Mahanati Savitri
Mahanati Savitri

It is a perfect debut for Indian textile designer Gaurang Shah known for his exquisite work using jamdani weave to create unique fusion of fabrics and textures, especially sarees as the costume designer for the big trilingual film ‘Mahanati’, a biopic on legendary actress Savitri slated for release on May 9, 2018.

Talking about the challenge Gaurang says, “Choosing the right textile, weaving, texturing, and colouring to lend reality to the look of actress Savitri took many months. Over 100 artisans worked relentlessly to ensure the weaving process was uninterrupted as the whole progression took more than a year and a half from the inception of the costumes to the conclusion of the last shoot.

Gaurang has a unique knack for capturing ancient traditions of craft, antiques, and architecture to create his own signature which is a beautiful blend of past and modernity using jamdani weaving technique. This skill lent beautiful synergy and made things seamless, Priyanka Dutt, producer of Swapna Cinema ‘Mahanati’ revealed.

On recreating producer Priyanka Dutt of Swapna Cinema and Nag Ashwin’s vision of ‘Mahanati’ designer Gaurang says, “It was a beautiful journey even for me and my team capturing different moods and sequences in the film. Recreating the sensibilities of the actress including elements such as the choice of fabric types and the textures were immensely satisfying for me as a textile designer.”

Elated about his debut costume venture in a film of this scale Gaurang says, “It was a challenge right from the beginning, what excited me the most was a perfect opportunity to showcase Indian saris in its fullest grandeur, with utmost simplicity through the journey of the legendary actress Savitri on the big screen.”

Gaurang and his team spent a great deal of time in research to ensure every costume that Savitri will be seen wearing in the film is authentic. Gaurang sourced heavy silks fabrics from different parts of India like Kanchipuram, Benares which were enhanced with kota, mangalgiri and block prints that were then handcrafted in looms. “We used tones that carry a lot of radiance and associated with feminine character, balanced it with traditional ‘at-that-era’ of colours, since Savitri’s outfits were all about simplicity and opulence.”

Gaurang explored and recreated textiles to weave her journey from her childhood to her passing away. From mangalgiri’s and kota’s with prints for her growing days, to heavy brocades, silks, organza’s and handwoven sateen’s, chiffons for her golden era to subtle rendition for her later life. His team travelled extensively to museums and recreated the textiles of that time. Each detail of the textile, design, texture and colour were studied, and artisans were guided to recreate it. 

About his approach to perfection and meeting the expectations of the director of the film Nag Ashwin, “The director wanted me to make satins for specific scenes, but since I wanted all her looks to be pure handloom, I recreated the satin on handloom, and for the chiffons and georgettes. For instance, I replicated Savitri’s look for ‘Maya Bazaar’- which was a heavy kanjeevaram lehenga and blouse with an organza dupatta itself. It took us three months to get the colour, design and fabric woven.”