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Monday, August 20, 2007

Exclusive Interview with Rama Rajamouli

Rama Rajamouli, before the film Sye, was known only as the wife of director Rajamouli, but with the film Sye it changed. When the publicity stills of Sye were released people were taken aback looking at a dashing Nithin! Nithin was transformed into handsome boy completely from the boy-next-door image. She continued to work for other films by Rajamouli from then on, including Chatrapathi and Vikramarkudu, confirming that she is not a one-time wonder but is here to stay. Rama Rajamouli designed costumes for all these films and has also worked for the socio-fantasy film Yamadonga too! Here is a brief chitchat with the talented costume designer.

Q: What made you enter the film field?
Rama: Actually, I was happy as a housewife. I used to take lunch for him (Rajamouli) to the location. At the time of Simhadri, Rajamouli didn't like some of the costumes. He was very clear about the look he wanted, but was not sure how to get such costumes. The costumers could not get the exact look that was in his mind, and he being a person who wouldn't compromise, he would not go ahead without getting what he wanted. Whenever I was at the location, I used to give suggestions to improve them, which made him happy and relaxed. After Simhadri, he forced me to take up the costumes department as he felt I understood him better than other costume designers. That is how it all started.

Q: How could you completely transform Nithin's image for Sye? And, why did you make him apply gel to his hair?
Rama: Nithin has very thick hair and as he used to comb it the same way ever since he was a child. So, it got set into a pattern, making it difficult to change his hairstyle. So we first took him to Bombay and gave him a short haircut and then we gelled it to keep the hair from not going back to its original position ...and it gave him a very stylish look.

Q: Talking about heroes' hairstyle still, Prabhas had long hair for the first time in Chatrapathi...
Rama: Yes, we asked him to grow his hair longer but he was not sure how he might look - he personally felt that he looked better in short hair. However, since I also had the director's support, he could not say no but he was not fully convinced about his new look until the stills of the film were released (laughs).

Q: What care did you take for Vikramarkudu?
Rama: For Vikramarkudu, Raviteja was doing a dual role and both had different shades. One was a tapori character while the other was a fierce police inspector. For the tapori character, we used bright and vibrant colors as the character is a highly energetic and vibrant one, and we used sober colors for the police inspector as it goes with the character.

Q: Talking about characters, how you determine the costumes based on the character?
Rama: Firstly, it all depends on the film story - we need to know the film story and characters, and then know artistes who're doing that character, and we need to know their body type. Each hero or heroine has a different body type, and thus not all styles suit everyone alike. This means that we need to observe them closely before we can choose an apt costume for them.

Q: Okay, what factors do you take into consideration after knowing the story and the characters?
Rama: After narrating the story and explaining us the exact look that he has in mind, Rajamouli leaves us - "we" referring to the cameraman, art director and myself as the costume designer - to decide on colors and other details. Once we come to a conclusion on the color schemes and other things, we sit with the director and then make the final decision and start off with our work. ...And then, there's always a fight with Senthil (cameraman) with regard to colors.
I like to have vibrant colors and he wants subdued colors, and we used to have never-ending discussions. Finally, one of us gives in to the other's argument, or sometimes the art director finishes his designs and decides on the colors too by the time we're done arguing!

Q: How do you select the costumes? Do you just go by brand names or do you go with your own creations?
Rama: We usually go for readymades for the trousers. But for shirts, I buy five to six types of shirts, to see which fits the hero perfectly, and then I sit with my assistants and create my own designs.

Q: How do you work with the heroines? For example, Genelia ( Sye) and Shriya ( Chatrapathi) are of regular height while Anuskha ( Vikramarkudu) is taller.
Rama: With Genelia and Shriya, it was not a problem at all. Shriya has a beautiful body. But, when it came to Anuskha, I was really very confused at first. She is a very tall girl and I always thought that many dresses wouldn't suit her. I was only in a doubt but Anuskha was very sure about most dresses not suiting her! The first time I sent her some dresses for trial, she said that she would come to my place and wear them so that it will be easy to rectify the mistakes if any. Once she wore them, she was very happy because they looked so good on her. Except for some small adjustments, everything suited perfectly. She looks very good in sarees, but we cannot show a heroine in sarees all the time. Thus, we need to work on the best dresses in which she looks good. It's definitely a challenge to do such work.

Q: Did you ever have any problems with the hero or heroines while working?
Rama: Not with the lead artistes until now, but I did have some with the character artistes instead (laughs)! Sometimes, they feel that they're not being given proper importance to them and that sparks a trouble. Anyway, things settle down after we talk to them once. I'll give you a random example: if a character is coming out of the kitchen, his or her costume cannot be shown very neat and tidy - it should be little messy. We can't get costumes straight off the hangers in such cases, like they want it. We need to talk to them patiently and explain why it's necessary..and then they're satisfied. With the lead pair, it doesn't take much convincing.

Q: Let us come to the current film Yamadonga. How is the first experience of working on a socio-fantasy film?
Rama: The main difference in case of a socio-fantasy film is jewelry. Once we decided on the subject, the exercise for ornaments and getups started. We sat down to design the ornaments. Our art director Anand Sai gaaru helped me out with this, and he has done a great job. We went to Chennai thrice to explain the design to the goldsmith. One of our assistant directors was appointed solely to monitor the process of making these ornaments.
He used to take pictures of the jewelry every second day and email them to us. I took extra precaution to keep the muslin cloth below the ornaments so that the artist will not feel the jewelry itchy and irritating. We had a complete "dress rehearsal", literally, four times and we improvised the look and comfort of the artiste based on the experience. Each rehearsal used to take at least a couple of hours and every time we used to identify a trivial issue to be corrected. Everyone was working on it, and really patiently indeed!

Q: How was it working with Mohan Babu gaaru?
Rama: It was a great experience! After working with him, I've become his fan. Before the film started, I heard a lot about his short temper, and I was initially very worried. But Rajamouli insisted on Mohan Babu gaaru for this role. He said that he'd scrap this project altogether if Mohan Babu gaaru didn't agree to do the film! Once everything was finalized and the getups were ready, I had to go for rehearsals, and this happened like three to four times in three months. He was always very patient and he used to cooperate all the time without any single complaint. Once the shooting started, we shot for one week and then there was a gap for two days after that.
That day, he called me and told me that a small piece of his jewelry was hurting him and asked me if it can be rectified in the two-day gap we had. I promised that it can be done definitely, and when I saw the problem area, to my shock, there was a blister and a cut obviously due to this problem with the ornament. He, on the other hand, simply wore a bandage on the wound and worked for whole week without any complaint. Had he complained the first day itself we would have rectified it immediately even if it meant postponement of the shoot for a few hours or even a day. When I asked him the same, he said that it was exactly why he did not complain.
He said, "I am a producer myself, and I know the value of time. I can't keep the entire unit waiting for me for such a trivial issue. I knew that you'd hold the shooting if I told you about it, which is why I waited till the end of the schedule." I was completely taken aback. The person about whom I heard stories earlier and the person I was seeing on the sets were entirely different! All of us in the unit enjoyed working with him and I look forward to work with him again.

Q: And about the lead artistes?
Rama: Tarak's (NTR's) costumes are totally different from what he had used before. Basically, he is a brand freak. The first thing he asks whenever he sees a costume is the name of the brand! Even off-screen, he is a person who likes to buy from the best brands out there. Knowing this, I told him that this time he's going to get his costumes from a designer who's going to design clothes exclusively for him - the brand might not be known but that they will still be the best. He understood what I meant and laughed. He wore whatever was given to him, sometimes with a faint sense of doubt, but finally I think we all got what we wanted.
With Mamatha and Priya, both the characters have different backdrops in the film and the costumes were done accordingly. If I tell anything more about the film, our director will not be happy, and so I'll stop here (laughs).

Q: Okay, we'll leave movies awhile now. What do you do in your free time?
Rama: I'm a mother of two hyperactive children and a member of a large family, hyperactive too! So, I hardly get any free time. But, even if I get five minutes, I doze off. I love to sleep, sleep and sleep.

Q: The mention of family reminds me... What do you like the most about Rajamouli and what on't you like in him?
Rama: The best thing about Rajamouli is his uncompromising hard working nature. I get really fascinated by the way he works. The worst thing about him is, again, his uncompromising hard working nature. I get really irritated by the way he works - there are times when he totally forgot to come home from the recording theatre, and I'm sure the staff of Prasad Laboratories are also cursing him for this!



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