Turning back time through threads and drapes

Eka Lakhani, the costume designer of PS-1, being an inevitable part of the crew, took us through the adventure she had experienced.

Published: 08th November 2022 01:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th November 2022 01:51 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI:  Mani Ratnam’s magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan-1 was a visual feast with all the star cast and technical brilliance. When the director painted a beautiful picture of the Cholas, his crew perfected the nuances of the film. Eka Lakhani, the costume designer of PS-1, being an inevitable part of the crew, took us through the adventure she had experienced. 

Entering films
Addressing the gathering on Monday at the Duchess Club at Hotel Savera, in conversation with Nina Reddy, Eka described that she had always been around silks and cotton, thanks to her father who is a textile designer. After completing her fashion designing courses at SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, and Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City, she walked into the “Mani Ratnam film school”, where she learnt to look into everything with an artistic perspective.

“When Sabyasachi Mukherjee was looking for interns to work with him in Raavan in 2010, it was a call for me who would have rather worked in a fashion magazine, to explore the film field. Through that film Santosh Sivan, the cinematographer, noticed me and offered me the position of the costume designer for his period drama, Urumi. After that, it was the Mani Ratnam movies — Kadal, OK Kanmani, Kaatru Veliyidai, and finally Ponniyin Selvan,” shared Eka who has also designed costumes for directors like Rajkumar Hirani and Karan Johar. 

Perfecting the nuances
Even though Kadal was the first Mani Ratnam film that she signed, she said that Ponniyin Selvan was the first film that the director had discussed with her. Putting her heart and soul into the film, she spent hours into the research alone. From going on a recce with a researcher to Thanjavur to study the paintings on the ceiling, sculptures and intricate details, to reading Kalki’s novels and examining Maniam’s illustrations, she did it all.

“The pressure on me was really high as I am from Bombay and I didn’t want to do anything that wasn’t culturally correct. I took notes and pictures from Thanjavur, studied them and understood how different everything was during that time. From books, paintings and research, we took inspiration for the character’s public appearance. What wasn’t there was how Kundavai or Nandini looked when they were not in public and it was left to our imagination.” 

For the men in the film, their armour was an important indication of their personality. Adithya Karikalan’s aggression, Arulmozhi Varman’s calmness, Pazhuvettaraiyar’s pompousness and Vandiyadevan’s carefree demeanour were symbolised through their armour. Explaining about the detailing that went into the armour making, Eka shared, “It took almost six to eight months to make each character’s armour in leather. A whole war field engraved on Vikram’s armour in addition to the tiger motifs on his thigh guard indicates the aggression he has. For Jayam Ravi’s character who is an elephant whisperer, elephant tusks were the inspiration and his Buddhist influence was shown through the softer shade of his armour. For Karthi who always travels, it was more of a travel safety armour rather than a war armour.” 

Beginning her days early at 2 am on the shoot days, dressing up almost 2,000 people every day in varying costumes and experimenting on the drapes and jewellery, she aligned with the vision of Mani Ratnam. Speaking about the director, she shared, “Working with Mani Sir introduced me to my earthy side.  He doesn’t directly say what he wants, instead, he will explain a picture to you; explaining the character, their birth, childhood, daily activities, music and food preference, everything that helps you know the character better. He leaves you with such thoughts and asks to imagine what the character would prefer. He also pushes you to do more. Everything he does is so magical and till we don’t reach there, he keeps pushing you.” Eka also styled all the stars for the promotional events, working further with the team even after the shoot wrapped up. 

The 36-year-old designer also mentioned how her love for films has outgrown her love for fashion, over the years. She hopes to continue working in the movies in any technical field if not as a designer. She also revealed that she is excited for the next Mani Ratnam movie starring Kamal Haasan. She said, “ I don’t know much about the movie and I haven’t read the script yet. But I am excited and let us see what happens with this one.” 


Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp