Much before it became fashionable to ‘Make in India’ and working with handloom textiles was in vogue, Anju Modi was doing it all. For three decades now, the award-winning designer and celebrated couturier has championed Indian textiles in her own unique way.
Working with craftspeople in the interiors of the country — be it in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh or lately, Maharashtra — the designer has made Indian textiles her mainstay.
Two years ago, Modi made an impressive debut in Bollywood as a costume designer. Her creations for actor Deepika Padukone in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film Goliyon ki Rasleela – Ram Leela showcased her fine skills working with Indian textiles.
While Ram Leela saw Modi celebrate the sartorial styles of Kutch, the designer paired up with Bhansali again for his magnum opus Bajirao Mastani, which released late last year. And this time around, she had her hands full, having designed for all the three lead characters — Bajirao (Ranveer Singh), Mastani (Deepika Padukone) and Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra).
“It is always challenging to work on a period film but given the scale and the research involved, I was very excited. It is a creative rush to work with a filmmaker like Sanjay Leela Bhansali,” admits the designer who is in Chandigarh for her first-ever trunk show here in association with Raya, a multi-designer store in Sector 7.
Modi spent many months travelling across Maharashtra, the seat of power of the noted Peshwa, visiting places like Indore, Nashik, Pune, Paithan and Ajanta. She also spent time 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,” explains the designer who took almost two years to research and compile notes on the Marathas and how they dressed during that time.
And it’s not just the film that’s received critical acclaim but Modi’s work as a costume designer. “We were inundated with positive feedback for the clothes and I then decided to interpret it for my pret line which is being unveiled in Chandigarh,” says the designer.
Interestingly, while Deepika Padukone’s floor skimming Anarkalis and Angrakhas in diaphanous fabrics paired with Farshi pajamas have been much in demand, Modi was surprised to know that her clients wanted more of Bajirao’s sartorial looks as well.
“I had to interpret his angrakhas, jaamas, doshalas and dhotis for women,” explains Modi who is now gearing up for her couture collection to be showcased in July at Couture Week.
“The colour palette for this collection has been a range of jewel tones. You will see a wide gamut of colours such as emerald green, indigo, red and teal. I have used natural fabrics like fine khadi, chanderi and dupion silk in the collection. Indian couture has also evolved and has now become more focused and design-oriented than it was before,” says Modi who hopes to work with director Bhansali again.
“He is working on a biopic on Amrita Pritam and since I have never worked in Punjab, I hope I get a chance to do that. I would like to interpret Phulkari in my own way,” she sums up.