I have my own process when I set out to create costumes for a show. There is an initial brainstorming session with the director. Ideas are floated and some definite prerequisites are discussed. I take all that information, collate my ideas and then present them via a PowerPoint presentation. I’ve always made it a point to suggest many options of cloth textures and prints, as sometimes the creative team might not know that something better exists. Choice is important and something I never compromise on. I go to the market and collect swatches of cloth, which I display on the sketches I have drawn. And then finally, we decide on the best one. This is how I function now. A stark contrast to when I started out with just a background in fashion design and no connection to theatre whatsoever.
After completing my degree, I ended up joining Aasakta Kala Manch in Pune and have continued working with them and in the theatre to a point of no turning back. My process is detailed, but once I build a rapport with the director or the team, things start flowing smoothly. If they mention blue, I’ll know exactly what shade they are talking about.
The theatre is my favourite space to work in, because of the kind of flexibility it gives me. I’m not just selecting materials or colours that will look good on camera, but rather deep diving into the characters and layering them through their costumes. The component of trial and error that exists in the theatre is inimitable. The other fun part is the challenge of finding design hacks or tricks for quick costume changes. I vividly recollect the time I couldn’t get a change done fast enough and was still on stage when the lights came on. It was mortifying! But that’s where the challenge comes in. I use Velcro straps and elastic to replace buttons and shoelaces. Sometimes I need to stitch a costume that can be reversed and worn for a different scene. The satisfaction you get when a quick change is flawless and the audience is none the wiser about how it happened, is impossible to describe.
I love this profession, because the costume creation process is one of constant learning. The kind of work that goes into a play that revolves around a middle-class family versus a period play (which I love working on!) is different on so many levels. I remember, a show at Prithvi Theatre where the audience had mixed reviews about the costumes for a show. Some loved them, whereas others had a bone to pick, that too only with the costumes. Experiences like that help you evolve. They give you a new perspective. I can proudly say that both my craft and I have grown with the theatre. Today, as another income source, I run a fine dining restaurant with my brother. This has been a huge blessing for me as now I have the luxury to actually choose which theatre projects I want to work on. I have the freedom to explore new things that I have been dying to try out!