When the poster for Mary Kom was unveiled a month ago, it led to a series of debates questioning the rationale behind casting Priyanka Chopra to essay the role of the boxing legend from the North-East. While the discussion is dying down, a team of experts has done all it can to make Chopra resemble the five-time boxing champion. “Designing for Mary Kom was challenging because it’s a character-driven role. Since it’s a biopic, the clothes had to be realistic,” says Rajat Tangri, the costume stylist for the film, who has recreated Kom’s physical form for an actor who was vastly different in build and appearance.
The designer, who is known for his high-fashion cocktail wear, travelled to Kangathei in Manipur, Mary Kom’s hometown, for research.
There, he studied the local fashion — weaves, crafts, patterns and colours as well as their daily wear. He also researched on the Kom tribe who reside on the outskirts of Imphal. “The women mostly wear sarongs, which is a part of their culture. But every tribe (almost 100 in number) has different kinds of sarongs and they change things up by interesting layering and teaming up the outfit with dupattas and jewellery,” he adds. Tangri also had access to Kom’s family photo albums to get a sense of her personal style.
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While clothes were one part of the transformation, the make-up completed the look. The brief given to Uday Shirali, Chopra’s make-up artiste, was to not change too much. “While training, Priyanka got hurt on her left chin, so we retained that bruise and played it up. It’s all authentic,” asserts Shirali, who has also done Chopra’s make-up for Barfi!, Agneepath and the upcoming Dil Dhadakne Do. “The only external application was the freckles that we got from the UK. To get the ‘pahadi’ look, we brightened her complexion a little, gave her smaller eyes, added an apple-tint to her cheeks and blurred the eyebrows a bit,” says Shirali, adding that he had never met Mary, so he used her photos as reference.
Chopra’s looks in the film are in four distinct stages — a school kid, post-marriage, a boxer and as a champion. “The school stage was tough because there is hardly any documentation of that time of her life. Since Mary comes from humble beginnings, the clothes were repeatedly washed to look aged and distressed. Also, to make Priyanka look younger, we gave her oversized clothes,” states Tangri. In the post-marraige phase, they’ve used bright-hued sarongs, widening the colour palette but they go back to earthy and subdued tones to portray motherhood, and the time when she began training again. “In the final phase, when she’s a champion, it was mostly custom-made sportswear like tracksuits,” he says. The make-up also varied according to the age portrayed. “Boxing is essentially a masculine sport, so the style quotient had to be mismatched. I realised that Kom is very fashionable. If she wears her husband’s sweatshirt, she’d pair it with a strand of pearls,” he adds.