Anish Kuruvilla’s digital series, Gods Of Dharmapuri is the story of succession. Through the ten-episodes, he explores layered ideas like violence, succession, power, greed, and more. While the actors have delivered power-packed performances, the director says it’s the teamwork and effort of each department that has made the show a success. A special mention has to be made of the costumes and the look of the actors especially since it shows the characters aging over a span of time. To know more about the effort that goes in every thread and fabric that we see on the screen, we spoke to costume designer Rekha Boggarapu who is the brainchild behind the outfits seen in the show. .
Read the edited excerpts of the interview here:
Q. The response to G.O.D has been massive. Congratulations on that!
A. Thank you so much. It feels really good. People are now calling me for more work. People are connecting with other people for me. The success is all a team effort.
Q. You don’t come from a filmi background or have a related educational background. So, when did you know this was your cup of tea?
A. It was around high school when I knew I wanted to do something creative. But coming from a regular family, my parents wanted me to pursue medicine. I thought that law would be interesting. Because there’s scope to play with words. Later, I understood that all the world’s problems are in the court room and I would only be depressed there. So, I thought of starting my own label. But by then, Goodachari (2018) happened. I was sitting on the sets of that film when I worked on my portfolio. I did go to a private fashion institution, but it is the industry where I really graduated from.
Q. Did you face any resistance when you told your family about your plans on becoming a costume designer?
A. Yes. I promised my parents than I can balance everything. My father argued why I wanted to do films when I had a good educational history. My mother was worried about safety. My then-boyfriend and now-husband told them to let me explore. We did not have any financial pressures either. He is very broad-minded, so are my in-laws, and they are all supportive. Even if I come home at 2 am or stay at a night shoot, they understand the situation. My husband is an orthopaedic and people expect his wife to be a gynaecologist. But he takes pride in telling them about my profession.
Q. How did your journey as a costume designer begin?
A. Once I had completed my double Post-Graduate studies, my friend introduced me to the director of Goodachari. That’s when it all started taking shape. The project went on for a year and I started to explore the world around. I landed a few more projects, eventually. That’s how! Interestingly, I met Anish Kuruvilla sir on the sets of this film. He was directing an ad later and he asked me to work on it. In fact, he also introduced me to Ellanar Films and that eventually became a family to me.
Q. Who has been your inspiration or where do you seek inspiration from?
A. I find inspiration from actor, senior actors too mostly. A lot of the times, they have more relevant inputs when talking about retro. I have been in the city all my life. I never visited my native place. It was only during research now or school visits where we would volunteer for something. That’s when I used to observe people and understand why they wear what they wear.
Q. Who has been your biggest mentor and what has been the best advice given to you?
A. The director of Goodachari (Sashi Kiran Thikka) who gave me my first opportunity. (Actor and) My friend, Swathi Reddy. She taught me about the attitude that needed to have while being professional. Of course, Anish sir. He has given me many projects. The best advice has to be by him. He told me not to go by the looks of the actor. Go by psychology, the body language of the character.
Q. What was the brief given to you for designing the costume for G.O.D?
A. I was told that it’s a powerful story of two families in a fictional town. A ‘rags to riches’ journey for Pratap and his family. And the circumstances change for everyone. So, my work has to change with the situations for each of the characters.
Q. How do you go about preparing for this show?
A. The preparation took almost a year. I had to do a lot of research. I asked my friends and people on social media to share pictures of their parents and grandparents. The team members did the same and I had over 1500 photos for reference from that time period that I could replicate. The DOP had given me the colour palate. Thankfully, a lot of retro style back in fashion, like polka dots, georgettes. I went to villages and saw how they dressed. And why they dressed that way. For example, men wear lungis over shorts. Because it’s comfortable and also affordable. We took stuff from the EP and my mothers-in-law’s wardrobe. For Samyukhta’s dresses, I scanned through 500 dresses. For John Kottoly, I went and searched for the politicians of that time, the local MLAs, the MPs and then drew inspiration. It was set in a fictional land so I used some creative liberty too.
The research started in January and by March we were doing the look test and we would lock on each look. Some days I even had to put in 20 hours of work. It was all possible because of the team. The assistants were amazing. We always had a Plan B, C and D ready. Yet we never had to compromise. Even on set, we would have a solution for everything.
Q. Who was the most fun in G.O.D for you to style?
A. I was working with them for the first time. It was interesting equally because they were going through a transition phase. All the characters, except for Satyadev and Karthik, had two looks. So, it was fun. Getting Anish sir to dress up as Mr Rao, in the silk nightgown was too much fun for me. It’s probably the fact that I am emotionally attached to this project that I cannot pick one.
Q. What has been the proudest moment of your career?
A. I can’t differentiate like that. Every project is equally special to me. Whether successful or not, I have something to take away. Maybe some lessons are learnt, or some new friends are made. It’s all special.
Q. What is the advice you would like to give aspiring costume designers?
A. I will tell them to explain it to their parents, convince them. Tell them this is what makes you happy and this is what you want to do for the rest of your life. When I started, I knew nothing. It was difficult for me and I thought I couldn’t even cope up with the whole project. So, definitely, do some internships. Or be an assistant to someone. Ensure that you are at the right place and the right time.
Read the interviews of other team members of GOD here. Watch the light-hearted comedy Nanna Koochi starring Niharika and Nagendra Babu Konidela on ZEE5.