The costume connect

IN CONVERSATION

The costume connect

Costume designer Payal Saluja recently won her first National Film Award for her work in the film Nanak Shah Fakir, which even won the year’s Nargis Dutt Award for the best feature film on national integration. Having designed costumes for Bollywood films such as Dedh Ishqiya, 7 Khoon Maaf, Yeh Saali Zindagi, Ishqiya, Manorama Six Feet Under, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero, Dhamrukam, and Maqbool, Payal has set a high standard with her work. With a creative sleight of hand, this multifaceted designer enjoys working in many creative genres.

Payal, who graduated in clothing and textiles from MS University, Baroda, followed it up with a course in apparel design from the National Institute of Design. Speaking to Sunday Herald, Payal shares her passion for designing costumes and explains how the right look can help actors get into their characters.

What does it take to design costumes for a film?

My designing process starts with reading the script. I imagine the characters as live people with real emotions. That, along with research, helps me visualise their costumes. I also keep in mind the emotional graph of a character while choosing the look and clothing.

What did designing the costumes for ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ involve?

This film was challenging for me. I had to do a lot of research. My visual references were from paintings and sculptures. Information was collected on the textiles of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, textile trades, dyes available, sewing styles, cutting systems, trading routes, textile hubs etc. The various aspects of the social norms of dressing up, caste system, socio-political situations, courts and rulers had to be taken into consideration. Research was also conducted on garments, turbans and tying styles, clasp and other details of garments, fabric widths, jewellery and footwear. The research turned me into a historian, but I enjoyed the process.

My team and I made more than 3,000 costumes for this film. We shot for more than 10 months across India. I had over 10 tailoring masters with their teams to help me create the authentic look.

Does being present during the shoots influence the costumes?

I travel with my team for film shoots so that what I have visualised is reproduced to the last detail. Also, despite all the preparation that is done beforehand, costume designing is a creative process, and there are always some last-minute details that flow out of my mind on the day of the shoot. Spontaneity always adds an edge to the costume.

How do you feel after having won a National Award for this film?

I am happy. I respect the National Awards and the spirit they bring to cinema. Moreover, any kind of appreciation is always sweet and motivating.

How satisfying do you find your work?

This is the best decision I took for myself. I love to travel, read, research, observe people, learn about different cultures and their crafts, and work in a team. My work gives me the opportunity to dabble in all these.

What are your other interests besides costume designing?

I have been a visiting faculty for design institutes. I have written my first feature film script that I plan to direct. I am also working on my first book.

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