MUMBAI—A psychological analysis of the characters and 300 years-old leather techniques made up the “Padmaavat” wardrobe, noted designer-duo Vipul Amar and psychologist Harsheen Arora, who combined their forces to create warrior costumes for Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in the movie.
After making Sushant Singh Rajput look like a warrior in “Raabta,” Delhi-based design house The V Renaissance has showcased their design proficiency once again. “They first approached us to create one look for Ranveer Singh’s earlier battles in the film,” said Amar. “During this time, we had just finished work on a bridal lehenga in leather, they liked the technique that we had employed in that piece, so they also asked us to create the armor for Shahid Kapoor’s final battle. After Mr. Bhansali saw these armors, he asked us to create one for Khilji’s final battle as well.”
These armors are a result of back-breaking research, not only in terms of their authenticity but also their functionality. The duo consulted an engineer to confirm the mechanics incorporated in the armors. “Authenticity and mobility of the armors was our prime concern as it is imperative that the actor is able to perform stunts in them. Hence, we carried out thorough research on the armories and weaponries of the era around which the film revolves. We employed actual historical techniques to create the armors such as cuirboilli technique, sculpting, chiseling and inlaying to name a few, while making sure they align with today’s standards of comfort and weightlessness,” said Amar.
Accompanying historical and functional research, the construction of the armors also comprises Arora’s expertise of psychological analysis of the characters being portrayed by Kapoor and Singh along with Bhansali’s vision of his characters. Ratan Singh (Kapoor) is an embodiment of love and patriotism while Allaudin Khilji (Singh) embodies conquest and invasion.
Interestingly, even though the same materials have been used in their armors, they have been treated differently to depict their opposing personalities. Both the characters are so strong and contrasting that the challenges while designing for both cannot be compared. The techniques used in armors for both of them vary drastically.
“The concept of The V Renaissance as a brand is to create products embodying your personality, needs and desires; which we achieve using psychological interview as a medium, be it interiors, furniture, apparel, wedding ensemble, trousseau, luggage, bags, costumes and more. We employed the same principle while designing the armors for the film,” revealed Arora.
She added, “Once I was able to understand Mr. Bhansali’s vision of Maharawal Ratan Singh, it helped in bringing elements to his armor that represent nobility and honor. Even the colors used for Shahid’s armor show just that. The blood-red depicts honor, love, and eagerness to serve one’s land and the deep gold stands for courage, generosity and passion. Not only that, the design elements in Kapoor’s armor are inspired by the sun-rays, and the chest-plate is colored like the Rajputana soil at different times of the day.”
She went on, “Now if we see the details of the armor for Maharawal Ratan Singh, the whole suit is a blend of shades of the Rajputana soil – shades of Gold and Blood Maroon. A criss-cross of geometrical design that signifies purpose and direction that drives Rajput bravery was the key. On the chest of the armor is an inlay work of metal wire running on the leather bust, a mark of valor. Vipul Amar being a cinematic person created the color and wire pattern, keeping in mind how the camera will see the armor as well. The principle of light and shadow has been the basis of designing these armors.”
On the other hand, Khilji’s armor represents a Sultan. “The leather lions on his shoulders show his strong-headedness. The lions have been chiseled and hammered to bring into form as a part of the technique that is also symbolic to Khilji’s conquest. Also, the darkness of the character has been enhanced by engraving reptile scales on the lion heads,” said Arora.
The Khilji Armor is a larger-than-life armor that has been created in multiple layers. Ranveer Singh’s character required an embodiment of pure evil and ruthlessness, to portray this, so the top layer, as well as the inner vest of the armor, is engraved with alligator scales. The skirt of the armor comprises thousands of individual fish scales that were engraved and hand-crafted from Italian leather and fixed with two pin-size metal studs per scale. In addidtion to that, each fish scale was individually colored in different colors derived from natural elements.
The shoulder guard of the Khilji armor consists of three layers each. Each layer employed a different technique on leather with design elements inspired from the era. The top chest-plate is made from another special kind of Italian leather, and an extensive process of engraving and sculpting has gone into it. The golden jewelry work on the armor is all hand-finished in leather too.
An engineer was consulted to make the movements of the armor functional and to create a domino effect to the whole look. The ergonomics were looked into with equal priority as the designs. “Our design studio for those 10 months saw every kind of mason and technician of highest acumen. This has been the experience of a lifetime,” noted Amar.
Even the storage of these costumes was unique. When not in use, the armors rested on life-sized mannequins, which were then placed inside vintage closet trunks. These are no ordinary trunks, since they are fitted with lights and wheels for easy transport.
‘The V Renaissance’ is a company that designs bespoke luxury and soulful products for their clientele starting from scratch, taking into account the client’s personality and requirements. It is one of the most intriguing ventures put forward by a very uncommon group of visionaries – an artist and entrepreneur, Vipul Amar, a financial advisor – Gireesh S. Nair, and a psychologist – Harsheen K. Arora.
However, a series of thoughts crossed my mind: Would the film have been any less a success had all those back-breaking and finicky details NOT been followed? Who noticed the alligator scales and the work on the lions? Do we notice that or the more important elements of the story? What was more important: Ranveer Singh’s expressions and body language or his armor details? Why miss the wood for the trees? Why needlessly increase the costs of production? Apart from basic authenticity, did anyone go so deep into past historical that were smash hits?
Sigh! These are rhetorical questions. But can we still get honest answers?