'If it wasn't for Mani Ratnam Sir, I wouldn’t have…' stylist Eka Lakhani on Ponniyin Selvan: I; EXCLUSIVE

In an exclusive chat with Pinkvilla, stylist Eka opened up on what went behind creating a look for each character in Ponniyin Selvan: I.

Published on Sep 28, 2022 06:45 PM IST  |  249.8K
Eka Lakhani Instagram
'If it wasn't for Mani Ratnam Sir, I wouldn’t have…' stylist Eka Lakhani on Ponniyin Selvan: I; EXCLUSIVE

From the majestic sets to the costumes, each intricate detail that you see in Ponniyin Selvan: I is dedicated to perfecting the period drama from the Chola Era. To translate legendary filmmaker Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan vision, costume and celebrity stylist Eka Lakhani left no stone unturned. In an exclusive chat with Pinkvilla, Eka opened up on what went behind creating a look for each character in the film. 

“If it was not for Mani Sir, I wouldn’t have wanted to take so much on my plate because it does take a lot. But I guess we just wanted that Mani Sir’s cinematic language to be seen through promotional events as well and made sure that his actors are presented in a way that would make him proud,” said Eka who has not only designed clothes for the characters in the film but also styled Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Trisha, Chiyaan Vikram and others for the film’s promotional events. Vikram Sir, he was clear to keep more of darker colours.

Trisha is someone who likes keeping it classic, but at the same time, she wants to add herself and keep it fresh and she is very much open to experimenting with colours and silhouettes. We had conversations with each one about the promotional looks and how they see themselves and making South promotions different from North because you want people to relate with you wherever you go and portray yourself in a very strong way. With Vikram Sir, he was clear to keep more of darker colours. 

We didn’t want to do anything which is not Mani Ratnam's vision

This is Mani Sir’s dream project and with this, there was a lot of pressure on each one as we didn’t want to do anything which is not his vision. With Mani Sir, he is very clear about what he doesn’t want. With a film like this, there was a lot of research that was involved and that was his priority. He wanted the visual language that he portrays in the film to be as authentic as possible. He wanted to keep it as real as possible for that era, which is 1000 years ago. 

'If it wasn't for Mani Ratnam Sir, I wouldn’t have…' stylist Eka Lakhani on Ponniyin Selvan: I; EXCLUSIVE

 
 
When I went to Thanjavur, I realised a lot of sculptures were top bare. They had very minimal fabric on them and were more jewelled up
Eka Lakhani
 

The beauty is what she uses to be the winner at the end of the film...

The first call I got from Mani Sir, he wanted me to go on costume recce and this is for the first time I did this, and the recce wasn’t about the costumes I had to get from but me being from Mumbai, he wanted me to be thorough with my research. His researcher, Jay Kumar, sent me to Thanjavur to learn about the culture, and temples, see the walls, eat local food and get the flavour of everything. He told me ‘once you get inspired,” we will have our first conversation. This is how it started back in 2019 and it was a lovely journey. When I first went, I was clueless about what I’m supposed to do here and why am I here because usually, you end up going to stores, shops and fabric stores but here it was different. After I returned from Thanjavur, I realised what the magnitude of the film I was dealing with. In the novel and script, the characters are beautifully explained. For example, Vikram Sir’s character is courageous, and a go-getter which helped to build his character. Even for Nandini, Aishwarya’s character, she was described as someone who knew that her strength lies in her beauty and her beauty is what she used to be the winner at the end of the film. Alongside there were illustrations in the weekly magazine in 1960. For e.g. Nandini had a side bun on her head, which we did for Aishwarya and Trisha had a top bun hairdo. It was a mixture of inspiration I got from Thanjavur, the script and the novel I got. Eventually, Mani Sir’s vision, combining all of these, and approval from the historian researchers helped us to know if we are correct and on the right path. We were making sure we were following every aspect of it and being as authentic as possible. We had to be very particular that no Vishnu or Krishna elements were used. We knew what we couldn’t do, but we didn’t know what we could do because the visual evidence available for this era is from the 12th century onwards while the film starts from the 10th century onwards. 

The stylist conceptualised all the signature looks along with jewellery designer Kishandas and Co. 

When I went to Thanjavur, I realised a lot of sculptures were top bare. They had very minimal fabric on them and were more jewelled up. I wanted someone who had the same aesthetic language as ours and we managed to get Kishandas onboard. We were together decoding every look from head to toe because if any part of the body was visible or skin could see, I wanted some sort of jewellery to go on it so that it doesn’t look bare or incomplete. It was very important to understand, especially with characters like Nandini and Kundavai, we had to portray a very signature look in the film. 

'If it wasn't for Mani Ratnam Sir, I wouldn’t have…' stylist Eka Lakhani on Ponniyin Selvan: I; EXCLUSIVE

'If it wasn't for Mani Ratnam Sir, I wouldn’t have…' stylist Eka Lakhani on Ponniyin Selvan: I; EXCLUSIVE

'If it wasn't for Mani Ratnam Sir, I wouldn’t have…' stylist Eka Lakhani on Ponniyin Selvan: I; EXCLUSIVE

If I was given a choice to choose one, I would always want to be a costume designer

There are times in life when I enjoy costume designing more and at certain times I feel like styling celebrities is an easier or happier job. If I was given a choice to choose one, I would always want to be a costume designer. 

The first actress I styled was Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

It was when I was interning for Mani Sir’s Raavan. From then, when I was an intern to now styling her, it seems my life has come to a full circle. 

We used embroidery to the minimum and kept more about Kanjeevaram silk

For Ponniyin Selvan, it was a conscious decision to use Kanjeevaram sarees, used pure gold zari and portray it as we have never seen before so that the weavers who have put in so many hours and days of hard work to make one outfit, you have to do justice to them if you are showing their creative on the big screen. We used embroidery to the minimum and kept more about Kanjeevaram silk. Mani Sir gave me the freedom to go and use the finest fabrics and as the Chola dynasty is called the golden era, it should be seen as real. In Mani Sir’s language, we had to keep it real.

Also Read| Trisha Krishnan’s Ponniyin Selvan: I promotional wardrobe is a testimony to Chola Princess Kundavai


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Anonymous
Sep 28, 2022 07:41 PM
Mani is not good with big budget movies. lets see how this fares.