If you want to make your leading man look slick and dapper, Kollywood knows whose number to have on speed dial. The fact that costume designer Anu Vardhan has dressed up the two `Billas' of Tamil cinema - Ajith in the remake of the Rajinikanth classic `Billa' in 2007 and now with `Kabali', the original Billa himself, makes her a hot favorite. Anu's next project incidentally is again with Ajith for his 57th production.
Anu laughs aloud when the Billa connection is pointed out to her. "Both trust you completely. They have no qualms about trying anything new. It gives you a huge confidence as a costume designer,'' says Anu Vardhan.
Ajith's look in Billa
The fact that Rajinikanth's attire in `Kabali' is a talking point, indicates the calibre of Anu's work. She met Rajinikanth for the first time in September 2015 when the project was offered (‘relatively late’, she points out) to her. “I was brought in 20 days before the photo shoot in Chennai. That was when I saw him dressed in the grey suit we had stitched for him, complete with the hair styling that stylist Bhanu did. Rajini Sir told me - You have done a good job, Anu. I was very excited,'' says Anu.
The brief on how to dress up Rajinikanth was given by director Pa. Ranjith. He wanted the suit look but the detailing was left to Anu, who chose the kind of texture, fabric and colour that will suit an ageing don. The suits came from a store in London and many of the accessories were picked up in Malaysia, where they were shooting, to give it a local flavour and realistic touch. Anu also ensured that the styling and colours of the suits were very different from the kind Rajini wore in a few scenes in recent films like `Enthiran', `Sivaji' and `Lingaa'.
Comparisons have been made between Rajinikanth's character in `Kabali' and `Baasha', his 1995 super hit, where too he played a don. Anu says it was obvious the Baasha look could not be repeated. “It was a different period, with a different kind of style. For `Kabali', Ranjith and I looked at a lot of references and finally zeroed in on what would suit the character best,” says Anu.
Anu is overwhelmed that the reactions to Rajinikanth's costumes have been so positive. “I personally thought people will like whatever he wears,” she chuckles. “In this case, grey gave a lot of elegance. The colour looks dignified.”
Anu Vardhan made her debut in commercial cinema with Shahrukh Khan's historical drama `Asoka' in 2001 and among other films, has done `Vedalam' and `Aarambam' with Ajith. Extremely choosy about her work, she does one film at a time, to be able to give her 100 per cent. After having worked for seven months on the `Kabali' project, this `Superstar' designer cannot wait to see the King of Style carry her work off on the big screen. Needless to add, to a lot of applause and whistles.