As people mule over the reviews of the recently released film Dishoom, we take a peek into what went into the making of this action adventure. We connected with ace costume designer, Subarna Ray Chaudhuri who has designed costumes for movies like Kick, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Housefull 3 and many more. Along with Chaudhuri, giving insights on the casting is Vicky Sidana, one of the prominent casting directors of Hindi cinema, who has cast for titles like Airlift, Baby and Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, to name a few. They open-up about their experience, challenges and what went into fleshing out the characters of the movie.

Subarna Ray Chaudhuri, Costume Designer

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Subarna Ray Chaudhuri with Varun Dhawan (Left) and John Abraham (Right)

What was it about Dishoom that encouraged you to be a part of it?

I don’t know how Rohit Dhawan (Director) came to know about me, but he asked me for a presentation. I was given a brief and I made a presentation that he liked. We started having extensive meetings on the project. In fact, the amount of meetings that I had on Dishoom with Rohit, is the maximum that I’ve ever had with any director (smiles).


What did director Rohit Dhawan have in mind regarding the look and costumes of the actors?

Rohit is a very sharp guy; he is very particular about every detail. Though it is just his second film, it doesn’t feel like that because he is very sharp and observant. From the badges to the uniform, every detail, every cut, the fabrics everything was pre-decided. And I like that style of working because then we don’t waste much time or resources. We did not create many costumes and that’s why the director was so particular about each costume. The main characters have just 2-3 costumes each, therefore, they had to be bang-on. The approach was to make sure that since there are just a few costumes, they had to really good and yet not over-the-top so that it looked unreal.

The idea of giving John Abraham a tougher look and Varun Dhawan a much younger and fresher look came from old classic TV shows

In your previous interviews you’ve mentioned that you don’t rely on the Internet for research. So how did you go about researching the costumes for Dishoom?

Yes, I don’t do much Internet research and even for this film I did not rely on the internet. I normally go into classic TV shows for inspiration. Furthermore, Rohit had also given me a certain brief and had shown me a couple of pictures from the old classic show, Miami Vice. The idea of giving John Abraham a tougher look and Varun Dhawan a much younger and fresher look came from such old classic TV shows. From there we developed their looks and I started making sketches. We did a couple of trials, but not too many, as it was a vision that Rohit and I had extensively discussed, so we just kept developing ideas.

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Jacqueline Fernandez, Varun Dhawan and John Abraham

Having designed for John Abraham and Varun Dhawan, how did you create the distinction between their characters through the looks?

Junaid Ansari (Varun Dhawan’s character) is like a rookie cop who has just come in to the department in Abu Dhabi. He is a carefree guy and since he is a junior cop, we gave him a casual suit alongwith a couple of other junior cops. The suit is not exactly navy blue, but it looks perfect against the Abu Dhabi sky. The suit is made from a stretchable fabric which we dyed. It is a light weight blazer paired with slim fit trousers. We kept the suit light, with no lining, because of Abu Dhabi’s hot weather. Therefore, instead of using lining, I have given a maroon printed panel on the inside of the suit, so that when he is carrying it or taking it out, you get to see a bit of texture. Also, I made him wear a shirt with a button down collar that has tiny buttons, but that adds to the look of the shirt. Furthermore, instead of making the sleeves full, we made them short, which gives it more character. When he takes off his coat, loosens the tie and opens the buttons, it looks like a nice slim fitted stretchable casual shirt, which gives the character a cool appearance over all.

To add more to the character, we created the badge that he is wearing on the belt. Rohit was very particular about the belt because a cheap belt always looks cheap, no matter what. But this belt is sleek and has the perfect dimension. Moreover, the belt complements the golden badge very well. Also we gave him a tie clip, which becomes a part of the uniform. Coming to the shoes, we did not go for the typical black formal shoes. Instead, we custom made the shoes from a brand called ‘Call it Spring’, which is a famous brand in Abu Dhabi. To complete the look we added an old classic Rolex watch, which belongs to the character’s grandfather. All in all, his entire look can be described as casual, yet he comes across as a formal cop.

Kabir (John Abraham’s character) on the other hand is a tough guy so we wanted to make him look larger. We wanted to keep him in two outfits, one is the inner layer and the other one is the outer layer. The outer layer, which is the white waffle tee, has got small textures on it, and is made of a fabric that I got from China. Here I was very particular about the neck shape because that is a garment that needs to have some kind of depth. He wears under armour, the inner layer, which is from America. His shoes are from Palladium London and the watch is a Panerai Luminor, which is a tough watch.  So when you look at the two characters in the film, one is tough and large, and the other one is small and cute.

Most of the costumes in this film are custom made, they aren’t picked from somewhere or bought off the rack

So what was the color palette essentially used for the characters? Have all the costumes been custom-made or sourced too?

There are two color palettes; one is the Abu Dhabi palette which has mostly blue, black, grey, and white. The other one is the Morocco palette, where we adopted a very rustic palette with rusts, green and an earthy tone. Also for Morocco, we aged the costumes a lot. I picked up jute silk for John and Varun’s looks. The fabric looks thick on screen and very textured, but is actually light and that is why I picked it. I dyed the fabric into rust and green and those colors are looking great. Instead of making a typical pathani with a collar and front buttons, I made the buttons on the shoulder, in a way that it exposes the neck and the shoulder, giving a very masculine look.

Also instead, of making a typical salwar, I made harem salwars. Normally pathanis have shirt cuffs, but I kept normal sleeves with buttons. This has created a look that is quite different from the typical pathani. My tailors have beautifully manufactured the costumes. Most of the costumes in this film are custom made, they aren’t picked from somewhere or bought off the rack.


Coming to Jacqueline Fernandez, how did you work on her costumes and accessory? Also, tell us about the look created for Akshaye Khanna.

Jacqueline Fernandez is in one outfit throughout the film. Hers is a well-travelled and adventurous character. I made a red leather jacket for her, that has got patches of fabrics with embroidery on it. When you see the jacket it looks like it has been picked up from somewhere in Turkey or maybe a foreign designer has picked up Indian fabric and mixed it with leather. It is a very bohemian kind of a jacket. Also she is wearing dungarees that are ripped, it is very tomboyish and very loose, making it seem realistic. I made her wear a black crop top with it. Even her backpack was custom-made along with her boots.

For Akshaye Khanna too, every garment is custom-made. We gave him a very summery look. There were linen drawstring pants with lightweight linen jackets and blazers. I have paired them with cool t-shirts inside, which give a refreshing look.

Casting Director Vicky Sidana

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Vicky Sidana

How do you approach the casting of a film?

Normally, it a very simple, either I am approached by the director’s or producer’s side or I approach them. In the next step, either a narration of the script takes place or I am given a script to read. Once that is done, we exchange notes and concentrate on the characters, how many characters are required in the film and so on. We make a character sketch according to the script and share that with the director. Sometimes the directors and writers have in mind the kind of actors that they think would suit the characters. So we discuss everything and accordingly take it ahead.


How did you get associated with Dishoom and what was Rohit Dhawan’s brief for the actors?

When I met Rohit, he narrated the story (of the film) to me and I thought that it was a wonderful story; it was very different from what he had done in his first film. Also, this time he had a different approach to the casting. We did not want a cast that was completely commercial. We wanted very good actors along with authentic faces. If you see the supporting cast, they are actors who have an extensive theater background.

We did not want a cast that was completely commercial

Akshaye Khanna returns to Bollywood after a gap and that too in a negative role. How was he zeroed in for this role?

Rohit and I were discussing the casting and he told me that he was thinking of approaching Akshaye Khanna for this particular role. I love Akshaye, his performances are always great, be it a comedy or an intense film. He has played grey characters before and I think he was great in them. Moreover, I thought that this cast, Akshaye Khanna with John and Varun could be something different, which will ultimately give a new feel to the film.


Are you launching any new faces with Dishoom?

I am not launching any new faces as such. There are faces that people may find new, but they have appeared on screen before. The only difference is that, in this film they have more noticeable roles and their characters are substantial in a way that they take the story ahead. I can’t take names as the surprise will be revealed in the film, while the audience is watching the movie.

Getting new faces is difficult because they need to have that charm that can attract the audience

You have done casting for films like Airlift and also the upcoming film M. S. Dhoni – The Untold Story, movies that are based on real life. How is casting for such movies different as opposed to movies like Dishoom?

Every film is very different and difficult to cast because every director has his/her own temperament and way of working. Moreover, every film brings with it a new story. For example, Airlift is mostly shot in UAE, so I had to cast people from the Middle East. Dishoom again, some portions were shot in Abu Dhabi, so we needed someone from that country. For M. S. Dhoni, the film is set up from Ranchi to Kolkata and I have never been to those places before. We had to go there and cast actors and since the film is a biopic, we needed that authenticity to be present in the actors as well. Rohit had a clear idea about what he wanted for Dishoom. But there was one particular character that took me eight months to cast; I auditioned more than 5000 people because it depends on the character’s vision as well.

Where does the real challenge lie, in discovering newcomers or casting famous and established actors?

Both! Exploring new talent for lead roles for a movie like Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 is more difficult. In a film like Dishoom there are two faces, Varun and John, that people are well aware of. But getting new faces is difficult because they need to have that charm that can attract the audience. That is more difficult for us, because these actors will ultimately be the faces of the movie. Also, it depends on the script too because in films like Dishoom and M. S. Dhoni, even the supporting cast plays an important role. These days casting has become one of the crucial parts of a film and everybody is very careful about it.

Subarna Ray Chaudhuri & Vicky Sidana
Job Title
Costume Desinger & Casting Director