Gloss and Glamour – Costumes of Housefull 3 with Subarna and Shiraz
Envisioning not just the clothes of a character, but a character in defining costumes, is perhaps the biggest challenge of a costume designer. Subarna Ray Chaudhuri and Shiraz Siddique, two noted designers from the team of Housefull 3, get in a conversation with Pandolin to discuss the numerous practices involved in designing and detailing for characters and making them look authentic and memorable.
Subarna Ray Chaudhuri
Which character did you work upon for the film?
I worked for Boman Irani whose character name is Batuk. A carry forward character from the past, he is one of those people who shifted to London back in the seventies, and has been living in that time, in the sense of fashion, ever since then. As if someone told him then that what he wore looked really nice, and so he has stuck to wearing the same until now. So his fashion sense is not very evolved. He wears cliché clothes and is quite comfortable in them. This was my brief. The directors told me that the character should be defined in the first look. And that is what I was aiming at.
Was there a theme you followed or a colour palette?
The colour palette was not too bright or out of the place loud. Generally, that is what you associate with Marwari or Gujarati men of that age. But the directors asked me to not do that. But what they asked me to do was even tougher. I was asked to be colourful yet soft, and classy yet quirky. That was a combination that required quite a bit of brainstorming. So I began with choosing the colours and then shifted to the fabrics. I chose suiting polyester, which is a Chinese fabric, that is quite readily available in Bombay these days, and has a kind of fluidity and fall that a character like this demanded. I chose both soft and dark palettes and placed them according to the different situations in the film. The fabric was used both for the safari suits and for the shirts inside. The shirts inside were more eighties with a arrow point collar, which Vinod Khanna used to wear in his time. Also, Batuk had different costumes for sports or his lounge just to complement the fact that he is from London.
What do you draw from more – the script or the director?
Generally, it begins with a brief. Sometimes the brief is cut to cut, while a few directors like to make it elaborate. When it comes to Sajid and Farad (Directors), they are quite comical in the way they narrate. I could see that they are looking at something not cliché and quirky, that goes perfectly with a character like Batuk. Their brief was something that got comic relief on the screen and yet was classy. Also, I had to keep in my mind that his character is a little shrewd, although he is not a typical villain.
What is the thought process that goes into deciding upon the perfect costumes?
The balance is something you have to arrive at on the first go. It is quite instinctive. I rely upon my brief about the character a lot. Although the fashion and what is in trend also plays a role, but it is ultimately the character that is utmost important. You can keep researching for hours and not arrive at anything, or just know about a character and instantly know what goes with them. You then discuss it with the director and the actor, take their inputs and eventually fix upon the styles. Like for this particular film, Boman had certain ideas, and I gave him a presentation and we locked things. So if you go to see, most costumes in a film like this are tailor-made, apart from a few costumes that I picked up from London. And I like things like that.
What is it that you love the most about your job?
Well, I think collaborating with different directors and matching their vision with mine. How to play with what they’re think vis-a-vis my imagination, and then convincing the actor; I believe this is the most challenging part of my job, and it is also the part I love the most. Also then you discover yourself with each film and develop a rapport with each director, which is a process I find extremely fulfilling.
Whom did you design for in Housefull3 ?
I designed costumes for the characters played by Abhishek Bachchan and Riteish Deshmukh.
What is the kind of referencing that goes into a character like this?
A film like Housefull 3 is all about gloss and glamour. So there was no particular serious kind of referencing as such. Only as far as Abhishek’s character is concerned, we had to pull out references. He plays a rapper in the film, and we therefore used international rap-artists as references, just to get a feel of their appearance. Because these hip-hop artists have a certain way of dressing which we wanted to incorporate in this look. For instance, things like their cap, their skinny jeans, the hi-top keds; we just wanted to get that vibe into the whole thing. Riteish on the other hand was contemporary. He just had to look like a very cool, nice, modern, urban boy. So there again there was no reference of anyone as such. Also, I was very fortunate that I got to shop at London, which does get you some good stuff, high on contemporary fashion.
How do you balance between the actor who plays the role and the written character to decide upon the perfect costumes?
It’s important to find that balance because you have to get them clothes that make them look glamorous and good, but at the same time you can’t go over the top. So when you walk into a store and like something on the mannequin, you have to strike a balance, considering how it will look on the actor and where can you use a costume like that. You have to keep the actor and his personality, the scene and the requirements of the character over all, everything in mind. You also have to see what the co-stars are wearing and so on.
What is the work ratio on and off set? Is it mostly done before the shoot? Or is there a considerable amount left to be done while shooting as well?
Most of it is done before the shoot. The trials and fittings happen before getting on the set. Only when there is a change in the costume, that is what happens on set. Like if the co-star happens to wear the same colour, or if there is a requirement that happens to come at the last minute, or you realize you need to tone up or tone down certain things, all of that is done on set. But most of the time, things are bought and shopped before the shoot itself. And when you are styling celebrities, you need to have at least five to six options at each given occasion.
What draws you to costume designing?
The scope of travel in my job. You get to explore and understand fashion in different cities and countries, and you get to see so much. I believe that is the nicest thing.