‘Buddha’: A glitzy costume drama

Mumbai: Costume, Jewellery & Set designers behind Zee TV’s historical magnum opus ‘Buddha’ speak about all that goes into creating a glitzy costume drama.

When women woke up to the 11AM premiere of Zee TV’s ‘Buddha’ on Sunday, 8th September, there were ‘oohs and aahs’ galore as they caught a glimpse of the gorgeous costumes and stunning jewellery on the show. However, what a lot of viewers don’t see is the vast amount of research, planning, sourcing and sweat and toil that goes into the creation of such resplendent beauty of mammoth proportions. We spoke to the two extremely talented women behind the sets and costumes on the show – Nidhi Singh (costume & jewellery) and Varsha Jain (set designer)– both of whom have an impressive portfolio of shows to their credit.

Nidhi Singh reveals that she travelled across the continent while sourcing the costumes and jewellery for the show. The designer travelled to Patna to delve into historical documents that are housed in the libraries there to find references for the costumes and jewellery for each character on the show.

“The fabrics for the costumes have been created by following the same procedures and prints that were used to create them centuries ago. We have used vegetable dyes and block printing techniques that were used to create garments in the time of Prince Siddharth. Since the fabrics and jewellery styles are so well documented, I even had reference points for the colors that were used back then” she says. Even the armor that is used on the show is 100% authentic. It consists of metal plates that are laid over buffalo leather which makes them light-weight, effective and highly functional. Nidhi got them made by local artisans in north India using their traditional know-how combined with her experience and learning in design construction.

Nidhi has also followed the ‘silk route’ for inspiration for the one-of-its-kind jewellery that you see on the show. “Since the silk route runs through the heart of north east, there has been a lot of exchange of knowledge all along the regions that it passes through. So, the jewellery on the show too, is heavily influenced by the designs and stones that has been used in Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tibet, Morocco and even parts of Europe. However, the style and finish is like that of mountain jewellery – one cannot afford to used polish techniques and veer off the course of history.” she says.

“While the royals of those times didn’t use a lot of rubies or diamonds, you will find that they used a lot of semi-precious stones like agate, coral, jade, amber etc. However, because of their intrinsic value, using so many of these stones today makes each piece of jewellery very expensive. They had to be sourced from across the country and the final piece of jewellery was either made locally or in Tibet using traditional methods.”

So well thought out and researched are the costumes and jewellery that the designs were noticed by the Department of Design at the University of Hawaii who invited Nidhi to give them a series of lectures at the university. A few of the costumes have even been selected to be put on display in ‘Bollywood & Beyond’ – an exhibition that focuses on superior design and execution of film costumes.

“I am extremely blessed to have been paired with a production team that has excellent production values at the top of their priorities. It is thanks to their wonderful use of lighting and camera angles that the costumes and jewellery look the way they do on screen – beautiful and magnificent!” says Nidhi.

Since Prince Siddharth was born in Lumbini, Nepal, set designer Varsha Jain travelled to Patan in Nepal to research the style of architecture that has been influenced by the buildings of that time. The city of Patan is one of the only existing cities that exhibits a strong Buddhist influence in their architecture. Varsha used a confluence of Hindu and Buddhist styles of architecture to create the sets of Buddha. While the facades are mainly Hindu, the rooftops and domes are Buddhist. Infact the reclining Vishnu that you see on the show is the original pose that inspired the various ‘reclining Buddhas’ that you see in Buddhist culture.

Beyond the top-notch production values of `Buddha`, the show also boasts of an impressive cast with renowned names like Kabir Bedi, Samir Dharmadhikari and Nigaar Khan playing pivotal roles. The narrative of the show has been kept swift and packed with exciting developments bound to keep the audiences glued to every episode. With so many winning aspects to its credit, Zee TV and Spice Studio sure have an impressive historical show with international appeal on their hands!

Stay tuned to `Buddha` every Sunday at 11 AM on Zee TV and Doordarshan!

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