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Aim of a costume designer is to make characters real and awesome: Dolly Ahluwalia


The actress and costume designer was joined by fellow designers Ana Singh and National award-winner Indrakshi Pattanaik Malik at a session on their craft at the golden jubilee edition of the International Film Festival of India.

Our Correspondent

Talking at a session titled ‘Unveiling the Veil’ at the 50th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), costume designers Dolly Ahluwalia, Ana Singh and Indrakshi Pattanaik Malik, who recently won the National award for Mahanati (2018), spoke about the field of costume designing and the many changes that had taken place in it over the years. 

Ahluwalia, who is a gold medalist in acting from the National School of Drama (NSD), shared her love for clothes, which began at an early age and led to her experimenting with fabrics, shapes, designs, moods and music. She was introduced to the field of costume design at NSD by the legendary Ebrahim Alkazi, who encouraged her in that direction. Offering a definition of the field she said, “Costume design plays an essential but seemingly quiet role in a film."

"The aim of a costume designer is to make characters real and awesome," she added.

Ahluwalia shared the emotional journey she underwent during the making of Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen (1994), which was a definitive moment for her, saying, "I am sitting here because of the work I did on Bandit Queen and what I learnt. Bandit Queen taught me the ABCD of filmmaking."

Ana Singh, who has spent three decades in the industry, is currently working on her 1,011th film! Her first film as a costume designer was the superhit Maine Pyar Kiya (1989) and she spoke about working since the age of 16 and breaking barriers through her work, saying, “I started with Western clothes and people said that’s all I can do. I then did Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994), which changed the way in which the Indian bride dressed.”

From period films and costume dramas to war films and action thrillers, Singh has designed for a whole range of characters in films. She said, "I have experimented with and tried to master every kind of film," adding that the challenge was always to get it correct.

The veteran designers lamented the lack of real ground research in the age of the internet, as sometimes young designers miss out on the finer nuances of a particular era or influence. They also paid tribute to the queen of costume design, the formidable Bhanu Athaiya, who put India on the map by winning the first ever Oscar for Best Costume Design for her work on Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi (1982).

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