It was Aamir Khan’s idea to use hand-me-down clothes for PK: Rushi Sharma-Manoshi Nath
Last year the humanoid alien took the public by storm, caused a stir among religious purists, raked in more moolah than most movies have at the box-office, and most recently got Rushi Sharma and Manoshi Nath the Best Costume Designer title at the Life OK Screen Awards 2015. And its reason enough to have the designer-duo reveal their favourite PK looks and its transformation from paper to parda (screen).
What was the brief regarding Aamir Khan’s character in PK?
RM (Rushi & Manoshi): Raju (Hirani) articulated his characters in the most bizarre way. It was very interesting to translate his brief into costume looks for each character. His brief talked about the emotion the character is going through, the troubles, the battles, the love, the heart break, and we had to understand the emotion and design the look. Raju was also very specific about PK and his innocence. He told us that PK was as new, naive and ignorant as a new-born baby. For him knowledge of clothes is purely functional, something he wears to blend in with the rest of the Earthlings. And of course he makes his mistakes and lands up wearing a gota-patti lehenga! His information on clothes is as much as he can gather from Phuljadiya (the scarlet woman who lets him hold hands all night and transfer the language in his head) and whatever he can see and absorb. He is completely ignorant about fashion till he falls in love and wants to impress his lady love, where too his fashion is warped.
Once we had established that this character (PK) doesn’t have many clothes and tries to get clothes from strange places and situations, we started doing the same. We visited places out of our comfort zone and asked people for their clothes with bizarre stories of why we need them. It was an idea Aamir had come up with, that we should not buy any new clothes for PK, and only take hand-me-downs from people.
Among all the looks you conceptualised for Aamir Khan’s character, which are your top favourite? Can you describe the concept behind each look?
RM: The lehenga look –The first time you see PK wearing clothes in the film is when he is in the middle of the market in this lehenga-shirt-blazer. Through this outfit we had to establish that he doesn’t have any sense of fashion and puts together whatever he lays his hands on.
A stranger had given us a bunch of his wife’s clothes, like salwar kameezes, lehenga-cholis, saris and nighties, that we wanted to mix and match. Since PK doesn’t know how to wear a sari we didn’t want to use it, then a salwar kameez is close to the men’s pajama kurta so we didn’t think it had that surprise value and obviously night gowns weren’t an option. So we put together a smart double-breasted fawn coloured blazer over a dapper white shirt and a canary yellow lehenga! It also had the humour element to it.
The leheriya shirt – Our main look which PK sports through the film is a kind of ill-fitting, short shirt teamed mostly with boxy, baggy patch work pants or jeans. The people in small towns normally buy cut pieces or katrans from kiosks or thelas and then stitch these katrans together to form a unique shirt which is a medley of fabrics. The leheriya shirt is one such shirt with all the colours and flavours of Rajasthan. Funnily PK wants to wear his shirt with a dhola pajama which is too wide for him. It’s really funny to watch him wearing this ensemble and then escape from the fat man whose fashion PK ‘corrects’ in his own naive, childlike manner.
The Relic look – The Relic look is the one in which Anushka sees him for the first time. For us this was a landmark look. PK had to wear a lot of religious relics from myriad religions. At the same time he could not look like a Godman or a religious leader or look completely different from the PK identity in the film. This in itself was a challenge but a lot of fun. The best part was the yellow helmet which just set PK apart from the rest of mankind.
The Hawaiian shirt – This look is conceived for the scene when PK realises he is in love with Jaggu and wants to impress her. It’s also his transition from Rajasthan to Delhi. So it had to be a happy get-up, yet have the element of naivety. The backstory for this one was that PK probably went to a salon for a haircut where he sports a cowboy hat that he bought somewhere off the streets. Inspired by some photographs of men on a beach he purchased a Hawaiian shirt as it denotes happiness and teamed it with baggy pants. This look is different from his previous garbs yet funky. So this is our favourite shirt and we called it the ‘fall-in-love’ Hawaiian shirt.
The Bandwala costume – We love the Bandwala costume since it’s the only costume that we actually made in the film. It was a signature costume as it was worn by Aamir and Sanjay Dutt in the song ‘Tahrki Chokro’. We knew we had to make a Rajasthani bandwala outfit, so we teamed an angarkha with dhola pajama which is much wider than a normal pajama.
Where did you source clothes for these looks?
RM: We went to small towns and villages of Rajasthan and tiny by lanes of Delhi. We asked absolute strangers to take off the shirts and drop their pants for us! Surprisingly, people are so friendly and kind, and almost everyone gave us their clothes in exchange for a little money or new clothes. They stripped in the middle of the market sometimes. Like I said one gentleman got us a huge bundle of his wife’s lehenga-cholis and saris, since we could not ask women to give us their clothes.
Did you face any challenges designing for Aamir Khan’s character?
RM: PK at all times had to look diminutive. In fact his proportions had to be child-like and we had to give him silhouettes that made him look like a toddler. Mostly a toddler’s torso and legs are of the same length so we had to dress Aamir in a way that his upper body and lower body looked exactly of the same length. And we had to do this by only using from the clothes (they had collected nearly 10,000 pieces) we had taken from passers-by and strangers. This was a tough one because the clothes obviously never fit Aamir correctly and anything which made him look like a grown up could not be used. But we achieved it and that was a big win for us! Also, an interesting aspect was that we had collected a lot of woollen clothes but over the course of the pre-production realised that since PK was an alien creature he didn’t feel cold. So there are scenes depicting winter season when other characters are wearing woollen but not PK.
– Rachana Parekh