Of Threads And Fabrics: Here’s To The Story Tellers We Did Not But Must Know!

The director, the cinematographer, the editor & the actor. We know them all. But there’s someone else, equally important – if not more. Let’s know who

Sneha Bale

September 11, 2019


7 min


A stage is believed to be an actor’s medium of storytelling. Similarly, a film is said to be a director’s medium of storytelling. But there’s a lot more to a film than only a director’s vision. Not only the reviewers and critics but also the audiences know about the effort and number of people that go in making a film. A cinematographer, a writer, an editor, a bunch of actors, the lightsmen, so and so forth. However, one of the most important and silent heroes of a film is the lesser talked about – the costume designers.

Often times, we recognise how a certain type of lighting is used to convey a certain type of message or an emotion. Similarly, a lot of thought and preparation goes into storytelling through costumes. Some film makes heavy use of fabrics and threads to convey the story, more convincingly. From the times of ANR and NTR and to the times of Prabhas and Vijay Devarakonda, some of the best films have great costume designs to their credit.

NTR Films Still
NTR Films Still

From Mayabazar in 1957 to Mahanti in 2018, costume dramas have enthralled audiences beyond explainable words. Classic movies like Mayabazar, Patala Bhairavi, Daasi to the more recent films like Rudhramadevi, Magadheera, Rangasthalam, Arundhati and the likes have taken the Telugu film industry a few notches higher. In the recent years, costume designers and stylists, Neeraja Kona, Ashwin Mawle, Rama Rajamouli, Renu Desai, Amitha Marwa, Archa Mehta, Indrakshi Patnaik have taken the industry by storm with their daring and innovative sartorial experiments.

The 1951 film, Patala Bhairavi featuring NTR, SV Ranga Rao, Savitri, is yet another film that has raked in international applause. Not only does the film do ‘wonders’ but also for bringing in newness and film-appropriate attires. As a fantasy film set in a fictional land, the film has the task of creating a fictional world yet appealing to the Telugu sensibilities. Apart from its smooth storytelling, designers Madhavapeddi Gokhale and Kaladhar, are the backbones of its mesmerising sets and eye-catchy costumes – that still remind us of the film/scene at a glance.

Patala Bhairavi Still
Patala Bhairavi Still

The biggest film-producing industry in the world, Bollywood, has few but prominently boasts of a concept known as ‘Costume Dramas’. In Tollywood, a costume drama was mostly synonymous with a period film or a fantasy film. But Mahanati, the winner of three National Awards, changed the dynamics. Hyderabad-based designer Gaurang Shah explained how the sarees for Keerthy Suresh, who played Savitri in the biopic, took over a year-and-a-half to be prepared. He said, “I wanted all her looks to be pure handloom, I recreated the satin on the handloom, and so for the chiffons and georgettes,” and over 100 artisans worked relentlessly to bring the director’s vision to life.

The world is still hungover the magnum opus Baahubali franchise and its spectacular range of creativity. Rama Rajamouli, the wife of the director S. S. Rajamouli, used critical thinking and aided the film with her inputs as a costume designer. The costumes used in the film were not only used to depict the age and era in which the film was set in. They were customised to depict the traits and the personalities of the characters. Maybe that is why, Bhallaladeva’s armour seems more interesting than that of his counterpart, Baahubali. Did you know? Their armours, which looked and shone like metal, were originally made of leather and then painted to give it a metallic look. This was done to allow the actors more movement while filming fight sequences.

Keerthy Suresh as Savitri in Mahanati
Keerthy Suresh as Savitri in Mahanati

After delivering iconic and larger-than-life fictional films, the Telugu film went through a long phase of delivering content that was time-appropriate. More and more of romantic-comedies, gangster and crime films, and the likes started to take over the silver screen. After a dry phase, it was SS Rajamouli’s Magadheera that broke the mould once again. Ram Charan and Kajal Agarwal’s reincarnation story set the audiences’ heart ablaze with its fantasy element. Once again, Mrs Rajamouli came to rescue and made the film pleasing to our eyes.

Once again, as the film goes and cinephiles rose to accept fantasy films, or costume dramas, once again – we were showered with great content. Anushka Shetty-led Arundhati and Rudhrammadevi, or Ram Charan and Samantha’s Rangasthalam and many others helped Telugu cinema sit on the tables that it had stayed away for a long, long time. Evidently, for many years the National Awards’ Jury had ignored the films coming from Tollywood. In fact, after winning the National Award For The Best Costume Design in 1989 for the film Daasi, it was 2018’s Mahanti that brought back the lost (and much deserved) glory back to Tollywood.

Anushka Shetty in Rudhrammadevi
Anushka Shetty in Rudhrammadevi

The future looks more promising than ever before. Soon, Chiranjeevi brings to us his biggest film, Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, produced by Ram Charan. In an interview, actress Tammanaah has already mentioned, “we are pretty much wearing very extensive lehengas, extensive Indian couture, some designed by Chiranjeevi’s daughter and some by Anju Modi. Those are probably the most expensive outfits I have worn ever.” We’re waiting to see how far and excellent the sartorial storytelling goes in the TFI.

Hoping for the best, we sign off! But you can check out interesting drama films on ZEE5.

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