Realistic & Believable – The Costumes of Kapoor & Sons
Nikita Raheja Mohanty and Natascha Charak are the designers responsible for the secondary costumes for several movies like Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania and 2 States. With Kapoor & Sons, the talented duo have taken charge of the primary cast of the film as well. On the other hand, designer Archana Walavalkar who started her stint in Bollywood with Alia Bhatt’s costumes in Student of the Year, continues to be her go-to person for almost all of her projects including Kapoor and Sons. Pandolin spoke to the three young designers, who have made a mark in Bollywood with their distinctive style, about their latest film.
How did you come aboard this project? What made this project special?
Nikita & Natasha – This is the first time that we are designing for the primary cast (i.e. Fawad and Siddharth). It was a great opportunity for us and we took it. The director, Shakun Batra, offered it to us and we were very excited about it. They both (the lead actors) are very good looking boys and it was a great opportunity to style them. Apart from Alia we were responsible for the whole cast.
Archana – It has been quite a unique journey with Alia. We started our careers together with Student of the Year. I was costume designing for the film and since then we have done pretty much every film together including Humpty Sharma ki Dulhania, Shaandaar and now Kapoor & Sons. It was great that Shakun (Batra) picked me. He was very adamant that I work on the film because I had styled his last project, which was a short film. So it was a happy family working together on a project that is close to our hearts.
Was there an overarching theme for the costumes in the film? What was the inspiration behind it?
Nikita & Natasha – Shakun wanted to keep it very real and believable. This film is about the family and their relationships and he wanted it to look real. He did not want to use very bright colors and wanted a similar tone for the whole film. So even in the trailers you’ll see the muted colors; nothing is very loud and bright. We discussed a couple of things, did a few tryouts and came to our final looks.
Archana – I watched a few films that Shakun had recommended, where the entire color palette is very muted and nothing stands out too much. Since Kapoor & Sons was more about emotions and performances, the films that Shakun made me watch, gave me an idea of what he had in mind.
Was there any brief from the director about creating something specific? Were there inputs from the actors as well?
Nikita & Natasha – What the director wanted was that the two brothers should appear like guys whom we could know in real life. We got pretty good inputs from the actors as well. Siddharth (Malhotra) Fawad (Khan), Ratna (Pathak Shah) discussed what their characters should look like and we shared our interpretation with them, post which we all worked together to create the looks. Similarly, we went into individual details for the other characters as well.
Archana – The only brief that Shakun gave me was that the costumes should be a part of the character’s personality. We were not trying to make a statement with the clothes. You’ll see very subtle, fuss-free clothes and that was the brief that we pretty much stuck to. We kept clean lines and clean cuts. Also Alia brings that effortlessness to whatever she wears and carries it very casually, and in a carefree way, which is lovely.
Please tell us a bit about the preparation and research you had to do for the movie.
Nikita & Natasha – We mostly had discussions with the actors. For example, Ratna Pathak Shah told us what she thought her character should be like. So instead of going the mummy way with the salwar kameez look, we did tunics and pants because she as a character is a strong, independent minded woman. We didn’t go with the typical Punjabi mother look that we see in many films and kept it more indo-western.
What was the process of creating the costumes?
Archana – It was quite straightforward actually. We sourced from in and around Mumbai itself because we now have almost everything available here. We have used basic tees, over-sized shirts, ripped jeans, almost all those pieces that you miss out on the rack. They are so subtle that if you are trying to search for these kind of pieces, you’ll see that they are not the trendy ones. It was really interesting to hunt for these costumes to make sure that they look very lived in and owned by Alia’s character. For the “Kar Gayi Chull” song, which has my favorite costume in the film, we again had a very effortless look but with a tinge of sexiness.
Did you design all the costumes or sourced some of them? Do you have any particular go-to markets for sourcing the material?
Nikita & Natasha – We sourced a lot of them. We shopped in Mumbai, Dubai and other places too. We got it from a lot of different places but when we had to make things for particular characters like Rishi Sir, we did it in-house.
Archana – No, we did not have to make much in-house for Alia and most of it was ready-made. So it was mostly trying to find stuff which was shoved at the back of the stores, the pieces that no one else wanted to buy because they did not scream for attention.
How did you differentiate the personalities of characters through costumes? Do they change over the course of the film as the characters evolve?
Nikita & Natasha – Siddharth’s look is more casual and easy going while Fawad’s look is a bit crisper. Siddharth wears more of T-shirts and hoodies and with Fawad you get more shirts and jumpers. Though the costumes gradually change a bit, they are more or less in the same zone. We followed the initially designed looks for the characters and since they are mostly around the family, it remained consistent.
Archana – Not really. There is a slight jump of a few years in the film but we did not have to change anything drastically. So even those changes are very subtle and muted.
Though the costumes worn by the cast appears natural, we see slightly whimsical touches here and there, like the fluorescent bow. Was that part of the characterization too?
Nikita & Natasha –Those are all elements from a party scene. We got bows and Rajat Sir is also wearing a pink boa around his neck. But in the film you will not find any other such whimsical touches as it is mostly very real.
So what were the accessories used for the actors? Did you design them in-house or source them as well?
Nikita & Natasha – It is very minimalistic. There was not much accessorizing and we just kept it very basic. We did not want anything to stand out and there is nothing that is over the top.
Archana – The accessories were interesting. For example, I have the habit of having this thin rubber band around my wrist for tying up my hair. This is something that is very utilitarian as when you are working you tie your hair and when you are going out, say for dinner, you quickly pull your hair down. As a girl I know how important this tiny accessory is, so I had the idea of giving it to Alia and you see her using it many a times. While speaking a dialogue she would tie her hair up on her own without any hair stylist involved. I coupled this with a couple of thread and bead bracelets, something she sleeps in and never takes off. You’ll see a synergy throughout the film.
Nikita – Natascha, Rishi Kapoor’s look is very different in this film, what went into designing that look?
He plays a 90-year-old grandfather and he is playing this kind of a role for the first time. You will see that there is some beautiful prosthetic work done on him. This is a Coonoor based family and not a Mumbai based one. So like any grandfather who stays there, we see a lot of kurta pyjamas, sweaters and mufflers. He wears suits only on certain occasions. And if you notice, even the suit is vintage looking, something that he would have had for many years.
Archana, how was the overall experience of designing for Alia? You have had a long association with her, is it more of a collaborative approach that you both share?
Yes absolutely. Since the beginning Alia has been someone who puts forth opinions and she really respects her stylists, which is a great thing. By now we have worked together for so long that it is much easier to understand her personality, body and character. Alia likes to add a little bit of her to every character and since we have shared this amazing journey, we really tap into that and create something magical.
What are the advantages of working on such a lighthearted family drama with many young actors?
Archana – This is very different from a typical Bollywood film and it was very exciting for me to see how Shakun made everything so real. This is a very mature film with an amazing cast of characters and all the actors made it a power-packed affair. It was interesting to see how they brought something new to the film everyday.
If you were to define each character’s look in one word, what would it be?
Nikita & Natasha –
Siddharth – Fun/Easygoing.
Fawad – Cool/Well turned out
Rishi Kapoor – Lovable
Ratna Pathak Shah – Fuss-free
Rajat Kapoor – Practical
Alia – Fuss-free