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Mandira Shukla on costumes and films

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By: Screen Weekly, IndiaFM
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Mandira Shukla is a costume designer whose sartorial expertise was widely acclaimed in Godmother, her debut venture. She is currently designing costumes for Yash Raj Films' Chak De India and Madhuri Dixit's come back vehicle.

How did the dressing up of coach Shah Rukh Khan's Chak De India team go?
I am just back from Melbourne, Australia and the shoot has been really hectic. Having worked on the look of Fanaa earlier, I was a YRF regular. Adi Chopra recommended my name to Shimit Amin for Chak De India. We met up and discussed the look of the film and I was aboard.

Designing track suits and tee-shirts must have been rather easy. Did Chak De India entail any research?
I was quite nervous about designing the look of the women's hockey team in Chak De India, I had no experience in sports wear at all. So I started off by attending several women's hockey matches and researching on the internet. I also conferred with Jaideep Sahni, the writer, who told me to look at the team uniform of Jharkhandi girls' hockey team. It was a challenging job for me. But I am proud to say that I have designed each collar, tee-shirt and every skirt worn by actors in the film.

Have you also designed Shah Rukh's look as the coach of the women's hockey team?
I have prepared a docket for the entire film. Although Shah Rukh Khan has his own designer Shiraz, we have worked in tandem. Shah Rukh's jacket has been designed by me as it is the uniform of the Indian contingent.

It is dream job for any designer to be working with YRF who are so emphatic about the look of their films. How did you wedge your way into YRF?
I really consider myself blessed for being hired by YRF. Indeed they are dream employers for any costumier. It so happened that I applied for the designer's post to Kunal Kohli when I heard that he was making Fanaa. After an extensive interview, he gave me the script and asked me to work on each character. Except for Kajol and Aamir Khan, I have designed clothes for the rest of the cast. But not everything went smoothly as anticipated. I had worked out an entire western look for Rishi Kapoor but at the last minute he changed his mind and wanted pherans from Kashmir. Overnight, I organized four pathani suits and a couple of pherans for him!

If it were star temperaments at YRF, what were the testing factors on your debut venture Godmother, which had won you plenty of acclaim?
Godmother remains ever so special to me not only because it was my debut venture but also because it was dad's (Vinay Shukla) film. Dad provided me with photographs from Porbunder of that community. I got my references from there. I also went to Porbunder twice for further research. The look I have Shabanaji was real and I remember she insisted on living in her costume for three days to get into the skin of the character. The look was appreciated and it also won me the Zee-Cine Award for Best Costumes.

Being a trained textile designer, how authentic are your film costumes to the perios and place you are working on?
As authentic as they can be but at times cinematic liberties are taken. Like when we designed costumes for Mira Nair's Kamasutra we were supposed to be designing costumes for the 11 BC, times when there were no sewing machines. But Meera wanted 80-kali ghaghras which can only be machine-made! However, we stuck to the natural vegetable colour palette of browns and greens.

Which of YRF's next productions are you working on?
I am excited about doing the look of Anil Mehta's film which will be Madhuri Dixit's comeback vehicle. This time I went asking for work as I was very keen on working with a great cinematographer like Anilji. I have read the script and he has given me a very clear brief about what he expects from me. It has and extensive cast and there are many characters for me to dress up.

Being a costume designer, how style conscious are you?
I wear what I like as I am not really fashionable. I still wear long kurtas because I like them. I wear clothes that are comfortable and weather-friendly - chudidars and jeans with kurtas is my personal style statement.

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