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Bajirao Mastani: Maratha history meets Nizami sway

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Anju Modi on the research that went into cracking the 18th century dress code for ‘Bajirao Mastani’

For a year, Anju Modi hadn’t really focussed on her regular fashion business with Ram Leela taking all her attention. Once the film opened to a warm response, she took a breather and soaked in the appreciation that came her way.

“In January 2014, the film was a talking point at award ceremonies and whenever Sanjay (Leela Bhansali) appreciated my effort, it gave me a high. There was good synergy between us at work,” she recalls. At that time, Bhansali broached the topic of Bajirao Mastani and asked if she would design. Anju was a tad hesitant, for she knew the effort that would go into making of a historical.

She knew she had to match Bhansali’s penchant for scale. “Despite the volume of work, I was eager not to let go of such an opportunity. Researching on textiles, garments and techniques is my passion. The trigger to take up Bajirao Mastani was to research on the textile history of the Maratha Peshwas,” she says.

Anju Modi and her team designed more than 300 costumes for the three principal characters — Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), Mastani (Deepika Padukone) and Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra). They also designed costumes for supporting actors who’d be doubles for the lead actors, along with headgear, armours, boots and jewellery.

“Kashi’s jewellery is in traditional Marathi style while Mastani’s was in Nizami style using Basra pearls. The jewellery you see in the film is real. The audience can tell fake jewellery from a real one and Sanjay didn’t want to compromise,” says Anju.

Bajirao Mastani, says Anju, gave her a chance to revive old weaves and techniques. “The project was finalised in February and the research began in June 2014,” she shares. She travelled to Ajanta and Ellora, Indore, Chanderi, Paithan and Maheshwar among other places, visiting temples, museums, palaces and looked up books and paintings to understand the textiles and colour palette of that era.

For Kashi, who hails from the upper echelons of Maharastrian society, Anju Modi’s team designed 80 nauvari (nine-yard) saris. “We had to crack the dress code of the 18th century. We don’t have people to guide us on how the nauvari sari was draped 200 years ago. So we looked up paintings of that era, especially those of Raja Ravi Varma,” she says. Varma’s paintings were a reference to create the colour palette for Kashi’s saris — hot pinks, emerald greens, yellows and purples. The team used fine cottons, silks and muls so as to not make the saris tough to drape.

“Dainty ‘English’ colour palette — aqua blues, powder pinks and typical porcelain colours were used for Mastani. The research I did in Chowmahalla Palace and Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad helped. Mastani was born to a Hindu raja and a Muslim courtesan. The Nizami attire at that time had Persian influence in its hand embroidery — the mukaish and zardosi. We used shararas and odhnis in Nizami-Persian styles,” says Anju.

In Nashik, Anju paid attention to the traditional draping style of the dhoti for Bajirao. The headgear for both Bajirao and Mastani involved dipping into archival work.

The Marathas, she notes, were particular about their cultural following, despite the Mughal and Nizami influence. “The textile history is interwoven with the political fabric,” Anju signs off.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2018 4:25:00 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/bajirao-mastani-maratha-history-meets-nizami-sway/article7996083.ece

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