By Mitali Parekh
All directors have a heroine prototype -- Raj Kapoor and his Ladies in White. Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his melancholic women in dramatic costumes. Sooraj Bharjatiya's delicately featured, homely, sanskari girls.
Vidhu Vinod Chopra's heroines -- and by extension Wazir's director Bejoy Nambiar's -- have translucent skin, bulbous eyes, delicate noses (Manisha Koirala, and Shabana Raza, who was earlier known as Neha, and starred opposite Bobby Deol in Kareeb). And they are not allowed to grieve. At least not on the surface.
In Wazir, after the death of his five-year-old Noorie, Daanish Ali (Farhan Akhtar) understandably wears navy, grey and black polo tees in grieving. Ruhana (Aditi Rao Hydari) on the other hand, gets back to her life to teach dance, but in full gear -- contact lenses, chandelier earrings and gossamer anarkalis. She is not allowed to limp to normalcy with dark circles around her watery eyes, mis-match her dupattas and kurtas and forget to accessorise.
This is a tragedy because one suspects Hydari's skin, face and body language would be able to express prolonged sorrow louder than words or weeping. She however, looks as fresh as a flower. In a way, Nambiar (or Chopra) emphasises that Hydari's presence is purely ornamental. She has more costume changes than dialogues.
She is a superficial vessel for the tehzeeb and nazakat of her culture. Before we see her, we see her pearl and stone chaandbalis and jhoomars from Mumbai's costume jewellery store Aquamarine. She also wears carefully co-ordinated palazzos with crochet, pastel dupattas from mumbai's designer store Jade, which would not be affordable on an ATS officer's salary (we are given no indication whether Ruhana is employed).
It is a delicate balance that costume designer Shweta Sharma would have to achieve -- to keep the movie cinematically beautiful, but also maintain and authentic expression of emotion through the clothes.
This is easily achieved with the male characters. Ali, a man of action, is sharp in anything that shows off his biceps. We first see him in a khaki shirt, indicating that his with some kind of security forces. This continues with his uniform of black, grey and navy blue and a moustache that's sometimes his own, sometimes the donation of someone more hirsute, stuck on his upper lip.
Pandit Omkar Nath Dhar (Amitabh Bachchan) is a Brahmin forced to go to war. His clothes are soft and visionary in powder blues and dreamy greys, but his moustache is upturned like a Rajput's. When he goes to court or meet the police, he puts on a green military jacket, or his daughter's bali (earring) for courage.
The bali and Yazaad Qureshi (Maanav Kaul) are juxtaposed -- the strong metal feminine earring is a memento; and the only thing Qureshi has to do to inject menace into his "daughter" is fold up his crisp sleeves.
Everything about Qureshi is fitted, ironed and sophisticated. He could well be a chess player himself. As a terrorist, he must have lived a hidden life, wearing dark functional clothes that kept his warm and camouflaged, but not clean or presentable. As a feted humanitarian, he enjoys his time out of the shadows and among the cultured. His clothes are spotless, his face clean-shaved and a tight smile in place.
It is a move of casting mastery that Wazir (Neil Nitin Mukesh) is a menacing version, face construction wise, of Qureshi. Both have the same hairline, jawline and complexion, but Nitin's paler palour, arched eyebrows, kohl rimmed eyes and manicured beard give him a terrifying, mysterious and other-worldly aura. In his black, shadowy clothes and tough quilted leather jackets, he is the man who carries out dark deeds.
He is positioned as Qureshi's perilous alter-ego, and if you though in the a moment of stress Qureshi would turn into him life Jekyll, it is the effect the filmmakers would have wanted.
Wish the filmmakers would have wanted more for Hydari than to just twirl in her ghungroos.