Famed Indian designer Neeta Lulla, who has designed attires for Ashutosh Gowariker’s forthcoming war film “Panipat” in Bollywood, has shared her views on the experience of working on the projects starring Arjun Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Kriti Sanon in lead roles.
“There are many period dramas that I have done in the past and the beautiful aspect of working on this film is that I just have to evolve myself to another level. After working on so many films, you tend to and want to do something new and different every time.It was a beautiful experience to be able to do yet another period drama with ‘Panipat’,” she stated.
"Panipat" is based on the third battle of Panipat which took place on the 14 of January in 1761 between the Marathas and the King of Afghanistan, Ahmad Shah Abdali. Panipat is place in the northern state of Haryana which is about 60 miles away from capital city of Delhi.
She says the fact of the matter is that “this is an outright war film so to be able to recreate the era, to be able to work on all the research that was available and to be able to create the magnanimity and the beauty of the Maratha Empire once again in a different way was different”. Neeta, through her designed costumes, tries to give life to the imagination of a filmmaker and bring effervescence to the onscreen characters.
“We created a look for Kriti which you haven’t seen before. Also to be able to create the Afghan look of Sanjay Dutt was also a different experience,” she added.
Based on the Third Battle of “Panipat”, the film is scheduled to release on 6 December, 2019.
Arjun is playing the role of the Maratha warrior, Sadashiv Rao Bhau in the film while Kriti is portraying the role of Parvati Bai, his wife. Sanjay will be seen as Ahmad Shah Abdali on the big screen - the main antagonist.
Talking about the fate of some of the past films that touched the story of real life historical incidences for instance “Padmaavat” and how the growing controversy forced director Sanjay Leela Bhansali to change the presentation of lead character Deepika Padukone in one of the songs, Neeta elucidates that she stays away from negative thoughts when she works on some project.
“No, I am never going to any negative aspect of any kind when I am doing clothes like this because for me, creativity is a meditation and positive art form. Every time I work on a project, I go to it with a very positive heart and mind. There is a lot of research available so recreating that and just putting my sensibilities on that recreation to make it different was my focus. Research has come from books and speaking to people, internet,” she said.
“I don’t leave any stone unturned when I do such projects,” she added. For her, period costume cinema is her personal favourite.
Stating that the intense research process excites her than anything else, Neeta said: “It's not just about creating a cinematic look but to re-imagine the styling, costumes, jewellery of the rich heritage and history. It's a very sensitive process as we are dealing with history.”
“Thus, maintaining authenticity yet making it look glamorous for celluloid is a dextrous task. Right from the square inch of motif to how the fabric reflects on camera, every minute detail has to be on point. I love working under such meticulous detailing. It's not just about dressing an actor, it's about rendering iconic characters through detailed styling. And, I enjoy that a lot,” she said.
So is she expecting another national award with this film?
“I never expect such things and like I said, I just get into these things with positive, clean and clear mind but if this will happen, it will be my fifth. It’s always a good feeling to get it,” said the designer who has won National Award in 1991 for “Lamhe” starring late Sridevi; in 2002 for Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Devdas”; in 2009 for Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan starrer “Jodhaa Akbar” and in 2012 for Marathi film “Balgandharva.
She has also worked in over 300 films in more than seven languages in Indian and international projects and has also designed for period drama "Kochadaiiyaan - The Legend", the country's first Photorealistic Performance Capture Film starring southern matinee idol Rajinikanth.
Neeta says that credit should be given late filmmaker Yash Chopra for changing the way costumes are perceived and given due importance in Bollywood films now.
"This is would attribute to late Yash Chopra with whom I worked in films like ‘Darr’ , ‘Aaina’, ‘Lamhe’ and ‘Chandni’ where we brought out the essence of the heroine or the beauty of visuals and I think a lot of directors have looked at this collectively.
“Ashutosh Gowariker has also looked at it in a way where he wants the visuals to be different and he wants it to be beautiful in keeping with the story and scripting in mind. It’s a war film so it’s not necessary that it should just pretty and beautiful,” signs off Neeta by sharing that she is also working on famous late Tamil Nadu chief minister, Jayalalithaa biopic with actress Kangana Ranaut and is currently in Chennai for that.
Four-time national award winner ace designer Lulla had also designed gown for Ivanka Trump- US President Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser- during her first visit to India in 2017. The designer also designed dresses for Steven Seagal, Tyra Banks, The Chainsmokers and DJ KSHMR. Starting her journey at the young age of 16, India’s most celebrated designer became the first designer to launch her online retail platform in 2008 and by 2009 she established her distribution network over five continents.