The man who makes the clothes that make the characters
Chandrakant Sonawane made a move from his agrarian village to Bollywood to work as a costume designer. This risk and his hard work paid off as he has worked on some major films in the Indian film industry. Café catches up with him to learn about his journey and an upcoming project in Goa
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s films are synonymous with grandeur and opulence, right from the sets to the costumes. When it comes to the latter, it is the genius of Chandrakant Sonawane that adds to the persona of the larger-than-life characters through the costumes; Chandrakant has worked as costume designer for films like ‘Ram Leela’, ‘Bajirao Mastani’ and ‘Padmaavat’.
As we all know, Bhansali’s films are usually period dramas and the costumes have to match the timeline. Chandrakant researches for the designs according to that particular era and region with influences from its history. Coming from a village in Maharashtra which is completely unaware of Bollywood, Chandrakant had to overcome various challenges to make it into the film industry. He is currently working on an upcoming Bollywood film based in Goa. “I cannot speak much about the project but it is a very good project about Goa. I’m doing the costume designing for the film, which is still in its initial stage. It is an interesting film because the culture of Goa is very strongly involved in the story, including the architecture of the churches. I visited the Goa State Museum for some ground work,” says Chandrakant. Born and raised in a farmer’s family, he had a very difficult childhood. After completing his class 12, he decided to choose fashion designing as a career. As the fees were very high, he decided to sell a small plot of land that was in his name. He pursued fashion designing by moving to Mumbai. “It takes 12 hours to reach Mumbai from my village, which till now doesn’t even have a general store. I am the only person who has entered this field in my village. My parents are happy that I’m financially stable but don’t understand what I am doing. My creativity and skill of presentation to showcase a character is what made me who I am,” he says. He got his first break when his college friend asked him to assist in an Indo-Iranian movie. Five days after completing the shoot, he was called to be an assistant fashion designer for a Marathi film ‘Guldasta’. “One of my college friends told the producers of the Indo-Iranian film, that I’m a good person to collaborate with. I worked in a few Marathi films before making my debut with ‘Ram Leela’ in 2013,” says Chandrakant, who was nominated for his work in ‘Padmaavat’. Speaking about working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, he is in awe of the director’s vision for his characters. “They give us a brief of the era and according to that we research with internet searches, books and even personal visits to particular cities. We then make 2-3 variations of one character before fixing the look. It is a very big process. We have to search according to the storyline and the vision that the director has for the character. “For ‘Padmavaat’, the story was Rajasthani with Rajput and Rajkhot influence with the Khilji era. For periodic films, you have to be very careful of fabrics. You cannot use net or any recently manufactured fabrics. We have to stick to cotton, jute, silk which were available at that time. A colour palette also has to be fixed.” He adds, “I recently signed a major period project. I work well with period films because of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s vision and the character building with fabrics and colour palette that is the reason projects are coming my way.” His upcoming films include, ‘PM Narendra Modi’, which will release on May 24 and ‘Housefull 4’ and one Marathi film besides 2-3 Star Plus shows. “It was tough for me to work on the ‘PM Narendra Modi’ film because it is very easy to create an imaginary or even historical character but Narendra Modi is from the present and a noted figure and we have so many references, right from his childhood, so it is a challenge to recreate the same character without any mistakes. The film shows his journey right from the age of 8 years. Each and every detail was important,” concludes Chandrakant.
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