Raghuvendra Rathore dresses up Eklavya

MUMBAI: If you thought only period films could be referred to as ‘costume dramas’, think again! Next week’s release, Eklavya – The Royal Guard, a contemporary story of the royal family in Devigarh, Rajasthan, required logical designing of ethnic Rajasthani costumes for its multifarious characters and actors like Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Boman Irani, Vidya Balan and many more.

 


This film marks the return of Vidhu Vinod Chopra as a director after a gap of seven years; and Chopra, wanting to leave no stones unturned to ensure the accuracy of each frame, signed on fashion designer Raghuvendra Rathore, who is himself based in Rajasthan and hails from the princely clan of Jodhpur. Trained at the Parsons School of Design, New York, Rathore worked at DKNY and at Oscar de la Renta before launching his own label in 1994 under the Rathore Jodhpur brand.


 


In a chat with Businessofcinema.com, Rathore spoke about his Eklavya experience and working closely with a plethora of actors, in his very first Bollywood venture.


 


“The script of Eklavya was very interesting for me because it was based in Rajasthan and I too hail from there. Also when Vidhu Vinod Chopra explained how the film was going to look on screen, I realised it would be silly for it to be done by any other designer,” smiles Rathore.


 


While designing clothes for the film, Rathore worked closely with the director, music director Shantanu Moitra and visual director Pradeep Sarkar. Even as the script was being formulated and the film was tentatively titled Yagna, he asked Chopra to come down to Rajasthan with his core team so that he could show him real people and places, which would in turn provide authenticity to the film.


 


Rathore didn’t limit his expertise to designing just costumes. He admits, “I called Maharani Gayatri Devi and arranged for Chopra to see the rooms of the City Palace (Jaipur), which have been kept locked for many years now. So Saif and his sister’s room have been shot in the palace, which has never before been opened for shooting. I also arranged for them to shoot at the Devigarh fort in Udaipur, where most of the external scenes have been shot.”


 


Of the clothes, he says, “In Eklavya, the script is just 50 per cent without the clothes; but the clothes are just 10 per cent of real fashion. The idea was to forget fashion and dress up the storyboard and characters. Since the movie is spread over three days, each actor had about four to five outfits.”


 


Rathore ensured that there was nothing ‘fashionable’ about the clothes, “They are pure Rajasthani clothes and the fabrics used are from Jodhpur, Bikaner and Udaipur. Occasionally you will see a shawl from Kashmir.” The three fundamental elements the designer worked with were the ghagra odna, safari suit and breeches, which have been replaced by chudidaars.


 


On being queried as to why he stayed away from Bollywood for so long. He says, “It is too big an expanse for me to get into without having any knowledge. It was quite a cumbersome approach to create the entire movie in photographic form, with each photograph having many options! I had to first take a photo of the actor and then work on a software to put clothes onto him. In coordination with the art director Nitin Desai, I had to take photographs of the background and superimpose my creations to synchronize with color combinations of the costumes,” he reasons.


 


Rathore, who worked closely with Subarna Rai Chaudhari, costume designer for Chopra’s Parineeta and Munnabhai, details the look of each character.


 


Click on the links below to read about each of the characters:


 


Amitabh Bachchan, the royal guard


Saif Ali Khan, Prince Harshwardhan



Vidya Balan, the royal chauffeur’s daughter



Boman Irani (the figurehead monarch), Sanjay Dutt (the deputy superintendent of Police), Raima Sen (the princess), Jimmy Shergill (the minor royal)


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Amitabh Bachchan, the royal guard


 


Amitabh Bachchan is the core character of the film, whose look was the most important. “After reading the script, I imagined Bachchan’s look as a 65 year old man who is losing his eyesight. He is a bodyguard, so his clothes had to have a robust form and also had to look as though he would dress himself in front of a mirror. The script also required him to have a dagger, so we had to give him a belt around his shoulder to hold the dagger,” says Rathore.


 


“The proportion of the turban and beard had to be worked upon very carefully. It was crucial to get Bachchan’s beard right and to make it look real because he had many close shots. Each strand of hair was especially flown in from California. Chopra didn’t want the beard to resemble the 200 films he has done before and that was a challenge in itself,” he adds.


 


“We could not use a readymade turban because we wanted to make it look real. So we appointed a special guy from Udaipur, who would make Mr. Bachchan wear the turban every day in order to have it looking the same each day of the shoot,” he says.


 


Click on the links below to read about the characters:


 


Saif Ali Khan, Prince Harshwardhan



Vidya Balan, the royal chauffeur’s daughter



Boman Irani (the figurehead monarch), Sanjay Dutt (the deputy superintendent of Police), Raima Sen (the princess), Jimmy Shergill (the minor royal)


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Saif Ali Khan, Prince Harshwardhan


 


Saif’s role is principally that of a contemporary young prince who has come down from London. “Saif’s wardrobe in the film simply reflects the ideology that you don’t have to be fashionable to be stylish. There were many people in my family who reflect his role, so it was easy to design his look, but it was tough to get him to a comfort level and make him believe in the vision I had for him. But gradually as the clothes were tested on him, he started accepting them with little changes here and there,” says Rathore.


 


Saif has a lot of outfits in the film and each of them had to be balanced and coordinated with the other. He wears simple jeans and shirt after a morning bath, when he flies a kite, then he follows it with a plain white kurta. Then when his mother dies, he is in a plain dhoti and moli (holy thread) around his body.


 


“He also wears a safari suit. When I told him I would be giving him a safari, he was hesitant initially because the normal perception is that the safari is for the babus, so I had to keep reinforcing the fact that it would look nice. When he actually wore it, he was so impressed that he said he would walk out in it,” remembers Rathore.


 


“Chopra was just a little concerned that he shouldn’t look older than Vidya and Raima so we had to incorporate a few style tricks, like leaving his first button open,” he adds.


 



Click on the links below to read about the characters:


 


Vidya Balan, the royal chauffeur’s daughter



Boman Irani (the figurehead monarch), Sanjay Dutt (the deputy superintendent of Police), Raima Sen (the princess), Jimmy Shergill (the minor royal)


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Vidya Balan, the royal chauffeur’s daughter


 


“Vidya’s look is very inspiring for a designer. In fact, after Maharani Gayatri Devi, she is the most beautiful lady I have seen,” says Rathore fondly.


 


Vidya plays the role of a commoner, the royal chauffeur’s daughter who becomes a princess. So did the clothes too change in consistency with the character? “Yes. When she is a commoner, she wears printed polyester ghagras, which are associated with the masses in the Rajasthan villages. Gradually, in the second half of the movie, you realise that the prints have gone. In the main scene, she has worn a gold outfit to which Chopra did not agree initially, but I had predicted then that in 2007 gold would be in vogue and thankfully it is,” says Rathore.


 


“To design Vidya’s outfits, I kept conferring with Suvarna because she had worked with her on Parineeta,” he adds.


 


Click on the links below to read about the characters:


 


Boman Irani (the figurehead monarch), Sanjay Dutt (the deputy superintendent of Police), Raima Sen (the princess), Jimmy Shergill (the minor royal)


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Boman Irani, the figurehead monarch


 


“Boman plays an angry man in the film and emanates femininity too. Moreover he is tall and bulky, so to reflect effeminacy, I had to put mascara in his eyes and rings in his fingers,” Rathore says.


 


“He is a keen dresser in the film, so he wears embroidered kurtas in which the embroidery had to be masculine yet lean on the feminine side. In a few scenes, Pashimina shawls too have been used to reflect that.”


 


 


 


Sanjay Dutt, the deputy superintendent of Police


 


Sanjay Dutt is a police officer, so he had a government of India uniform, which could not be improvised upon very much. “Also, while we were test shooting, he had just had a haircut which I found to be perfect for the character so we didn’t give him any wig,” Rathore says.


 


 


 


 


Raima Sen, the princess


 


“In the film, Raima plays a mentally challenged princess. Initially, while designing her look, we had a few sari options but since princesses in Rajasthan don’t wear saris we had her dressed in ghagras. But in one scene when Raima wears a sari, we balanced it by making Saif wear a dhoti.”


 


Jimmy Shergill, the minor royal


 


Jimmy’s character is very jealous of Prince Harshwardhan (Saif). He has a lot of anger and attitude in the film, so he is mostly dressed in leather jackets.

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