In Conversation with Costume Designer Shruti Kapoor: On Traffic, Masaan and More

Does Facebook help in getting you a dream job? Does Instagram help in research? Well in an interesting conversation with Shruti Kapoor, fashion designer by qualification and now a full fledged costume designer with films like Traffic and Masaan, we get to know all this and more. It’s a fascinating journey that started off with a retail menswear brand and ended up in dressing celebs in television and films!

Shruti KapoorDo help us trace your journey from SNDT College in 2011 to Masaan.

In order to get the degree, we had to do a 6 month internship. That is when I worked with a retail menswear brand. .They dress a lot of politicians and then it was just luck by chance. I never thought I would be a part of this profession.

So, how did movies happen?

(Laughs) the first film I did, happened randomly. A friend of mine put up a post on Facebook stating that he needed a costume assistant for the film. I got in touch and that is how I got my first film. So, from a 9 to 5 job, I went to doing a dream job. I took it up, and it was difficult. You know, the first film is always very difficult. But I learnt a lot. What I learnt was that this was much better than a 9 to 5 job and this is what I want to do.

After that, for around 3 months, I worked as an assistant wardrobe consultant on KBC. IT was after this stint that I got to work on a film. I assisted in the wardrobe department on Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly. Then, I got to work on 24 (Season 1) for 4 months. I realized that television was not for me and I wanted to get back to films.

Then, I got to work on my first independent film. It was a short film directed by Anurag Kashyap called “A day after Everyday”. And from then on, it has been a superb journey. I got noticed and did my first feature length film called “Traffic” and also assisted in the wardrobe department on Detective Byomkesh Bakshy. After all this, I got to work on Masaan.

For a costume designer, how is television different from films?

It is very different. While a film gets over, a tv series just keeps going on and on.Also, it gets very hectic. One of the biggest factors that lead me to quit television was the fact that it tended to get monotonous after a point in time. You keep dressing the same characters in the same way for a long period of time. Once you have established a character, you just need to keep repeating things.That was not working for me.

So, how did you get to be a part of the Masaan team?

I had worked with Neeraj on Ugly. So, even before I did my first film, Neeraj sent the script to me. He said that I could say yes only if I liked the script. I finished reading the script in 2 hours and was in awe of the script. I absolutely wanted to be a part of this. It became a benchmark for me. I called him the same day and agreed to be a part of this.

Tell us what happened between you agreeing to the script and the film going on floors? How did you prepare for the film?

The script was so good that it helped me understand the characters right then. I got a decent idea of the characters and I started to work on my initial thoughts. I compiled all my work and sat with Neeraj and we decided on the look of each character. Neeraj’s clarity was amazing. So, that helped in a big way.

Take us through your research.

(Laughs) Will it be difficult for you to believe if I said that most of my research was done on Instagram?

Shruti KapoorWhat?

Yes. See, we were working on a tight budget. So, I did not travel to Banaras extensively. So, I sought for a lot of references from the internet. I used to log on to Instagram and search for hashtags on Banaras and fashion. I got a lot of material that helped in creating a mood board for the film. And, best of all, most of it got retained in the film.

Wow. That is something. Most of the actors were doing their first film. So, there was no reference point. Was it difficult or easy to dress them up?

Thankfully, I had a director who had everything sorted out. Even before I met any of them, I had a fair idea on how the character would have to look. So, the fact that they were working for the first time never got in the way of designing for them. Everything was pretty seamless. I kept their physical features in mind while coming up with the look and accordingly the costumes they should be wearing. Since Vicky Kaushal is very tall and Shweta Tripathi comparatively is shorter, hence I consciously avoided dressing him up in Kurtas as that would have made him look even more taller. During the Durga Puja portions for example it was easy to make him wear Kurtas but I preferred to let him wear shirts instead.

You have worked on a film like Traffic which is quite different from Masaan, it has way too many characters and urban characters unlike Masaan which is more about people from a smaller town. So how different was the experience in comparison?

Well yes Traffic and Masaan are very different films. But in case of Traffic I was fortunate that the director Rajesh Pillai had also directed the Malayalam original and he was very clear that the tone and colour should more or less be in sync with that of the original film. So I just kept that in mind while working on the costumes. Fortunately it worked well.

Were you always available on the set? Considering that you can’t change much once the shot is done, were you always involved when the scenes were being shot?

Yes. I was present on the set all the time. I would keep taking notes. If I felt that the costume is not working against a backdrop, I would tell Neeraj and he would accommodate it. We took care of the all the minute details and it has turned out well.

So, what is next? Where does Shruti Kapoor go from here?

I am awaiting the release of my next film, Traffic. It releases in September. Post that, we will see. I’m going through a few scripts. I just hope to keep getting good work and I want to keep doing good work.

We at MAM wish Shruti and the entire team of Masaan all the very best for the release.

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