A CUT ABOVE
Filmfare|October 2021
ANALITA SETH INTERVIEWS ICONIC COSTUME DESIGNER NEETA LULLA AND COMES AWAY IMPRESSED
ANALITA SETH

Mason Cooley once said, “Clothes make a statement, costumes tell a story.” The cuts and stitches of a costume can take visual representations of characters a notch higher. Costume designing in Indian cinema has always been a larger-than-life affair. None know it better than Neeta Lulla. She’s a brand when it comes to costume designing and has proved her mettle time and again with films like Devdas, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Manikarnika and her latest film, Thalaivii. She’s a perfectionist and believes in the power of a costume elevating the entire persona of a character on screen. Sharing her three decade long journey at the movies, Neeta Lulla reminisces about the time gone by and discusses the way forward for the fashion Industry.

YOUR LATEST FILM, THALAIVII IS RECEIVING A LOT OF PRAISE FOR KANGANA RANAUT’S LOOK. TELL US WHAT KIND OF WORK AND RESEARCH WENT INTO MAKING JAYALALITHA’S LOOKS COME TO LIFE FOR THE SCREEN?

I thought it would be an easy ride because we had so much pictorial evidence of Jaya Maa, right from the time she entered films at 16. Despite all of that, I was wrong because for every recreated outfit that we worked on, I had to see the original song at least sixteen to seventeen times to get it right. Every time we would watch the song, there would be a new detail, implementation or accessory that’d crop up and we’d had to rework, restructure and restyle the outfit again, whether it was for Kangana Ranaut or Arvind Swamy. When you work on films that do not have structured looks and evidential images, it becomes easy to walk a thin line of making things believable working with the imagery and research you have on you. But with this, to be able to create to the T, every aspect of her life was an amazingly difficult task. Recreating the inner structuring of her inner saree for the last half of the film was not an easy task. What I feel blessed about is that I could pull this off to the best of my abilities.

YOU’VE WORKED WITH KANGANA IN MANIKARNIKA, HOW MUCH HAS SHE CHANGED AS AN ARTISTE?

In Manikarnika, I saw Kangana giving her hundred per cent into creating the character and working on the character to the best of her abilities. But during Thalaivii, I saw that go upto two hundred per cent. As an artiste, you can see that she enjoys her work and involves herself completely in the process of bringing her characters to life. She’s evolving and getting better with time.

YOU’VE DESIGNED FOR AISHWARYA RAI BACHCHAN IN BOTH REAL AND REEL LIFE. WHAT KIND OF DESIGNER-ARTISTE DYNAMICS DO YOU SHARE WITH HER?

With Aishwarya, I have shared a real and reel life bond for almost sixteen years. She has been a stickler for perfection and she is someone who carries off her clothes with a great deal of style. I feel like I always know what I have to give her for her to carry off a particular look. That is something that is very important in a designer-muse relationship where you understand the stance, structure, personality of your muse and can dress them aptly.

WHICH ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE FILMS FROM BOTH HOLLYWOOD AND BOLLYWOOD THAT YOU THINK HAD EXCEPTIONAL COSTUME DESIGN?

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