'Nikar aur T shirt pehenke aya cyckloneee'

Why I love the styling / costumes of the movie DANGAL and my compliments to Maxima Basu

( I got to admit I wrote this piece 2 weekends ago right after watching Dangal. I didn't post it because silly doubts got the better of me. "I don't know her. Haven't met her. How does it matter if I love the way kids were styled in 'a' movie. Etc etc. " But last night over a chat with husband I knew this compliment had to be paid. So here it is : my fan post to Maxima Basu, for the delightful costume / styling job on the movie Dangal.)

‘Dangal’ is based on the real life story of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat who is father and coach of Indian women wrestlers Geeta and Babita Kumari Phogat. It’s an emotional sports drama that captures one man’s obsession (Aamir Khan plays a gold-medal hungry father to 4 daughters) to empower his daughters against all odds. There are many aspects rendered beatifully by director and co-writer Nitesh Tiwari; discrimintaion against women in rural India, father-daughter relationship and the state of sports (other than cricket) in the country. 


I thoroughly enjoyed the humour, cinematography and performances in the movie. I specially like the way Balali vilage (Haryana) of the 90s was recreated through the setting and costumes. While there are many reasons to love the film I’m focusing on the child actor costumes.


Maxima Basu, who is the Costume Designer for DANGAL, has craftfully blended authenticity with aesthetics throughout the film.


A firm believer in reasearch on foot, she spent close to 10 days in Harayana as part of her preparation. Besides being told not to venture in remote areas on her own, she stayed determined – much in the spirit of the film – to personally look for references and materials that would lend validity to the biographical drama.*


Her research and taste weaves an unobtrusive real wardrobe. Care has been taken to choose the right fabrics. Like light spun cotton ‘soot’ for kurtas worn in Harayana and typical rural floral prints for young Geeta and Babita’s ethnic clothing. The cuts of each of the garment also look real - nothing ‘from the city’ or fanatasy Bollywood land. Then there are details such as middle parting, thick tight braids held by broad ribbons, gold hoop earrings and worn out footwear that add to the village realism.

Maxima says, in an interview with Dvibhumi**

‘I take a lot of time to feel, absorb and research my characters. I procure what I need. Ageing and layering are very important for me and that comes next. I put it all together on a dummy and then I make my final garment and look. Multiply that with all the characters and envisioning them in their set ups, and the wardrobe is ready. ‘
Image Source : https://www.dvibhumi.com/blogs/lunch-box/118667396-person-of-interest-maxima-basu-costume-designer

The costumes and look of the girls also reinforce the struggles of Mahavir Singh Phogat – a focused wrestler coaching his girls to play a ‘man’s sport’. How does one clad daughters in sportswear, in a small village? Geeta and Babita’s training gear bear a strong masculine stamp.

As shown in the film, the shorts are a hand -me -down trousers simply cut above the knees and hemmed by their mother. The t-shirts they wear were intended for men! Completely detached from vanity they are forced to wear clothes that are over sized and borrowed from the boy’s wardrobe. The short haircut is perhaps the cruelest leg of the training and the final blow to anything feminine.

Then there are sweet details in the costumes of the other kids too. Geeta & Babita’s youngest sisters watching their sisters’ ordeal in believable hand-stitched frocks. The supportive boy cousin always sure of his desi-videsi fashion. Hair combed neatly, and large collared shirts tucked in pleated trousers 


I love the colour palette of the film too. As if everything is covered with a thin sheet of mud from the wrestling pit. Including the clothes. Geeta & Babita’s wrestling matches costumes form a palette that is rustic, warm and boyish. Complimenting the skin tones and boy-crops are olives, browns, rust and blacks. The clothes have only a functional role to play. Nothing to distract us viewers from the story, the father’s goal.

Do watch Dangal and know why I cant stop listening to ‘Nikar aur t shurrt pehen kar aaya cyckloaaan’. See the video here:



* Excerpts from an interview of Maxima Basu with Rajya Sabha tv channel

** Excerpts and Image from an interview of Maxima Basu and Dvibhumi

*** all other images from Google Images