Dress circle

Designer Ana Singh. Photo: Special Arrangement  

If it's about sheer numbers, it's tough to match Ana Singh's record — she has 900 films under a belt, either as costume designer or as an integral part of the costume and wardrobe department. In terms of critical acclaim too, she's had her share, bagging two National Awards for costume design, for Muzaffar Ali's “Umrao Jaan” and Akbar Khan's “Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story”. In fact, her two decades in the industry have run parallel to the evolution of costuming in Hindi cinema — from “Maine Pya Kiya” (1989), “Saajan” (1991), “Hum Aapke Hain Koun!” (1994) and “Ghulam” (1998) to “Yaadein” (2001), “Ajnabee” (2001) “Khakee” (2004), “Taj Mahal: An Eternal Love Story” (2005), “Umrao Jaan” (2006) and the most recent “Veer.”

“I'm going paagal!” she says on the phone from Mumbai, the reason being the 10,000 to 11,000 costumes that she's doing for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth Games just round the corner. “It's a huge number of clothes… It's a wonderful experience,” she says. Right now, we are told, she's in the process of sending out the clothes to the Capital, with two consignments having already reached their destination. Contractual obligations prohibit her from divulging more about the looks, for now.

Power of period films

Going back to Bollywood, Ana says, “I've been doing regular western glamour for a long time, the kind I used to do for Pooja Bhatt and Raveena Tandon. But that's become too easy nowadays because of the presence and easy availability of luxury brands. As a costumer you want work that utilises whatever talent you have. That is why I love period films.”

For Ana, the ideal canvases came in the form of “realistic” films like Rituparno Ghosh's “Raincoat” (the “Gift of the Magi” adaptation that starred Aishwarya Rai and Ajay Devgn), “Khakee”, “Border” and “Refugee”. Other favourite works involved creating “the whole Lucknawi gharana” mood in “Umrao Jaan” and the “tribal, warrior” scenario with a bit of England thrown in, in “Veer”.

Most recently, much was made about the special armour that was designed for Salman Khan in “Veer”. Rumour had it that a whopping Rs 1.2 crore went into it. Justifying the expense, Ana says, “I still don't know why such hype was created. They (the media) made it seem like it was for one set of armour, whereas it was six sets that had to be created.”

On current Bollywood fashion, Ana says, “Today there is a more casual approach. Unfortunately, in the bargain, there are no style icons; well, you do have stylish people, but no style icons.” Her personal favourites are Hrithik Roshan (“He's fab, as of today”), Aishwarya Rai and Preity Zinta.

Ana's favourite film stylist is Patricia Field of the famous shocking red hair. Responsible for turning the HBO “Sex and the City” friends Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda into international style icons and many a time proving that style can win over substance (as in the “SATC” movies) and substance can ride on style (as in “The Devil Wears Prada”), Patricia is a legend.

“The work that Patricia did on “SATC”… that's very strong styling and for that I give her the total thumbs up,” Ana says.

“Among the new stylists, I like Anaita Shroff,” she adds.

Asking Ana to pick out favourites from her filmography is asking her to take a long jog down memory lane. “From the 900-odd films, I would say 150.” Prod a little and she answers, “I guess “Mission Kashmir”, “Hum Aapke Hain Koun!” and “Taj Mahal”. And “Boom” — I love the styling that I did for “Boom”. Also “London Dreams”.”

Hallmark creations

The clothes in “Hum Aapke Hain Koun!”, particularly, were remarkable in the way they filtered down to the streets, be it Madhuri Dixit's red lace frock in the song “Mausam ka jadu', the yellow dress of ‘ Maye ni maye' or the purple brocade sari of ‘Didi tera dewar deewana'. “Boom”, though stylish, sank without a trace, and a lot of effort went unnoticed by many.

While film costumes are, on most occasions, a catalyst to move a film's story forward, they do occupy a centrality in some. Among her films, Ana says, “Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai” (where Ana styled Ajay Devgn) was an instance where costume formed an important part of the film's overall fabric.

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Printable version | Jun 16, 2021 9:02:10 PM |

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