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How costumes were recreated for Mahanati along with 100 artisans

Designer Gaurang Shah delved into the past of Savithri, played by actress Keerthy Suresh in the film, interacting with people and industry folks for months for his research.


The costumes of Mahanati (2018), a biopic on legendary actress Savithri, took 100 artisans and over a year to make, says designer Gaurang Shah who makes his debut as costume designer with the project.

Shah delved into the past of Savithri, played by actress Keerthy Suresh in the film, interacting with people and industry folks for months for his research.

It took more than six months of research and over a year of weaving, texturing and colouring for Shah, who as a designer grew up awed by the vintage fashion traditions of India, the ancient artistry, priceless heirlooms and treasures of history, to get the look right.

"The shooting of the movie went on for a year, and the weaving process was uninterrupted," the designer told the IANS news agency in an e-mail. "The whole progression took more than a year-and-a-half from inception of the costumes to the conclusion of the last shoot."

Shah has designed for the likes of Vidya Balan, Sharmila Tagore and many more.

Mahanati, the biographical film written and directed by Nag Ashwin, is based on the life of South Indian actress Savithri. who appeared mainly in Telugu and Tamil language films but also worked in Kannada, Malayalam and Hindi language films. She was also the recipient of the Rashtrapati award and was honoured at the International Film Festival of India.

Mahanati has been filmed simultaneously in Telugu, Tamil and Malayalam and stars Dulquer Salmaan and Samantha Akkineni as well.

Presented by Vyjayanthi Movies and produced by Priyanka Dutt of Swapna Cinema, the trilingual film is slated to be released on 9 May across Indian and global theatres.

On recreating Priyanka and Nag Ashwin's vision of Mahanati, Shah said: "For fashioning the design-to-life look of Savithri and capturing her journey in different moods and sequences in the film, I and my team kept in mind the sensibilities of the actress, including elements such as the choice of fabric, types and textures.

"It is my debut act collaborating with a film of this scale. It gave me a challenging opportunity to showcase Indian saris with great pomp, yet fantastic simplicity. It carries through the journey of the legendary actress Savithri.

"I wanted to ensure that we don't go wrong in capturing the director and his vision of being absolutely authentic in recreating the magic of Savithri in her biopic Mahanati. It was a perfect project for my debut in creating costumes for a beautiful biopic."

A great deal of research has gone into every costume that Savithri's character will be wearing, he said. "We sourced heavy silk fabrics from different parts of India like Kanchipuram and Benares which were enhanced with kota, mangalgiri and block prints that were then handcrafted in our looms by a dedicated team of more than 100 artisans.

"While we used tones that carry a lot of radiance and are associated with a feminine character, we also had to balance it with traditional colours, since Savithri's outfits were all about simplicity and grandeur."

Shah explored and recreated textiles to weave Savithri's journey from her childhood to her death.

"From mangalgiris and kotas with prints for her growing days, to heavy brocades, silks, organzas and handwoven satins and chiffons for her golden era to subtle rendition for her later life, my team travelled extensively to museums and recreated the textiles of that time. Each and every detail of the textile, design, texture and colour was studied and artisans were guided to recreate it," he said.