"My characters are never overdressed. I like to bring out their qualities very subtly"

She bagged the best costume designer's award for Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand at the second Indian Telly Awards last year. One year down the line, this shy designer is hopeful, confident but not arrogant.

"I'm thrilled. I'm hoping that I get the award this time too," she says. Surprisingly, Ritu Deora began her career as a costume designer only at the age of 27, with some help from her husband R K Deora, general manager at the garment division Of Siyaram Silk Mills.

This Bachelor of Arts student from Jodhpur says she never got any formal training in costume designing. But she had an eye for colours, hues, shades and patterns. And within a span of six years --from 1995 when she started her Ritu's Design Studio (RDS) to last year when she won the award -- Deora has proved her mettle.

She says she makes it a point to get a complete briefing of the serials from the production units to understand the characters and situations before designing their outfits. She says, "For Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand, we had to do an in-depth study of the characters, which translated into the costumes."

Deora says her growing demand in the industry today is partly thanks to the award, and partly because of RDS' dedication. The company provides costumes for the entire star cast rather than supplying it only for the lead pairs. "We have become a 'one point shop' for all TV costume requirements," she explains in an interview with indiantelevision.com's Nitya Kaushik. Excerpts:


Did you expect the Indian Telly Award last year? What was your reaction on receiving it?

No. Last year, when I got nominated for the award, it was the first time I'd heard of the Indian Telly Awards. I'm not from a formal fashion designing background and don't know much about the industry aside from my own work. Naturally, I didn't expect an award for my work. I was so excited when it happened. The award gave me a new lease of life. My business has also improved in the TV industry.


Do you think you deserved an award for the costumes of Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand? Which serial would you have awarded yourself for?

I do think my best designs has been in Des Mein… If I were to award myself, it would be solely for dressing Sangeeta Ghosh as Pammi. I have taken care of every possible aspect while dressing her. She is an NRI, but her values are intact. So, I have dressed her in very traditional salwar kurtas but each one of them has a designer look. All her salwars/churidars are of lycra, hence the perfect drape.

However, the credit for dressing Pammi goes as much to Ghosh as to me. She is not just cooperative, she is proactive. She makes suggestions on her clothes, accessories, bindis etc, never fusses, always takes a good tip. That's part of the reason why Pammi turned out so perfect.

The other costumes I've enjoyed designing for include those of Kehta Hai Dil and Kumkum.

"I have taken care of every possible aspect while dressing Sangeeta Ghosh as Pammi"

Sangeeta Ghosh in an outfit designed by Deora for 'Des Mein Niklla Hoga Chand'


You have also done costumes for some films. How is that different from working for TV serials?

Yes, I designed for Fiza and Nayak. I also have Ashok Pandit's Sheen, Tata Films' Aitbaar, Sweta International's Mumkin and Smita Thackeray's Hum Jo Kah Na Paye in waiting.

Designing for films is much simpler than for TV. First of all, the quantity of outfits needed for one film is as much as the quantity need for two weeks' episodes in a soap.

Also, films can do with very plain costumes, because in most cases they are juxtaposed against scenic backdrops for effect. On the other hand, a TV serial relies only on frontal views in most cases. So whatever gloss or effect we want to create has to be on the front.

Thirdly, any new trend portrayed in a film is wasted because the style becomes old by the time the film releases. As for a TV serial, there is immediate gratification. You depict a certain look and it's out within a week.

Finally, a designer does not need to spend too much time on a film. We only have to design a set of clothes for them and then forget about the shoot. But a TV serial is interactive. We need to regularly discuss with the characters about their roles, the finer changes in personality and keep revising.


Considering that films are easier and more paying, do you intend to shift your focus to films, in the near future?

No. I have carved a niche for myself in the industry -- that matters most. I find TV challenging. And yes, I am a business person and know that it will bring me more profits in the long run.


You are designing costumes for a Hollywood flick too…

It's for a Manoj Night Shyamalan production. The film's called Divorce.


How has costume designing in television evolved in India?

Dress designing in television has come a long way. When I started out in 1995, there was no concept of costume designing. Those days films dictated the popular trends, TV was just a poor cousin.

However, now TV producers have realized that the personality of a show depends much on the look of the characters. Costume designing is not a secondary activity any more.


What kind of budget is allocated for costumes in a serial?

It varies from Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000 per episode. Producers who care for 'presentation' are ready to shell out more.


Is the look given to a character your prerogative or does the director/producer decide on that?

Usually, we are just given an outline of the character's role. Then we decide on the look. Some artistes, like Sangeeta Ghosh make suggestions. I find that very encouraging.


But don't you think actors are overdressed in most serials?

Oh yes, they are. Especially, the vamp. Recently, a serial showed the vamp wearing a 'danger' sign for a bindi. That was outrageous.

My characters are never overdressed. I like to bring out their qualities very subtly.


Who do you think is your immediate competition? How do you rate them?

Balaji Telefilms' Nim Sood is a good designer. She was my contender at the Indian Telly Awards last year. But the problem with Balaji is that they don't delve in variety. They just make bulk purchases in different prints, shades and patterns. That's where they lose brownies.

"There is no school in India today that trains costumes designers for television. This, in spite of TV being a very dynamic industry"

What according to you are your advantages?

In-time service, quality, innovativeness, maintaining continuity as well as standard and professionalism -- these are our advantages. None of our customers have been disappointed by us.

We deliver even if the order is placed at one am in the morning. The result is obvious. Today production houses take Ritu Deora as an example while discussing costumes.


Is there a dearth of costume designing schools in India?

Yes. There is no school in India today that trains costumes designers for television. This in spite of TV being a very dynamic industry.

Even the regular costume designing schools don't teach practical designing. It's all just theories and sketches.


What have you planned for the future?

My husband and I are planning to start a store in Mumbai -- a store that fills the vacuum in the fabric market at present.

Today there are small cloth stores, branded clothes and big-time designers. But there is no one catering to the upper middle class -- or that section of people who can't afford designer labels but don't buy from an ordinary cloth store either. I want to cater to that section.

I will sell designer wear at a reasonable price.

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