Nikhaar Dhawan Interview: “Suriya and Karthi are just delightful to work with”

Kaashmora is out in theaters and the film is getting good patronage from all sections of audience. The period segment and the scenes inside the palace are undoubted highlights, thanks to Karthi’s gutsy makeover and costumes. Noted costume designer Nikhaar Dhawan is the one responsible for Karthi’s various looks and attire in the film. She has also given Sridivya a welcome changeover in the film. In this interview, we get to know more about this NIFT graduate and her work in Kaashmora.

Working on a multi-genre film like Kaashmora must have been a big challenge, right? 

“I thought it would be a big challenge to show the disparity between the two different time segments in the film but it was made easy by the wonderful team. Director Gokul was very clear in his vision and Karthi is always up for new things. He is a sport and carries costumes with ease. The production designer, Rajeevan, is great and I have already worked with him. We share a good understanding, and I developed a good comfort zone with Gokul as well. It was a breeze working on Kaashmora, surprisingly.” kaashmora opening day collections
What was the kind of research and ideation you did for the costumes in Kaashmora? From where did you source the materials and stuff?

“Since it’s a fantasy based film, there was not much research to fall back on. It was mostly based on the director’s inputs. I took my referencing from fantasy arts, animated comics, sketches of fantasy artistes and architecture. I added all this to my thought process. For Karthi, we specially customized the costumes for his character. I mostly sourced stuff from Delhi, Chennai and also imported some fabrics from abroad. It all fell together, nicely.”

How did Karthi cope with all the heavy-duty, extravagant costumes?

“I had earlier worked with him for the songs in Saguni and few other films. He always gets excited and pumped about his characters, and this is good for the designer too. We didn’t have to convince him much and he was game to put on all those grand and heavy costumes. He is very easy to work with. Producer SR Prabhu was very supportive throughout the project. In fact, I’ve developed a good equation with the entire family over the years. AlsoI worked with Suriya in films like Aadhavan, Maattrraan and Singam 2. They are just delightful to work with.” kaashmora karthi

Gokul is a director who is well-aware of the various aspects of film-making. How was the going with him? 

“Gokul knows what he wants and what he definitely doesn’t want. That made it easy for me to understand his vision. When people can’t really make up their mind about what they want, it becomes difficult to work with them. His inputs were valuable and we mostly nailed it on the first go itself, without having to go for runs and re-runs.”

Seeing Sridivya in an urban, chic look was pleasing. She is mostly seen as the demure rural belle in Tamil cinema … 

“For Sridivya, we made sure that her clothes suited her generally shy personality. Her costumes were not outrageously urban or sexy. We struck a balance as the director was clear that she must be decently dressed. We haven’t given her anything trendsetting. We kept it real and in natural sync with the character’s requirements and the story.”Nikhar

Can you talk us through the other Tamil films that you’ve done?

Mani Ratnam’s Guru was my first film. I then got to work on many noted films like Maattrraan (the costumes of Suriya and Kajal), Aadhavan (Suriya and Nayanthara), 7am Arivu (for Suriya in one song), Lingaa (Rajini, Anushka and Sonakshi), Singam 2 (Suriya), Anaganaga O Dheerudu, the bridal gown of Nayanthara in Raja Rani and Bale Pandiya to name a few. I’ve worked on 3 fantasy period films so far and it’s a real delight to work in this space. It’s a dramatic genre and you can go crazy with your ideas. It’s fun to make interesting costumes rather than just styling, which can get boring sometimes.” 

What next? 

“I am back to the theater scene in Delhi, after a long break. I also work closely with the European fashion market. If something nice comes up, I will take it up. There is a nice culture of professionalism in the South and people know what they want. Though I am based in Delhi, I am comfortable with Chennai and Hyderabad as a work turf.”

Best wishes Nikhaar, for more fulfilling work to come your way. Interviewed by Kaushik LM

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