Step out of home this Deepavali, and you’re sure to see at least one version of Janu from the movie 96 on the streets. Or, so a popular meme goes. The yellow kurta worn by the character played by Trisha Krishnan is going viral, and so are the memes. There’s one in which Mona Lisa wears it. In another meme, titled ‘This Diwali be like’, a startled Homer Simpson is surrounded by a dozen women in the kurta. A textiles store in the city has displayed a similar outfit for sale, and many more are likely to follow suit. It’s quite a simple ensemble — in the film, Janu can be seen in a mustard-yellow pin-tuck kurta paired with a blue-and-beige silk stole over ankle-length jeans.
“I didn’t expect it to become this popular,” laughs Subhashree Kaarthik Vijay, the film’s costumer designer. A friend of the director C Prem Kumar for over two decades, Chennai-based Subhashree studied at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad. This was her first film as a costume designer.
“I picked yellow since it’s a happy colour,” says Subhashree. Since Trisha wears the same kurta for the most part in the film, Subhashree says that colour made her face brighter and made her stand out, especially in the scenes shot at night.
The jeans-kurta-stole combination is something that Subhashree can often be seen in. “In fact, Janu’s look is based on me,” she adds. Prem wanted Janu to dress in a simple fashion, much like his friend, Subhashree. “But we took into consideration that she’s an NRI and so she wore brands,” she adds.
A story of yearning, memories, and the ache of love lost, 96 is a huge hit. The film has even sparked off fan-made merchandise such as Ram and Janu dolls. Subhashree feels that all this is a reflection on the emotions that the film stirred. “Not just this kurta; anything that Janu had worn would’ve become popular. People love her, relate to her in some way,” she says.
Subhashree recalls a young man who wrote to her, asking if she can make a similar outfit for his girlfriend. Then there was a message on her Facebook from someone who wanted to tie-up with her to sell the kurtas. “Amusing as they were, these were spooky,” she laughs. The costume designer, who has previously designed clothes for a theatre production, has signed a film and more are in the pipeline. For now, though, she’s basking in the fame the yellow kurta brought her.