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Chhavi Thakur: Making the difference for Prabhu Deva

Prabhudheva in a still from ‘Yung Mung Sung’

Prabhudheva in a still from ‘Yung Mung Sung’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The costume stylist, who switched over from a career as an air hostess, discusses 'Bagheera', actor-filmmaker Prabhu Deva’s upcoming movie directed by Adhik Ravichandran

Artistes sporting flashy costumes for dance sequences was a thing in the ’90s. Prabhudheva was no different. His choice of costumes stood out like his choreography — which had him bend his body and, with it, your mind.

In recent times, however, the actor-filmmaker’s apparel choice has reflected a generational change, although his penchant for being a part of foot-tapping numbers filmed with an elaborately designed and constructed set as backdrop remains. Whether it is Devi, Gulaebaghavali or the recently-released Street Dancer 3D, Prabhudheva’s outfits set the actor apart but does it subtly.

Making a difference

Credit for his changeover, the actor attests, to his stylist Chhavi Thakur, whom we recently caught up with when the shoot for Bagheera, the Adhik Ravichandran film that has Prabhudheva essay multiple characters, was halted due to the Coronavirus scare. A Delhiite based in Mumbai, Chhavi switched over from a career as cabin crew with the now-defunct Jet Airways to be a stylist in films.

Chhavi Thakur

Chhavi Thakur   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

“I knew in my mind that [being an air hostess] wasn’t going to be a long term career. When I wanted to change [career], I wanted to pursue something where I knew I could give my 100% and flourish. That is how it happened,” she says.

For someone without much on-the-job experience in fashion, Chhavi adds that she relied on YouTube videos and Google to brush up her knowledge. And when she landed her first opportunity, as an assistant in the costume department, it was for the Sanjay Gupta film Shootout at Wadala (2013).

“It is not everyday you get to work on a period film (Shootout at Wadala was set in the ’80s) as your first project. I learnt a lot on how to age clothes, and the kind of research I did with the film’s stylist to understand the kind of clothes that were used then...it gave me a lot of insight into the industry,” she says.

After Shootout at Wadala came the offer to work for National Award-winning costume designer Neeta Lulla. “I jumped at the opportunity. She is very hands-on with her work. Most of the designers let their assistants handle things on set. But she was out there doing her work to perfection, keeping actors at ease and providing the director with what he/she wants,” she adds.

Creative dose

That work ethic she absorbed from Neeta could well be why Adhik Ravichandran speaks in hyperbole when asked of her contribution in Bagheera. “She is the mastermind [for Bagheera’s costumes]. The film has a lot of characters, and each one has its own way of dressing, colours and styles. To handle these many characters is difficult for a costume stylist, but the outfits she has picked makes the characters stand out. When the first look was released, many were asking what Prabhu master was wearing,” says Adhik.

Chhavi Thakur with Prabhudheva during shoot of ‘Yung Mung Sung’

Chhavi Thakur with Prabhudheva during shoot of ‘Yung Mung Sung’   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

While both Adhik and Chhavi hold the mystery of Bagheera’s “different characters” close to their chest, the latter hints that there weren’t many references she could rely on for drawing up her outfit choices — unlike the previous Prabhudheva films she worked on like Devi or the unreleased film Yung Mung Sung.

Yung Mung Sung is a period film, and we wanted to depict the characters as kung fu students of a bygone era. I had to watch a lot of kung fu films as homework. In Devi, the director (AL Vijay) wanted a South Indian rural look for characters; we discussed about the jewellery that elderly women wear. I watched a lot of Tamil films because I wanted to make myself aware of the culture before delivering,” she says.

“In Bagheera, we have crafted the looks based on the character’s personality trait and age. There is a lot of out-of-the-box thinking involved,” she adds.

Like in any profession, costume designing and styling is also a cut throat business. “You have to make your mark, especially since there are a lot of stylists and designers who cater to the same person,” says Chhavi. She says she owes it to Prabhudheva for choosing her from the crowd, “He is the person responsible for what I am today. In that sense, he is my godfather [in cinema]. I never thought I’d be an air hostess or a stylist. I keep evolving with the moment,” she concludes.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 3:47:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/making-the-difference-for-prabhu-deva/article31136485.ece

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