Interview Movies

The ‘Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy’ lookbook

Jagapati Babu, Vijay Sethupathi, Amitabh Bachchan, Chiranjeevi, Kiccha Sudeep, Nayanthara and Tamannaah Bhatia  

Uthara Menon’s work got noticed widely when she styled the actors for her brother and director Gautham Vasudev Menon’s 2015 Tamil film Yennai Arindhaal (dubbed as Yentha Vaadu Gani in Telugu). The look for Trisha who portrayed the part of a classical dancer, in particular, came in for a lot of appreciation. Recently, she styled actor Nani and all the five women for director Vikram Kumar’s Gang Leader. “The six characters are seen together in many frames and I chose colours accordingly. I like to work with directors [like Vikram Kumar] who give me complete freedom,” she says.

Her biggest project so far, is the Chiranjeevi-starrer Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. Uthara collaborated with Chiranjeevi’s daughter Sushmita Konidela, and worked in coordination with director Surender Reddy, production designer Rajeevan Nambiar, cinematographer Rathnavelu, and other departments to finalise the colour palette of the period drama and the looks of all members of the cast.

Deciding the colour scheme for a scene featuring Chiranjeevi and Amitabh Bachchan

Deciding the colour scheme for a scene featuring Chiranjeevi and Amitabh Bachchan  

A common connect in many of the projects she has taken up so far is the presence of production designer Rajeevan Nambiar. “We vibe well. The colour palette for the clothes are decided to suit the characters, the story, and the setting. For instance, Rajeevan would explain the colour scheme he has in mind for the walls and curtains in a house,” she mentions. Before Yennai Arindhaal, Rajeevan reached out to her to help with designing the interiors for the house set in Manam.

When Rajeevan suggested her name for Sye Raa…, Uthara was hesitant. Her son was six and she wasn’t keen to travel for work, away from her base in Chennai.

Nayanthara

Nayanthara  

But things fell into place. She heard the story, came to Hyderabad and met key members of the Sye Raa team and worked with the concept artists. Much of the sketching for her styling happened in Chennai. The looks for Chiranjeevi’s character — detailing his clothes, hairstyle and accessories — to suit the 1800s, were all sketched in detail. A few meetings and tweaks later, things began moving.

Dress Circle
  • After Yennai Arindhaal, Uthara Menon has styled the subsequent Gautham Menon films — Sahasam Swasaga Sagipo (Accham Yenbadu Madamaiyada in Tamil), the forthcoming Enai Noki Paayum Thota (the Dhanush-starrer will release in Telugu as Thoota), and Vikram-starrer Dhruva Natchathiram.
  • Uthara styled Ramya Krishna for Shailaja Reddy Alludu, and for two songs in Sarrainodu - the title track and ‘Blockbuster’.

The film is set in the 1800s and is populated with characters representing the British regiments, the native villagers, tribals, and zamindars. “Apart from Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy, there are 69 other zamindars who all need to look rich, reflecting the dressing style of their respective backgrounds,” explains Uthara. The characters essayed by Kiccha Sudeep, Ravi Kishan, and others, fall into this category.

 

Planning the colour palette for the film was pivotal. “Rajeevan wanted slightly muted tones, like what we see in Hollywood period films. So I chose tomato reds and off-whites in place of bright red and white for the British characters. Earthy tones were chosen for the guerilla warfare scenes and the clothes had a rugged look,” she explains.

Based on Uthara’s styling, Sushmita designed the costumes for Amitabh Bachchan, Chiranjeevi, Nayanthara and Tamannaah. “I am a stylist, not a designer. So when I was asked to design for the other characters, I worked with a team of designers, including NIFT graduates,” says Uthara.

There was a steady stream of work. Workshops were set up with machines and embroiders, and actors would walk in for costume fittings, hairstyling, and the works. Some of the clothes needed to be aged to give the period look. “Pots of tea would be boiling near the workshop. Boiling the clothes in hot water, tea, or dusting with antique gold are some of the techniques by which garments are given an aged look. We did a lot of that,” she shares.

A few sketches of Chiranjeevi’s looks at the planning stage

A few sketches of Chiranjeevi’s looks at the planning stage  

Actors portraying British characters were styled according to their ranks and regiments, the villagers and tribals according to their backgrounds. And Vijay Sethupathi as Raja Paandi was given a distinct look — “even the moustache was different and his team had tattoos of tigers,” says Uthara, who pored over history books to find photographic references.

Vijay Sethupathi

Vijay Sethupathi  

She admits she didn’t always stick to using fabric that was reminiscent of that era, “Ultimately cinema is make believe. On screen, if the garments look and drape in a manner that suited the time period, it works.”

Sye Raa was challenging and Uthara is happy with her work. She tried to keep the styling authentic and simple, but was obliged to tweak where necessary to give Chiranjeevi a majestic look for the on-screen grandeur.

Uthara is a self-taught stylist and recalls “putting things together differently” as a child. “My mother has an amazing sense of colour and style and I used to observe her,” she says.

Post Sye Raa, she is in talks for two more period films.


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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 4:05:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/uthara-menon-discusses-the-styling-and-aesthetics-of-chiranjeevi-starrer-sye-raa-narasimha-reddy/article29541608.ece

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