charm of Sridevi’s saris in Lamhe, Paro’s exquisite Tangails and Dhakais in Devdas or the warm hues of the Mughals and jewel tones of the Rajputs in Jodhaa Akbar, Lulla had always had intensive discussions with the directors, besides doing her own research. “But Kochadiiyaan is a completely fictional character. So we did not have any reference. This meant we had to evolve a complete look from nothing! Director Soundarya and I were immersed in research for several days before freezing the look.”
The Mumbai-based designer and her team prepared over 150 sketches of different costumes for each significant character out of which 25 were selected and taken up for detailing and perfecting. “The designs, motifs and texturing were intricate. Embroidered motifs were photographed and neatly placed on the garments to give them an ornate look. The format of our work was unique. We created a detailed overview with sketches. It’s not physical clothing, it’s virtual. The jewellery too had to match the ostentatious outfit. It was a laborious task, but totally worth it.”
Talk about her interactions with Rajni, and Lulla gushes. “I was meeting him after Sivaji, for which I had created a few costumes. He is a very modest person — far removed from his larger-than-life screen presence. But Tamil films are not new to me. I love taking up assignments here,” says the designer whose tryst with the industry dates back to director Shankar’s Kaadhalan and Jeans.
In a career spanning 26 years, Lulla has worked with top-notch directors and even managed to have a strong retail presence. “I’ve worked in films in seven different languages. I even got a National award for the Marathi film Balgandharva. Success is about hard work. I worked every inch of my way up,” says the designer, who has now collaborated with veteran filmmaker Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods and launched a school of fashion. “We want to create a new generation of fashion designers and professionals,” she smiles with confidence.