SIX years after they first worked together, on Band Baaja Baaraat (2010), film editor Namrata Rao and costume designer Niharika Bhasin Khan struck a bond during the making of Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Fan, which releases on April 15. Rao, who joined the film industry after studying at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, got noticed for her work in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! (2008) and Ishqiya (2010). But it was Kahaani (2012) that brought her accolades and National Award for Best Editing. Khan, who debuted with Khoya Khoya Chand (2007), did not have any formal training in costume designing. Yet, she handled the costumes of some interesting projects, such as Rock On!! (2008) and Delhi Belly (2011), and bagged the National Award for The Dirty Picture (2011). With a week to go before Shah Rukh Khan is pitted against himself in Fan, they talk about the film and more:
While the work of a costume designer is out there for everyone to see, the work of an editor is not as apparent to most viewers.
Namrata Rao: To be invisible is important to keep the magic of cinema intact, yet, not so invisible that you don’t get paid. If you know too much about how a scene is put together, you would deconstruct it.
Niharika Bhasin Khan: Editors are higher up on the food chain when it comes to remuneration, and costume designers might be the flavour of the season (laughs). I believe, as costume designers, we should be invisible. If you don’t put someone into the skin they are comfortable in, the costume is not going to work.
NR: Do you think if the film does not do well, the clothes are not noticed?
NBK: Yes. I went into a depression after Bombay Velvet (2015). The amount of work we did on it, I have not done for any other film. All that went unnoticed.
NR: I have done interesting work on certain films, such as Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl (2011), which have not worked so much. But, I don’t think enough people watched that movie. It is the overall take-away that matters.
You worked together for the first time in Band Baaja Baaraat (2010). What kind of interactions did you have then?
NBK: I was doing Indian clothes for the first time and I would wait for Namrata’s comments to know whether the burst of colours was working in the movie. With its director, Maneesh Sharma, I had broken down the colour palette as per different sequences but I was not sure if that was going to work on screen. Much before the audience watched it, the validation for my work came from Namrata.
NR: In Band Baaja Baaraat, I saw the transition of characters through the costumes. It was Maneesh’s directorial debut and we were figuring out if the colours were working out. In Yash Raj Films, they still use those clothes for junior artistes and I can recognise them.
How was the experience of working together again for Fan, six years after Band Baaja Baaraat?
NBK: During the making of Fan, Namrata went from being an editor to a friend. I find it easier to strike up a friendship with men. So, when I connected with her, it was super exciting. Since I look up to Namrata for her work, it was exciting to work together.
NR: We spent a lot of time on the sets of Fan. After that, I have gone to Niharika’s house and partied. You don’t meet a lot of women in the industry per se. In a room of 20 men, I always find that I am the only woman. Ditto during shoots. It was fun.
Why do you think we have so few women working in the film industry?
NR: It is a reflection of the society we are in, where the number of working women is less, and the film industry is no exception. However, it is changing. Now, when I got to film schools, I see so many women in different departments.
NK: I am a costume designer, so I come from the other spectrum where designers are expected to be women or gay men.
What kinds of constraints do you face in your professions?
NR: Every time I sign a contract, the film takes double the time. I am never paid for the extra time. Unlike directors and actors, we don’t get flak when a film does not do well. When it makes a huge profit, we are not benefited either. I don’t mind more accountability, if it comes with more money. Apart from that I can’t complain — I get to work with good directors and subjects.
NBK: I agree with that. For me, if a film does well, at least give me a bigger budget for costumes to do better work in my next film. Bombay Velvet had a low budget for costume and we pulled teeth to make things happens. When that was not noticed, it hurt.
When you first attend the screening of your film, what do you watch?
NR: I watch the film. I must have gone over the rushes and scenes some thousand times. Finally, I get to watch the film.
NBK: I watch the clothes because that’s the first time I am seeing them on screen. Do you know that my assistants never sit in front of me during a screening? I start hitting them. My first reaction is, ‘That should have been changed. Why did I not pay more attention to this? Why didn’t that happen?’