Shahid Kapoor as Raja Rawal Ratan Singh was let down by his dress designer. While the bestial villain, Ranveer Singh as Alāʾ ud-Dīn Khaljī’ swayed through the film Padmavat in his wolf skin, bold gold brocade and dark robes the sheep like hero was dressed in flowered linen.
Designers Rimple and Harpreet Narula did their research of clothes of 13th century by studying traveller’s accounts, manuscripts and historical texts. They plucked motifs out of museums and tea-stained the fabrics to give them an earthy, muted and organic feel. However the medium of film is meant to create a fantastical experience that conjures up images in the mind of the audience, with costumes a tool to set up the character and build an atmosphere. Floating on soft muted mul-mul kurtas embroidered with flowers the Rana does not conjure up images of war or bravery. Girlfriends dressed effeminately alike, the Rajput Rana and his Sinhala queen seem to rival each other in fabrics and jewelry.
It was only after the Rana is captured that the Rani, with a ramrod back, head covering askance, emerges determined for battle. She strides into the lion’s den to snatch back her Rana. Stepping on the tail of the serpent, as the first Rani puts it, she arouses the snake. Could the designers of the movie Padmavat have made the Rana look a little ferocious? He did keep the hungry lion Alāʾ ud-Dīn at bay for a long period. The siege of Chittor lasted eight months leaving the caged Sultan’s army gnashing at the teeth. Amir Khusro who accompanied Alāʾ ud-Dīn to Chittor writes in Khaza’in ul-Futuh that the frontal attacks by the invaders failed twice. And during the two months of the rainy season the defenders reached the skirt of Chitori hill where Alāʾ ud-Dīn’s army was situated.
Artist Vipul Amar and psychologist Harsheen Arora of The V Renaissance set forth to play psychological warfare when they were asked to design the armors for the war scene. The brief given to them was that Ratan Singh is an embodiment of love and patriotism while Alāʾ ud-Dīn Khaljī embodies conquest and invasion. They dressed the Rana in a gold and red armor. Red, say the designer duo, depicts honor, love, and eagerness to serve one’s land.
On the other hand Alāʾ ud-Dīn Khaljī had demonic lions dancing on his shoulders. “The leather lions on his shoulders show his strong-headedness. The lions have been chiseled and hammered to bring into form – as part of the technique, which is also symbolic to Khilji’s conquest. Also, the darkness of the character has been enhanced by engraving reptile scales on the lion heads”, said Harsheen.
In the final scene a red river of agony swept both the Rana and his people to death. The Rani maintained the sisterhood by leading the ladies to their funeral pyres snatching a moral victory from the mouth of the lion. Poet Malik Mohammed Jaisi in his poem Padmavat tells this story. The other chroniclers who accompanied the Sultan are strangely silent. Defeat is nothing to crow about.