Making Sonam Kapoor look like Audrey Hepburn
Gleaming in pearls and a peach lace outfit, Pernia Qureshi looks like she just walked out of Aisha's shoot. You may mistake her to be the lead character Aisha, but she takes it affably, and returns it with a grin.
In an interview with Anisha Ralhan, the Delhi-based designer explains her Siamese-twin relationship with Aisha (the character) and how it made the task of designing costumes for the film almost effortless.
What was the brief given to you for the lead character Aisha? In the trailers, Sonam Kapoor looks like the Indian face of Audrey Hepburn.
I was given the script before the brief. Since I had read Emma, it was easy to imagine what the character needed to look like. When I met the directors, they just made it clearer. They wanted her to be extremely feminine. They demanded a soft look for the character, which means she needs to look trendy, young and fun, and not come across somebody as harsh by being pretentious or half-naked. Something what a real girl would be. A real girl wouldn't roam about half-naked even though she's hot.
What I had to keep in mind was that she's upper-class; somebody who loves to splurge on clothes and accessories and has to look gorgeous. You can see her donning several hats and bows; pearls and rings and shoes. Shopping for her hair accessories was so much fun.
But I was also told that she should not look elusive. People should identify with her. So my challenge was to breed the character in luxury and not go over the top.
So how did you go about preparing her wardrobe? What does it essentially consist of?
Her wardrobe has a bit of everything. I prodded through the look-book's of all the designers, considering Aisha has a penchant for up market fashion. I borrowed a few outfits from Indian designers from their old collection.
Then I went to New York for 10 days and sourced a substantial number of outfits for the film. We walked in all kinds of stores, picked up garments off the street. It used to be really exhaustive. We would hurriedly eat our breakfasts and rush out, shop all the day and crash. One night we even missed our dinner because by the time we got back to our hotel, everything was shut.
I knew the girls had to have a flamboyant couture. So I went overboard with bows and laces and gave them a lot of feminine accessories.
After I got back from New York, we had put everything together, so you could see a Dior top paired with the flee-market Janpath skirt. It was a long process of short listing the actual costumes.
Image: Sonam Kapoor, inset Pernia Qureshi
'I am a Kuchipudi dancer'
The song is based on a south Indian Punjabi wedding. It's about a Mallu girl marrying a Punjabi boy. So the look of the song had to be traditional. The bride had to look like a typical south Indian bride. I gave her my Kuchipudi jewellery -- I am a Kuchipudi dancer. It's basically temple jewellery. But we wanted the other girls to look like bridesmaids. So they had to look similar and have a tinge of South-Indian dressing-style.
We gave this brief to Anamika Khanna and she came up with beautiful white saris with zari border. I thought she did a terrific job.
What was the desired look for Lisa Haydon and Amrita Puri?
All the characters in the film are remarkably different from one another so it was easy to style them and I had a platform to play with a range of outfits.
Lisa plays a corporate girl. She's is a no-nonsense person. Her sensibility reflects in her wardrobe. Aisha's still a girl but Lisa is a mature lady. She intimidates the other girls because she is very beautiful and sophisticated. Her corporate look demanded structured clothes, fitted corsets. She is the sexy girl in the office. A modern, professional character. We didn't use colours or frills. Elegant was more like it. Though she always likes to look sexy, we made sure it's not screaming out of her.
Amrita Puri, on the other hand, is a lost girl, who comes from a small town. She looks up to Aisha and by the end of the film transforms into a mini-me version of Aisha. So whatever I chose for Aisha was replicated for her, not as luxurious, because she was not as rich as Aisha.
Even in the beginning I wouldn't say she is tacky. She had to be simple and cute-looking in a salwar kameez. I remember having a small argument with the director over a hideous necklace which she was made to wear and I protested against it. I thought she might be a small-town girl who needs a makeover but she doesn't necessary come across as hideous because I didn't want to ruin the aesthetics of the film. Except for that one scene, I actually got away with doing it my way throughout the film. In that aspect, I have been fortunate.
Image: A scene from Aisha
'I have used a large part of my wardrobe to spruce Aisha'
I love Aisha simply because my personal style is same as hers. It was easy for me to dress her because I was asked to think as if I'm dressing up myself. That's also the reason why I agreed to do it as my first film. I think Rhea (Kapoor, producer) approached me because she saw Aisha in me (chuckles).
I have used a large part of my wardrobe to spruce Aisha. I stole my sister's Chanel bag, and gave it back to her. I also found useful stuff in Sonam and Rhea's closet. I shamelessly went all over the place to get the perfect look for Aisha. If I have to count the number of labels, designers and friends I used for Aisha, the number will go over 100.
What kind of rapport did you share with Sonam Kapoor?
Sonam is a friend and an absolute sweetheart. She is a blessing for a designer because she loves clothes. I made her try hundreds of outfits even though we didn't use of half of what she was made to wear. I remember the poor girl would be collapsing and I'll go buzzing, 'one more please!' She was a pleasure in that sense.
I was also very close to Rhea. The bonding between us made it so much fun. So it was like a bunch of girls getting ready together and having dollops of fun. Rhea's opinion was always valid, she used to be there in all our fittings.
So how do you rate Sonam's personal style?
Sonam is feminine but she's also very experimental. I remember, there was a phase during Aisha's shoot when she became obsessed with black lipstick and wore it all the time. And I was anxious because Aisha would never wear black lipstick. So I used to tell her jokingly that she's crazy and I would kill her if she's spotted in black lipstick.
Sonam is a cool chick. She has a hip and punk style.
Image: A scene from Aisha
'If I knew they required me, I would have done my abs and wore a bikini'
The thing was we were all hanging around in Rishikesh, doing our own things, when the floor-manager came ranting that we don't have pretty girls in the team. I told him how unprepared I was, in some casual shorts.
We were taken by surprise. If I knew they required me, I would have done my abs and wore a bikini (guffaws) and looked hot.
I have seen the film and thankfully you cannot notice me.
You mentioned in the beginning of this conversation that you are a Kuchipudi dancer. Is it a hobby or are you serious of making it as a profession?
I learnt when I was about five. But after my guruji passed away and I felt I should give it a break. So I moved on to learning Kuchipudi. It's been five years now of training under a renowned dancer Radharaja Reddy. I am doing my arangetram (graduation performance) in November. Before that, I am also a part of the troupe performing for the opening ceremony of The Common Wwealth games. It's going be only dance in September and October.
Dancing is my first love. I love fashion but never thought I'll end up designing costumes for films. I had been working as a stylist for couple of fashion magazines and designers. But now as I look back, I feel Aisha has been crazy fun and I am delighted to be a part of it.
Image: A scene from Aisha
'Kunal has done a brilliant job of designing the men'
Kunal and I spent time discussing the look and aesthetics of the film but when it came to shopping for clothes, we did it independently. If we had worked together, we would have taken longer to decide on the closet.
Honestly, I feel Kunal has done a brilliant job of designing the men. I told Abhay that he's never looked more handsome. I told him that he must thank Kunal because he's finally come out of that messed-up in the head image, thanks to all his previous films (giggles). He looks charming in all the suits he's worn.
You said you are an Aisha in real-life. Have you also played a cupid in real-life?
Plenty of times, my friends will tell you better.
Image: A scene from Aisha