“I made Chandni Bar in 2001 on a budget of Rs 1.5 crore, which, a decade later, is merely Heroine’s costume budget for Kareena Kapoor! How times have changed,” wrote director Madhur Bhandarkar on a popular micro blogging site recently. In stark contrast, in an interview for his upcoming film Shanghai, director Dibakar Banjerjee remarked, “I am not a filmmaker who would spend on lehengas. I shall spend only if the story genuinely demands it. Being one of the producers of this film, I know where to draw the line.”
In times when every filmmaker wants their film to look appealing and classy, each one has a different way of making their films work. Even in the silent era, where a male actor played the female protagonist, filmmakers paid close attention to the costumes of every character. This attention to detail scaled up when cinema went colour from black-and-white.
Exclusive and lavish costumes have today become one of the main aspects of making a film tick at the box office. Obviously, this translates into an additional investment for the filmmakers. Thus, apart from doling out vast sums of money on actors’ remuneration, filmmakers are now willing to set aside healthy sums for costumes as well. Not only do costumes enhance the look of a film, they open up a new window for ancillary revenue of merchandising for the filmmaker too. Remember Madhuri Dixit’s purple saree in Hum Aapke Hai Koun..!?
But, is spending crores of rupees on costumes alone justified and does it help the film in any way? Do filmmakers recover this cost? Do costume designers work on a specific budget or are they sometimes given the carte blanche? We spoke to some of the industry’s fashion designers and film producers to find out what aspects go into designing the costumes of films and the challenges they face.