In an exclusive interview, costumes designer Reza Shariffi talks about how he devises a frame to design and create costume, how he tries to retain the integrity of the character and the costumes that he has designed so far.
What inspired you to be a costume designer?
I was exposed to a wide variety of fabrics very early in life. I was the first born in my family, having six maternal aunts. For the first five years of my life, they never made me wear a single garment repeatedly. When I grew up I naturally returned that favour and till the date I always wanted to dress them up in my creations. I think this is the source of my inspiration.
When I started working as a designer in a Boutique in Bandra, Mumbai, one of the top designers bought my outfit to style a famous Bollywood actress. It gave me immense satisfaction when I saw the outfit on the screen. That satisfaction germinated into a strong desire.
Since you have designed for almost all the well known B-Town celebrities, How do you manage to pull out the best for everyone?
As a professional costume designer, I devise a frame within which I need to design and create a costume. I keep in mind a few things before I design like the comfort zone of the star, physical attributes of the celebrity, purpose of the costume (is it for movie, live performance, appearance etc.), the time it will be worn (day, night, how much time on the body) and finally my vision of the costume. After I create the costume I evaluate it on all the five parameters very stringently. The outcome rarely falters.
What are the key points, you keep in mind while designing for actresses like Shilpa Shetty, Shraddha Kapoor and others?
As I told you earlier, my five parameters work for each and every costume I create. For movies I try to retain the integrity of the character as much as possible. Tanu Weds Manu and Tanu Weds Manu Returns are the cases in point. I believe ‘clothes maketh the character’ and my costumes are very loyal to the characters my actors play.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is said to be the perfectionist in traditional attires, how did you manage to meet his expectations?
Yes he is a perfectionist. For a Filmfare award function he wore a black kurta designed by me that was the biggest compliment from him. When I worked with Sanjay Leela Bhansali in Devdas, I had extensively made research on my outfits for the movie. It was during Devdas that I crystallised my principles of ‘character integrity’. That we worked again in Saawariya was a compliment in itself.
Kangana Ranaut has worked in movies like Fashion, Queen and Tanu weds Manu, What were the challenges you faced while designing for her upcoming sequel of Tanu weds Manu?
Tanu Weds Manu Returns is the fourth project I have worked for Kangna. As I have designed for both Tanu Weds Manu and soon to be released Tanu Weds Manu Returns, I had a definite line of thought to work on, right from the beginning. Tanu (Kangna as Tanuja Trivedi) is still the feisty lady who could say “Darti to Main kisi ke baap se bhi nahin” in Tanu Weds Manu and “Haalat dekhi hai? Adrak Ho gaya hai ye aadmi” in TWM Returns. Obviously the clothes need to match up!! The colours are bold (as in part one). I have given her costumes which have inherent shock value adding quirky twist using hounds tooth print in pink, Shibori fabric, tie and dye, kilim fabrics with leather and suede combination trimmings and jackets. I have designed printed draped dhotis in ethnic colours and mildly embellished kurtis
In Tanu Weds Manu Returns Kangana also plays Datto aka Kusum. Kusum has a wardrobe of printed floral Salwaar kameezes paired with sporty jackets, knits and sweaters. The colours used for her are more subtle. Datto (a ward of Delhi University from Haryana) wears sporty track suits while practicing her sport on field.
What are your hobbies other than designing?
I love road trips. Shopping from every nook and cranny of the places I stop on the way to my destination gives me happiness beyond compare. When I shop, I focus on its aesthetics first and price later. Though I love small / miniature artifacts, I am not averse to life size animal statues too. I love taking care of stray animals.
Out of all the costumes that you have designed so far, which was your favorite?
A film costume needs to be appealing and independent in the current fashion trend. Then they become memorable because of the way they are carried by the actor in the movie and how they are shot. I don’t think I would deliver a costume unless I love it myself.
Among my many favorites are Devdas - Dola re Dola; Wajood (Madhuri Dixit Nene), Kismat- particularly the dance costumes (Priyanka Chopra), Garv (Shilpa Shetty), Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon (Antra Mali), Shabri (Isha Koppikar), Rahena Hai Tere Dil Mein- Zara zara song (Dia Mirza). Latest is Kangna’s white suit in Tanu Weds Manu (Rangrez song). The list is endless, I can pick one (at least) per project I have done so far. There are times when some outfits are chopped on the editing table or used in a shot for just a few seconds and so on, they never get registered or see the light of day.
You have achieved many awards and designed for almost all the stars. What is your ultimate goal in life?
The film industry has a lot of well known designers, who among them is your role model?
Bhanu Athaiya and Leena Daru.
What is your message to all the aspiring designers?
I maintain that for any chosen field the basics need to be strong. Get your foundations right and then slowly keep building on it. More than theory, practical working knowledge is important. Remain a student all in your life, learn more and more, evolve...
We have learnt that you are currently working for Jacqueline Fernandes and Mallaika Arora Khan, would you like to share about the projects?
Yes, I have been doing lot of work with Jacqueline Fernandes and Mallaika Arora Khan for their live performances.