Costume designer Niharika reveals interesting details of Rajini’s ‘Petta’

Niharika Bhasin Khan

Chennai: It is going to be a ‘pongal’ (read outpouring) of Rajiniism this festive season with the release of the superstar’s latest flick Petta.

Something that has got the fans crazy about this film is how young and stylish Rajini looks. “The ’90s Rajini is back” is the general opinion among fans and critics alike.

The woman behind Rajini’s transformation in Petta that has taken him more than two decades back in time is costume designer, Niharika Bhasin Khan. News Today spoke to the energetic talent to find about the secrets of Petta and get a sneak peek at how Rajinikanth was on the sets.
Here are excerpts from the interview:

What was Rajini’s first reaction when he saw himself in the mirror with the Petta getup?

When he first wore the getup and stood in front of the mirror, he just turned around and looked at me. His eyes were lit up and it became bigger. And then he said, “Niharika Superb!”. That was his exact reaction and it was really cool. Even when I first met him and showed him the presentation of his look, he was very enthusiastic about it.

Tell us about Rajini’s costume and how it connects with his character?

(Director) Karthik (Subbaraj) explained the entire story to me and said the events were happening in North India. He was particular about showing the contrast when Rajini’s character travels from south India to Lucknow in north India, because his character undergoes a change between the two stories. I came back with a presentation to show the difference between how Rajini sir will look when he is younger and when he is older, in the two periods. There is also a difference between designing his costumes for summer in the south and winter in the north.

Niharika Bhasin Khan with Rajinikanth

How did you recreate the ’90s Rajini? Did you draw inspiration from his previous films?

It’s really fun that we have been able to do that because the film is about the ’90s and re-creating it was really cool. It is a good sign that people are talking about it. I’ve never seen any Rajini movies and I even admitted it to him. So, Rajini sir himself showed me a couple of his films. He would show me some references and say, “Niharika I want you to see this white shirt.” But his reference points were more for his comfort like softer fabric and not about style or design of it. Karthik is a huge fan of Rajini and he also shared some references. Rajini’s look in Petta is an amalgamation of putting all these together

How was it working with the superstar?

I’ve never been so enthusiastically involved in my previous films. People on the set would literally applaud and whistle for every step and shot of Rajini. Working with Rajini sir was unlike anyone else I’ve worked with before. He is completely in a league of his own. It was lovely to work with a professional like him who respected the technicians for the creative work we did. There was no pressure at all. One day, after a long schedule, I wanted him to try an outfit for the next day. Unfortunately, shooting got extended an extra three hours. Though it was late and in spite of my insistence that he head back, Rajini sir still went into his room, changed to the costume and said, “It’s okay Niharika. I had promised you.” That’s the gentleman he is.

The posters broke the internet and Simran was the talk of the town as much as Rajni. About that…

It was amazing working on Simran’s costume because she didn’t have to look the part of the usual sexy starlet. Simran is a yoga teacher in the film and we had to give a really organic feel to her costumes. It was really easy to do it because she was a nice person to work with.

If you get a free hand to design Rajini’s costumes in real life, what would you do?

I think every stylist in this universe would love to style him. Maybe, I would make him look a little more sexy. But, I don’t think I would ever want to change his style as much. Rajini sir is someone who is really simple and comfortable in his own skin, and that’s his style. It’s this simplicity that exudes outside. He is what he is and that’s what makes Rajini amazing.

A Harsha Vardhan