Film costumiers Abhishek Roy and Poulami Gupta tell us about the challenges of creating looks
Abhishek and Poulami feel that more than creativity, it requires speedy production coupled with a thorough understanding of the script, and smooth coordination with the set designing and camera teams
Designing clothes is one thing and designing clothes for films, television, and OTT platforms is another thing altogether. More than creativity, it requires speed of production coupled with a thorough understanding of the script, the film's plot, the period represented, and smooth coordination with the set designing and camera teams. We interviewed two young and emerging Tollywood costumiers and stylists -- Abhishek Roy and Poulami Gupta – who are doing impressive work on screen. Abhishek has designed for films like Byomkesh Gotro, Byomkesh Hatyamancho, Bismillah, Khela Jokhon, Guptadhoner Sandhane, Durgeshgorer Guptadhan and Haami2 among others with Fatafati, Mayakumari and Shaajghor waiting to be released. Poulami too has worked in such recent films as Rituparna Weds Prosenjit, Bhotbhoti, Aye Khuku Aye, Kacher Manush and Abar Bochor Kuri Porey and Jomaloye Jibonto Bhanu, Aranyer Din Ratri and Mayaa are up for release.
Both of them have completed a decade in the film industry and we get a drift of what it takes to dress the actors on screen.
How much has the scene changed for you both when it comes to styling in Bengali films?
Abhishek: Well, experience wise a lot has changed for me. 10 years back, when I was new to the industry, acceptability was an issue. Of course, that has changed, now. My first proper job in the industry was working for a television serial, Kanamachi which was by Raj Chakraborty. I was fresh out of Visva Bharati (where Roy studied textiles in Kala Bhavan) and I didn’t have an idea how to source clothes. But if you ask me about the financial prospects, nothing much has changed since I started out. Work opportunities have increased and so has our importance but payment-wise there hasn’t been a vast change of scene.
Poulami: I worked as a product developer in a few big export houses before shifting to Kolkata and joining the film industry. My first project was the super hit film Paglu and I had to style the lead cast Dev and Koel Mallick. I immediately realized the vast difference in terms of the way things work here. The export industry is very organized, unlike the film industry where you have to do everything on your own. Your success as a film costumier depends majorly upon your managerial skills.
Abhishek: Yes, it’s one thing to design clothes on your own but it’s completely different to design costumes for films. You have to create an entire look with details that match the script and the character. But there is no timeline and budget for the same.
Poulami: One example at hand is that we both are working together for the upcoming period film Shaajghor for which we have a 10 days’ pre-production timeline.
That’s what makes our job difficult and challenging.
Abhishek: As a designer, your products are a result of your own thought process, but as a film costumier, you have to take into account others’ visions too including the director's and the cinematographer’s. Also, the camera has its own eyes -- everything doesn’t look good on camera.
Poulami: If I am designing for the main cast, I have to know what the others in the cast are wearing to match the palette, background and colour set on the screen. Hence coordination with the director of photography and production designer is crucial.
Abhishek: The most difficult part is to design a period film. Creating the looks for Byomkesh Gotro was very challenging. It’s a period film, and personally, I like the research and creativity involved in such movies. Also, Arindam Sil, who directed the film, was very particular about the costumes. I also loved designing the looks for Indraadip Dasgupta’s Bismillah.
Poulami: I loved doing the costumes for the recently released film, Bhotbhoti. Since it’s all about magic realism I had to create that weathered rustic look that also felt like a dream and it was extremely challenging because there was a huge budget constraint too. But since the director’s brief was very clear regarding the colour and mood board, it was a satisfying experience. Also, it was challenging to turn superstar Prosenjit Chatterjee into a vendor for the film Aye Khuku Aye. I made sure that everything looked authentic -- right from the tattered sandals, the watch with ground glass, and peeled shirt collars to weathered shawls.
What kind of innovation is required?
Abhishek: A lot of innovation is required in a profession like ours. While recreating a retro look, we have to create similar pieces out of the existing resources, often using different materials that were not available during the referred period. But when you see copies of your work being sold in the market, it makes all that worthwhile.
Poulami: Innovation is the name of the game here. Despite the budget constraints I have to put my best work on screen and there have been many instances when budget didn’t permit certain looks and I used things from my own wardrobe to match the looks.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Abhishek: Each time the inspiration is different. Sometimes it’s the story and sometimes it’s the character that inspires me to make something new.
Poulami: I always observe people around, the ordinary people that I come across in tea stalls or shops and other public places. I make a mental note of what they are wearing because you never know when you get to create such a look on screen.
Abhishek: I love watching Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films for the larger-than-life and detailed production. The vision is breathtaking and it’s a visual experience.
Pictures by Debarshi Sarkar