Six months' work for five avatars of Kangana Ranaut in Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi
Manikarnika costume designer Neeta Lulla on turning Kangana Ranaut into Rani Laxmbai, the warrior, bride, queen, widow and revolutionary
With Kangana Ranaut having spoken of Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi as her passion project, there was evidently little scope for error when replicating the warrior queen on screen. And while the actor put in months of toil to learn horse-riding and sword-fighting to do justice to her act, costume designer Neeta Lulla too left no stone unturned to make Ranaut a visual delight.
"We worked for six months to design the costumes; two of them were spent on research work, and the remaining four, on trials and look tests," Lulla tells mid-day, adding that all she had as reference points for the task assigned to her were photographs. "We came across visual references through paintings and illustrations, but the challenge was to understand and study them. The look had to be believable and true to the era that we were depicting."
Sketches of the actor's costumes for her different avatars
Pointing out that she had to design pieces for five different avatars of Rani Laxmibai - a warrior, bride, queen, widow and revolutionary - Lulla says she used the play of colours to make each phase distanced from the other. "[For the scenes that see her] learn to fight, we used angrakha kurtas in light colours. Later, when we see her as a married woman, we picked sarees in happy and bright shades. We used vegetable dye for them. When she loses her husband, we created a sombre look, and used khadi sarees in muted tones. And, finally, as a queen, we used orange to showcase her authority."
Lulla paid heed to the accessories that she zeroed in on for Ranaut. While depicting Rani Laxmibai as the Maratha princess that she was, Lulla turned to Maharashtrian-style jewels. She later employed kundan, peals, elaborate headgear and bracelets that were associated with the royals in Central India, when Ranaut's character was wed into such a family. "[Viewers will] also see pearl necklaces and earnings worn during the war sequences, because that is what we observed in the photographs."
Discussion around Ranaut's costumes would be left incomplete unless the subject of armours is breached. Lulla, who created the armours for the entire cast, says the actor's vests were made of leather, and hand-stitched by her. "I wanted a specific look, because she is seen in her armour in most of the photos. So I decided to make them myself."
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