Sheetal Sharma, the popular fashion and costume designer is known for his intuitive flair for fashion. Having worked on movies like Manto, Kesari and the acclaimed Gangubai, he is now at the top of his game. Mallik Thatipalli talks to him about his work in the recent Telugu film, Sita Ramam and learns the rules of his game…
Gangubai was known for its colour palette and unique sense of style. How was the experience of working with a wizard-like Sanjay Leela Bhansali?
When I got a call from SLB Productions saying that Bansali sir wishes to discuss a project, I thought it must be for one of his production endeavours. But the fact that it was to work in a film directed by him, was something difficult for me to believe.
Sanjay sir has a clear vision of what he wants, and he also narrates with complete clarity of his thought process. So, if one can grasp the explanation of his scene, it’s never difficult to get the best or to create the best for him.
And working with Alia was wonderful, she is a superstar and an amazing actor who can mould herself into the character. It’s rare to see an actor who subtly is such a vision.
How was it working for the Telugu period film, Sita Ramam?
I received a phone call from producer Swapna Dutt regarding Sita Ramam. It was a brief phone call, but I was so enthusiastic after hearing the small bit of her narration, that I was in Hyderabad within the next two days meeting with Hanu Raghavapudi (the director) and hearing the narration and understanding the project into which I was getting.
Hanu was clear about the old-world charm of the 60s and the beauty and innocence of the love stories back then. He wanted the audience to be transported to that world through the vibe and the colours. The entire process was beautiful- the trials, the look tests, the discussions, and the eye for detail without adding anything that overpowers the script.
Hanu sir is a fan of pastel shades and is one of those rare people who understand the merging of art and costume to bring out the best in a scene. Even Swapna has a strong eye for vintage costumes and jewellery, so it was all together a beautiful experience.
What is the most exciting aspect of designing for a period film?
There are multiple interesting reasons, to begin with. The fact that we, as costume designers get the opportunity to recreate something that existed in the past, the feeling of recreating and staying true to it, yet making it look beautiful and appealing is something I love!
I also love researching the history and getting ideas either through reading material or photographic references. The biggest challenge in periodic costumes is to make actors comfortable yet look period apt, as we’ve been so used to wearing clothes in a certain way now.
But the whole recreation and playing with the textures of fabrics and making things from scratch is what I love in this process. In very few films we have the opportunity to explore and experiment with silhouettes, such projects are all the more interesting as we have an open canvas while trying to make it look authentic.
What went behind creating the perfect looks for Mrunal Thakur, Rashmika Mandanna and Dulquer Salmaan?
The three characters are intertwined with each other in two decades, the 60s to the 80s. Each character’s look was based on those eras and keeping the characters real to that space and time, which was done with a lot of research, added a lot of beauty with simplicity. The camera works, art and production design, have further added an amazing old-world charm and beauty to every frame.