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Character Sketches: Bollywood’s best and worst dressed characters this decade

A lowdown on the sartorial choices made in Bollywood movies in this decade some good, some bad, some you should read below…

There were many characters we saw onscreen this decade be it Ranveer Singh’s Alauddin Khilji, Shahid Kapoor’s Haider, Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu’s Saand Ki Aankh, cool boys from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – all had a flavor which isn’t only the acting chops but was brought into the characters with their looks too.

Costume stylists, designers, makeup artists, hair department all collaborate to bring us one character that we’d love or hate! Our hatred for Khiliji or love for Jhilmil from Barfi is much attributed to their costume. Many times bollywood got it right and many a times it missed. Here’s a list of characters we felt were/were not justified by their costumes this decade.

Murad from Gully Boy

Ever wondered why Apna Time Ayega and Meri Gully Mein became the anthem of youngsters? Besides Naezy, Divine and Ankur Tiwari, much credit goes to the craft of costume designers Arjun Bhasin and Poornamrita Singh for making it look all authentic.

Be it Murad’s Dharavi destiny or turning it around for his aspirations- fake Adidas, ill-fitting pants and faded striped hoodies made us believe in Zoya Akhtar’s narration.

Remember that one scene from the rap battle where Gully Boy Murad is standing against rich-kid Shah Rule and the latter comments on Murad’s clothes. Gully Boy gives it back to Shah Rule saying “Kapde silayele khud ke dum se, nahi liye maine apne baap se,” Singh couldn’t have done justice to these lines without those slouchy clothes and ragged shoes. Shah Rule’s gold chains, fancy jacket and branded t-shirt also helped us draw the contrast between two different worlds meeting at one platform.

Another instance is when Murad is amazed by MC Sher’s performance at a college fest – Murad’s shirt over a vest, side parted hair and his expressive eyes tell us that the dharavi boy is smitten with the new-gen rapstar Sher’s style.

Throughout Murad’s journey is in little details like surma, tabeez and stubble beard which makes you believe in his dreams and makes you stand by him throughout the film. And let’s not forget the lust and love you see in Murad’s eyes once he receives original Adidas in the final shot of the movie. All thanks to Poornamrita and Bhasin for wandering around tiny streets of Bangkok and Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar.

Roop and Bahar Begum from Kalank

Until and unless one is told that Kalank is set in 1945, one can’t guess it. Designer Manish Malhotra’s costumes just don’t fall in place with what Karan Johar’s story wanted to say.

Starting from set design to costumes to dialogues to script, everything seemed more Bhansali-esque. Bahar Begum’s (Madhuri Dixit) world and the kind of costumes she wears didn’t go hand in hand. Especially the colour-coordinated lehenga, royal interior and lavish jewelry didn’t bring out the essence of Heera Mandi. And one can’t empathize with Madhuri’s character because one didn’t connect to her world.

To be honest, replacing these designer dresses with something more native could have helped. Even when the story narrates that Roop (Alia Bhatt) belongs to a lower class, her specially curated lehenga in rajvaadi odhni makes it difficult for us to buy.

Besides all this Baaki Sab First Class Hain!

Mamta from Sui Dhaga

Chiffon sarees, kala dhaga, nose-ring, sindoor and a red bindi – all that a suhagan from any small town would wear. Anushka Sharma as Mamta in Sui Dhaga is visually convincing.

Mamta is someone who is trying to teach her husband Mauji take pride in what he does. She plays the inspiration in Mauji’s life and constantly supports him. The couple also struggles to find some personal space whilst living with extended family. The lines on Mamta’s face, constant-plastic smile and the pallu on her head says’ it all!

Designer Darshan Jalal and makeup artist Clover Wootton created the persona of Mamta with multi-coloured printed sarees paired with cardigans, curls around her forehead, mid-parted braid and bangles. Director Sharad Katariya revealed that the cosmetics used for the makeover were from local market which actually brought the best to the character.

Sadashiv Rao from Panipat

Costume Designer Neeta Lulla in an interview to Mid Day had said that Panipat has similar costumes as Bajirao Mastani because both are period drama set in the same time. We can’t agree more. But, it cannot be ignored that industry veteran Lulla couldn’t have done anything differently.

In a way the costumes weren’t supported by the character like Arjun Kapoor as Sadashiv Rao didn’t look fierce. We cannot say this is how gallant Maratha warriors used to look back then.

Little could Lulla do with the fabric if Kapoor couldn’t bring the fire in his eyes and intensity that is needed for the character. The way Kapoor walks, delivers dialogues or plays with the sword- everything falls flat and is less enticing. This is when we cannot help but compare Gowariker’s film to Bhansali’s Bajirao.

Kaira from Dear Zindagi

You cannot look at a person and tell if he/she is going through a mental health problem – costume designer Anaita Shroff Adajania made it pretty clear with Kaira in Dear Zindagi.

Thank You Adajania for not stereotyping the concept of mental health and letting Kaira wear comfortable clothes. One look at the character and one will notice how messed up she is. Instead of letting that reflect in her attire, the makers use small instances such as Kaira having a breakdown at work and walking out of the place or the one where she breaks a jar in a supermarket.

From dresses to jeans to tank tops and distressed denim Kaira wears it all but when it comes to grooming she’s not on point. Kaira ties a bun or a pony in half of the film making it more relatable. One can notice her transition via her sartorial choices in the movie. After meeting Jag (Shah Rukh Khan) her pretentious smile turns into laughter and restless eyes turn lively but also her hair are in place.

Rohan from Student Of The Year 2

Starting from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai to Student of the Year 2, KJo never fails to create his own world of imagination where everything is Gucci and Prada and is far far away from reality.

Overdone makeup, male protagonist with six-pack abs and female leads looking like glam-dolls in sports bra and crop tops is too much to believe in.

Film critic Anupama Chopra said that the girls in the movie looked like they came directly from Vogue photoshoot. We agree!

Even if we give Punit Malhotra a chance to tell the story and forget about KJos world, we don’t see the commitment to the characters. Rohan (Tiger Shroff) is a student of Pishorilaal Chamandas college who comes from a poor background but looks like a model right out of a Manish Malhotra catalogue. Those branded pants, t-shirts and biceps make it difficult for us to buy Rohan’s story.

Shashi from English Vinglish

For Sridevi’s comeback movie costume department of Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish didn’t leave any stones unturned to design Shashi’s world which was coloured with Sabyasachi sarees. Sridevi aced the character in those cotton saris and short-sleeve blouses.

An Indian woman who loves making ladoos is constantly looked down upon by her family because she can’t speak English. Later she goes to New York and wants to learn the language to put her best foot forward but not at the cost of her own identity.

She meets new people, learns a new language and culture- all in those regular sarees. That’s what we love about Shashi. She takes over New York with Pallu on one shoulder, handbag on the other completing it with a bindi and mangalsutra of course. When Shashi starts speaking decent English, we see the confidence in her eyes. The way she walks down the New York street in an over coat on saree and coffee in one hand, we know she’s got it.

Little details in Shinde’s story made it real. From Shashi trying to get her Visa approved in broken English to giving a speech at her niece’s wedding, we are with her throughout the journey. That speech in a red silk saree, mid-parted braid and kundals definitely made us proud of Sridevi’s character.

Jhilmil from Barfi

Priyanka Chopra in an Koffee With Karan interview had said that first time Anurag Basu came for narration of Barfi – he almost got up and left as Chopra was all decked up in a gown and he wasn’t sure anymore that she can do Jhilmil. But what we saw on screen was convincing.

Bringing out the innocence of a beautiful character as Jhilmil would have been as difficult for the designers as for the actor Priyanka Chopra. Costume designer Aki Narula and Shafalina did a commendable job sketching the character. Portraying a character with mental health issues, with so much honesty is something that made the Jhilmil’s character stand out.

Jhilmil took us back to the days when there were little things to worry about. The character fearlessly playing around in that white frock, black strapped shoes and red shrug is something we crave for as adults. Playing with a mirror wouldn’t have looked cute if it wasn’t for those oversized printed kurta and curls falling on Jhilmil’s face.

When Jhilmil tries to overdo Shruti by wearing a saree we know she’s not comfortable and yet is willing to take that risk for Barfi. Thanks to the designers to reflect so many emotions through a saree over kurta paired with a white hairband.

This article was first published on India City Blog

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Srivalli Kasibhatta

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