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Interview Team : Anita

From ads to films, this woman has been wowing top celebrities with her immense talent and uber-trendy designs for more than a decade. Vasuki Bhaskar needs no introduction as the films that she has worked for, such as Mankatha, Abhiyum Naanum, Goa, Saroja, Avan Ivan to name some, have spoken more about her.

The colossal salt ‘n’ pepper look of Ajith in Mankatha or her character oriented designs, do all the talking for Vasuki. Amidst all the hectic promotions for her recent venture, Massu, Vasuki takes her time and chats with Anita Raghuraman.

Designing for all the ‘boys’. How difficult or easy was it?

(Laughs). Well, I guess it is easy probably because I have a better rapport with the boys. It is easy to work with them. Some of them are my good friends like Vishal, Premji and others. It also has more to do with the comfort level. On a serious note, the job of a designer is not just to showcase fashion and trend of the season but to connect the script, the screenplay and the characters together. How different can I work around with the characters, will be the scope of my job irrespective of boys or girls.

You are the lady behind Ajith’s salt ‘n’ pepper look. The journey behind making this cult style...

When Prabhu narrated the script of Mankatha, I was all up for styling for the entire gang. I finished styling Premji, Vaibhav, Mahat and the rest of the cast. However, Ajith sir was still undone. I spoke to Prabhu a couple of times and was just flipping through designs that would suit the character. The characterization played a pivotal role in selecting the style. He is an ex-cop and a baddie in the film. An ex-cop can’t be young. On the other hand, when I had met Ajith in person, he had a similar hairstyle of what he had in the movie. I showed a couple of pictures of George Clooney, and Ajith and Prabhu agreed instantaneously. The look was ready in a split second, and it was all set to hit the floors. I should definitely give credit to Prabhu’s attitude to be fine with his hero in salt ‘n’ pepper look that too when the heroine's dad also had a trim black hair (in the movie). After that I guess the look became an identity by itself.

''I showed a couple of pictures of George Clooney, and Ajith and Prabhu agreed instantaneously''

The superstardom, the on-screen persona, and the character. Let’s talk about Ajith and Suriya specifically...

I was taken by surprise that Ajith was completely fine with the salt ‘n’ pepper. He was what he was in the film. I had an inert feeling about his look before the shoot. And when we shot the first song ‘Vaada Bin Laada’, I saw in the monitor, his close-up shot and was thinking ‘Oh my god, am I really showing this man like this?’ I was really scared at that moment and then realized that it wasn’t a joke to show the silver lines on an actor like Ajith. I even told the cameraman to do the lighting hiding his grey hair. After the shooting of that song Prabhu told me that Ajith sir is planning to keep this look in the whole movie and also after the release. He was a perfect fit to the styling.

With Suriya it was more of his own references that I took to make something new for him. I watched his previous movies and I wanted to give him a look that people have not seen him in. He had done almost all kinds of looks with different accessories and he has actually experimented a lot in the past. For Massu I told him not to use any accessories and asked him to go plain. But the person that Suriya is, he won’t be satisfied easily. After a lot of thinking he found that he has never worn an earring. He said he wants to try using the safety pin as the ear piercing. And he worked for the look.

''But the person that Suriya is, he won’t be satisfied easily''

Therikkudhu Masss’ visuals were too loud, bright and the colors were slightly jarring. Any specific reason…

I take that as a compliment. Our intention was to showcase the intro song of a hero like that. He is a ‘Mass’ personality as well and we willfully kept the color tone loud. The film on the whole has a muted shade; it wouldn’t be very bright. This is a hero’s entry song and we wanted to break free a bit and go flashy. When you watch the film you will know the reason behind the heavy use of colors.

''Suriya is a ‘Mass’ personality as well and we willfully kept the color tone loud''

Women have more options in terms of fabrics, designs, attires etc. Do you miss styling for women as majority of your films are male-centric?

I usually try to design for the entire movie, that way I will be in charge for the whole look. The colors you see on screen, the style co-ordination between the actors and so on are the elements that I as a costume designer would take care of. I take it as a challenge and it is indeed a different experience when the options are limited. There is a lot to do with the hero’s personality as well. To break it down, it is about the colors we can use, the fabrics that will suit the character and the difference that we can show within that range. Say for instance take Vishal, he is an action hero. Hence, there is only a certain range of colors we can use for him. People have probably seen him in black far too many times. Every time there is an action scene, I as a friend, used to convince him to not use black and make him understand that it is perfectly fine to use other colors. What matters here is how much these colors are blending with the character without hampering the actor’s personality.

''People have probably seen Vishal in black far too many times''

Any on-set disasters...

Well, things that will go wrong are during the times when I have to convince big heroes. I tell them to first try the outfit and then see for themselves if it works on them or not. They tend to judge just by the looks of it. Another thing would be the deadlines. The makers don’t take the costume department seriously and they tend to thrust the last minute work on us. I have worked for just two days and have completed designing for an entire sequence. It is crazy because every costume means something to each one wearing it on screen. If there is a dancing number, the background dancers must blend with the main hero to create the imagination of the director. That is part of the game anyway.

Dealing with the fussy and finicky heroines...

That’s absolutely right. Working with men is much easier than women and that’s why I choose films that are male-centric (laughs). Heroines give me a difficult task to convince as they have their own comfort zones and we have to work along those lines only. Amidst the lot, I have to mention Trisha, as she is one actress who lets people do their job. She completely trusts me with whatever I give her. She is the sweetest.

Alternatively, Nayanthara is somebody who is very clear about what she wants. We always have a lot of discussions for her before we go on the floors. She is a person who has to be given what she is comfortable with.

''Working with men is much easier than women and that’s why I choose films that are male-centric'' 


Trisha’s fashion revamp in Mankatha…

Trisha’s costumes in Mankatha were completely character based. Her role demanded a poise as she appeared in the movie. She was also a Mumbai based girl and we had kept that Bhindi just to give a native connect. Everyone’s color tone was very stale and less colorful, but Trisha’s was vibrant. I created the entire line of her clothing by myself and all her attires were tailor made.

''I created the entire line of Trisha's clothing by myself and all her attires were tailor made''

Glamour against vulgarity...

For me glamour is always about showing something modern and not vulgar. One, I won’t give any kind of costumes to artists which I am not comfortable myself. Two, as long as we show glamour in a fashionable way I am fine with it. I am not a feminist and I am well aware about the industry I work for. For instance, in Mankatha there was a club song and you might have seen women wearing short clothes. But that’s because the song is happening inside a club and we won’t see women wearing salwar suits in the club. It was fashionable and glamorous but not vulgar.

''I won’t give any kind of costumes to artists which I am not comfortable myself''

Also, the costumes that were used by the villains of 90s will probably not be the same now. How do you connect the seasonal trend into your designs?

Let me give you an example for that. In Mankatha, I am sure you would remember the scene where Ajith wears a purple shirt. I don’t think any baddie or an antagonist would prefer purple as it is in contrast to the character. I think that’s the first time that sort of a color has come on-screen worn by a star who is an ex-cop. This is where I could blend the trend by breaking the monotony of showing a baddie in a black or brown. Also, fashion is giving uniqueness wherever there is scope.

Costume designing is not for everyone. What makes this job interesting for you?

People have a common notion that costume designing is all about shopping clothes and decking up an artist. That’s not what we do. Every color that goes on a person has a lot of significance and a lot of thought process. It completely depends on the character sketch, the location, the backdrop and the practicality of the script. Every character in a movie will be something that we would have already watched. So what new can we show each time, is my area of interest. Each project gives an opportunity to explore. For Sundar sir’s project I had to work on mass deliverables. He likes me to use bright and vibrant colors and I went berserk for Aranmanai. When it comes to Prabhu’s movies, for instance, in Goa I had a lot of scope to use multi-layers of colors, whereas in Saroja it was monotone and a uniformed selection of colors.

So costume designing is about creating something new everytime and that's what keeps me going. 





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