Gabbar Is Back will prove I am not just a song and dance designer – Rick Roy
Beautiful, bright, bold and bizarre are some attributes often attached to Rick Roy’s onscreen costumes. But with Akshay Kumar’s common man look in Gabbar Is Back, the young designer hopes to break the label and prove his versatile designing skills. In an exclusive conversation he gets candid about designing for films.
What kind of styling can we see in Gabbar Is Back?
I have only styled Akshay Kumar in the film. Gabbar Is Back is very different from the projects I have done before. It is very grunge and stylish but toned down. Everything is very real. Generally, in films, we add things to the costumes to make the hero stand out, no matter what he is doing. This is one of those films where we have taken away from Akshay. He is a very good-looking man, but we took away all the glamorous elements to make him look like a common man.
Gabbar is a man on a mission. When I heard the script, Shabina (Khan), the producer, told me that Akshay’s character is not conscious of his look. He is a character who will pick up anything from the cupboard and wear it. The character knows what he wants to do and looking good isn’t his concern. But being a hero we had to make sure his clothes looked good, so I was constantly balancing to make it stylish yet subtle.
What kind of clothes did you give Akshay Kumar to achieve the common man look?
Before starting the work we met with Shabina, Nirav Shah (the DOP) and Radhakrishna Jagarlamudi (the Director) to discuss the look. Shabina didn’t want Akshay to ‘look’ like a hero. The DOP wanted to show grit visually so we used a lot of dull colours. Akshay is mostly in trousers and shirts throughout the film. He is wearing a lot of shirts, especially linen ones. The textures in the film are very dull and nothing shiny. We custom-made his shirts because I didn’t want to pick up random clothes. Generally when I work on movies, I like to design the clothes as that’s my USP. I always add elements to the design. But for Gabbar… it was difficult because I couldn’t overdo it.
However, I gave my own twist to the clothes. We added a hood to a lot of Akshay’s shirts. When you see the film, poster and stills, it doesn’t jar out. Then, there are very subtle elements like double stitching and things like that. As a designer it gives me immense pleasure to make sure that my work is intricate and detailed. When I see a film, as a designer, these are the things I look for, like the detailing, texture, etc. The moment people hear my name they think of item songs or glamorous clothes. The last time I worked with Akshay (in Joker) I gave him dhotis, biker jackets, hats and cool glasses. That look was totally up my alley, Gabbar… was the opposite of that but extremely exciting.
How did you get associated with this project?
I had met Shabina during Rowdy Rathore, back then she wanted me to do two songs for the film. Everything was sorted till the songs got postponed and I got busy with Jannat 2. I had told her that I would love to do her next film. So, she remembered it and called me when she started Gabbar... I met her, she explained the film and character. And I was on board.
Did Akshay Kumar give any inputs for the costumes?
I know everyone says good things about their actors in the publicity. I say exactly what I feel. Akshay Kumar was really amazing to work with. This is my second film with him; during Joker I would be scared of him and he would constantly make fun of it. But this time I was pretty comfortable working with him. He saw the references and liked it all. In fact on the day of the clothes trial I had kept the hoodie shirt and a regular shirt for him to try. I was reluctant to give the hoodie shirt to him. This is one of the times I am doing a non-glam, realistic film so I was constantly on my toes to make sure I don’t overdo anything. But Akshay saw the hoodie shirt and insisted on wearing it. He felt it perfectly worked for the character.
Also, while the team thought of giving Akshay a fake beard and hair extensions as his character required long hair, he chose to grow his hair and a real beard despite the heat. The only thing he insisted on was that every time he did action scenes he wanted stretch denims, so his movements wouldn’t be restricted while jumping or being on the harness.
While designing / styling for a character in a film do you keep the actor’s personal style in mind?
No. In fact that’s the last thing on my mind. I find it appalling that the actor looks like an actor in the film. The point of film costumes is that you have to make the actor look like that character. The clothes could be something the actor may hate wearing in personal life, but because he/she is playing a character, he/she has to look like that. Otherwise an actor can always carry their personal wardrobe. So, I always make sure when doing a film that I forget the actor’s personal style and keep the film’s character in mind.
Does that mean you have to challenge the actor’s idea of styling?
Completely. Like with Emraan Hashmi we have made him go beyond his comfort zone for so many films (Jannat 2, Ghanchakkar, Raja Natwarlal et al). Even Chitrangda Singh, during Inkaar, wasn’t sure of certain looks, she wanted to do it differently. But I put my foot down and told her it worked for the character. I am new so I understand people are hesitant about whether I am sure about my work or not. But dheere dheere people know me. All the actors I have worked with have now understood me and recommended me for new projects too.
What is more challenging between a glamorous dance and song and a realistic film?
Now I can do glamorous films with my eyes shut. And real life clothing is not a challenge for me because I have studied theatre costume in my masters. When you do a film like Gabbar… I find it challenging to keep it subtle yet have a sense of style. But it is exciting. At the same time, I also find it extremely interesting to do a big song and dance number, because so many people have done it and everything is shiny. So, to be able to create a look that is not done before in that genre is stimulating.
What happened is that I started with Malaika (Arora Khan)’s clothes and she is associated with glamour and sexy clothes so people started associating me with it. Also, the songs (Munni badnam, Anarkali disco chali, Fashion khatam mujh par) in which I styled her became very big. But people forget that I have also done Inkaar, where there is no glamour. The clothes were exactly what were needed for the character and the film. I have also done Jannat 2, which is very real clothes. Emraan’s polka dotted pyjamas in Ghanchakkar were talked about a lot but after that came an Anarkali Disco Chali and suddenly everything else was overshadowed. I am trying to break that and show that I am way more versatile than just the item number tag. Gabbar will prove that I am not just a song and dance person.
What is your signature style as a designer?
Every film that I do has to make a statement. The job of a designer, I believe, is to create visual interest to the character. Honestly, the film being a hit or a flop is not in a designer’s hand, what is in my hand is that I create clothes that add value to my project and makes the audience want to see the outfit and get inspired. If you see from my first film to the tenth film, no matter what the film’s destiny has been, you will always remember the clothes. I can actually pick an outfit and you will immediately remember it. That is what I crave for. As long as I do films I want to be that designer whose clothes will be remembered. Like Esha Gupta’s super sexy blouses (in Jannat 2), Emraan’s polka dotted pyjamas (in Ghanchakkar) or Chitrangda’s office avatar (in Inkaar) or Malaika in the Anarkali song. I want my clothes to be exquisite and not just another outfit in the whole Bollywood brigade.
Do you have favourite markets from where you shop for the costumes?
Bombay is extremely exciting. Delhi is very exciting too but I don’t shop much there. In Bombay, I love going to Mangaldas Market. Back in college I would go to Mangaldas all the time. Now, that I have grown up and become fancy and have assistants, I don’t go very often. Mangaldas and Bhuleshwar are like my enchanted forest. I can spend endless days over there. They have interesting fabrics. Even Manish market is fascinating.
Where do you shop accessories?
When it comes to accessories I can’t have a favourite thing because it totally depends on the look I’m creating. If it is a corporate chic look then I will go high-end. If it’s a kitsch thing then I love going all out and sourcing from export surplus places. For instance in Inkaar, Chitrangda was supposed to look like a complete jhalaa who has come from Goa, so I sourced stuff from Colaba.
Do you prefer to shop abroad or in India?
I have never gone abroad to shop for a film. Most of the time I find stuff here. Also, I am a designer so I don’t need to source. If there is a reference we source the fabric here and get it done, which comes cheaper to the producer. And I can always add my own elements to the costume.
What are you forthcoming projects?
Honestly after Gabbar…, which is my tenth film in three years, I was drained. As I made some decent money I travelled for the last six months. Now, I am back and meeting people. I have also started art, like acrylic on canvas. But now that Gabbar… releases I will sign new projects.