Simran – Production Posts with Designers Rushi & Manoshi and Editor Antara Lahiri
Kangana Ranaut is proving to be the show-stealer in her latest film Simran. The actor plays Praful Patel, a frivolous and independent woman who has flaws like gambling and stealing. Playing a key role in bringing out the finer nuances and making her character believable and relatable are Costume Designers Rushi Sharma and Manoshi Nath and Editor Antara Lahiri.
While the designers talk about the key costumes and style adopted for the protagonist, the editor shares the approach she adopted to get into the skin of the character and present Praful’s story in a balanced manner. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
Rushi Sharma and Manoshi Nath, Costume Designers
Kangana’s outfits look simple and not over-the-top, what was the brief given regarding her look?
Hansal Mehta’s vision of the character was painted beautifully through the script. Praful Patel is a Gujarati girl who has just moved to USA from India and works as a chamber maid in the housekeeping department of a hotel. She is a frugal person who doesn’t spend money on appearances. She wants to blend in with the people she works with at the hotel. Therefore, she would probably go shopping in a Walmart or a Ross Stores for less, which makes her look slightly asexual. Her clothing is functional since she mostly wears a uniform provided by the hotel. The only times we see her in her own clothes is when she travels to and from work.
It was an enriching experience incorporating Kangana’s inputs and suggestions into the fabric and outfits of Simran
Since the film is inspired by a true story, did you’ll research and reference the real person?
Researching the real person was how we started Simran. However, in the evolution of this character we took some cinematic liberties. Her roots and surroundings changed enough for us to take a new direction.
A diasporic Gujarati family in America was the new direction we took for our research. Simran is a financially independent girl. There is a character arc to her, where we see her going from a simple Gujarati girl trying to make an honest living to where she accidentally dabbles in gambling.
Our research on gambling in casinos like Vegas and Atlantic city showed lots of Chinese women dressed impeccably while gambling. It seemed there is a dress code to follow, which inspired the much talked about red dress. Her life hereon takes an unprecedented turn which forces her to be on the run. We played out this journey by adding active wear to Simran’s wardrobe.
In terms of accessories, could you talk about Simran’s style, were there any trademark aspects of her look? Also, what kind of colors did you’ll largely choose for her?
Simran loves wearing caps and sunglasses while driving her green Toyota Camry, a car for the middle-class girl which gives her a sense of freedom. The Sherawali pendant given to Simran by her mother to protect her child from the evil eye is her permanent accessory.
We used a lot of burnt mid tones and tints for her costumes and accessories like beech, olive, ashes of roses and melange grey separately and combined them with sorbet colours like antique rose, tangerine and persimmon.
The red dress is an important costume that describes her taste when she can afford one beautiful piece
Having worked with Kangana before in Queen, how would you describe her in terms of her involvement in the looks and styling?
Kangana lives in her character’s skin and having experienced that in Queen, we were really looking forward to style her as Praful Patel in Simran. In Queen, Kangana loved Rani’s characterization and the end result being her immense faith in our craft.
In the brainstorming sessions between Kangana, Hansal and us, Kangana asked Hansal to entrust Simran to us. It was an enriching experience incorporating Kangana’s inputs and suggestions into the fabric and outfits of Simran.
A diasporic Gujarati family in America was the new direction we took for our research
Were there any key costume pieces created for Kangana’s character?
There are some lovely pieces in Simran’s wardrobe that made an appearance as and when the character developed. The red dress being one of them. It’s an important costume that describes her taste when she can afford one beautiful piece. Another piece is an ostentatious net saree that she wears at her cousin’s wedding, which draws enough attention to her in the Sangeet. The turn of events post the sangeet makes her saree-clad persona vulnerable.
Then there are colourful wigs; the quirk adds to the intrigue of Simran that poses questions like is it a fetish or is it a twist in a tale that moves the story forward. Since we were shooting in the Halloween season in Atlanta, we chanced upon a Halloween shop with crazy costumes. That is where the idea for the Halloween sequence sprung. Kangana’s idea and our excitement translated into the Super Girl costume for her since Kangana for us is a Super Girl inside and outside!
Antara Lahiri, Editor
How would you describe the style of editing adopted for Simran? Does the story flow linearly?
When I started assembling the first cut of the film, it inherently felt like a simple, no frills, non – flashy sort of film. In it’s current form, the story is linear but for a brief period of time, I did debate trying a non-linear approach. I decided against it because this is Praful’s journey, and a very intense one at that, so the audience must feel that they are watching it unfold as it happens. Sticking to the linearity of the story definitely helped one get into the skin of the character and really soak in her world.
If you watch the film, you’ll find that Hansal has maintained a certain rhythm while shooting it. There are a lot of interesting moments and pauses, which you’ll notice particularly in the girl-meets-boy scenes where there is an undercurrent of awkwardness in their conversation. I love the little looks to and away from each other that Kangana (Ranaut) and Sohum (Shah) exchange. There is something so real and relatable about these moments that I just had to incorporate them into this scene, as opposed to sharply cutting to their dialogues.
The most challenging aspect about Praful’s character was to keep her relatable, even when she was at her worst
As a director, Hansal Mehta has a very clear vision about his films. What were the discussions on the edit table like?
Hansal’s clarity of thought reflects in the fact that he doesn’t do a lot of coverage, so the quantum of footage is not overwhelming. Our edit table discussions were primarily centred around the rhythm of the film since we wanted to do justice to the events leading upto Praful’s downward spiral. That was a tricky terrain to navigate since this is a single character film, and one always runs the risk of being indulgent. So we spent a considerable amount of time finessing that aspect of the film.
Was there anything particularly challenging about Praful Patel’s character?
I think the most challenging aspect about Praful’s character was to keep her relatable, even when she was at her worst. There is a tendency in Hindi films (especially in the depiction of women) to revel in extremes and stereotypes, or tokenism at best. The shrew who must be tamed, the virginal ‘sati savitri’ who waits for years on end while her lover boy has multiple flings in different countries, the career woman who gives up her career for love, because who’s ever heard of a middle-path! Then there’s the new age, progressive woman who’s apparently characterized solely by smoking, drinking, and swearing. Personally, I can’t relate to any of the above, nor do I know any women who fit neatly into the above brackets.
The in-between and all-important shades of the female psyche have slipped through the cracks. Praful is unlike any woman I recall seeing in the movies.I get her motivation completely, I see what drives her, I probably even aspire for all the things she does. She has a certain strength and flippancy before the outside world, but it is in her lone moments when you really break through the bravado, to see her vulnerability, and it’s precisely this delicate balance that I’ve tried to maintain.
Our edit table discussions were primarily centred around the rhythm of the film since we wanted to do justice to the events leading upto Praful’s downward spiral
I wouldn’t say music influences my style of editing as much as it sets the tone for it. Typically, while making my first cut, I’m running music in my head that I feel best describes the tonality of the film. Once a cut is ready, I try placing the tracks on the edit to see if they add any extra layer/more value/further dimension to the scenes. As most of our films have playback sequences, I also use elements of the film songs as background music to give a sense of unity to the soundscape.
While I follow this process at an offline edit stage, it is the background music composer who takes the final call on the music. Nevertheless, my process certainly helps define what one may call the ‘zone and tone’ of the film for the director and me.