It is not at all scary backstage – Nidhi Yasha
In a very short span of her career, the costume designer Nidhi Yasha has worked in the impressive number of tele-serials and films which include the horror flicks of the Hindi film industry i.e Vikram Bhatt’s ‘Haunted 3D’ and Bhushan Patel’s ‘1920-The Evil Returns’. Nidhi has her own design company with the name ‘NY Studio’ which she founded after graduating from NIFT (batch 2005) in 2009. Since then, it has been a never look back journey for Nidhi. Specialised in doing costumes for period cinema, having designed costumes for the horror flick ‘Haunted 3D’ was a challenge in itself for Nidhi Yasha, but it’s the success of the film and her talent that landed her up the second horror film ‘1920-The Evil Returns’ which was recently released this month. With the immense curiosity in our minds to see through the nitty-gritty of the costume designing for horror films, Pandolin talked to Nidhi Yasha to understand the challenges that go into giving a haunted look to a character in a horror movie.
Pandolin: How did Haunted 3D happen to you?
Nidhi Yasha: Then, I had just moved to Bombay. I am a fashion designer graduate from NIFT Delhi. I just happened to meet Vikram and texted him later whether he was interested in meeting me and looking at my work. He replied that ‘Why don’t you mail me some of your work?”, so I mailed him some of my work and he was really impressed. That’s how ‘Haunted 3D’ happened! So he called me up and briefed me about the film. I had already done some historical and mythical series for TV, though nothing came on air by then. I was working in productions and so I showed him some of that work. He was thrilled and thought that I could take up period, research oriented films because that was what I was doing and that is what my forte as well.
Pandolin: What did Vikram Bhatt brief you about the film, Haunted 3D?
NY: The film was set up in the period of 1936 and in the current year. The whole look was supposed to be Indian but with the colonial English touch. The look had to be very hill station like. The horror elements had to come through colours and make up as well. Overall briefing was that we were asked to stick to little bit colder colours, which was according to the theme of the story and was true to that period. Obviously, there were lot of research involved as there were many characters and travel time happening in the film.
Pandolin: What research you had to do for the film?
NY: Basically, we did very thorough research. I spent about days and days researching every element of the film from top to bottom. For example, the kind of head gears to be used, the kind of hats, and the kind of umbrellas that was to be used for the film in that particular era. We actually sourced a real vintage umbrella for the song. Lots of fabrics were also researched. I used lots of laces for the lead character of Meera Sabharwal (played by Tia Bajpai). The whole delicate, petite young female look was to come through and it had to yet look extremely vintage. We used lots of crochet laces, and all other kinds of different laces that we could find from all over the country. That was the look that we thought we could give to Tia. It was all very romantic. Generally, when you go vintage and romantic, it already has little bit of eeriness about it because colours are very soft and pastels plus the laces have very nice sexual interlaced feel to it. As well as, it looks very delicate, very romantic, very feminine plus it could also look very ghostly at the same time. Overall, Vikram gave me all the freedom to choose my fabrics, and he just asked me not to use bright colours and focus only on cold colours.
Pandolin: Generally, what is the medium of your research? Any internet research?
NY: I don’t believe in any internet research. There was hardly any internet research that I did. I referred to lots of books set in 1930’s and lots of text books, documentation on how costumes, clothing used to be done in that particular period. And little bit of internet research here and there was just okay.
Pandolin: Don’t you consider internet a reliable source for research?
NY: Not so much. It’s very easily accessible but also very repetitive. It can be definitely one tool that aids you but it’s certainly not reliable for sure. Besides, there has been so many books written and lots of documentations were done in print media. The kind of documentation you get to learn the kind of hats, jewellery people used to wear in 1936 era, you would only get 10 percent on the internet. Internet can definitely guide you the way but it can’t ever be comprehensive research tool.
Pandolin: Could you name a few books which you referred for your research?
NY: I wouldn’t want to tell that. Overall, for my research I went through history books in my college library. I also purchased lots of books here and there from book stalls and book vendors. I just read all kind of books that I could put my hands on.
Pandolin: About your latest release 1920 – The Evil Returns, what brief were you given by the director Bhushan Patel about the film?
NY: In 1920- The Evil Returns, there was supposed to be some kind of synergy between previous 1920 and this film, although there was nosimilarity in the storyline. Overall, the Director this time was Bhushan, so his vision was very restricted as well. He only wanted to work with cold hues that include greens, blues and greys in the colour palette. He wanted to avoid red, yellow, oranges and all other warm colours. He wanted to play with the palette that has green, blues, pastels, whites, and off-white in it.
That was the colour brief that he gave me. Other than that, he gave me total freedom in terms of the kind of cuts and silhouettes I wanted to use. That was based on complete thorough research I and my team did. We had to go through what people were wearing in 1920’s and how it could be incorporated in the film in the Indian context. It had a very transitional look. It was neither entirely Indian nor western.
Pandolin: How did you style the main character ‘Smruti’, again played by Tia Bajpai? What research was involved?
NY: Over all, the research was comprehensive for all the characters in the film. For Tia’s character particularly, who is very soft-lost girl, very soft-hearted, somebody has lost her memory and is not in her senses, we used delicate colours, delicate silhouettes, tried not to go too harsh or structured. We made her look romantic.
For Aftab’s character, we had to come up with very fresh look in a manner which nobody has ever seen him before. We played the whole vintage thing around him. We used winter checks, suspenders, different types of sleeves and collar details which were there in 1920 era. So over all, film was true to its period in terms of clothing, colours, patterns we put together, and the textures and fabrics we used.
In fabrics we used wool and tweed. So all of that had also been taken into consideration! To get the fabrics, I made special trip to Delhi and in a lot of colder terrains particular weavers or vendors were discovered and they were told to develop some fabrics, some plaids and some checks for the film according to the given brief.
Pandolin: Please tell us about your team.
NY: We were 5 of us in the execution team. 3 of them were my costume designing assistants. Overall, it was a team effort.
Pandolin: Did you custom-make all the clothes or sourced them?
NY: Yeah, everything was stitched and custom made in my own design house. Nothing was outsourced really.
Pandolin: Tell us about the accessorising you chose to do.
NY: Since, we were to use vintage elements, for Tia Bajpai we used lots of pearls as accessory.
While for Aftab and Sharad Kelkar, we used cravats, suspenders, and blazers.
Pandolin: How important is the colour palette when it comes to horror films? What coordination do you need to maintain with the cinematographer or the art direction?
NY: We have to be really careful about the colour palette. So far, we followed a particular colour scheme because the director had a particular vision. I followed my directors’ vision. He wanted to use greens and blues.
So if he has particular kind of scene in mind, look and feel of the film in mind, he will brief all of us together. Whoever is contributing to the colour scheme of the film, he will brief. Usually it is the art team, DOP or the costume team. Now it’s up to us on how to synergize. Like, I would never use the same colours as of the background. If he has asked to use only cold colours, which are not very harsh, it applies to all of us. That’s extremely important within the team. We all are living our director’s vision. As a designer, we can make design combinations, but when we know our director’s mind, it becomes even more interesting. Then, everything has to synergize beforehand.
Pandolin: What do you keep in focus while designing a look for horror films?
NY: First obviously, the character and the comfort factor of the artist playing that particular character. Second, brief given by the director is the most important to me. I just stick to that, no matter what happens. Third, I am going to convince my artist to be comfortable in whatever I am recommending him or her. If there is any problem, then I will share with the director that the particular artist is uncomfortable wearing this particular pattern and ask for his suggestion. We usually come to some consensus. Another most important factor is how the artists’ body responds to a particular style.
Having said that, the period research, background research, geographical research, all of these are also very important to me.
Pandolin: How about hair and make-up?
N Y: We usually do have a brief of hair and make-up too. When it comes to prosthetic make-up, we don’t interfere with the experts. We just have a brief outline on how hair and make-up to be in terms of styling.
Pandolin: How scary it is to work in a horror film?
NY: It was not at all scary when you are involved in the making of horror films backstage. It only gets scary if you see the film as an audience.
Pandolin: What are your future projects?
NY: I have just finished ‘Zilla Ghaziabad’. I am working on Girish Malik’s ‘Jal’. I have also done Sanjay Dutt’s movie based on the remake of ‘Saamy’. The name of the film has not been decided yet.