Two years ago, one of India’s award-winning designers and couturiers made an impressive debut in Bollywood as a costume designer. Anju Modi’s creations for actor Deepika Padukone in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, Goliyon ki Rasleela – Ram Leela showcased her fine knowledge of Indian textiles. The designer has paired up with Sanjay Leela Bhansali again for his magnum opus, Bajirao Mastani, which releases in December this year. But this time around, she has designed for all the three lead characters — Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), Mastani (Deepika Padukone) and Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra).
“It took me a year-and-a-half just to research and compile notes on the Marathas. Also Deepika Padukone’s character is part Muslim, so it had to reflect in her outfits,” says Anju Modi. Earlier this week, the designer opened the 11th edition of the Blenders Pride Fashion Tour in Delhi, by showcasing her designs for Mastani (Deepika Padukone was the showstopper) on the ramp. The event also saw the formal release of Deewani Mastani, a song from the film.
“It is always challenging to work on a period film but given the scale and the research involved, I was very excited” says the designer, who spent many months travelling across Maharastra, the seat of power of the noted Peshwa.
“Indore, Nashik, Pune, Paithan, Ajanta…it was an unforgettable road trip into the state. I also spent studying available materials and miniature paintings in the Salarjung Museum in Hyderabad. The Nizams and the Peshwas belonged to the same period and it gave me interesting insights to help create the look,” says the designer.
Deepika Padukone has been dressed in floor-skimming anarkalis and angrakhas paired with Farshi pajamas. “There was a lot of layering in Deepika’s outfits,” says the designer, who chose to work with diaphanous and fluid fabrics for Mastani’s outfits. The polki jewellery was also sourced to match her background. Interestingly, while Anju Modi realised that the Peshwa ladies wore rich silk saris and a lot of jewellery, she needed to work on the silhouettes and lighter fabrics onscreen. “If we made Priyanka wear the nine yards of heavy silk, she would have looked huge on screen. So, I got my weavers to put together lighter silk saris even though they were nine yards in length. I included light Chanderis, Maheshwaris and mul-mul fabrics in the other ensembles,” says Modi.
Dressing up Bajirao was no less challenging, admits the designer. “It wasn’t just a royal look comprising angrakhas, jaamas and dhotis. There was the headgear as well for the war scenes,” she says.
Filming for the ‘Rangoli’ song that features Priyanka Chopra, Anju Modi realised that she needed to create multiple sets of the same outfit. “We had to create as many as six changes of the sari for the re-takes. Ditto for the outfits in the war scenes that would need a change due to the heat and dust. I ended up making as many as 300 outfits for the film,” says Modi.