Building Character

Building Character

The low-cut blouses worn by Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture were the subject of much hoopla way before the film released.

Costume designer Niharika Bhasin Khan talks about getting into the skin of the character before assembling costumes

The low-cut blouses worn by Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture were the subject of much hoopla way before the film released. While some loved her new avatar,others raised eyebrows. Nonetheless,everyone noticed it. Never seen before in sultry outfits,Balan was much coaxed by costume designer Niharika Bhasin Khan to put them on and get under the skin of the character she essayed — the erotic south Indian actor Silk Smitha.

After working as a costume designer for The Dirty Picture,Rock On!,Band Baaja Baarat,Kai Po Che,Delhi Belly,Rocket Singh and Chashme Baddoor among others,Khan is excited about her latest work in a film titled The Lunch Box.

Directed by Anurag Kashyap,the film is on its way to be screened at the Festival de Cannes,which is scheduled from May15 to 26. Khan has worked with Nawazuddin Siddiqui,Irrfan Khan and Nimrit Kaur who play the lead roles. “The film is a simple and romantic story of a misplaced tiffin box,a housewife and a middle-aged man. The costumes for Nimrit,who is the housewife are very simple and casual while those for Irrfan are formal. He plays the role of a government official,” says Khan,who is based in Mumbai.


Khan pays attention to simple facts that may go unnoticed by the audience,earning her the reputation of being called the research queen by colleagues. She believes she needs to think like the character to get the costumes right and hence a tiresome process of researching the characters’ background goes on before the costumes are selected. “I am not a fashion designer,I am a costume designer. My job is to get into the director’s head and see how he sees his characters and dress them accordingly,” says Khan,whose biggest challenge till date was to work with David Dhawan for Chashme Badoor. Dressing Divyendu Sharma differently from the character he played in his debut Pyar ka Punchnama was a task cut out for her. “I had to make everything look normal but out-of-the-box too. It was an ordeal to please Dhawanji. He was skeptical about Divyendu’s look when I suggested the loose pyjama pants,but when he saw the actor in the costumes,he was convinced,” recalls Khan.

Even the simplest costumes involve heavy detailing,explains Khan,citing her work in Kai Po Che. When others told her that Raj Kumar Yadav,who plays the character of Govind,wore shirts that were rather tight,she reasoned that his character is of a staunch miser,who would never buy extra material for shirts to be any looser than the fit of his body. “Cinema has shifted to films being life-like and there is little space for opulent costumes.” she points out,choosing to stay tight-lipped about her work on upcoming films Mehrunissa and Bombay Velvet.