While her lehengas go round and round, she stays grounded

She wandered around the room with a cup of tea in her hand. She seemed satisfied just looking at the way people were combing through her collection. Anju Modi sipped from her cup slowly, almost in a meditative effect, as ladies rushed to the changing room to try the long flowy lehengas and blouses.

That's the designer for you

That’s the designer for you

After winning a lifetime of compliments for her costume designs in the movie Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ramleela, Anju knew how to handle frenzy.  Her clients couldn’t compliment her enough on her new collection that was launched in the city recently. Anju would smile to all of them, help them pick dresses and engage in casual how-is-the-weather conversations. And without being too rude, occasionally she would slip into a small room to give interviews.

‘Ma’am wouldn’t you want to attend to your clients?’ a staff would call out to her.

Arey, maine to kapade bana liye, ab aap log sambhalo…(I made the clothes, now you guys manage…)’ she would say, with a laugh.


Here is a copy of the interview I did  with her.

Even before the movie Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela released, talks about Deepika’s 30-kg lehenga on the poster and Priyanka’s seductive white dhoti in Ram Chahe Leela song went around like wildfire. Unperturbed by the blinding spotlight, costume designer Anju Modi sipped in on the compliments with all modesty.

The 30-kg lenhenga ?

The 30-kg lehenga ?

“The subject in itself was very vibrant. The character Leela (played by Deepika Padukone) in the movie, was vivacious, fun loving and full of life. Also, the script required a traditional outfit,” said Anju, who was recently in the city at the launch of her new collection ‘Draupadi’ at Evoluzione.

One of the designs from her 'Draupadi' collection

One of the designs from her ‘Draupadi’ collection

To suit the modern interpretation of the age-old love, the costumes were required to maintain that balance between being sexy and traditional. “The original Gujarati dresses are in itself very colourful. Also, we used a lot of velvet, which is again a very Gujarati fabric. The set (that was based in the background of Kutch) had a lot of colour. So the costumes were designed based on all that,” adds Anju.

Those who have watched the movie wouldn’t have missed the slow change in hues and patterns as the narration goes from a gush of romance in the beginning to violence towards the end. While Deepika sports deep-necked blouses and colour-dripping lehengas in the beginning, towards the end, it is more of close-necked tops and shawls.  “The team behind the movie always used to sit and discuss ‘Shall we do this, shall we do that?’ Since they were having all those discussions in front of me, everything progressed in a natural way. I wasn’t following any trend, I was just following my heart,” says Anju.

Unlike the conventional all-white sari for Holi, Anju decided to add colour to the costume, while keeping an elaborate white space

Unlike the conventional all-white sari for Holi, Anju decided to add colour to the costume, while keeping an elaborate white space

Now, her new collection, which is again as womanly as Leela’s, is based on the theme ‘Draupadi’.  Anju says that it is not her love for the epic, but her awe towards the philosophy behind it. “I like to have a story for my collection. And Draupadi is the perfect character when it comes to depicting a woman’s elegance, strength and sophistication,” says Anju.

The collection includes colours that sync with the different phases of Draupadi’s life. “Since she is born out of fire, I have used fiery orange. And then she goes after her swayamvar (marriage to Pandavas) to the royal palace. To depict that, I have used crimson and gold. To show her devotion to Krishna I have used blush pink, yellow and ivory which are spiritually inclined,” says Anju.

“I like to prepare a storyline and work around that. As I go along a storyline, I start relating it with hand embroidery, colours and motifs,” says Anju. Previously, she has done a collection based on a day in the life of a girl – from 6 am to 12 am. And her next, she says, is inspired by Alice in Wonderland.

Well, we don't know about Alice in Wonderland, but this dress for Priyanka Chopra sure looks dreamy

Well, we don’t know about Alice in Wonderland, but this dress for Priyanka Chopra sure looks dreamy

It was earlier published in The New Indian Express. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/From-Draupadi-To-Alice-in-Wonderland/2014/03/13/article2105629.ece#.UyJ17D-Sw9I

She could have been my exotic pet

“How did it come here?” I heard my cousin’s voice from the kitchen. I was in my room, trying to concentrate on a story I was typing out. How did what come where? I thought, sharpening my ears to hear more.

“What do we do now?” she asked.

“Open the balcony doors,” replied my mother.

At this point I had to stop typing. Why would they talk like a pair of convicts? What had they done?

I shot outside my room, and walked into the kitchen to see both my cousin and mom staring hypnotised at the most beautiful thing I had seen for a while.

Here is what I saw.

The dagger-beaked beauty

The dagger-beaked beauty

I nudged them aside and walked towards the wonder. I wanted to own it, but I knew I couldn’t. This one would remain one of my thousand unfulfilled dreams.

I asked my mom how long had the bird been there for. But she had already left the kitchen by then. How could she go? Doesn’t she want to keep looking at it for the  little time it was here? I thought this aloud, and my cousin gave me a blank look.

I knew I was over reacting, but life doesn’t always make a kingfisher visit your house, does it?

By then, it had hopped on to a higher platform, on top of the shelf. Sitting like that with all the poise and grace, I named it ‘The queen’. She deserved the name.


She seemed to take a liking to the silhouette of the dancing girl

The queen sat in the same position for several minutes. She was probably decoding my painting on the wall. What did she think it was? A school of fish dancing in a dusty pond?

I kept looking at her, and she kept looking at the painting. I wanted to bring all my paintings from the hall just to let her watch it and probably stay for a while longer.


No one has admired my painting that long

By then, my mother was back with a long rod.

“No!” I screamed.

“What no?” my mom questioned, clearly annoyed at the melodramatic upsurge in my voice.

“Are you going to throw her out?” I asked. A highly redundant question, but I had to buy time. I wanted The queen to stay.

At this point, she flapped her wings and perched herself on the tube light. Probably she had caught sight of the long deathly looking rod.

I shrieked, and hid besides the fridge. I was scared that The queen might turn violent. What if she thought my nose was a little fish?


The disco-lights effect

I looked at her sitting on the tube light, her turquoise blue glowing like the disco light.  I was scared, though I was tempted to touch her. I wanted to feed her something. Only if I had a tiny aquarium.

The queen had finally sensed that she was out-of-place. She no longer was interested in my painting, but kept moving restlessly on the tube light, trying to find her escape.

I wanted to tell The queen to calm down. ‘You could be my exotic pet!’ I wanted her to understand.

But of course, The queen couldn’t understand my love. She flapped, hopped, and clicked her neck. And then she hopped onto something steely right beneath the tube light.


My mom deftly showing The queen her way out

My mom had ascended the rod to where she was. The queen had jumped right onto it without any coaxing. 

Slowly she was led to the balcony, outside the grills, where she clicked her neck for one last time before launching herself into the night.