Dramatic life of a Costume Designer
We get talking to Sankeerthi Aipanjiguly, a Bangalore-based costume designer about the highs and lows of this creative profession.
If clothing makes the man, then designing them makes one some sort of a creative genius. Film making is a very collaborative process and the role of a costume designer is extremely crucial as it helps to set the film’s emotional tone in a visually appealing way. Merging everybody’s vision and bringing the characters to life in colourful and relevant costumes, does indeed make one a creative genius. Sankeerthi Aipanjiguly has been in this creative profession for over a decade now and is slowly climbing the stairs of success with every new project. It's been a long and grueling journey but her passion for designing has what helped her come this far.
After completing high school, Sankeerthi pursued a diploma in costume designing at the JSS University, Mysore and later worked as a guest faculty at NIFT, Bangalore for four years. It is during that time she made her foray into the world of fashion and started styling for theatre plays and ads. “I’ve always liked fashion, but never wanted to work as a fashion designer. I think designing costume is more interesting as it is not just about the clothes but also the character. As a child I always liked clothes and dressing up. I learned to sew from an early age and that reinforced my love for designing, and knew that this was what I wanted to do.” says Sankeerthi.
She has also worked as stylist and has a large number of ads to her repertoire, including some famous brands like Horlicks Junior, Bru Coffee, Asian Paints, Volkswagen and Big Bazaar. And that's not all, she has even designed exquisite costumes for over 15 theatre plays and movies like Freaky Chakra and Bus Yun Hi. But currently Sankeerthi is busy designing for a French movie which is being directed by Joel Farges. The movie which is a biography set in the 1900s traces the life history of Alexandra David Neel who was a Belgian-French explorer and writer, most known for her visit to Lhasa, Tibet, in 1924, when it was forbidden to foreigners.
Sa nkeerthi’s love for art and history is what propelled her into designing for period plays. “I enjoy doing period costumes as you learn something new every time. I especially love the Victorian era, the garments of that period ooze grace and opulence. I make sure every dress has its own personality and creates a visual of that era. And attaining perfection in what I do is what excites me and pushes me to do better. Though most of the times we work on a tight budget it always is a great learning experience.” she explains.
However Sankeerthi rues that there isn't too much money in this profession and costume designers are always expected to work within a limited time and budget. “To be part of this creative profession you have to be married to your job. Even when you go on a vacation, you’re not really on vacation because you always have to be working. It’s endless in a way but it’s fulfilling creatively.” says Sankeerthi, with a twinkle in her eye.
Dispelling the common misconception of the costume designer’s role Sankeerthi says that people often believe that costume designing and fashion designing are directly related. Although one can and often does influence the other, they are not. She says, “Sometimes there is overlap, but costumes are intended to serve the narrative. You have to design for a specific character from history, or for a fictional character according to the script. There is a lot of research that goes in to it and I think it is essential to know how a costume is constructed to be able to design properly.”
Though a city like Mumbai or Delhi would open up a lot more work opportunities, Sankeerthi doesn’t want to shift base and is quite happy with the way things are going. “Costume designing is still in its infancy and not much importance is given to it at least in the regional cinema. I started out pretty early in life and I’ve realized it the hard way that you have to network and be completely immersed into your craft to get on top. As far as the movie industry is concerned, it’s a tough one; you have to be pretty determined to succeed.” she concludes.