The designer duo Vipul Amar and psychologist Harsheen Arora used 300-year-old leather technique to make armours for the movie Padmaavat.
The term ‘Power Dressing’ was coined to convey confidence and power that helped women make an impression in the male dominant world. Though the term was coined in 1980s, the concept has been existing in society since centuries. Power dressing in the past centuries has been associated with varied aspects. During 13th and 14th centuries, some outfits highlighted the valour and the others highlighted ruthlessness and sins. The historic characters in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film, Padmaavat have been based on the same concept. While capturing the splendour of royal court through grand sets and wonderful cinematography, the director has made sure to have a stunning display of power dressing of 14th century through elaborate costumes of the actors.
While the actors captured the imagination of cinema goers, the hard work of various designers was visible in the costumes the characters wore. Delhi-based design house The V Renaissance, after making Sushant Singh Rajput look like a fitting warrior in Raabta, showcased their design proficiency in the recently released Bollywood film, Padmaavat. The designer duo Vipul Amar and psychologist Harsheen Arora combined their forces to create warrior costumes for Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh in the movie.
The armours worn by the actors are a result of back-breaking research not only in terms of their authenticity but also the functionality. The duo consulted an engineer to confirm the mechanics incorporated in the armours. “They first approached us to create one look for Ranveer Singh’s earlier battles in the film. They liked the technique that we had employed in the leather bridal lehenga thus they also asked us to create the armour for Shahid Kapoor’s final battle. After Mr Bhansali saw these armours he then asked us to create one for Khilji’s final battle as well,” said Vipul.
The construction of the armours was not an easy task. Along with the historical and functional research, Harsheen’s expertise of psychological analysis of the characters being portrayed by Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh was also a part of the process. The construction process also kept in mind the vision of the director. In the film, Ratan Singh is an embodiment of love and patriotism while Allaudin Khilji embodies conquest and invasion. The most interesting part about the armours is that both of them are made with the same material which has been treated differently to depict their opposing personalities.
Harsheen says, “Once I was able to understand Mr Bhansali’s vision of Maharawal Ratan Singh, it helped in bringing elements to his armour that represent nobility and honour. Even the colours used for Shahid’s armour show just that. The blood red depicts honour, love, and eagerness to serve one’s land and the deep gold stands for courage, generosity and passion. Not only that, the design elements in Shahid Kapoor’s armour are inspired by the sun rays and the chest-plate is coloured like the Rajputana soil at different times of the day.”
Tales of the Armours
The armour of Maharawal Ratan Singh is a blend of shades of gold and blood maroon. The design includes a criss-cross of geometrical design that signifies purpose and direction which drives Rajput bravery. On the chest of the armour lays an inlay work of metal wire running on the leather bust, a mark of valour. Vipul Amar being a cinematic person created the colour and wire pattern keeping in mind how the camera will see the armour as well. The principle of light and shadow has been the basis of designing these armours. However, the idea here was to make the armour as unique as the character. “To achieve this, we experimented with a new technique to infuse metal with leather as one. Just the way you cannot separate the land from the Rajput and vice-versa, similarly the leather had to merge with metal,” said the designers.
Allaudin Khilji’s armour represents the Sultan that he envisioned himself as. “The leather lions on his shoulders show his strong-headedness. The lions have been chiselled and hammered to bring into form – as part of the technique which is also symbolic to Khilji’s conquest. Also, the darkness of the character has been enhanced by engraving reptile scales on the lion heads,” says Harsheen.
The Sultan’s armour has been created in multiple layers. To portray ruthlessness, the top layer as well as the inner vest of the armour is engraved with alligator scales. The skirt of the armour comprises of thousands of individual fish scales that were engraved and hand crafted from Italian leather and fixed with two pin size metal studs per scale. In addition to that, each fish scale was individually coloured in different colours derived from natural elements. The shoulder guard of this armour consists of three layers. The top chest plate is made from special kind of Italian leather and an extensive process of engraving and sculpting has gone into it. The golden jewellery work on the armour is all hand finished in leather. This armour has been aged naturally keeping in mind the terrain through which he would have passed. Hence, the geographical terrains were taken as reference and how they would weather the leather armour was understood.
The concept of light and shadow is the backbone of The V Renaissance design philosophy. Hence, the armours have been designed in a fashion where light and shadow heighten the drama. The beauty of these armours comes from the fact that they are crafted using the same raw materials but using different techniques and treatments.
Words: KRITIKA DHAWAN, Images: THE V RENAISSANCE