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When psychology and design meet...

BHUMIKA K Nov 19 2017, 2:35 IST

Talk about design getting really specific, and the devil is in the details! The Delhi-based design house 'The V Renaissance' has designed the armour for the two central male characters of this season's most awaited Bollywood release - Padmavati. It's a historical movie, set in Rajasthan, and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has an affinity for costumes and sets that are a statement of visual grandeur.

Designer duo Vipul Amar and psychologist Harsheen Arora combined their forces to create the battle looks for Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh, who play Maharawal Ratan Singh and Alauddin Khilji respectively, in the movie. Watch out for leather from Italy, lion-heads with snake scales, and chest armour that changes its shades.

Excerpts from a chat with Vipul and Harsheen:

Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB) is known for his visual grandeur and spectacle. How much of that was on your mind while designing for the characters?

Mr Bhansali's vision of his characters was our top priority from the starting point. We had worked in tandem with Maxima Basu on the film Raabta. She introduced our work to him and the rest followed. They first approached us to create one look for Ranveer Singh's earlier battles in the film. During this time, we had just finished work on a bridal lehenga in leather. They liked the technique that we had employed in that piece and asked us to create the armour for Shahid Kapoor's final battle. After Mr Bhansali saw these armours, he asked us to create one for Khilji's final battle as well. Mr Bhansali is very particular about details and his brief was clear and helped us understand his vision. Post which, it was up to us to give shape to his vision.

What kind of resources did you turn to as part of your research to get details for something so specific as armour?

Authenticity and mobility of the armours were our prime concerns as it is imperative that the actor is able to perform stunts in them. Hence, we carried out thorough research on the armouries and weaponry of the era around which the film revolves in order to understand the mechanics and the authenticity of design elements. We even consulted an engineer to confirm the mechanics incorporated in the armours.

What technology or technique did you turn to to give the look? Were you able to find craftsmen who could reproduce what you wanted?

The armours are made of leather imported from Italy and South America and specially finished at our atelier. Multiple techniques from different fields like sculpting, carpentry, colour and finishing, leather work, inlay work have been employed to craft these armours. Most of our craftsmen are in-house and are trained to work on our unique products. Even the storage of these costumes is one of a kind. When not in use, the armours rest on life-sized mannequins, which are then placed inside vintage closet trunks. These are no ordinary trunks since they are fitted with lights and wheels for easy transport when the armies are moving in caravans before settling at base camp. All this helps transport the actor psychologically into that time and era.

In a historical like this, what is the main challenge?

The challenge was to amalgamate into these armours Bhansali's vision of his characters, the actors themselves, authenticity of the period, the functionality of the armours and the visual appeal. We worked on imbibing all these elements into the armours while designing them.

You talk about using psychology to analyse characters before designing for them. Can you let us in on some details?

The concept of 'The V Renaissance' as a brand is to create products which embody your personality, needs and desires, which we achieve using the psychological interview as a medium. We employed similar analysis while designing the past life look for Sushant Singh Rajput in the film Raabta.

In Padmavati, Ratan Singh is an embodiment of love and patriotism while Alauddin Khilji embodies conquest and invasion. Interestingly, even though the same materials have been used in their armours, they have been treated differently to depict their opposing personalities. For instance, the colours used for Maharawal Ratan Singh's armour represent nobility and honour. The blood red depicts honour, love, and eagerness to serve one's land, and the deep gold stands for courage, generosity and passion. Not only that, the design elements in Shahid Kapoor's armour are inspired by the sun rays and the chest-plate is coloured like the Rajputana soil at different times of the day, while inlayed with brass to
showcase strength and bravery.

On the other hand, Alauddin Khilji's armour represents the sultan that he envisioned himself as. The leather lions on his shoulders show his strong-headedness. The lions have been chiselled and hammered to bring into form - as part of the technique which is also symbolic of Khilji's conquest. Also, the darkness of the character has been enhanced by engraving reptile scales on the lion heads.

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