Parsis got an image makeover – Shirid Farhad ki toh nikal padi
How did you land up in costume designing? How was the experience?
It was a great fun and incredible journey though challenging also. I come from a background of fashion designing and have worked for Tarun Tahiliani for three years. I used to do set designing for his couture collection. I had no experience in styling before. Coming from a medium like that, it was indeed a challenge to design costumes in a film.
What were you explained about Farah’s character? What discussions went into deciding her look for the film?
Shirin Fugawala (Farah’s character) is a 40 year old working woman and a confident lady that reflects in her attitude and chic character.
Parsis have always been portrayed in a comic sense in the past. There is a very fine line between looking nice and looking comic. Farah and I were very sure that we didn’t want the character to look comic. But director’s part of the love story is slightly comic that is why she chose to cast Farah and Boman together. So, we had to balance it out. We chose to make her look pretty and chic.
So finally, what look you gave her?
As Shirin is a working woman, we made her wear what a normal Parsi woman would wear to office. She wears Cardigan of 3/4th sleeves, printed blouses, pencil skirts and pants of the same colour, dresses with embroideries and lot of pearls accessories. Farah looks really good in bright colours. So, we made her dress in purple colour.
What all research and fitting sessions went into giving her a final look?
Yes, a lot of research. As you know, Parsis have different way of living and they are very much influenced by the British culture. They have a very English habit. Most of the times, they wear western dresses. In Bombay, there was a Parsi baug where the Parsis live. I have an aunt who lives in that baug. So, I went there and stayed with her for some time. Every morning, I observed how Parsi women dress up when they go to work. I also went to 3-4 aunts who are in their 40’s and pulled out lots of dresses from them, which I made Farah try to know the shapes and silhouettes that suit her body type. After finalizing the shapes, I made the clothes tailored into her final wardrobe for the film.
Did you also emphasize on fabrics for her?
Oh yes! The dress she wears on the New Year eve scene in the film, the top and her bottom is in baby corduroy fabric. I have also used heavy georgette and jersey fabrics for her.
Where did you shop for fabrics?
I found fabrics in the fort area in Bombay. 75 percent of the fabrics were bought from the Parsi stores only, which sell only to Parsis and Christians.
It’s all western you have talked of so far. How about Indian wears that you have done for Farah?
The film has two scenes where Farah is wearing saris. First on her aunt’s wedding and second on her own wedding day. Parsis wear gara saris on the weddings. For her own wedding in the film, Farah is wearing a red sari with heavy gara embroidery. Her wedding sari is made of net fabric and is embroidered. Since embroidery is my forte, I have done it all by myself.
How about accessories?
Like all Parsi women, Shirin (Farah’s character) also wears pearl earrings, carries pearl clutches and walk on heels.
What was the main challenge that you faced in the film?
The most important thing was to script Farah and make her look pretty. Farah is often spotted in track pants and hence making her try 10 new shapes that go with her body type was challenging. As she is playing a character of well-to-do parsis in the movie, she has to look modern and contemporary. She is above 40, not married and will fall in love with Boman’s character i.e Farhad. So it was a task to bring life to her character and make her look glamorous. It would not have been possible without the support of Bela and Farah.
Did you also take the look of the film in consideration before choosing a colour palette for Farah’s wardrobe?
When I met Bela, she showed me Shirin’s home. We took a look at the colours that will not blend with her home’s wall. Shirin has wallpapers all over her house and not painted in plane white. She has lot of details like lamp, drapes, wall papers, sofas and napkins at her place. Hence, I needed to use less of prints on her clothes, when she is at home. Other scenes were shot outdoor, so that was not much a problem. Parsis wear bright colours such as purple or enamel green, when they go out. We wanted the colours that reflect her happy mood. When she goes out on a date in the film, she wears purple colour dress with a cardigan.
Do you think Shirin’s wardrobe can inspire other Parsi women? Or can it be a trend setter in Parsi community?
I was not thinking that. I remember Manish Malhotra revolutionised the fashion in Bollywood in 90’s. Indian actresses never looked like that before. I tried to make Farah look fabulous. I think it may leave some impact or become a trend in Parsi community.
How did you take care of the continuity?
Everything was labelled and photographed, even the nail paints used in a particular scene. My team kept them in separate files and folders. We had sketches of the dresses and the colours that would go with them.
It is your first film as a costume designer. How did this film happen to you?
Earlier, I was working on production design with television reality shows and Ad films. I have done costumes also for my previous shows. Actually, once I went to meet Bela to discuss on other shows before she told me that she needed someone to do costumes in her film. After several discussions and meetings, I was given the project. Hence, I got into the costume designing.
How challenging was designing costumes for the film’s characters?
Parsis have a very set style of dressing. We had to do a little bit of research for sure. They wear certain kind of outfits on certain occasions, like when they go to wedding or when they go to the temple. We went to Parsi colonies and observed people. We wanted to keep the look of the characters as real as possible. We followed a basic outline of Parsis but gave them a little bit of characterization to suit the individuals, keeping the community in mind.
What research you did for Boman’s character?
I came a little late on board. There were already people working on the theme. The team already did research. Parsis have certain eccentricities in them. Farhad (Boman’s character) is aged above 40, and he works at a shop. He is very simple and wears full sleeve shirts in basic colors and trousers with pleats. We tried to style him very natural. It’s when he falls in love; he starts dressing up in brighter colors. Otherwise he would often be seen in basic colors that probably his mom might be choosing for him.
What silhouettes you emphasized on?
Basic! It’s only when he is at home that he wears cartoon printed pyjamas that gives a little eccentric stroke to his character. He wears ‘Sabra’, white muslin banyan, worn by most Parsis. For the character he was playing, we initially thought that he would look nice in blue half sleeved shirts with glasses on, but that did not work out so we narrowed down to full sleeve shirts with pleated pants.
Besides Boman, you styled for the secondary casts also. What styling you did for them?
Other main characters I styled for was Farhad’s mom played by Daisy Irani and his grandmother played by Shammi Ji. Parsi women when at home wear nighties. For them, we used that part of the outfits and added little detailing like embroideries, prints and laces.
Did you also keep fabrics in mind for them?
Definitely! We had an older lady (Shammi Ji) acting on set; we used soft cotton for her outfits to make her feel comfortable. Otherwise also, we used cotton for the dresses. In prints, floral is what most Parsis prefer besides Victorian or vintage kind of prints. Daisy Irani looks nice in particular shades of blue. So, we kept blue as her color and played around its shades. While silhouettes were done in large size and kept straight cut for both the ladies. For wedding sequence, the ladies are wearing typical Parsi saris with Gara border with classic jewellery of pearls and diamonds. You would notice Victorian influence in their outfits.
Sabrina Singh on Costumes for Boman Irani & Secondary Casts :
It sounds like a task to style for about 20 people in a film. How did you manage?
It definitely was a task to designs ensemble for whole of the casts because everybody has their own sessions of fittings done. Since most of the casts were Parsis themselves, everyone has their own things to add on the wardrobe. Their own inputs also acted like a help to me. But it was indeed a challenge to get it right for all of them as they all have different body shapes and sizes.
Who all are real Parsis in the film?
Boman Irani, Daisy Irani, Shammi Ji and rest of Farhad’s (played by Boman Irani) aunts and cousins in the film were all authentic Parsis. I think, for specific characters, only Parsis have been casted by the director. Everyone has their own certain characteristics which I don’t think anybody else could have acted out, though lot of them are very good actors.
When you were choosing the color palette for Boman, did you also keep colors of Farah’s wardrobe in mind?
We did discuss colors first for the theme, so that there would not be any overlapping. Basically for Boman’s character in pre-love phase, we chose dull color palette for him, and in later half of the film after he falls in love, we made him wear jeans and t-shirts in brighter color. That’s how I worked out his color palette.
Did you also coordinate with DOP and the art direction team?
While we were discussing the whole look of the film, we had decided that we would go with only this look for Boman. We deliberately kept the pastel shades for everybody in the cast. And also, Parsis don’t really wear bright colours, except for wedding or any other such occasions. Throughout the film, it was conscious on our part, to keep palette of everybody else in lighter pastel zone. While only Farah’s character was decided to be styled in bright and dark color to bring the difference.
Were the clothes custom made or shopped?
Most of the clothes were custom made because of the different body sizes of the cast members. You don’t really get clothes in that size. Lot of nighties or certain outfits were tailored because they have to have little embroideries done on them. Some clothes I picked up from Parsi shops in Colaba.
What accessories you have used in the film?
Besides pearl and diamond jewellery, Parsi women wear pendants having pictures of their own Gods. I got them from Parsi stores. Married ladies wear bangles. They always adorn themselves with one or two gold bangles. So, I had to do these sorts of accessories.
Boman’s accessories have specific watches with black/ brown strap which he wears when he goes out and a regular steel watch. He has his wallet with chain attached to his trousers. It was Bela’s suggestion to use that. We have used regular belts and threads which Parsi men tie around their waist as other accessories for his character.
How was working with Bela Sehgal?
For me, working with Bela means working with a dear friend because I know her for a long time. She gave me the space to do the things I think is right.
How many people were there in your team? Who took care of the wardrobe continuity?
I had only my assistant with me besides dress dada who is always ready to help us. I don’t have wardrobe continuity supervisor in my team, but in directorial team. After every shot, we coordinated with him for the pictures.
Since you have done costumes for the television shows as well, what difference do you see in styling for television shows and films?
In television reality shows, everything has to be over the top, colors have to be bright, and lot of bling is used because these shows are performance oriented. We have to do different look for every episode and that too in constraint time. There is no time to reshoot. Once on stage, it is there!
While in movies, a costume stylist is responsible to build the character through its wardrobe. It’s much more challenging and creative. Also, we get lot of time to do research and put things together. I enjoy both.