Think English Cinema and one immediately recalls the great celluloid extravaganzas of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory. This duo produced films of such beauty that is irresistibly seductive. Many directors and producers followed the Merchant Ivory route to glam up celluloid. The most recent films to nail it are Victoria and Abdul (2017) and 2019 Oscar and Golden Globe winning actress Olivia Colman in The Favorite (2018). Both films are based on British royal lives. Naturally this marks the set for opulence, extravagance and splendid costume. The beauty of period history cinema is that the costume designer gets carte blanche for creativity and style. It doesn’t really matter if the clothing is inaccurate. The costumes just need to look magnificent. In lieu of that allowance, lycra and polyester can be used even though they weren’t invented at the time. Who cares? It is fine as long as it makes for superb cinematic viewing.
Malayalam films cater to a small but significant audience of movie-goers. The classic Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha of 1989 is a favorite among Keralites. Malayalees also mention Vaisali (1988), Guru (2007) and Kaalapani (1996). But we are going with one film based in the British colonial time era – Pazhassi Raja produced in 2009 and Velipadinte Pusthakam in 2017. Between the two films the costumes are worth applauding. That the patriotic story line is appealing adds to the narrative. But the clothing still stands out to create the difference between the British and the local heroes.
Wendell Rodricks is an award winning fashion designer, writer and activist who is currently working on opening India’s first costume museum in his native village in Goa. www. modagoamuseum.org . He teaches History of World Costume, and is trained in Hollywood and Paris.
Illustration by Fabian Gonsalves. You can follow his work on instagram.com/fabskribbler
Read more from The Peacock: Issue 8 (2019) here: