Saturday, July 7, 2007

Dressing up Akshaye Khanna

Period films are tricky. If the protagonist is Mahatma Gandhi, it gets trickier. Hardly anything is left to be known, seen or said about the man etched in every school kid’s memory.

Though touted as the “family tragedy”, it would have been quite a job for the crew of “Gandhi My Father” to stay clear of clich├ęs. It was no different for Sujata Sharma, the costume designer of the film.

Tough assignment

Sujata admits dressing up Gandhi and his family was one of her toughest assignments so far.

“It was definitely one of the most challenging projects,” says the Delhi-based designer. Expectations would be high. Bhanu Athaiya took home the Oscar for costume designing in Richard Attenborough’s “Gandhi” still a vivid memory for film lovers.

But Sujata is not willing to be bogged down by history. “Actually, I never had Attenborough’s “Gandhi” in mind,” she says.

“For me, it was important to go by the period,” adds the designer.

Sujata believes period films can hardly ever be original. So she chose to go by her reference work and the Gandhi in her mind.

“It is about how we take liberties cinematically,” she says. One would have thought options were pretty limited, especially in terms of costume designing, in a film like “Gandhi My Father”. Sujata disagrees.

“Director Feroze Khan wanted my fabrics to bring alive the period,” she says. The challenge for her lay in gently bringing about the change in Gandhi’s clothes as his personality evolved.

Banked on her research and the Gandhi she had in mind to create Mahatma’s costumes.

“I had to cover a time span,” says Sujata. From 1916, when Gandhi, played by Darshan Jariwala, was in South Africa till 1948, when he was assassinated, the way he dressed underwent drastic changes.

From his barrister clothes in South Africa, the “Kathiawari costumes” on his arrival to India and ultimately the loin cloth and drapes, it was a journey in fabric for Sujata to capture.

“For his costumes in South Africa, I researched on the style of the times,” says the designer.

Gandhi’s makeover

“The transition in Gandhi is slow and it had to be brought in gently through his costumes,” says the costume designer for movies like “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron” and “Amu”.

The dark shades of the barrister and printing press owner gives way to the Kathiawari costumes and turban for Gandhi, newly arrived in India, before pure white and drapes take over.

The costume designer then springs a surprise. “Harilal was more challenging than Gandhi,” she says. “He wanted to be like his father. At times he dressed traditionally and on occasions in formal English style,” adds Sujata, who was the costume supervisor for “Monsoon Wedding” and “City of Joy”.

School uniforms and half-open shirts also make up the wardrobe for Harilal played by Akshaye Khanna.

“I worked for nearly two months to create the costume Harilal wears towards the climax. He is down and out and ruined completely and his clothes needed to have a run down look,” says the costume designer.

For Kasturba, played by Shefali Shah, it is mostly Parsi bordered saris that were supposed to be her favourite. “It was a conscious decision to give her a simple look, saris and thin, coloured, laced blouses with minimal jewellery.”

Keeping the essence of the Gandhi family, Sujata, had made the costumes an all-cotton affair.

Another mammoth task the designing team undertook was to make clothes for 500-odd crowd along with the costumes for the main artistes.

“That was all done during the shooting,” concludes Sujata.



Anonymous said...

Thank You, Miss/Mrs. Sujatha Sharma for dressing up Akshaye Khanna in such a way that he looks as real Harilal Gandhi in both reel and real life! Still, I feel it was not that difficult to dress up Akshaye Khanna as Harilal since Akshaye Khanna's look is already frail and he has the right look and expression for the role that it was easy for him to act as Harilal onscreen with little help in term of your costumes and make-up! Akshaye Khanna looks the real Harilal in reality if he has frail look and body! Thus, it means that Akshaye Khanna was the right choice for the role Harilal! Ofcourse yes, your fabrics really bring alive the period of Gandhi!

Anonymous said...

Akshaye Khanna is really lucky to play Harilal Gandhi! Since he is a natural-gifted born actor, he is born to play Harilal as it was said by the producer Anil Kapoor! Good Luck to Akshaye Khanna not only for Gandhi, My Father but also for Naqaab, Aaja Naachle, Race and Shortcut. Also, for his future projects!