They say behind every mesmerizing on-screen look, there is a talented, hardworking costume designer. Just like many other aspects that go behind in the making of a film, a costume designer plays an important role. They create a sartorial world in the film that serves the purpose of introducing the trait of characters, their situation and the overall background of the story. From historical to mythical and futuristic, a lot of things can be decoded by the outfits in the film and that’s where the multi-talented costume designers come into the picture.
Costume designer Leepakshi Ellawadi, best known for her work in Ek Tha Tiger (2017) and Saaho (2019) has now lent her creative expertise for the upcoming film Bunty Aur Babli 2 (2021) which is set to run in theatres from November 19. The sequel of 2005’s film with the same name is produced under the YRF’s banner starring Rani Mukerji, Saif Ali Khan, Siddhant Chaturvedi, and debutant Sharvari. From pandemic postponements to controversial news around the looks, this film has been through all. Peepingmoon.com got in touch with the ace wardrobe consultant and stylist who spoke to us about her experience on the sets of Bunty Aur Babli 2, which celebrity bride she would love to dress up and her future projects.
Excerpts from the interview:
You have been a costume designer for Bunty Aur Babli 2. As soon as the first look was out, Rani Mukerji was trolled mercilessly for her Sabyasachi looks. What was your reaction to this?
As a costume designer, I have to take criticism in my stride. Sabyasachi (Mukherjee) has designed and conceptualized this look totally. So I don’t know how much to be bothered by that but yeah as a costume designer every kind of criticism has to be taken and I took that. When you put your work out there you have to be open to criticism and I am sure Sabyasachi has also taken a note of the same.
Rani’s ‘20-something Babli’ back in 2005 wore collared kurtis, colorful and eccentric prints and hues. Now she is back for the sequel as a 35-40-year-old with a changed physique, costumes and colour palate. Why do you think the audience has harshly criticized her entire look for the film?
That is something that one should be asking the public. Definitely, people are a bit harsh towards the transition. She is in a different phase in her life so I don’t understand why people have criticized her. It’s a look that will definitely not go unnoticed so everybody has noticed and kind of reacted to it. It’s been more than 15 years since the first franchise, fashion has changed. To be honest, I don’t really know how people have reacted to it, I only saw one article that came out because it was the first look which came out of the film and it wasn’t taken quite well but I wouldn’t know why. People have to be a little sensitive here when reacting to something like this is all I can say.
Do you feel the audience is a little harsher on women trying to go bold with their costumes or colours once they’ve crossed a certain age or is the scene changing?
I definitely see a transition. This is a transitory phase. People are voicing out body-shaming issues. They are coming out just the way they are and not trying to hide their bodies and be a size 2 or a size 6. They are who they are and Rani Mukerji is a terrific actress. Rather than appreciating that, why are we looking at something which is a natural phenomenon! Also, so many models and actresses are coming out with their freckles, curves and their authentic selves. This is a transition only for the betterment as people’s point of view, which was very different and continued for ages is going to change.
What factors were kept in mind while designing Rani’s look as she was the OG Babli?
In terms of doing the design work, certain elements had to be kept in mind. She used to wear these hair rollers back in Bunty Aur Babli in 2005. She is a bit loud and fashion-centric. This is how a B-town or a C-town woman will be, who’s aged now, who’s has had a baby but still wants to stay fashion relevant. 'Bunty' has let go now and that is why we have a little stomach around Saif’s waist. He’s aged, he has let it go since 2005 as they are shown in a slightly older age group than the prequel. But as a character, she’s somebody who has held on to fashion. She is still looking through the magazine pages and Vogue’s pages to see what is in. The idea was Sabyasachi prints are everywhere. So how she has kind of taken those prints and made them like a copy or a rip-off and tried to wear a Sabya which is not a Sabya. You get the humor in it. That is why her costumes are a tad bit loud. Living in a town like Fursatganj, this is her interpretation of Sabya prints. That’s the whole idea behind it.
While Rani’s look was criticized, Sharvari’s bikini look from the film garnered a lot of appreciation and drew comparisons with Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ look from Dostana? How did you zero down on that look? What all went behind creating that look?
A lot of people went behind it for sure. We did about 56-57 bikini trials on Sharvari. Because this was also her launch film, we just needed to make sure that it was absolutely not looking vulgar, at the same time it looks fine, accentuates her body, and does justice to everything that it needs to bring on the table- which is from a director, producer and stylist’s point of view as well as the actor’s comfort zone. We did about 56-57 different cuts from looks and brands to everything. And I don’t think it's particularly a bad thing that the look is being compared to the iconic Priyanka Chopra’s look from Dostana. I am very happy about that so I take it absolutely as a good point of reference that she looked closer to that. It’s a gold-dust bikini which we zeroed down to which I was very keen on from the very beginning but yet we needed to rule out that let’s not do a black, let’s not do this or that. With every brief, we zeroed down to something like this.
Bunty Aur Babli 1’s costumes were designed by Aki Nirula. How did you manage to keep the first film’s sartorial element alive? And also, what were the elements that you changed to make it more relevant to today’s audience?
It was actually very interesting when we started referencing from the prequel because this is a carry forward of the same characters who are appearing after 10 to 15 years. So the spirit of every character needed to be the same and also how they would’ve transitioned 15 years later. What are the in-trends now? So Babli as a fashion-conscious character used to stitch and put together her own looks back then. What is she doing today, what is she inspired by now? If she was reading Grihashobha back then, today she is reading Vogue. Also, how Bunty’s character evolved. He worked as a Railway employee. What is he wearing today? Why is he in sneakers today? So it’s being very true to how the people in B or a C town would be and brought the elements from Bunty Aur Babli. We actually took references very close to how those characters would have kind of transitioned today. In the second part where we are showing the new-age couple, the ones who live in a city today, they are shown very cool, casual and easy. Nobody is trying too hard and if you look at the songs as well, we’ve kept it very real of how a guy would just walk into a Jack & Jones store or a Zara store and put things together. Besides their con looks where they’ve transitioned completely, we’ve drawn references from the prequel film of what a Bunty-Babli couple would be in today’s time. Pankaj (Tripathi) ji used to be Mr (Amitabh) Bachchan’s assistant back then. Now he has retired and Pankaj ji has taken over. So how he has always looked up to Mr. Bachchan back then and now has started dressing up like him- the leather jacket on the top of his cop uniform. It’s on those lines and not absolutely irrelevant from where we were back then.
What day-to-day challenges did you face while designing Bunty Aur Babli's looks? Did the pandemic make the situation worse?
We kind of stopped shooting. There was 30 percent of the film we didn’t shoot because of the pandemic and post-pandemic it was very difficult to start shooting again because a lot of workers had gone back home, a lot of brands has shut down, stores were not open and fully operational, there were too many restrictions. So yes there were a lot of logistical issues when we had to shoot that remaining 30 percent but luckily how I work is I finish most of the prep in the beginning 3 months. So that helped out. We had enough options to work out from and then you have a personal relationship with brands where you get stuff custom made and get stuff done.
Was there any funny or memorable incident while designing looks for the cast?
There were many. I have worked on this film for almost a year and a half including this pandemic break. There were many memorable moments between Rani and Saif because they were working after such a long time. There was great chemistry between Siddhant and Sharvari so nothing in particular but all in all it was a laugher riot for all of us.
Who amongst the 4 is easiest to work with?
All four have been very lovely and I am not being diplomatic. I have a very strong team so I did not face any issue in particular with any of the actors but I would say that Siddhant is lovely and very easy. He totally slips into whatever you as a stylist has a vision plus gives his 100 percent. Sharvari also, being a new girl has never ever frowned at all no matter how many trials we have done on her. we’ve tried hundreds and hundreds of clothing before we zeroed down two looks. She has never frowned upon anything and has always been ready even in the middle of the night. Before the shoot, if I have to try something she’d be more than happy to do that. I’ve got great support from my star cast, I would say.
Who amongst the 4 is open to experimentation?
I would say Saif has been very, very open to experimentation. Right from attaching that stomach which not many actors be wanting to look like that. In fact, he was at his fittest when we have attached that paunch for him to look a certain way so that the transaction is more drastic- when he works out, becomes very slim and gets all the abs and six-packs. He has been so open to experimentation which is definitely helped us transition and make him look something like this. Hats off to him.
You have styled Saif Ali Khan for a long time. How would you describe his style statement? What are his go-to brand?
Saif’s innate sense of charm and style quotient is so high that it doesn’t take too much for a stylist to style him. He’s got so much charm in him that anything you put on him ends up looking great. Also, the colours that he wanted to push- light pinks, turquoise…I can’t think of anybody who would have carried this with so much charm and class that he has. His go-to brands are (Ermenegildo) Zegna and Tom Ford, which we also used for the film, it would also be Berluti. Actually, anything that is a well-cut or a well-made suit, and we’ve witnessed that ourselves that he looks absolutely amazing in suits.
Which Bollywood and Hollywood celebrities would you like to design a look for next?
I hope one day I get to work with Julia Roberts and Leonardo Di Caprio. From Bollywood, Deepika (Padukone) is somebody I’ve been keen to work with.
Being a celebrity costume designer and stylist yourself how would you describe your style statement?
I am a very classic person. You would see me in a white shirt or a white t-shirt and blue jeans. I am a very classic-cut and a fabric person, I go either pure silks or cotton but I do not like experimenting too much in terms of colours. A classic cut and basic colours are my sense of style.
Now that the wedding season is here and in full swing, what style tips would you like to give to the bride tribe?
I also style a lot of brides. I think brides today also experiment a lot and we have such choices of designers customizing so many things, from haldi to your cocktail and your pheras, people are constantly changing outfits and they’ve been experimenting a lot. Gone are the days when they were only wearing reds and pinks for their wedding. I would say that experiment who you are, bring your personality out after all you’ll be married once, hopefully! So bring out your personality and be who you are.
Which celebrity bride you would like to style?
Deepika is already married! My favorite person is Shraddha (Kapoor). I love to style her, I’ve worked with her before and when she gets married I would love to style.
What are the style lessons you keep in mind while styling a festive look?
A festive look needs to be nice, rich and happy. I try to keep beautiful colours in my mind when doing a festive because especially Indian festive speaks a bit of colour. And for men, I like to experiment a little rather than giving them the typical kurta and a bundi. I like to experiment a little bit in cuts and colour.
Any future projects in your kitty?
I am currently working on Ram Setu and Oh My God 2. These are the films that will probably keep me busy till January end and post that something else!