Hyderabad: Chennai-based costume designer Nalini Sriram calls herself a “needy soul”, one who made it big in the film industry “just by plain luck”. But chance doesn’t explain her work and the acclaim she has received following her latest Tollywood project, Manam. There must be a reason why filmmakers in the South are making a bee-line for her.
Nalini started 22 years ago, with Mani Ratnam’s Roja. “I had graduated in English Literature and designing was never something, I had studied. I was in my 30s, married with a child and working as a freelance writer when I happened to just wander into this field,” she says.
The early days were tough too.
“I did start out late and learning was on the job but family was very supportive and they indulged me. I am, you can say, a costume designer from the pre-historic age of cinema. When I started, costume designer was not even a job title, they just didn’t know where to put you, I remember I just got Rs 5,000 for Roja.”
And two decades later, the Akkinenis became Nalini’s clients. Her last Telugu film was Samantha-Naga Chaitanya starrer Ye Maaya Chesave in 2010.
“The first thing ANR told me when I met him was, ‘Amma, I’m completely in your hands’. I was actually bowled over because actors usually have their own inputs to give. They WhatsApp you, send you images of what they find appealing and have ideas to give on the designs you have for them.
ANR, on the other hand, was disciplined and had that sense of professionalism people belonging to his era usually have. That’s also why I think I’m still doing well because directors and producers get along with me and they are able to convey their ideas well,” Nalini reveals.
With Manam done, Nalini is all set to do more of Tollywood and after the “bills are paid” and a short break, it will be back to work again.
“I want to soak in the latest success. I also have a lot of pending bills to sort out because of the money spent on the costumes for the movie so that will take some time. After that, I’ll decide on my next project,” she laughs.