Amitabh Bachchan in Thugs of Hindostan.
YRF’s Thugs of Hindostan that released on Thursday is set in 1795 and while it has been the most anticipated project of 2018, the look of the actors has got the audience curious. Costume designer duo Manoshi Nath and Rushi Sharma, who are known for their work in films like PK, Queen and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy, were excited to work on the project that was starkly different from their previous work.
In an interview with indianexpress.com, the duo talk about their journey to the Hindostan of 1795 and what they think of the Pirates of the Caribbean comparisons.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Q. How did the journey of Thugs of Hindostan begin for both of you?
Manushi: We have been working for three and a half years on the film now. Of course, it was Victor’s (director Vijay Krishna Acharya) narration that started it for us. He is a very good actor himself and his narration is brilliant. So, that’s what started it all for us.
Rushi: No, that pressure wasn’t there at all. When we first heard the narration, we didn’t know the scale of the film. That took us by surprise. It is only when they started designing action sequences, it hit us that this is a really large one. There was a separate unit for shoes and armour. A separate unit for men and women. A separate unit only for bulk army uniform.
Q. What went into the research of the film? Where did you draw references from?
Manushi: There are no photographs of that time. So, our initial research included a lot of paintings, fabrics and jewellery of India. We also had books from Roli Books and Alkazi Foundations for the Arts. After that, we referred to Samuel Bourne’s photography and exhibitions of Din Dayal photographs. Also, Persian art and studying the silk route at that time helped.
Q. A challenge with period films is to stay true to the era yet make them distinctive from the historicals made in Hindi cinema. How did you manage that?
Rushi: Because it is an era which is different in itself, the problem is already solved. The other aspect is that we have created a fantasy world in the film itself. That is where we have the maximum creative liberty. Of course, fashion was not changing fast at that time but the economic structure of the country was changing rapidly, that disparity gave us a lot of layers. A lot of the fabrics that are being revived today, we could use them. That was a fantastic journey for us.
Q. How conscious were you about designing costumes for the lead actors?
Rushi: The story decided the costume. What was great was that these actors are the pillars of Indian cinema and they were so open and receptive. They were happy to wear whatever we were designing for them. Mr Bachchan, for example, really suffered in that armour. He would say, ‘It’s hurting, it’s heavy.’ We would tell him to take it off between the shots and he would refuse, saying, ‘I would come out of the character.’ At no point of time, was there a doubt in his mind about what he had to do. There was no complaint.
Q. Irrespective of the period that the film is set in, fans have an image of how their favourite stars should look on screen. Did that bother you while designing the costumes?
Manushi: For example, Suraiyya’s character (Katrina Kaif) is absolutely glamourous but the glamour is given because of the way the character has been written, not because we have to make her look glamourous.
Rushi: The point was that it should not look like the image of Katrina Kaif. The point was to stay true to the story and the script. So, it was not Katrina Kaif but Suraiyya that we were designing for. Once you realise that it is the character, not the actor, the rest of the journey is very easy.
Q. What do you have to say about the comparison of Thugs of Hindostan with Pirates of the Caribbean? Was that film ever a point of discussion in the team while making the film?
Rushi: Wherever you will see a ship, there will be a Pirates (comparison). Everybody likes to go to familiar things. If Black Sails (television series) was a bigger screen thing, Thugs would have been compared to Black Sails. People who haven’t watched Pirates of Caribbean aren’t comparing. It’s just that two per cent of the population who have watched Pirates of the Carribean. Pirates was never the reference for us. It was 1795.