Designer Aanchal Rohra makes her Bollywood debut as a costume designer with Vishal Mahadkar’s horror film 3 A.M. The young and chic designer cum stylist speaks to Pandolin about creating looks and styling for her maiden film project and the overall experience of this exciting venture.

Aanchal Solo4

Aanchal Rohra

Tell us about your couture label and foray into designing. What kind of designs do you specialize in?

Having started my journey in fashion with GQ India and, I launched my couture label, ‘AanchalRohra’ in 2013. Keeping it modern, the label is fresh and fashion forward with a sophisticated edge. The label’s signature style is a combination of subtle elements and statement details. Every design is carefully sketched and painstakingly handcrafted with attention to detail to offer anticipating fashion lovers something innovative and out of the ordinary. The label aims to create than to follow.

How did you get your first Bollywood project, 3 A.M.? Did you always wish to design for films?

Known for ‘challenging deadlines, erratic timings and celebrity tantrums’, movies were one segment I never expected to touch. My focus, right from the beginning had always been Editorial/Personal Styling or designing for my own label. Never did I even try to or think I would do films.

But when Richard, the producer, who happens to be a close family friend, approached me to style the costumes, it was an offer I just couldn’t refuse. Being his first film, I was super excited to be part of it and when I read the script, I knew this is exactly how I wanted to begin my career in films. It was the perfect way for me to get out of my comfort zone, yet be in it. It was then that all my misconceptions about deadlines, timings and tantrums were wiped out, as everybody was an absolute professional and a delight to work with.

What was the brief given to you by director Vishal Mahadkar? Since it is a paranormal–thriller, how would you define the style rendered for this film?

“She should be a girl I would fall in love with!” was the very first brief that was given to me by Vishal for Sarah (Anindita Nayar), the female lead in 3 A.M. He had a very clear vision of how he wanted every character to look like. Also, having very good aesthetics, he was very specific about the kind of colors he wanted for each scene. For example: In Goa, he wanted neons and bright colors as opposed to the darker colors used for the latter half of the movie. I would say the style of the film is smart and real, something all of us can relate to.


How important is the colour palette when it comes to horror films?

For any film, I would say the color palette plays a very important role. Keeping aesthetics in mind, one must pick colors carefully as per the moods, scenes and characters in the film.

What was the kind of referencing and research involved in designing for the film?

I began my ideating process by first reading the script and understanding the characters. While reading the script I made a mental note of how I perceived these characters and jotted down a few adjectives, celebrities, fashion icons and television show characters that came to mind for each of them. Apart from these references, I also looked up how the actors dressed up in their day-to- day lives. I looked up styles, colors and silhouettes as per each of their body types,. Finally I took into consideration the scenes, locations and the time of shoot – day/night.

Since you were designing for young actors like Rannvijay and Anindita, what is the look you have adopted? How was the experience of working with them?

Interpreting Sarah (Anindita) as a sweet girl-next-door, I kept her look very feminine and dainty, conservative yet modern. I’ve used an array of bohemian and girly prints, pastel, bright and neutral colors, crochet, lace, sheer and free flowing fabrics. Sunny’s (Rannvijay) look is more basic- smart casual, laidback and relaxed with a lot of denim jeans, relaxed linen pants, informal shirts and body fit vests and t-shirts. Rannvijay was pretty laidback and happy with whatever look I gave him while Anindita helped me pay attention to every little detail. They both made my job exciting, easy yet challenging, all at the same time.

Have you custom made all the items for the film or also sourced them from places. Please tell us about the places you sourced from?

For most of the looks in the film, I’ve sourced clothing and accessories from high street stores such as Marks & Spencer, Zara, Forever21, Vero Moda, Aura, Hangover and such others. The rest were custom made at my own studio.

Could you tell us about the accessories used in this film and where were they sourced?

I used a lot of tan and leather accessories, bracelets, braided bands, beach flip flops, glam heels, moccasins, sling bags, formal office bags and so on as was required by the scene, mood and character. Apart from sourcing these from high street stores, I teamed them with junk jewelry from the streets of Hill Road, Colaba and Goa. It’s amazing the hidden gems one can find at these places at very affordable prices.


Being a costume designer how important is it for you to coordinate with the cinematographer and production designer to keep the entire look in sync?

The director made these calls with the cinematographer and art/production designer thereafter discussing and coordinating the looks with me. I would then discuss these with the actors to make sure they were comfortable in them.

What was the most challenging aspect of designing for this film?

If I had to pick one thing, then it would be coordinating the looks between the director and the actors. At times, both of them would have completely different visions as to how they perceive the characters to appear on screen. So finding middle ground or convincing one or the other was sometimes a challenge.

How would you describe the difference between designing for a label as compared to designing for films?

Designing for a label involves finding an inspiration, sourcing fabrics, innovating textures and embroideries, deciding a color story, making a mood board, developing sketches and executing these with the help of skilled labor as per the season. Whereas, designing for films involves understanding the script, the character, referencing as per moods and scenes, keeping in mind actors and their body types, budgets and most importantly nailing the vision of the director.

After working on a horror film, which genre of films would you like to explore next? Any actors you look forward to designing for?

Having always taken a keen interest in the history and decades of fashion, I would love do a period film or anything that would require me to incorporate a lot of vintage fashion into my styling. With an olive skin tone, a versatile body, a sensual yet sophisticated body language and a ‘go-for-it’ attitude, Freida Pinto would be my ideal pick.

Please tell us about your future projects.

Focusing on growing my label, participating in fashion weeks, supplying to multi-designer stores, exporting and a lot more is on the agenda. As for films, I am in talks for other styling projects but nothing concrete yet.