Bollywood legendary director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s ‘Padmaavat’ completed four years on January 25 and hair designer Darshan Yewalekar who created the iconic Alauddin Khilji look is overwhelmed with nostalgia.
The movie also features Deepiak Padukone and Shahid Kapoor in the the lead roles.
He has worked on many memorable characters with his muse Ranveer Singh in their decade-old association but this film was the most challenging as there was no visual reference for the character and Darshan had to translate the director’s vision in a tangible way.
He shares, “The brief was about the character’s graph and I had to create a look that jelled with the decisions Khilji makes in the film. The look had to be in sync with his portrayal and we began with the beard and asked Ranveer to grow it for over two months. When this scruffy long beard framed his face, we had a template that we could carve upon. We also gave Ranveer a long goatee and accentuated the dramatic elongated lines of his face to bring attention to his eyes, which played such a huge part in creating a sense of danger around the character. Together, we created a character that looked like a formidable antagonist.”
As someone who always studies the nuances of a character, Darshan also wondered how a destructive antagonist like this would groom himself. He says, “His hair had to be an extension of his persona so as to also exude his wild, untamed, careless energy. His hair and beard, in the end, made him stand out because they were, for want of a better word, loud and distinctly unforgettable just like him.”
It was tough however to maintain the consistency and the integrity of the look throughout the making of the film. Darshan recalls, “To give volume and texture to the hair, we had blended in extensions with Ranveer’s own hair. And maintaining that beard was a bit of a challenge. You know, it’s not easy for an actor to perform with 18 clips in his hair and not let them come in the way of all that movement and that kind of energy. We had also ensured that all this was not taking a toll on his own hair and had to accelerate the healing process with regular hair spas and treatments.”
As a passionate designer, Darshan also became deeply involved with the character’s journey from the beginning to the very end. “Padmaavat was shot over a period of eight months to a year. The most challenging bit was to go on the set every day, and be an integral part of this mad creative energy, the upheavals that this character is a part of, and to live his story day in and day out. Even though I was not performing, I was kind of on the circumference of this energy and as a creative, sensitive person, it just impacted me very forcefully,” he expressed.
The rest of the creative team also took a while to get attuned to the pace, intensity, passion, and relentless perfectionism that is a part of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s creative process. Darshan added, “When you work with Bhansali and Ranveer, there is no compromise when it comes to detailing so it was absolutely important to maintain consistency and perfection in every single shot. As Ranveer’s hairstylist, I could not afford to be lax for even a single moment and even though it was very invigorating and creatively satisfying, it was also tough. I can totally understand when Ranveer says that this was the most difficult character, he has ever portrayed. For me too, it was hard to detach from that character even after packing up because the menacing intensity of his performance would begin to play with my sense of reality. But yes, I feel blessed that I was there to contribute to this landmark portrayal of a one-of-a-kind antagonist.”