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I won’t make anarkali suits, imperfection is my thing

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From village Jogewala in Moga district to France, fashion designer Navjeet Kaur recalls a journey straight out of a movie script.

Over samosas squeezed between white bread slices and non-herbal tea at her apartment (“if you had asked for green, it’s possible that I may have assumed you to be elitist, sometimes it’s fun to be judgmental “), Chandigarh-based Navjeet Kaur fondly recalls the years in home town Moga. “We sat on empty cement sacks that we carried from home. Classes were held under a tree. Till class III, it was just about learning the table of two and counting till 100.

School was mostly about playing in the hot sun and not fretting about the heat,” says the 27-year-old without sounding like a martyr. Kaur did not really have any complaints living in the countryside, but her late father, who was an active leftist student leader during his college days, ensured that his children understood that there was a world outside the periphery of Moga.
He would keep encouraging my brother, a senior software engineer in Chandigarh now, and me to think big and explore ourselves. So did my mother,” she recalls. Shifting to Chandigarh five years back to complete her Masters Degree in English from Panjab University and later a one year course in fashion design from INIFD here (Chandigarh) in 2015, Kaur smiles that she was offered to design costumes for Chauthi Koot in 2014, when she was still studying Keats. “The director, Gurvinder Singh had seen some of my paintings on Facebook. We had a long interaction when he had come to the university to screen his critically acclaimed film Anhe Ghore Da Daan. That is when he asked me to work on the project. In fact, I had always wanted to get into costume designing but my parents thought that I should have some ‘serious’ academic degrees first,” adds the designer who also likes to paint.

For Kaur, the best part about working in Chauthi Koot was the fact that she learnt to listen to herself. “When you are new to the industry, there is a lot of unasked for advice especiallyfrom those who are least qualified to give it. And considering the fact that Gurvinder is always open to ideas and does not impose his own, it was a fantastic experience working with him. In fact, he has been telling me that he wants to cast me as an actor whenever he has a character that suits me, but I am not sure if I will be able to deliver in that role. Of course, it’s a different issue that he is of the view that he can make anyone act and does not believe in casting professional actors,” she says. The designer, who has also designed costumes for the Punjabi film Qissa Panjab, screened at International Film Festival for South Asia ,Toronto in May 2015, recently rejected three Punjabi films.

She elaborates, “The industry here has a much skewed understanding of ‘pretty’. They fail to understand that attractive always has a strong element of imperfection. I will design costumes for films where the designer has to keep in mind the characterslocations and period. Clothes as visual entities have to assimilate effortlessly in the larger narrative. They do more than just make the characters look good. Draping people designer t-shirts picked from stores is not me. Anybody can do that, why do you need a costume designer for that? It’s not that I am against commercial cinema, but then asking for sensible work is not too much to ask for, or is it?

“Commercial Punjabi cinema may be going through a phase where producers think that anything wrapped around a ‘boy meets girl’ package will work, but I am sure things will change and we will witness sensible stories that reflect contemporary social realities, ” she adds. Open to working in films made in other languages, the costume designer says that it was high time that in order to attract talent from across the country, it is important that Punjabi film industry learnt to work moreprofessionally. “Language is not an issue, content and treatment are. I am sure working in other industries will provide me some great exposure. The producers in Punjab need to understand that if they have hired a specialist, they need to respect her/his views and not dictate terms just because they are paying money,” she says.

“There is enough money in this industry; it is about how it is being used. Look at other regional industries, especially in the south and Bengal. I am not saying that everything they churn out is fantastic, but younger directors there are certainly getting more chances to tell newer stories in novel ways, she says. About the class XII books in her apartment-“They belong to my mother. I have been exhorting her to complete her education. She is all set to do her graduation now. I have my ways to divert her focus from my marriage,” she winks.

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