Didn’t want the costumes to overpower the vibe of the film – Eka
She’s the person behind the fresh, vibrant and seamless looks of Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor in OK Jaanu. Costume Designer Eka Lakhani, who has also worked on OK Kanmani, talks to Pandolin about the styling for each character, the association with guru Mani Ratnam and why the look of OK Jaanu is different from the original film.
Anyone who has seen the trailer of OK Jaanu says that the pair looks amazing.
Shraddha (Kapoor) & Adi (Aditya Roy Kapur) are a very cute couple and they are adorable together. They are very good looking and that makes my job half easy. They have their own cuteness that they bring along and I made sure that we carried this freshness and never lost it by playing it to their strength. We didn’t try to make them into someone else and designed the looks of the characters accordingly.
I really wanted to be a part of the film and if the film wouldn’t have come to me I would have been really disappointed
Tell us about the brief and your ideas behind the looks of each character you worked on?
OK Jaanu is a very young, happy, easy, conversational film that has no villains. When you make such a film you want to make it look very light and breezy in all aspects. So that’s what I wanted. I didn’t want the costumes to overpower the general vibe of the film and make the look seamless, very easy on the eyes; where people don’t notice the clothes but while making sure that the actors don’t look boring, they had to look very good, which we kept in mind.
Adi plays a gamer in the film, so his styling is very laid-back and chilled out. That’s his personality in the film. Someone who doesn’t really care about what he wears; for example, we see him in the middle of a scene where he randomly picks up a T-shirt to wear. Adi has such a good face, with sharp features so instead of giving him extremely stylized clothes or really bright and loud colours, I gave him a lot of neutrals and added a bit of pop in some places. If you watch the trailers you will see that he is wearing all neutrals with bright colour patches on the shoulders, an orange watch and wrist bands, which he wears throughout the film. Shaad (Ali, Director) wanted him to have a very laid-back look. Even when you seen him going to office, which is also very chilled out, you will notice that he wears neutral shirts or t-shirts with washed out orange or dull maroon or de-stressed blue baggie cargos with chappals or Vans shoes, with a backpack and a ulta (reverse) cap, for his very unconventional casual office look.
Shraddha is an interior designer in the film and we have tried not to make her look very mature but someone having a very girl-next-door vibe. At the same time she dresses for the occasion. At home she would wear a spaghetti or loose t-shirt with shorts or pyjamas but at office she takes efforts to dress up and has a very androgynous vibe, like cigarette pants with a white shirt and suspenders, or a nice long skirt with a shirt or a blouse. Sometimes she puts on a blazer giving a very casual chic look. But when she is hanging out with Adi’s character she has very young, fun clothes like dungarees, crop tops and skirts. She has worn ethnic with elders or at temples. So Tara, Shraddha’s character, wears anything you and I would wear for different occasions.
We have used every possible colour and style on her. When she has to look innocent she wears whites and pastels or when she is supposed to look bubbly she wears yellows and oranges.
Naseer (Naseeruddin Shah) sir and Leela (Samson) ma’am were very easy to style. It was such a pleasure working with them after OK Kanmani. Naseer sir’s look has layers and smart T-shirts with deep colours like navy blue, olive, maroon or nice linen shirts with linen pants, which was not the initial plan, but we liked it after the look test as he looks really cool in them. And he wears a white kurta pyjama at night time which is a very smart intelligent look.
Leela ma’am’s look has been changed from the one in OK Kanmani. There we saw her in 90’s sarees while here we see her in palazzos, kurtis, straight pants; mostly ethnic smart clothes for someone who has been in Bombay for a long time. For sleepwear we have given her kaftans and kimonos. She wears a lot of block prints, hand embroidered ethnic stuff so she comes across as someone with a lot of fondness for textiles.
Going back, how did you get OK Kanmani and were you then the natural choice for the remake of the film?
I have worked with Mani (Ratnam) sir on Raavan, which was my first film as an assistant and luckily, I never had to assist again. Post that I got Santosh sir’s Urumi and Kadal with Mani sir again. We (Mani sir and I) shared a great rapport and he must have thought that I am good enough to do the film and that’s why he gave me the opportunity to work on OK Kanmani.
I have known Shaad (Ali) since Raavan when we worked together a couple of times but I think when OK Jaanu happened, I wasn’t the first choice and he was looking out for someone and I had to pitch myself to him. The initial meetings worked and he liked what I did and I became part of the film.
I really wanted to be a part of the film and if the film wouldn’t have come to me I would have been really disappointed and would have felt cheated given that I’ve done the original and I am from Bombay.
Tell us about your working relationship with Mani Ratnam.
Raavan was my learning school in the industry. I felt that I was involved in the whole filmmaking process and not just as a costume assistant. And ever since, that’s how I like to work in all my films. He makes me a part of the entire film. He explains the mood, script, characters, scenes, the vibe, the feel, everything. It’s so much more than what other directors do with their costume director.
He makes your thought process race. In your mind there is a sudden cyclone of thoughts and then he asks you what should the characters wear and suddenly, you are back to your actual job. With Mani sir my creativity is at it’s peak.
Also, my transition from a costume assistant to a designer/stylist was so quick because of Mani sir and Santosh Sir, from Raavan to Urumi to Kadal. Since then I have done all their films. I was so lucky to be at the right place at the right time.
Aesthetically whatever I am doing is with Mani sir in the back of my head, with a constant need to please him and understand whether he would approve or not. It’s like a guru-shishya (teacher-student) relationship for the last 8 years. He is my mentor, he pushes me to my extreme and when I feel I have done my best, he pushes me some more.
Specially, my next film with him, Kaatru Veliyidai with Aditi Rao Hydari and Karthi, I feel is my best work and I hope that people notice that and appreciate it too.
It’s good to shuttle between Bombay and Chennai because I take both the cultures and mix them up – the colours, fabrics and traditions
How different was the experience of working with Shaad Ali?
Shaad has been a friend for a really long time, and I am not very good working with friends but Shaad’s personality is very refreshing and adaptive. And as a director he was so casual and chilled out. More than what he wants, he knows exactly what he doesn’t want and he is direct about it. At the same time he is open to your opinions and gives you a chance to explain and if it works, he will ask you to go ahead with what you’ve decided. We went ahead with what we liked unanimously for all the lead characters. He is amazing to work with and I really like what he has done with the film, after all Shaad is also from Mani sir’s schooling, so I can connect with him easily.
What was the prep like, your major sources of reference? How did you then brief your team?
Prep was great fun.
Since I already knew the script because I was a part of OK Kanmani, the only brief was to have a very fresh, Bombay, Bollywood approach for the film. And Shaad had given me one his favourite films Annie Hall for reference, so I had an idea about the space he wanted to take it to.
The first time that I met him at his place to discuss references, I went with 4 big thermocol sheets which I use for my mood boards and pin all references on it; he wasn’t expecting that. So whatever he didn’t like could be pinned out. We had the look-book for each of the characters ready that way in 4-5 meetings and then the sourcing began.
I then show my assistant the referencing I have done, give them the brief and also show them the kind of clothes I like and want. I have a great team of girls; specially for OK Jaanu I think I had the best I have ever worked with. I got Saloni, Priyanka and Monali, all three exceptional assistants. They are great with referencing. For sourcing, we did some online, went to the malls, connected online with small designers from Jaipur etc. and also bought a lot of street wear from Bandra and designers. We got everything and then selected the final looks.
Our cinematographer Ravi (K Chandran) sir played a huge role in this because he had a colour palette in mind, which was a lovely earthy tone and we followed that.
Is there a color palette that one sees for each character?
There is a color palette but not for the characters, there is a tone set for the film. It’s very real. We have played around scene wise; the house portions are very warm and it’s cooler when you go out and soft when there is an emotional situation. It’s all situational and all what Ravi sir had in mind. The credit for the colour palette totally goes to him.
How similar is the wardrobe of OK Jaanu to the original? How much of it is designed by you and how much did you source?
The styling of OK Kanmani and OK Jaanu is totally different. Here you are delivering to a difference audience, with different faces and different body types. Obviously, when everything is so different, even if the storyline is the same, the styling will change.
Also, Shaad wanted a very ‘Bombaiyaness’ to the film in terms of the costume. We wanted a younger and more fun look. OK Kanmani was more artistic whereas OK Jaanu is more fresh. We made these changes for the audiences as they are very different.
We have both designed and sourced costumes. We sourced a lot from high street brands like Zara, Armani, Mango, FCUK, CK, Tommy and a lot from online independent designer brands in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Delhi. It was fun because they are exclusive brands. Then we had costume from Tarun Tahiliani, Payal Khandwala, Ritu Kumar, and Anita Dongre, who has done a very important wedding outfit. I have used one of my own Sabyasachi home-wear kurtas on Shraddha.
So it’s a big mix and it doesn’t scream out fashion, it comes out as everyday wear. Some of the things were made by me, like the the white Tuxedo and black sari is my own from the last collection I made, the bandhani capes in ‘Enna Sona’ are all made by me. The bandhani shirt in ‘Humma Humma’ is made with a duppatta while the embroidered shorts were made of the cushion covers that I had at home. It was a lot of fun putting all this together.
OK Jaanu is a very young, happy, easy, conversational film that has no villains. When you make such a film you want to make it look very light and breezy in all aspects
One of the most talked about songs in the film, ‘Humma Humma’ has a very ethnic approach but at the same time very sensual. What went behind the making of that look?
We had to think a lot about ‘Humma Humma’. It’s not a peppy item song. It’s a situational song that comes at a very important part in the film and it’s a real song which they hear on radio and then dance. They are in Ahmedabad at the given time, so I wanted to add a little bit of Gujarat in the styling. So we went around a couple of looks during referencing, then Vaibhavi (Merchant, Choreographer), Shaad, Ravi sir and Sharmishta (Roy, Production Designer) didi were all a part of what the song’s look should be. Because the set was so ethnic, the styling had to be in sync with it.
For Adi, we were certain about using the bandhani shirt. He looked good in it and we didn’t want a lot of skin show but still wanted that little sexy, sensual vibe to come in. For Shraddha, we toyed around a lot of ideas. The initial idea was to give her a 3/4th lehenga or kathiyawadi ghaghra, but I guess once the Badhash mix came in, we wanted Shraddha’s cool vibe to continue in the film. I shared the mirror-work shorts with Shaad and he really liked them. I had a couple of cushion covers that looked the part and used mom’s paranda as the tassle and that became the shorts. We gave her a plain black shirt and plain denims to Adi and it did its job. I love that the look has caught up.
Coming to ‘Enna Sona’ which is shot in black and white, how did you style for the song?
‘Enna Sona’ is a beautiful love song where Adi is missing Tara and is thinking about her. It has a lot of montages which had to look like they are in his dreams. Now, when you are shooting black & white it’s important that we use certain colours which are either high contrast or compliment each other in B&W. So we used a lot of high contrast colours and checked everything in black & white on our phones before we took them to Shraddha and Adi.
Also, the make up is very important in B&W; the dark lipstick, the hair texture along with wardrobe and then Ravi sir’s lighting. All of it together makes it look like magic on screen.
The costumes are a big mix and they don’t scream out fashion, it comes out as everyday wear
Being part of a movie like OK Kanmani also demands you to spend most of your time in Chennai. What is that like? How is the industry culture different.
I actually only work with Mani Ratnam down South and apart from that it’s Bollywood. It’s good to shuttle between Bombay and Chennai because I take both the cultures and mix them up – the colours, fabrics and traditions. However, the sourcing bit changes as a lot of brands are not available in Chennai so I come here and source them. So it works great for me creatively.
How do you diversify your work and how easy or difficult is it to manage working in Hindi & Tamil, TV & Films at the same time given that your hands are almost always full!? Also, in the end, from 2010 to beginning 2017 with as big a release as it gets, you have come a long way! Can you put the experience down in words yet?
Like I said, I really think I was lucky and at the right place at the right time. It came a little early in life but I don’t take it for granted. I really select my films very carefully, I believe in a certain kind of cinema and I know that I will be good with a certain kind of styling and I am currently trying to play it safe.
I don’t think I am worried about Hindi, Tamil, TV, theater or films. If you like what you are doing and you are happy with it, it’s not difficult and everything else doesn’t matter.
I have had the best directors, best teams and that’s exciting enough. When it comes to name and fame, I think I am way behind but I think I will catch up and make it to the big league soon.
More looks from OK Jaanu
Also published on Medium.