(2006) Anna Singh On Umrao Jaan Costumes

Designer Anna Singh is not new to Bollywood. Best known for making Madhuri Dixit’s saris a rage in Hum Aapke Hain Koun, Anna’s been around since 1989. And she’s played the period game before, with films like Mumtaz Mahal.

Still, she admits JP Dutta’s new film wasn’t easy. “Dressing Aishwarya Rai for Umrao Jaan was tough. The challenge was to be able to take the look to an iconic level.”

Here’s what Anna told Priyanka Jain…

Umrao Jaan: Aishwarya Rai

“Aishwarya’s outfits go through four transitions in the movie, depicting the phases of Umrao’s life.

One gold outfit is made with refined resham cloth of pure silver. For this outfit, I have referred to the book, The Motifs of 1800s. The fabric has been re-embroidered, done in salma and sitara work. There are motifs of flowerpots, peacocks, little birds flying, and elephants, etc., as was popular in those days. The concept is unconventional and has a classic, period quality.

The gulband style is the way the people of Lucknow wore it — little pieces of jewellery sewn with different stones like rubies.”

Nawab Sultan: Abhishek Bachchan

“We have dressed Abhishek in a conventional achkan embroidered with antique beaten gold and gold chikan-kari work.

His kurta is made with chikan work in typical Lucknow style and khulla (loose) pyjamas with pointed juttis. He also wear formal safas (turbans) made with silver-encrusted silk.”

Khanam: Shabana Azmi

“Khanam is the diva in the film. Her wardrobe comprises a skirt made of 12 metres of fabric. The authentic name for it is farshi, as it sweeps the floor. This is ensembled with a short kurti, odhanis and a shawl. Her clothes have been embroidered in gold gota kari work with semi-precious stones.

Shabanaji has worked in films like that before, so her inputs helped take the movie to another level. At one point, her mother Shaukat Azmi [who played the same role in the original Umrao Jaan] came along to help us pick material.”

Faiz Ali: Sunil Shetty

“Sunil’s character Faiz is a mysterious man. We have used colours like black and white, depicting the mood and character of the person. He has been dressed in a Pathan style, with a beautiful, long jhabba, a big salwar with a small koti-like waistcoat, a small achkan made of jewelled fabric along with a cummerbund that holds his sword — a sign of noblemen in those days.

We used Peshawari style headgear with an 8-metre long drape, jewelled neckpiece, ring and a handpiece in old beaded gold.”

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