Giving films a perfect fit

Antony jo

Antony jo

King Liar has Dileep sport a new and sleek get-up - one that makes him look different. It’s unlike anything we have seen on him - blazer and turtle neck, a sharp beard and the works. The designer behind the look is Praveen Varma, a film industry veteran of 10 years and an almost equal number of films, who swears by ‘design basics’.

“Inches and centimetres are all I have to express myself as designer,” he says. Manipulate the measurement, combine it with design basics, work around an actor’s physical limitations and show their best on film.

It is tempting to call Praveen Varma’s take on his craft cerebral. As costume designer for films he firmly believes that his job is to contribute cohesion and depth – a sense of wholesomeness – to a character.

To illustrate the point he uses a detail – a gun patch – from Prithviraj’s get-up in the 2012 film Bachelor Party , directed by Amal Neerad; many would remember the film’s edgy look.

“It is a tiny detail; but one which tells something of the character and his circumstances. Negligible details such as this complete the picture while adding something extra to the film. And the film was able to communicate that.” These details would, obviously, be irrelevant if a film fails to communicate their presence. Communicating through his work, therefore, is important.

This explains why in the last 10 years, starting 2006 when he began doing films, he has picked only a handful. He made his debut with Amal Neerad’s Big B . He counts Amal, along with directors such as Lijo Jose Pellisserry and Lal, directors he can depend on to communicate his ‘art’.

“I agree that costumes don’t make a film, but I, consciously, choose to associate with filmmakers with whom I can work sans doubts. Be it Amal or Lijo, for example, who are brilliant technicians. I need that confidence to work.”

He is not comfortable with labelling his approach as just cerebral; it is too layered for that. “It is art too, as ‘design’ could be defined as a controlled form of art. So there is definitely art and emotion. Design treads a fine line between art and commerce and rational thinking. I walk that line. It’s simple and pleasurable if you know how.”

Of the many labels that define him – designer, film stylist, entrepreneur and teacher – it is the teacher’s he feels passionately about. His grandfather, mother, aunts, cousins, sister are all teachers; explaining his affinity for the profession. After completing his fashion design course in the city, he taught at Tirupur, for a couple of years and was on the fashion design faculty of St. Teresa’s College.

An introduction to Amal Neerad led him to the sets of Big B . “Amal told me that we could work together on his next project, but a week before shoot was to begin, he told me I was on.”

It is interesting to listen to him talk about his process. God does seem to be in the details for him. He tells of the jacket Arya’s character wore in Double Barrel ( DB ). Lijo Pellissery’s comic-inspired film was an over-the-top, surreal fantasy in which styling was an important component. The film’s look was marked by bright colours and exaggerated, imaginative accessorising. “Four elements on Arya’s jacket came from three different sources. Only I knew how the garment would shape up.” Handcuffs became an accessory for another character. His work in the film is proof of having been able to work unfettered.

“The psychology of characters was different from normal characters and hence the designs too had to different.” He mulls over each character, adding that with styling an ordinary accessory should get a new meaning or significance.

Compared to the kind of work that might have gone into the costumes for DB , King Liar looks easy, “not so,” Praveen says. Seemingly simple and straightforward, a lot of thought went into the styling of each character. “We paid attention to minute details like how a hairstyle or style of beard would work.” In the film, Asha Sharath’s look is very different as is Lal’s appearance, with the styling spelling luxury and opulence.

He clarifies, “The effort I put in for each film is the same. The physical effort wasn’t as much but the artistic effort invested in each film is the same. I have a team of brilliant artists to help me. For instance for DB I couldn’t have done it on my own. I value and appreciate their effort.”

‘Styling up’ he says is easy as opposed to keeping it simple, which he has to do for his next, Sajid Yahiya’s Inspector Dawood Ibrahim ( IDI ). Dressing a common, everyday man is not easy. That is where a keen eye becomes important. “Not only do you have to be informed, observant, updated and aware of the possibilities available – an awareness of socio-political issues too helps.”

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Printable version | Jul 6, 2022 3:28:56 am |