Recently released film Noor may not have received expected ratings at the Box Office, but the one thing one did not miss was Sonakshi’s easygoing wardrobe. We’ve already given you a rundown on the styling of Noor, and acquainted you with the person responsible for Ms Sinha’s highly-relatable style—costume designer of the film, Fabeha Khan. Easygoing and comfortable was the memo for the ‘girl-next’door’ in Noor and Fabeha was on-point with the styling. Fabeha will showcase her design prowess in theatre as a costume designer for Guards At The Taj, an ongoing play by Aditya Birla Group’s theatre initiative, Aadyam, that will be staged at G5A in Mahalaxmi, Mumbai. Set in the bygone era, Guards at the Taj by The Hoshruba Repertory, is a story about two Imperial Guards who watch from their post as the sun rises for the first time on the newly-completed Taj Mahal. We got in touch with Fabeha to know how her design aesthetic worked for ‘the stage’, and experienced her craft firsthand.
Dressed casually in white, Fabeha radiated a sprightly personality. Team Wodrob was in time to catch her in her element i.e., when designing, only to notice how much she loves her work. No wonder the outcome isn’t any less than perfect. We needed to know more and we bet you’d want to as well. Excerpts from a conversation with the designer
WM: Tell us a little about yourself.
FK: While I was doing my graduation, I did a couple of short-term diploma courses in fashion and design where I learnt the basics, but I received most of my training from my mum. She used to make most of our clothes till we were in college. From uniforms to party clothes, nothing was ever bought. Right from stitching, cutting, it was all very intriguing. I then studied fashion from JD School of Fashion Studies.
WM: Your first gig in entertainment…
FK: It was called Trikal, a daily soap for UTV. There was a new channel at that time called Home TV and that was my first television-cum-daily soap as well. I also started working on advertisements and then I got my first film Chalo America and then from there on I just went working after that. I just completed Noor recently.
WM: Isn’t designing a Bollywood blockbuster like Noor a completely different experience compared to theatre like Guards at the Taj?
FK: It is in a way but actually isn’t (laughs). This is not really my first theatre, I’ve done Madame Butterfly with NCPA and SOI and then I’ve done Dastangoi too. So, when I was offered this I was really excited!
WM: What made you sign this project in terms of design. Also, here we’re talking of a different era, right?
FK: Yes completely. Here, especially because of the time period, a lot of research has to be done and I love researching. Also, online a lot of materials you get aren’t to the ‘T’. So, you have to do your research, go through books, talk to tailors and ask elders for help. Whether it’s the motifs they wore or how the angarkhas were different for Hindus and Muslims, a lot of detailing went into it. If you see, in the turban we used a lot of geometrical elements like diagonal stripes.
WM: What about sourcing all this material? How do you go about it?
FK: The white piece, called a jama goes inside while the peshwa is more ornate and is worn like an overcoat. Then the churidars aren’t really churidars, they are called ‘dogris’ which are loose from the top and taper toward the bottom. So, we needed to see what fabric they used to wear at the time and then source the stuff. Also, it gets difficult because the budgets here are not as high as in the movies. We went to a lot of places and got the right fabric like malmal and then decided on the colour palette. After that, we got the fabric dyed. Everything you see has been dyed and isn’t the original fabric colour. For example, the green and the yellow crepes you see aren’t natural colours, they are dyed to look this way.
WM: What do you enjoy doing more, a big budgeted Bollywood film or theatre?
FK: Anything that has more costume work involved in it. It can be a mega-budget thing. But a small play like this is interesting too because you have very limited resources and you have to complete the job in a particular budget and within a particular time with limited number of people. So yes, this is more interesting.
WM: What is you visualisation process when it comes to designing?
FK: First what I do with any project is I take and read the script. We then get into a narration but for me it all becomes clear only when I watch the characters rehearsing, narrating it in their own ways and saying the dialogues. For me, that’s when I begin to actually feel the story. We also get a character note so that’s when I put the whole thing together. What I do is, I observe people a lot and I know it’s a bad habit but I do it. It just happens. My inspiration has always been people around me.
WM: Isn’t comfort key in theatre? What efforts do you make in that direction?
FK: Yes, comfort is key when it comes to theatre. We give them velcro to make things easier, we try using fabrics that are light on the body and do a lot of trials too. Everyday Priti from my team is here and watches their rehearsals and observes how exactly can we make it comfortable for the actors since they have about ninety seconds to change. So rather than tying things, we’ve made things that are adjustable. For example, the belts are stitched-on so you don’t need to instead of removing and wearing. Everything is light-weight, even the swords and pagadis they are using are really light because they have to sway it around and hold it for long. We try to making the actor as comfortable as possible.
WM: You look great. What would you call your personal style?
FK: There is no ‘personal style’ as such and I wouldn’t even call myself a stylish person. I am very basic in my dressing. I’ll wear anything and everything. I don’t like to wear brands. I prefer cotton-based and linen garments, any fabric that has a natural flow to it. It’s easy on your skin and breathable. You can even dye and age it, or mold the fabric. You can do absolutely anything with these fabrics.
WM: We notice you’re wearing silver and Noor wore a lot of silver in the film too. Any connection there?
FK: No, there is no line in the movie saying she is wearing silver. We just created the character. From the white sneakers to the silver, everything is just created to suit the character. If you look at college kids today, they go to Colaba Causeway to pick up silver jewellery and so did I. Our inspiration for Noor is all of us and to make it extremely relatable.
WM: What would you call your style?
FK: Comfortable. I follow no trends. Ripped jeans internationally aren’t in ‘trend’ now but I still wear them because they are comfortable, I have some air going in (laughs). I like to be comfortable with my clothing. I don’t need to impress anyone, for me I am important.