Alia Bhatt’s transformation from minted school snob Shanaya Singhania in ‘Student of the Year’ (2012) to abducted teenager Veera Tripathi of ‘Highway’ took two months, hundreds of miles and no shampoo. And the man who took the grease paint off the ‘Student of the Year’ debutant is Aid Narula.
The fashion designer and film stylist, who birthed trends like collared kurtas in ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ (2005) and frayed Nehru caps in ‘Rockstar’ (2012), started his recce in the weekly flea markets of Raja Garden in Delhi and the journey continued through the haats of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. When pressed for some authenticity, he simply borrowed from the residents of tiny hamlets like Kalpa and Reckong Peo, where the film was shot. Bhatt, who inhabited the utopia of short dresses and big labels in her first film, was more than happy with strangers’ hand-me-downs. Veera starts her journey in a T-shirt and track pants; the urbane staples soon give way to oversized ‘borrowed from the boys’ garments and as the terrified teenager finally comes into her own and the motley crew move onto the hills, traditional skirts and turbans follow.
“Imtiaz Ali (director) was very clear that the extension of Alia’s wardrobe has to be an organic process. Therefore, all additions began with the question, ‘Where will Veera get this from?’ We even eschewed fitting shoes for the same reason. And every piece is explained, for example the turban she sports in the promotional images was crafted from a blue sweater she wears earlier and then re-purposes as headgear in a scene,” says Aid who travelled through Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir with the cast and crew. This austere approach meant that no backstage manipulations were allowed. After all where will Veera get safety pins or make-up from? And the barebones aesthetic was applied to the film’s leading man Randeep Hooda, who plays truck driver Mahabir Bhatti, as well as some of the 200 extras used in the film. “We used a lot of locals as extras and asked them to bring along their daily wardrobe. And instead of the usual prettying up, we went the opposite direction. So we picked out the most worn out pieces for them to wear,” says Aid. At least the wardrobe budget was never a problem? “We had an unlimited budget of creativity and emotions,” quips the designer.
‘Highway’ is slated for release on 21st February.