Exclusive: In conversation with the costume designer of ‘Baaghi’ – Zubia Motiwalla.
by Valeed Shahid.
The much hyped Pakistani television serial Baaghi finally went on air last night, and generated some crazy viewership and ratings. But for now, more than anything else, I am interested in finding out as to how were the costumes for Saba Qamar’s character of Qandeel Baloch a.k.a. Fozia Batool were brought to life.
For that purpose, we sat down with the costume designer for Saba’s character in the show, Zubia Motiwalla, for a detailed chat on the entire process of designing for such a multifaceted character. In my opinion, it must’ve been quite a task, given the deceased social media star’s contrasting clothing choices through different periods of her life.
Read on to find out what she had to say…
Qandeel Baloch’s personal style was pretty unpredictable to be placed in any certain category. While designing for Saba Qamar’s character in Baaghi, what was the main element about the deceased’s personality that you had to keep in mind throughout?
Zubia Motiwalla: There were many intricate details to keep in mind, colors, mood, material, to name a few. But most importantly, the way Qandeel’s style evolved throughout her life, not all people have such drastic changes in their clothing style, that too in a life span of about 25 years only. Also, we had to keep in mind that the whole wardrobe stays true to the character. The idea was to stay close to the character but never to incorporate Qandeel Baloch’s look just as it is for various reasons.
We basically wanted to generate a look inspired by Qandeel’s style overall. We wanted Saba Qamar’s character to come to life and to ooze the self-confidence matching that of the late media sensation. The need to keep Saba in the skin of the character was a must, and that is exactly what we have skilfully tried to achieve.
Great. Like you said, Qandeel Baloch’s style evolved drastically over the years, ranging from her early days in the village, before and after marriage, and then the struggling period, and finally stardom. Broadly, how many types of outfits were created for the character, if we are speaking of eastern, semi-western, etc as types?
Zubia Motiwalla: Broadly speaking, her life story was broken down into four different stages, if we speak of clothing specifically.
Stage 1: Saba Qamar’s character in the show before marriage will obviously be seen in a lot of eastern outfits, lighter colors, floral detailing, keeping in mind the material, because the character is a person living in the rural areas with financial disability.
Stage 2: The character after marriage, still not a celebrity, again had to be shown in an eastern avatar. But, the colours went darker, became shinier, fancier, with more emphasis on bigger dupattas.
Stage 3: Then comes the city life, when Qandeel moved out of her village to make a bigger name for herself. We used a lot of western clothing but it didn’t necessarily had to have defined style. A lot of mismatched clothing, basically to try and fit in a society where she doesn’t belong. A lot of loud colours and design choices were used for this phase of the character’s life.
Stage 4: Moving towards the last phase of the character’s life, that of a social media celebrity, the style sense had to be taken a notch higher. A lot of glamorous outfits and a defined style sense will be witnessed.
Wow! That really does sound extensive. But, were the eastern outfits more difficult/time consuming to create or the western ones?
Zubia Motiwalla: Definitely the western looks.
Knowing that both Saba and Qandeel have a lot of physical dissimilarities, how did you play your part in making the former look like the latter? Were the outfits designed to make Saba look less skinnier, or anything or that sort?
Zubia Motiwalla: The idea was to give her a look inspired by Qandeel’s. Physical dissimilarities could not be controlled for obvious reasons but we kept in mind the details of the storyline and the idea, to keep it as close to reality as possible. Saba is much skinnier than Qandeel, but the looks and the theme we have followed to style her for every juncture of her life in the drama has overcome the physical dissimilarity part.
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No matter how much effort Qandeel Baloch used to put, to make herself look fashionable, her overall look would come across as a little outdated. How did you plan on designing ‘non fashionable’ clothes really? Did you have to unlearn a lot of stuff?
Zubia Motiwalla: Not really. Qandeel’s style was definitely her own. We tried to take as much inspiration from her style and create a set of looks for our character, which would give the desired raw/outdated effect, but also kept in mind that we are designing for the TV.
We watched the promos. A lot of clothing pieces used during the ‘social media star’ period of the character, looked exactly like those Qandeel has worn in her videos. Still, deep necklines and any sort of skinshow seems to have been avoided. Was it due to the limits our drama can’t cross? Did it restrict your vision at all?
Zubia Motiwalla: According to our research, Qandeel actually loved wearing button down shirts, randomly available in the market. We had researched and collected tons of information before we stepped on the western side of the costume designing.
Yes, we had to keep in mind that it is a Pakistani Drama and we need to be in certain limits but I am hoping the message will be sent across through our efforts and Saba’s excellent acting skills. I won’t call it a restriction of vision, but a more challenging task to my creativity.
You have designed for the other female actors in the show as well? What was that experience like?
Zubia Motiwalla: Yes, two other characters that I have designed for in Baaghi are, Saba Faisal (mother of Saba Qamar’s character) and Nadia Afgan, the sister in law. Same amount of hard work went into creating for these characters as well as they are also the main characters in the drama along with Saba.
The mother’s clothes were designed keeping simplicity in mind-dull colors, bigger solid dupattas, toned down prints. Nadia Afgan’s character in the show is negative. For her, we went for much fancier and shinier clothes, keeping the material in mind, basically loud colors to match her overall negative personality.
Awesome! From whatever we have seen in the promos, and episode 1, the hard work is sure showing. Anything you’d like to say about the whole experience, for an end note?
Zubia Motiwalla: Thank you. I would just like to add that I have been in the designing business since three and a half years and I have been working as a full time designer for pret, luxury pret and A Wardrobe that works– a range for working women. So, I have had my share of customizing clothes for a lot of my working women clients from different professional fields, but, to be a costume designer for a character with such diverse requirements, it takes a lot of imagination, information and to be able to convert that information into design and to be creative in an idea that matches the perception of the storywriter is a quite a task.
I have worked very hard to achieve the right look for all the three female characters I have designed for in Baaghi. Hopefully, people will be able to see and ascertain as to how much effort and time has gone in to create each and every look for the characters.
Check out these behind the scene photos of the designer with the cast: