Manushi Nath, Rushi Sharma and Sumit Basu: Meet the real thugs behind Thugs of Hindostan
The real thugs behind Thugs Of Hindostan - Manushi Nath, Rushi Sharma and Sumit Basu - reveal how they spent three years to create the onscreen opulence
The film is yet to conquer the box office, but the trailer of Thugs Of Hindostan establishes the film as a magnum opus, albeit differently from the ones we have been familiar with in Bollywood, so far. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's history-based fiction films are how we have come to see opulent sets and grandeur in the movies.
Thugs Of Hindostan is about a mysterious Hindustan, but has not delved into a specific geographic location or time period. We meet the people who created this era impeccably with a touch of fantasy that is rooted in reality. Manushi Nath and Rushi Sharma - costume stylists - spent a cumbersome three and a half years etching out the nuances of the look of each character as per their personalities.
"We have had a lifetime of work on this film. People in our teams got married, divorced, had babies and we were still doing Thugs...," laughs Sharma. Nath and Sharma, who have been professional partners for the last decade, worked on multiple films together, their next being the Kangana Ranaut-starrer Panga. The duo claims that Thugs was an experience hard to replicate because of the sheer expanse of the film's narrative. "It was a voluminous film to tackle. We put in an incredible amount of research and took plenty of trips to museums and libraries. Since we didn't find any photographic evidence, we went with paintings of the period, which is where we got the silhouette of the film. Our queries about the red army or the then British army were answered at the Victoria Albert Museum in London. We got our buttons and collars for the uniforms from the picture references they sent," explains Sharma.
Costume designer Manoshi Nath
Nath adds, "Photography was introduced to the world sometime in 1839, but our film was set [roughly] between 1795 and 1805. It's a tricky period because our research was substantiated by Dandyism [from the 1830s]; but back then there were no references to feature films. So, we kept going back to Beau Brummels' [American rock band from 1964] fashion sense when pants were worn higher and didn't have a fly; they had buttons on the sides. We stuck to the fabrics of the time and emphasised on the period-specific attire, which also demonstrated the influence of the silk route in India." They explain that it was pre-decided to give the film a pan-India touch without going into specifics of a geographic location.
The duo admits that it was toughest to nail Amitabh Bachchan's look in the film. "He is a Kisan-warrior who is waging a battle for freedom. He needed a structured and balanced look, so, we gave him a ferocious attire with softer fabrics. It was his armour that we struggled with the most. It was heavy and a nightmare to pull off because he had to do stunts, swing on ropes and fight with swords in it. So, we had to replicate it in a lighter fabric," adds Sharma. There were plenty of material options fo the armour explains Nath, but the stunt department rejected most of them. "Since the rubber material was melting in the heat, we eventually settled for an amalgamation of leather and rubber. The embossing was identical and painted to perfection."
Set Designer Sumit Basu
The designers unanimously agreed that it was fun to design for Aamir Khan's character Firangi Mallah. When asked if they took influences from Feste - the court jester from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and Nath says, "We only took his opera glass as a memoir from the play. We went back to several characters from literature to cull him out. He is jester-like, which is why you will find the parallels."
Nath and Sharma are hopeful that a few inventions made on the film will be used in other films of a similar palette. "There were six departments working relentlessly on the costumes. One of the things we designed were leather jutti-shaped shoes which were moulded on sports shoes to make action comfortable for the actors. When we shot water stunts in Malta, the clothes started losing colour because of the excess chlorine in the water. It was madness," says Sharma. They further explain that as audience, we are used to seeing opulence of the royal variety and so they tried to adopt a different strategy. "For a fantasy world, one need not always wear an 80 kilo zardosi lehenga. Opulence can be established in lighter fabrics, with simple silk aztec work on lehenga," says Nath.
Costume designer Rushi Sharma
While the costume department had the monstrosity of expanse to deal with, art director Sumit Basu, who was also the set designer of Manto, had to build two ships which could float on water. "Getting the correct world was necessary, but building a ship was exhausting. I researched about the working of a ship and studied the wind because we couldn't fake a ship. Making the outline of a ship is easy, but it was a challenge to create a functional deck, especially with the canons in place. We took it a step further by designing the artillery and the weapons were replicated from paintings. No one has experimented like this in Bollywood," said Basu.
In an earlier interview with mid-day, Basu had said that cost was a major concern while building the ship but it was important to maintain authenticity. Basu adds, "Authenticity was our focus. The production house did not cut corners at any point; in fact, they trusted me entirely and never questioned my judgment. Crores have gone into the making of the ships but the product on screen looks worth it."
When asked about the obvious similarities with Pirates Of The Caribbean, and he says, "Pirates was never a reference point for us. In fact, I haven't even watched it or Game Of Thrones. Obviously, there are shows with similar elements - pirates, ships and sea stunts - but that doesn't mean we intended to replicate it. We take it as a compliment than we've achieved a visual worth comparisons."
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