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'We padded Vidya Balan in some scenes in The Dirty Picture'

Last updated on: November 29, 2011 14:35 IST

'We padded Vidya Balan in some scenes in The Dirty Picture'

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Patcy N in Mumbai
Vidya Balan's seduction in The Dirty Picture would not have been half as effective if not for the outfits she wears in the film.

And to think they were designed by someone who's not even trained for the job.

Niharika Khan, whose brother is the famous costume designer Arjun Bhasin, has designed costumes in films like Khoya Khoya Chand and Band Bajaa Baaraat.

Niharika speaks to Patcy N about Vidya Balan's sexy outfits in the film.

How did you decide on the costumes?

It is always a growing process; your inputs come together with the art department, the director of photography, and, of course, the director.

So you read the script, you have your ideas, you do a presentation, you make the sketches, you ask the director what he is looking for and then put it together. You show the director how it's going to look, and you tailor it to suit the actor who will be wearing the clothes, especially if you are making a glamorous film.

Is it true you made 150 costumes for Vidya Balan?

I did about 135 costumes and we have used almost 100. 

There are smaller scenes in the film which also required costume changes since she plays an actress, and there are some main costumes for the main scenes.

Image: Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture

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'Some directors tell you to do what you want, like in Band Bajaa Baraat'

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What was the most difficult part of doing this film?

The organisation, putting it together, and making sure we got it right. Milan Luthria is very particular. Some directors tell you to do what you want, like in Band Bajaa Baraat. I had complete liberty there. But Milan is very particular about colours etc.

We had to make look-books, the colours had to be perfect. 

Which are your favourite costumes in the film?

There is a small gold skirt with a tight choli with a purple stone in it. Vidya wore it for the Ooh La La song. That's my favourite because it looked fantastic on her. At first, it looked so terrible that I almost fainted. Then we reworked it, and when we got it right, it was exciting.

There is the wine-coloured outfit for the song Ishq Sufiyan that my friend Babita Malkhani made for me. It's good, though we pestered her to get it right and changed a few things. 

The black Amrapali outfit also looks great, and then there is a tie-up top in black, orange and green florals. There are many other costumes that I like. 

What did you have to do for Vidya's look?

She has four phases in the film so we had to make different costumes for her. 

She enters as a young girl from a village, then she is a struggler, then she becomes a star, then she goes into decline and then there's her tragedy.

Image: Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture

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'There were times when we fitted Vidya at 2 and 4am'

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How did you show all these changes through your clothes?

When she comes to the city for the first time, she is a young south Indian girl. I made her wear a half-sari in south Indian fabrics. 

When she is struggling, she does not have money to really buy new clothes so she starts tailoring her old clothes to look better. She begs, borrows and steals to put it together to make sure she looks better than everyone else.

When she has money, she dresses the way she wants. Then there is skin show as she is an actress and that's what made her.

The downfall, the tragedy part is tricky. An older woman now, she wants to dress like a young woman. She is overweight but she will try to fit into smaller dresses. We had to make her look fat by giving her tight clothes so that she looks bigger. 

Was there any pressure in designing Vidya's clothes because she has been criticised in the past for her dress sense?

Yes, there was a lot of pressure. More pressure on Vidya because an actress has to give the time and commitment to get the fittings right. Actors don't have time for trials and fittings, we have to literally beg them, but she gave us all the time we needed. 

There were times when we fitted her at 2 and 4 am because it was the only time she had between the long shoots that she was doing.

Image: Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture

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'I watched tons of South Indian films'

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How much weight did she lose for the film?

That I don't know, but yes, she put on weight and then lost some too. In some scenes, we padded her, we used prosthetics. Her body has taken a great toll and she fell ill in between too.

Did she come with you to shop for the costumes?

We were discussing buying clothes from Matunga (in central Mumbai). I did not know that area so she said she would come with me.

Not only did she come with me, she chose other peoples' outfits too -- like for Naseer's wife Radhika (played by theatre actress Shivani) and Silk's mother in the film.

Have you seen Silk Smitha's films?

Yes, I have. I watched tons of South Indian films, not just Silk Smitha's. I watched Helen, Zeenat Aman, Sridevi, Jaya Pradha -- we watched all the 1980s actresses, to get a sense of the time and style. 

Image: Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture

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'I can give Naseerji my daughter's skirt and he will make it look like it is his'

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Naseeruddin Shah has the loudest outfits. Which actor is he based on?

I love his clothes and I love him. His clothes are a mix of those worn by south actors and Bollywood actors. The old south Indian stars often copied styles from Bollywood. 

We did not have any specific actor in mind; we just wanted to get the 1980s period right, but everyone will have their take on which actor we have used. 

Even for Vidya we did the same thing; she is not based on any one actress.

It was reported that when you first tailored Naseer's look, you did not get it right.

We did not. It was so wrong. Naseerji is such a dynamic and amazing actor, anything you put on him looks like it is his, it looks like he has taken it out of his wardrobe. I can give him my daughter's skirt and he will make it look like it is his... it's uncanny.

We had to make the costume for a south Indian character so we thought we will do all the crazy things that come to mind and that we think is hilarious. We gave him everything that we could give him, and he made it look amazing. Everybody loved it. 

But the next day we thought about it and Milan looked at the pictures again and he called up and said, 'this is not my story; what film are we making?' 

Naseerji said he looked like Quick Gun Murugan and not like Suryakant! (the character he is playing). So we had to change it. I thank Milan for telling us we were going wrong.

How did you plan for Tusshar's look?

For Tusshar's character, we had to keep in mind a person who is under his brother's (played by Naseeruddin Shah) shadow. He has money but does not have pizzazz, style and confidence. Once he becomes successful, he turns into a slightly more suave person. The change is not drastic, but there is a subtle difference.

Emraan Hashmi has negative shades in the film.

He is a writer and director, a literary guy. I wanted to change Emraan's look from what we have seen earlier hence the glasses and change in hairstyle and I wanted him to appear to be uncaring about his clothes, but at the same time he has planned his wardrobe.

His clothes are very regular, but carefully chosen.

Image: Poster of The Dirty Picture

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