In Conversation With Barnali Rath, One Of The Successful Costume Designers Of Bollywood

City Lights: Fashion

Creativity runs in Barnali Rath’s blood. Be it costume designing for Bollywood films, spreading the distinctive flavours of Odia culinary or taking the matchless handicrafts of the state to a global platform, she does it with style. Barnali has been a quiet, yet relentless flagbearer of modern Odisha’s entrepreneurial spirit. Mother of a teenager, she has always been ahead of the curve.

One of the leading Odia creative entrepreneurs who hails from Rourkela, Barnali has established herself in Bhubaneswar, Mumbai and Delhi. Currently, a very successful costume designer in Bollywood, she owns a clothing line called “Wearart.” Established in 2004, “Wearart” takes up costume and styling projects on turnkey basis. Barnali’s forte is creating authentic looks for various characters in her films for which she puts in huge research. With her film, Kadvi Hawa, all set to release on November 24, My City Links caught up with the very talented designer for an exclusive conversation.

You are a mother, an entrepreneur and a costume designer. How do you manage everything?

Yes, sometimes it is very difficult to create a balance between everything but if you put everything together, it’s very satisfying. But initially I had stopped working because when you have a child, you have lots of responsibility and no one can take the place of a mother. Now since my son is growing up and will soon turn 14, I have become very choosy about selecting any project as I prefer to stay  flexible with my time so that i can give time to my son and the house. I am quite satisfied with the way I have been balancing everything for the last 15 years.

You started your own clothing line ‘Wearart' in Mumbai. So do you have any prominent clients from the entertainment industry?

I used to have many individual clients but lately most of my works are costume designs for television programs and films. Like last month in Odisha, I finished a project which was a period film on Buxi Jagabandhu. Wearart was also a consultant to a news channel where I helped them setting up everything from the scratch.

You have worked in films like I am Kalam, Kaun Kitney Pani mei, Kadvi Hawa or Halka, where you got an opportunity to work with stars like Gulshan Grover, Kunal Kapoor, Radhika Apte, Sunjay Mishra, Ranvir Shorey, Tillotama Shome among others. How was your experience working with them?

It was very good. They are established actors and are very particular about their films and looks. Working with such mature people was really a great experience. They are very passionate about their acting and they understand their characters. They work hard to get into the skin of their characters, literally! So, they understand that costumes play an important role in helping them justify their character properly. I still remember when we were working on Kaun Kitney Pani Mei, Sourav Shukla came once for the costume trial and we did all minor fittings. After that one trial, he has had no complaints, whatsoever, till the end of the entire shooting. Working with senior actors is always  a learning experience.

How do you see your journey from Rourkela to Delhi?

Back then, when I was in Rourkela, I used to think that there is nothing called costume designing and I used to look down upon it. At that time, I had no proper understanding about it. But slowly, I started understanding its importance and took my work more seriously. Gradually after coming to Delhi, I started focusing more on costume designing rather than taking individual orders. I also realised that there is no proper education system for costume designing in institutes. Rather, there are only fashion designing courses. I am even sad to see that in my own state, there is no regards for costume designers. Living in Delhi, it was more different to establish oneself as a costume designer because the whole film fraternity is based in Mumbai. It was a conscious decision to stay in Delhi and make a base there. Now over the 15 years, Delhi has a proper film and television industry. 

You have mostly worked in the films of your husband, Nila Madhab Panda.  Do you have plans to work for other directors too?

Well, I have worked with other directors also. I feel that whatever project I choose, it should be challenging. I have no issues working here and there. Most people think that I only work for Nila Madhab Panda which is not true. I am open to working with different production houses. 

In Kadvi Hawa, Ranvir Shorey plays the character of an Odia guy. What were your ideas to give him an authentic Odia look?

Well, I have added a lot of Odia elements in the fabrics that I have used for him. The entire wardrobe is not Odia but there are visible Odia elements  in the entire getup. I made sure to choose proper fabrics, design which is why I was regularly visiting the state.There was a strict colour pallet with which I had to work with. After having a discussions with film director, director of photography and art department we decided a colour pallet and we had to stick with that for all the characters.I always keep ample fabrics with me so that whenever any ideas come, I just start stitching. I do lots of mix and match with Odisha handloom. I believe that Odisha handloom needs more publicity and better marketing because traditional textile from Odisha is really very beautiful.

What would be your message to all young students who aspire to enter the entertainment industry and do costume designing?

There is a lot of scope but also there is lot of competition. Young aspiring designers have to be on their toes, be focused and work hard to build their own place. I would also suggest them to never ever copy. When they are creating something, they need to understand the concept and then create. The concept is very important as it is the skeleton of the creativity which needs to be translated into a real piece.