Sukalpa Das is a towering figure who proved her versatility by mastering the look of multiple periods and characters. The former Femina Miss India finalist’s recognition came in form through her stellar debut as a costume designer in
‘III Smoking Barrels‘, an Indian drama film directed by Sanjib Dey.
The role of a costume designer is inarguable, one of the most under-appreciated positions in the film industry. Their stylistic participation to the world of films is undeniable, and this in fact, even extends to our own world of everyday fashion and style influences. Their contribution builds up to the characters we connect and further enhances the mood and setting of the film. She is a style icon of the North East fashion industry and her designs have moulded seamlessly into the composition of the film. She is indeed, highly influential on the present day style and many of her costumes have etched themselves into our minds.
In our conversation with Sukalpa, the brimming artist tells us about her love for fashion, the struggles of a costume designer and the constant pressure of creating unreal settings with a touch of reality.
Q. Tell us about your role in III Smoking Barrels. How did the movie happen to you?
A. I believe all good things happen by accident and the same goes for ‘III Smoking Barrels‘. I was out for my friend’s gig when I bumped into Mr Sanjib Dey– Director of III Smoking Barrels. I was initially hired as a Casting Coordinator for the movie and later went on to play the role of a Costume Designer and an actor. I am still in awe of myself and I functioned as an amateur in all the departments that I mentioned above. I have worked hard to accomplish my duties for the amazing movie. Nonetheless, this wouldn’t have been possible without the faith and support of the director. Presently, I am working on the movie as their Northeast PR Director: a huge responsibility and I plan to give more than my best to the movie.
Well, there was an incident when I had a major ligament tear in my lower hip region. I literally got very scared and wondered if I could fulfil my commitments as a costume designer… We cracked a lot of jokes about the “bent over” costume designer.
Q. What is it like being a female costume designer in the industry?
A. This is my debut performance as a costume designer in a movie. I have worked as a fashion stylist before and I’ve realised that there’s a huge difference on how to about dressing a model according to my own whims and dressing a character who has a direct relevance to reality. This is an entirely different ball game. I had problems understanding the emotions of the characters first. But the amazing directorial team of III Smoking Barrels made me learn a lot, they gave me a perception and an insight into the understanding of human emotions and feelings. I understood how clothes/costumes and their drapes in different situations reflect the mindset of a person. I have to state, this was a lesson well learnt.
Q. III Smoking Barrels has an “explosive” style in literal terms and your costume choices seem to fall right in line with its palette and lighting. What approach did you have to the film’s storyline and the characters?
A. As I mentioned above, being a fashion stylist by profession, I initially had a casual approach to the characters and made the sketch of their dresses accordingly. However, after meeting the amazing actors who played various characters in the film, my perspective changed completely. It was a challenge to combat. I finally let the human emotions and the stark impressions of the negatives in a person’s mind guide me in my way of dressing the characters.
Q. Do you have a favourite scene in the film?
A. I know it might sound cliché, but when you love the performances of the actors and recognize that you have played a key role in making that performance more realistic; every scene becomes so close to your heart and you cherish each and every scene, equally. So, I have to be at war with my heart if I have to choose anything amongst my favourites.
Q. As a costume designer, do you find your personal style influences on the project?
A. There were a few instances in III Smoking Barrels, where I found the liberty to express my personal style. This was in itself a privilege as seldom do costume designers get chances where their own range and avenues can be useful inputs wrapped up with their personal style preferences. I am really glad that Sanjib Dey had given me that privilege.
Q. Who was the biggest prankster in the set?
A. Vikram Gogoi, who played one of the characters in III Smoking Barrels has to be that person. He has this amazing sense of humour which is so spontaneous and has a tendency of cheering up people even after the late night shoots. The interesting thing was that we always had intellectual debates post his antics and those were definitely, a sight to watch.
…after being a finalist of Femina Miss India, I had the scope and knew the sources to do and learn things from. It has, of course, made a tremendous impact in my life…
Q. Give us an interesting anecdote that occurred on the sets of III Smoking Barrels.
A. Well, there was an incident when I had a major ligament tear in my lower hip region. I literally got very scared and wondered if I could fulfil my commitments as a costume designer. But thankfully, the actors and team members were very supportive and helped through all courses to push my limits and deliver my best. We cracked a lot of jokes about the “bent over” costume designer. I now cherish those moments and they are etched forever in my memory.
Q. Tell us about the journey from Femina Miss India to III Smoking Barrels?
A. Femina Miss India happened to me in 2012 after which I worked as a model for a few years. I tried my hands on various segments of the industry which kept me close to the fashion world. These were projects in which I worked as a fashion groomer, mentor, choreographer, television emcee, fashion stylist, casting agent, model coordinator and finally a costume designer. The journey has been incredible!
Q. Most models turn into actors, professionally. After your stint at Femina Miss India, did you never think of giving acting a shot?
A. I believe everybody has a call of their own. I have always been inclined towards fashion and the very idea to see people dress up as you imagine, gives me indefinite pleasure.
Q. Did the contest turn out to be a path-breaking reality for you?
A. Yes, it did. I pride myself as an evergreen learner. And after being a finalist of Femina Miss India, I had the scope and knew the sources to do and learn things from. It has, of course, made a tremendous impact in my life and has definitely made me a better person.
Q. What other projects are you a part of?
A. I am currently working on the PR and advertisement segment of the movie III Smoking Barrels. Along with being associated with a number of projects in Northeast, I am also actively modelling and working as a fashion stylist.
Q. How will define yourself in one line?
A. I am a learner, you teach me how to fly and I will soar the sky for you.
Check out the posters: