Neeta Lulla has a history of great work behind her. The designer has worked with stars like Sridevi, Juhi Chawla, Divya Bharati, Shilpa Shetty and Aishwarya Rai. She has worked on notable films like Devdas, Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi and Mohenjo Daro. Hers has also been a key name for bridal tailoring. His influence in the world of periodical cinema has been applauded for its authenticity and aesthetics – the latest being the Panipat of Ashutosh Gowariker, based on the third battle of Panipat between the Marathas and the Afghans. Recreating 18th century costumes, Neeta Lulla deeply appreciated her revisit of an important chronology of history…
How was Panipat different from your previous experiences?
Panipat is a war that everyone knows. There is visual evidence in museums. In addition, various films have been shot on the history of Maratha. I did all the necessary research. I made reference to the visuals available for characters like Sadashiv Rao Bhau (Arjun Kapoor), Ahmad Shah Abdali (Sanjay Dutt), Parvati Bai (Kriti Sanon)… I have read books on this subject, referring to information on the net. But most of the time, our research was based on the texts available and by talking to different people. Sadashiv’s armor is kept in the museum when details about Shamsher were available. It helped us recreate them.
Creation of costumes that belonged to the 18th century with materials available in the 21st century… How did you make it authentic?
Recreating costumes is fine, but recreating war costumes required a process that we followed. The armor had to be authentic. It was difficult for the actors to carry the heavy stuff in the heat for war scenes. Sanjay Dutt’s armor was three layers. Walking around and fighting with it in the weather was difficult.
Having been here for decades, how important is it to keep up with the times?
I continue to reinvent myself and push the bar. I constantly create and recreate. Twenty years ago, you didn’t really know the brands. They were not readily available either. My name is a costume technician. I never say that I’m a costume designer because it’s after all a technique. You should be able to reinvent your technology to make things easier for the players who wear it and make it look like a new age. If you see in Manikarnika, the armor betrays traditional technology while in Panipat the technology is different. The working method therefore also varies.
What is the next step?
I’m working on Thalaivi, the biopic starring Kangana Ranaut as the late Tamil Nadu CM Jayalaithaa. I just finished work on Mukammal from Shilpa Shetty, his return film. I am making another film with Priyadarshan. I’m also doing a huge project in Hyderabad. My new collection of wedding dresses will soon be launched. We also have a new store in Mumbai.