Vishal Bhardwaj, who earlier explored the badlands of western Uttar Pradesh for Omkara, wanted a rustic Haryana setting for his new film Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola and set costume designer Payal Saluja on the job. And what an image change it turns out to be for its stars Imran Khan and Anushka Sharma!
'Chocolate boy' Imran has turned a Haryana boy, complete with full beard, earrings and muscles. And Anushka Sharma, marked for her Punjabi image, wears a grungy look. Veteran Pankaj Kapoor wears two looks - one classy and another as rustic as it gets!
Set in a Haryana village, the comedy-drama is about Harry Mandola (Pankaj), an industrialist whose life revolves around drinking and daughter Bijlee (Anushka), and both father and daughter share an unusual bond with Harry's Man Friday, Matru (Imran).
Bhardwaj was clear in his directive, says Saluja. "He wanted an authentic Haryana flavour in the look of the film."
It was a challenge given the cast.
"Imran has an urban look and image. We had to add a rustic flavour. Vishal didn't want a raw-looking protagonist since he wanted to show the character as educated and well-travelled. So we worked around a modern rustic look for Imran," Saluja said.
For his character, Imran was made to wear a 'khamiz', the tunic worn by men in the region. He was given a 'gamcha', the handy scarf slung across the shoulders. He also sported a heavily bearded look during the shoot and went out of his way to get his ears pierced to wear 'murki' (gold earrings worn by men in the region).
The usually lean Imran beefed up to play Matru. The fair-skinned actor was also given a natural tan to become what Saluja likes to describe as a "sexy rustic man".
"Imran was accommodating. He wanted to get comfortable with the accessories and used to wear them and the costume even after the shoot. The look is not caricaturish, and he carried it all naturally," said Saluja, who earlier worked with Bhardwaj on Saat Khoon Maaf, Ishqiyaand Maqbool.
Pankaj Kapoor, who Saluja considers is a "bank of knowledge and talent", was given two looks.
"He is naturally rustic looking. So for one look, he had to look like a rich, classy industrialist. We had to design a businessman's image. We used natural fabrics like linen in muted tones like grey, beige and off white, and accessorised it with hats and stoles. We sourced some high-class hats from Europe.
"For Pankaj-ji's second look, we went into the interiors of northern India, to Rohtak, where you will find people who are as Jat as it gets. So we drew this look through the people in the villages," said Saluja, who took a month for her research to style the movie.
Anushka's look required some mix and match. So far, Anushka has been seen as a city girl with Punjabi touch but this movie sees her in a different light.
"For one sequence, we got a 'desi ghaghra' made. It is traditional and its 'ghera' was made out of 26 metres of cloth. The ghaghra, made by locals, was heavy, and despite Anushka's tiny waist, she used to wear it happily," she said.
When so much work goes into designing looks and wardrobe for the cast, the budget has to be big.
Bhardwaj was kind with the budget, says Saluja, refusing to divulge any figures.
"Vishal understands costume well. He takes a lot of interest in each department, and so it is satisfying to work with him," she said.
The film is expected to come out January.
(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)