Dressing Up Mahadev

Costume designer Nikhat Mariyam Neerushaa on the planning and industry behind making wardrobe for historical shows on TV

Published: June 28, 2013 4:18:55 am

I have a PhD in History,a background in theatre and an inclination towards designing costumes for certain eras. It’s because of this that 13 years ago,I stumbled into this profession of costume and jewellery designing. But costume designing for period dramas such as Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap or mythological shows such as Devon Ke Dev… Mahadev is not easy.

Since I’m a history scholar; I’m used to the research aspect. But television gives you very little time as everyone wants their work in a fortnight. So,I have a team of 45 people comprising assistants,researchers and wardrobe consultants. 

Over the years, I have realised that costume designing for such shows is not just about the characters, it is also about the script — for instance,if Maharana Pratap is in the jungle or in his kingdom,his costumes will depend on the terrain. I have to decide everything around this. 

There is a lot of research material available apart from books,which is our primary source. For Mahadev, I’m also going through poster and calendar art that is available as reference material.

As a costume designer,one must understand that the audience wants to see these characters in their traditional avatar,but also want a bit of innovation. So all the research is just to make sure that the basics are right. For instance, Rajputs tie their angrakhas on the left,while the Mughals tie it on their right. And even thought we have to get this fact right,we can experiment with fabric and colours. So,we gave Maharana Pratap a safa but certain historians disagreed with this,so we gave him a Mewar-style pagdi.

I take such liberties to keep the audience interested. The maharanis in Bharat Ka Veer Putra – Maharana Pratap wear ghaghra-cholis with layered kanch choli blouses. To this,I add sherwani collars too. One also has to differentiate between the ranis and give them distinct personalities through their costumes,so we have given the badi rani clothes with gem stones,while the clothes of beech waali rani has zardozi,and chhoti rani without gota-patti. 

Working with television is crazy since we have to work within a budget. As designers,our job is to prepare a character’s look in its entirety — be it clothes,footwear,hair,make-up and armour. For Baal Veer on SAB TV,my characters are in a fairyland of sorts and wear a lot of gowns. In that show,I have to decide even the lingerie to be worn by female actors and make corsets for them!

I have worked in films,such as in Aishwarya Rai-starrer Jodha Akbar,but that was a totally different experience. In films,you go by the director’s vision but in TV,you have to listen to the director, producers,their wives,and actors too.

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