Costumes in Mani Ratnam’s movies

Simple, Neat and Contemporary โ€“ That is how I will describe the costumes in Mani Ratnamโ€™s movies. As far as his movies are concerned, you very rarely come across a costume that doesn’t suit the actors or that you don’t like. The costumes go well not only with the setting of the movie but also with the current trend and that makes you feel as though the characters are one among us. Though there is nothing extraordinary about the costumes in Mani Ratnamโ€™s movies, the natural look and feel that they give to his movies is what makes it appealing and the costumes in his movies have always been an object of interest to me.

Guys, you can skip reading the rest of this post if you want to, since I am going to focus mainly on the costumes of the leading ladies of Mani Ratnamโ€™s movies. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Let’s take, for instance, Aayitha Ezhuthu. Since Meera Jasmine is from a lower-middle class, she was made to wear simple, not-too expensive sarees. The costumes of all the other lead actors went with what’s the current trend. At a time when skirts are something like the in-thing, Esha, a girl coming from Delhi, was made to wear it. Agreed Esha Deol’s costumes could have been a little better and some didn’t look good on her too. (That’s what I felt) But, take Trisha’s costumes. They looked nice. I loved the purple saree that she will be wearing when Siddharth meets her at the railway Station. ๐Ÿ™‚ In Yuva, Kareenaโ€™s kurtas were too good.

In AE, I didnโ€™t like some of the shirts of Siddharth that had flower designs and all.

Cottons in Mani Ratnam’s films

Shobhana’s and Geetaโ€™s sarees in Thalapathy, Revathy’s in Mouna Raagam and Anjali and Madhubala’s in Roja, Sharanyaโ€™s in Nayagan – They all look so simple and also suit them perfectly. Contrasting blouses to go with the sarees was the specialty in the costumes of Thalapathy. Shobhana wearing a yellow saree with a contrasting green blouse in the scene where Mamootty comes to her house with Geeta is one that comes to my mind right now.

Talking about the costumes in Mouna Ragam, incidentally, costume designer, Nalini Sriramโ€™s first attempt at costume designing for movies was for that movie only it seems. She was asked by Mani Ratnam to choose a simple, white cotton saree for the judge who handles the divorce case of Revathy and Mohan in the movie and the rest as they say is history.

I like Heeraโ€™s costumes in Thiruda Thiruda especially, the mirror-worked ones in the Veerapandi Koattayile song.

If it was cotton sarees in the above-mentioned movies, Simranโ€™s sarees in Kannatthil Mutthamittal are not-so-bright-coloured poly-cots or poly-silks (I am not an expert in identifying the materials correctly ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Riot of Colours

Now coming to my favourite film, Alaipayuthey, the song Pachchai Nirame alone itself is enough to term the costumes in this movie as a riot of colours. ๐Ÿ™‚ You canโ€™t find a better shade of green, red, yellow or black than the ones worn by Madhavan and Shalini to go with the locales of the song! Forget about Pachchai Nirame, even many other scenes and songs in the movie have colourful, yet not-too-harsh-on-the-eye costumes. Shalini and Swarnamalyaโ€™s silk sarees in the wedding scene, in the scene where they go to Madhavanโ€™s house and the scene where Hari Nair and his family come to their house are all so lovely. So are Shaliniโ€™s sarees in the song Snehidhane. ๐Ÿ™‚

Special mention has to be made about Madhavanโ€™s shirts. The blue shirt in the wedding scene, yellow one in Yaaro Yaarodi, red T-Shirt when he meets Shalini in the railway station after their parents meet each other, blue T-Shirt when he speaks with Shalini over the phone for the first time and the list goes on! Before any of you get scared, I will stop with this and wonโ€™t write anything more about this movie. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Talking about colourful costumes, the ones in Tere Bina (Guru) will also feature in the list. Each one of Aishwarya Raiโ€™s costumes (esp. that blue-coloured one) and Abhishek Bachchanโ€™s sherwanis in this song, look simple, yet so elegant.

Not only the dresses but, even the accessories that the actresses in his movies wear have never been too grand or too glittery. The make up (or the lack of it?) of the actresses in his movies have always made most of them look good.

I will stop with this since I donโ€™t want this post to end up as just a listing of all the costumes that come in his movies. Anyway, it always feels great to recollect the scenes of Mani Ratnamโ€™s movies and for this post, I yet again, relived many scenes. ๐Ÿ™‚

46 thoughts on “Costumes in Mani Ratnam’s movies

  1. Nithya

    “Special mention has to be made about Madhavanโ€™s shirts……………and the list goes on”

    ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ drool drool drool….Only Mani Ratnam can make a thug like Inba look cute in his movies ๐Ÿ˜›
    And as mentioned in ur post, the cotton saris worn by the heroines in Mani’s movies are very subtle, sweet, DECENT and soothing ๐Ÿ™‚

    “In Yuva, Kareenaโ€™s kurtas were too good.”

    very true…Loved all o em and loved her purse (in the Hey Khuda Hafiz song) too ๐Ÿ˜› ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. sivaramang

    Good post.

    Also he uses the dress colors to show the mood and the attitude of characters too at times.

    – In iruvar when anandan meets people first time from Tamilselvan’s house roof wearing a DARK RED shirt to show his revolutionary mind

    – Alaipayuthe – when there is a vocal collision between shakthi and karthick one of them wear BLACK and other WHITE delivering their respective mind note

    – AayuthaEzhuthu – For bharathiraja BLACK color to show his rationalism and his black side of politics as well


    You can definitely generate a good thesis on MR movies than anyone

  3. Adiya

    enna AE illa oru famous costume of 3sha vittuigna..

    Wet Maggie hair
    Copper Sulphate tops
    white short trousers — Good Bye Nanba

    illa violet nyliax saree before the climax

    but give me a break meera-jasmines costume may sound simple but its very costly that red color cotton or sungadi pudavai types comes around 700+ by default and its a designer wear also if i am correct..

    but as u mentioned he distincly categorizes different character has different shades of costumes.

    #Mounda Ragam
    Revathy wears a yellow saree or red colour sutidhaar after marriage or
    white color chuidhaar sounds apt for her. of-course flambouyant karthik has his own pair of jeans cum white shirts ( i guess that the time T-Shirts are quite popular in TN and he never used that for karthik ) in contrast with always wearing grey, brown based formal shirts/pants or white pajaman portrays very soft mohan ..

    Mouna Ragam yellow saree reloaded in this as u mentioned appuram to portay simple shobana he used quite combination of saree as like on Violet saree is my favourite thou.. plus the yellow follows. ๐Ÿ™‚

    ok let me stop my hyperactive comments for rest of the movies. keep proceeding with P.Hd ( kewl ferrai ).

  4. sangs

    Yea,Trishas saree at the railway station in Aayutha Ezhuthu- think it was a combo of blue n magenta? ..watever,it was drool-worthy,more than trisha ;-).

    n Revaty n cotton sarees..I’m racking my brains to figure out if she wore any other type of saree in any of her movies(leave alone paavadai dhavani costumes )..she always wears cotton doesnt she ??

    And Agni Natchathiramla (though I couldnt see much throughout the movie ๐Ÿ˜‰ romba flashlight technique use pannitaanga ;-)) ,nothing worth remembering ?

  5. Rukesh

    Hi Aparna,

    Hope you ran thru all mani movies b4 writing this blog….
    Costumes used in Alaipayuthey were so natural..


  6. sreekrishnan

    ….Kannatthil Mutthamittal are not-so-bright-coloured poly-cots or poly-silks (I am not an expert in identifying the materials correctly……

    Can you actually identify texture by looking at it ?? …. Wow ….

    Mani’s costume are made in such a way so that you shouldnt be writing a post on Costumes .. the jell well with the movie … they are supposed to give a natural feel …
    Not even in the Songs he makes ppl wear such striking dresses …

    i noticed iruvar only – where he had to choose some old style clothing … and it was fantastic !! apart from that –

    Off late i remember Mayya Mayya – if at all there was one !! ๐Ÿ˜›

  7. Nanyaar?

    Another thing to notice in his Mani’s flims are that the costumes arn’t as expensive as the ‘big buget’ movies. Then are simple, anybody-can-buy kinda clothes with a sense of good taste. I think the whole setup of costumes, no matter to which soci-economic class he refers to brings gives more to the person than the actors character in the movie itself.

  8. Bharath

    Totally agree with Sreekrishnan – Mani doesn’t let the costume interfere with the movie or the acting… I mean you would come out of a Yash Raj film saying “Preity looked good in that costume” but with Mani, the costumes blend into the movie…

    The exception is probably his songs – Not because the costumes are glaring or special, but he seems to make an effort to make the costumes gel with his brilliant choice of locales… From what I remember he started this trend only after Rahman… Going backwards, who can forget Mayya Mayya? Yuva and AE were trendy, so was Alai Payuthey… Dil Se was a movie where he tried too much to make his videos look like Vimal ads, but great nevertheless…

    However I think the movie where he’s put in the maximum effort in terms of costumes is Bombay – Right from Kannalanae to Uyirae and through to Humma Humma and Kucchi Kucchi Rakamma…

  9. Aparna

    Thanks for the suggestion ๐Ÿ˜› I don’t know what next ๐Ÿ˜›

    I didn’t find Inba handsome ๐Ÿ™‚ I liked Lallan (Abhishek), the thug, though ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Yes decent is the word for the cotton sarees.


    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚
    That’s an interesting observation!!
    I know many others who can generate excellent thesis on Mani’s movies ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Aparna

    Adhu enna maggie hair? ๐Ÿ˜›
    You seem to be knowing lots about sarees. Enna already buying lotsa sarees for you-know-who? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Btw, I don’t think that’s a designer wear. Besides, neat cotton sarees are available from 250 Rs. or so itself ๐Ÿ™‚
    You seem to have observed the costumes in detail too.

    Combo of Blue+Violet with a pink border I think. Yes, I can’t stand Trisha at all.
    I am not able to recollect Revathy’s costumes much now. Maybe you are right. But, in Pudhiya Mugam, she did wear synthetic sarees in some scenes.
    Agni Natchatram- I remembered only Amala’s costumes in some songs and Nirosha’s which I didn’t find worth mentioning ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Yes I ran through all the movies in my mind before writing ๐Ÿ˜‰

  11. Aparna

    I can to some extent ๐Ÿ™‚
    >Maniโ€™s costume are made in such a way so that you shouldnt be writing a post on Costumes
    Agreed. And I have mentioned the very same points that you have right in the beginning of my post.
    >Off late i remember Mayya Mayya – if at all there was one !!
    What about Sophia Haq’s in September Madham? ๐Ÿ˜›

    That’s so true!

    Yes but the costumes not only blend with the movie but, it makes the actors look good too ๐Ÿ™‚
    Yeah. Is there any aspect of the picturization of the songs he doesn’t seem to excel in? ๐Ÿ˜‰
    >Dil Se was a movie where he tried too much to make his videos look like Vimal ads
    Vimal ads? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Talking about the costumes in Bombay, when Arvind Samy and Manisha play with the kids in the last part of the Poovukkenna Poottu song, their costumes are colourful and the whole frame looks too good. The colours and the song/music playing in the background brings out the parents’ happiness and the joy prevailing in the family ๐Ÿ™‚ In Humma Humma, I liked the combination of bright red and blue of Sonali’s costume.

  12. Adiya

    wet maggie hair .. aa dhuva.. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3sha oda hair Maggie Noodles maathiri erukum.. ๐Ÿ™‚ adhu dhaan appadi sonnain.. ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. D

    Even the accesories have a lot of thought going into them; Example in AE, Trisha was given a trendy Kipling bag in the scene where she returns from Sivakasi to see Arjun (Sid). I believe it all comes down to the role. He probably has a vision and then goes with what he thinks the actual character would wear. There is nothing extraordinary about the costumes because all his characters are real. They are everyday people (or at least very close to it) so the costumes they are given are 100% the kind , the character would use in real life. I really liked the Kipling bag touch to Trisha’s character. It brings out the trendy urban chick feel to it. Easha’s costumes had a French flavour to it. they were the sort of baggy hands and legs that were in at the time (or possibly shortly before that period). Oh yes, I agree with the purple saree- it went so well with the scene and the emotions. She carried it well too with the curls.

    There’s nothing to beat Arvindasamy’s polos in Roja though! He looked really good in the blue polo and whie trouser in the scene where Roja apologises to him. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Nice post Aparna. Mani roacks!


  14. ranjhith

    > I am going to focus mainly on the costumes of the leading ladies
    This is interesting. Let me continue reading for educational purposes. ๐Ÿ™‚

    In AE, I felt MJ’s saree to be too colorful & deliberately simple which didn’t get well with her. ๐Ÿ™‚ ED’s were dull & never casual. 3sha’s is the best among the 3. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Madhubalaโ€™s in Roja too – sometimes didn’t glue well.

    The colors can’t be any more colorful in Alaipaayuthe. Its sheer bliss.
    The Cinematographer’s eye does have a lot to say in most of the costume “show”. Its probably the mix which makes it all good.

    Then you too hav chosen good phrases – “Simple, Neat and Contemporary” – “Riot of Colours” – “the locales of the song” – ๐Ÿ˜‰ Screen shots of the costumes/scenes you talk abt wud hav given an extra good reader experience. ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice.

    > I didnโ€™t like some of the shirts of Siddharth
    > Special mention has to be made about Madhavanโ€™s shirts.
    > Abhishek Bachchanโ€™s sherwanis
    Thats almost 33% – we’ll withdraw from revolting. ๐Ÿ˜€

  15. Bindu

    Aparna, You have described it very well.:) In all these Mani Ratnam movies, I always got very involved in the story and the characters that now I can’t think of what they actually wore. (except pachai niramae which is a visual treat)

    I think I would have to see these movies once again.. Also, I would have liked pictures in this post.. (nostalgic!!)

  16. srinivasu

    It is nice to see how all the mani’s fans follow his films. really they are the guides to follow for any moviegoers. He always make a combination with the lacation .
    In the movie ‘Dilse’ manisha mostly wears the Black color dresses. which shows her instention as a terrorist. Contrast to that she wears a white color dress in ‘Satrangi re’ song. Here the seven colors are from the white alone and the hero sees all the seven colors in the her and hence a white color for her.
    other important aspect in mani’s movies are the makeup done we can see the simple look of manisha when she was in sharukh’s house and in the whole film manisha’s was with out makeup .

  17. Aparna

    Oh I see ๐Ÿ˜›

    ok ๐Ÿ™‚

    Welcome to my blog. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚
    >It brings out the trendy urban chick feel to it.
    >Eashaโ€™s costumes had a French flavour
    Oh I have no clue about French flavour clothes ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Hey, that scene in Roja was the one I wanted to mention in the post!! ๐Ÿ™‚ I totally 4got!

  18. Aparna

    >Let me continue reading for educational purposes.
    That’s a good attitude to have ๐Ÿ˜›

    I too found Trisha’s the best.
    I felt all the sarees suited Madhubala.
    I won’t start raving about Alaipayuthey again ๐Ÿ˜›

    >Then you too hav chosen good phrases
    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    >Screen shots of the costumes/scenes you talk abt wud hav given an extra good reader experience.
    I know. I wanted to but, I didn’t have time to select pics and put them here ๐Ÿ™

    >Thats almost 33% – weโ€™ll withdraw from revolting
    Please don’t withdraw. I want to hear what you have to say about it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. Aparna

    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope you observe the costumes the next time you watch his movies ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I too would have liked pics. But, as I have said in the earlier comment, I iddn’t get the time to do it ๐Ÿ™

    Welcome to my blog ๐Ÿ™‚
    that’s an interesting observation that you have made!
    Yeah heroines sans make-up is something you can see in most of Mani’s films.

    Welcome to my blog. Thanks

    Thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    Pravin Shankar,
    Welcome to my blog. I have said in the beginning itself that there might not be much for guys. Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

  20. SK

    Wow, I am amazed you remember so many costumes from movies. :–) Attention to such small details are what makes ManiRathnam’s movies special. :–) Nice!

  21. ranjhith

    Withdrew becos men are not totally ignored. ๐Ÿ™‚

    > I want to hear what you have to say about it
    Athai inimale thaan oshikannunga. ๐Ÿ˜€

  22. Aparna

    Welcome to my blog ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks. That’s right. I am sure there will be a lot more small, interesting things in Mani’s movies waiting to be discovered ๐Ÿ™‚

    I see ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Srinivasu

    Thank u aparna.

    Today I want to tell about the lighting effects in mani’s movies.

    the movie Agni naskatram is the one which has given a complete revolutionary in the Indian cinema. Every frame has been shot with atleast one light and never feels as if there was lots of use of lights. I would like to site the examples like the climax fight shot with the flickerring if lights.

    in the scene where the karthick was taken to the police station in the jeep.

    In the movie ‘Dilse’ -Chhayya chhayya song sequence Only malaika and sharukh are visible when the train wents into the tunnel wow thats the care taken by the mani . There are so many such scenes recently in GURU in the song ‘tere bina ‘
    shadows of Abishek and aish are seen on the pillar etc

  24. chiroti

    Nice post Aparna, definitely good observation. What I feel is, Mani Ratnam, has a very subtle style of making his heroines look Simple and Sensuous. We definitely cannot call it de-glamorised look, but yes, very ‘subtle’ – is the word. If you notice, the very first time we never concentrate on the clothes of the characters, its only when we watch his movies again and again that we tend to focus on these additional aspects and that’s the magic of Mani’s movies.

    Things I would like to mention –
    Amala in Agni Natchatram, she looked very hyp and stylish for those times. So your comment in the first paragraph, absolutely abides by this. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Girija in Geetanjali – Her chanya cholis became a rage if you remember, and all of us were so fond of that dress at one point, including me!

    Manisha’s green saree in Bombay – when she marries Arvind in the court, superb and her kannalane dress was so simple and elegant. Something I just loved and still love…

    Coming to the heroes, I loved Nagarjuna in Geetanjali, he looked superb and stylish, then I loved Arvind in Roja, then Madhavan in Alaipayuthey, esp. in Snehidhane – in that sherwani kind of dress with a stubble, he looked superb. There’s not much to comment on men’s dressing anyways….:)

    Waiting for Lajjo…;)

  25. Aparna

    Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚ Nice comment from you too ๐Ÿ˜‰ Since I anyway watch his movies again and again, I don’t really remember whether I noticed the costumes the first time or not ๐Ÿ™‚
    Girija in Geethanjali – I was a small kid at that time so I hav no idea whether her cholis became a rage or not ๐Ÿ™‚
    Hey I too liked her green saree.
    I would say Shalini in the blue saree matched Madhavan in the sherwani with a stubble.
    Btw seems Lajjo is shelved according to an interview of Aamir Khan!

  26. Niyamath Seth

    Dear Aparna,

    Well, I am an Art Director (Advertising Agency) i read all ur Blog, Intresting, well i also like Colors, Art and Priya darshan Movies, well if u dont mind can u send me a List of Priyadarshan Hindi Movies if possible thanks and take care

  27. Pingback: Aparna’s Blog » Designer Sarees - The Changing Trend in Chennai

  28. Nagraj

    The dressing style of Alai Payuthe of madhavan’s Intro song to the end was great and style is so different and equally modern to Hollywood Style


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