Dressing the queen

“My fashion philosophy has always been maximalism and I supported home-grown fashion before it became a trend by imbuing elements of Banarasi, Kalamkari, Kanjeevaram or Paithani in my collections,” avers Neeta Lulla, the fashion designer who shot to fame in the 90s as a costume designer and changed the ‘look’ of Bollywood with films like Chandni, Darr and Devdas. Once an important member of Sridevi’s team, Neeta has been closely associated with top stars of the day. This is evident from the fact that Neeta has pictures of all the actresses with whom she has worked in her new store at DLF Emporio in Delhi.

Now, the seasoned designer is turning a new leaf by creating costumes for Kangana Ranaut in the actor’s ambitious project, Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi.


On her long association with Bollywood

Growing up, I was enamoured of Indian cinema – the facets and the fantasy. I don’t need to make an attempt to make my outfits look film-inspired because I have really lived Bollywood. It is in my genes and it transcends to what I do. But I am also a bridal and couture designer. It is not that I make a conscious effort not to do or do things on the lines of my earlier films. However, fashion is cyclical. If somewhere my past work reflects in my present collection then I really don’t know. The philosophy of my clothes is very Edwardian; it is something I have always done. It is very sensuous, something I like doing like pretty silhouettes of lace with lot of floral and butterfly motifs, pearls, tassels and yet it has Indian at heart .

On the kind of work she has done in Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi

My work in the film is very different from my other works. Kangana has made it possible for me to work in this unique project What she has worn in the film is something that she exudes in real life. It is a beautiful line.

It is important to remember that Rani of Jhansi was a woman who had lot of strength. She exuded that in the way she stood and what she wore. That was Rani’s strength and this is also Kangana’s strength. So you would see different elements of saris and outfits which you would not have imagined that a woman of that era could wear.

Kangana has a style which is quirky; she dares to try different styles. She does not represent any one brand, not even the Neeta Lulla brand. She represents Kangana Ranaut. I admire her as a woman and for the kind of work she does. Her style statement is of romantic era; she wears clothes inspired by the earlier era. And as my sensibilities are also Edwardian, we are on the same plane.

On the significance of costumes as an integral part of visual story-telling

Costumes are one of the tools that a filmmaker employs to amplify the plot and design characters. Like the characters, costumes must evolve with the story .

The challenge for us is to realise the director’s vision . We support the narrative by creating authentic characters and we strike a balance within each frame by using colour, texture and silhouette. If the dialogue is the melody of a movie, the colour provides the harmony, a satisfying visual cohesiveness.

On the line between stylist and designer getting blurred

At the most basic level, both costume and fashion are clothing. That is why it is assumed that one is the other but this really does a disservice to both. Each form has a completely different function.

Fashion and styling as a system is one of perpetual change, a system of dress for day-to-day use. On the other hand, costume design is specifically to create a character and to help with the narrative of film production. For me styling and designing are two sides of the same role as it requires the same amount of passion, vision and dedication. Costume designing laid a platform for me to become the fashion designer that I am today.

On how costume design has changed over the years

When I started out, the concept of stylists was not there in Bollywood. It was a very nascent field. Stylists were not even taken seriously. Having said that as stylists we had full control over the styling of the creative concepts and not just the outfits. Unfortunately, today this format is non-existent. We cater to fast paced lifestyles today and with the rise of social media where everything a celebrity does comes under public scrutiny, role of stylists cannot be ignored. Today, fans love their filmstars not just for their acting. They look at the whole package and hence actors need stylists who enjoy domain expertise to give them the 360 degree panache.

On Sridevi’s role in grooming her

I don’t know how she would come up with a different colour format. In 1992, when we did Heer Ranjha, she used orange and pink together for the first time; it became such a rage. In Chaalbaaz, we did lime green and lemon yellow; nobody was using bright happy colours then. She would even point at a leaf and ask for one shade lighter. If you didn’t get the shade right, she would point out that it was not the colour that she had asked for. I owe my colour sensibility to her. I have learnt so much from her and would pay homage to her in a beautiful way. She lives in my heart and would be an integral part of my brand.

On the need for brick and mortar store when every designer is going online

People want to touch and feel the fabrics they can wear or customise and interact with the designer. If you are looking for ready to wear at a particular price point, then online is the place for you. However, when it comes to bridal wear, you need to know what you are picking up. So here brick and mortar store is very important.

Khadi goes glamorous

Kangana Ranaut, who wore her outfit, said there are so many ways of interpreting the period and vision of Rani Lakshmibai. “Neeta has an amazing quality of making everything look mainstream. When she dressed up everyone, she made it look the most expensive film. That is what matters, everyone doesn’t have that aesthetics. She does things in relation to light and mood.”

Revealing that khadi will be promoted through the period film, Kangana said: “When we were trying to throw the British out of India, our leaders encouraged wearing handmade attires. So Neeta has made me wear glamorous khadi outfits. Normally, khadi is associated with a de-glamourised look. Neeta is going to break this notion with this film.”

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 8:47:12 AM |

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