\'Samantha\'s look from Shakuntala decoded

By DECCAN CHRONICLE | Sashidhar Adivi

28 January 2023

Stylist Neeta Lulla takes us behind the scenes of the director Gunasekhar\'s costume drama

Shakuntalam, based on the 5th Century poet Kalidasa’s mythological drama Abhigyanam Shakuntalam, was right up costume designer and fashion stylist Neeta Lulla’s street.

She has done the costumes for the entire cast of the film directed by Gunasekhar, and designed three looks for Samantha as Shakuntala. Extensive research went into deciding Samantha’s wardrobe and accessories for the part. “Gunasekhar garu wanted me to keep the costumes relevant to the story and reflect the mythological era,” says Neeta.

Detailing Samantha’s costumes took a great deal of effort. Neeta says she had to revisit her childhood, re-read the Chandamama magazines which carried illustrated stories from Indian mythology, and look at paintings of Shakuntala to come up with a comprehensive idea of how the character would have looked.

Neeta, who has won multiple National Awards, says she spent a lot of thought on Shakuntala’s looks and body language, including hand movements. Sam worked on her character too.

“We created three kinds of looks for Samantha: one was as a forest dweller with floral jewellery and organic cotton drapes. The flowers are all native to the Himalayas, as the story is set there. The second look was as a royal princess. The third was as a Queen. Her royal costume weighed around 30 kg. It was fully hand embroidered with real pearls and Swarovski crystals and also had heavy zardozi work,” reveals Neeta. Sam wore this outfit for close to 12 hours for seven days, she adds.

The cast as a whole needed around 3000 costume changes. And Samantha herself needed around 40 of them. It took Neeta and her team around four months to design these, and Samantha “carried the look gracefully,” says the stylist. “This was possible because she owned, felt and lived the character.

“Throughout the shooting that excitement in her was evident, and she also gave the role her own spin. This is the first time that Sam has carried such heavy jewellery but she aced it. She had to put in a lot of physical effort to sport the unique costumes."

Jewellery worth crores was used for this film. Real gold, diamonds and other gemstones were used. Jewellery designer Neha Anumolu and her team researched the era for over six months and came up with handcrafted jewellery. At any given point, Samantha was wearing close to Rs 3 crore worth of jewels in her royal look.

Neeta also created armour for war sequences. The armour was encrusted with gemstones, and the very heavy pieces had to be worn for over two weeks by actors Dev Mohan, Jisshu Sengupta and Kabir Singh.

“We also created a pure gold harness for Dev Mohan to be worn as the King. It weighed close to 15 kg. He wore this for close to 12 hours every day for a week or so says Neha Anumolu, Jewellery Designer, adding that working with producer Neelima Gunasekhar has been an enriching experience.

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