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A look at the styling in The Legend of Maula Jatt

BY Sharmeen Hussain Oct 14, 2022. 11:35 pm

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Torches were used to illuminate the shoot. On the set of The Legend of Maula Jatt, a large crane perched high in the sky cast a light downward that appeared to be moonlight. Some of Pakistan’s biggest performers made up the cast, along with numerous extras, and they were all decked out in period-appropriate costumes for Bilal Lashari’s magical escapist tale of good vs evil. Aabroo Hashmi, a stylist, would occasionally intervene and splatter fake blood over the cast. And just before the camera started rolling, the cast members’ hands and feet would be “dirtied,” their nails being covered in muck to make them appear the part.

Ammara Hikmat, a producer, once searched urgently for a dentist. A replacement for the gold tooth casing that actor Gohar Rasheed wore for his role as Maakha Natt was urgently required in order for the shoot to continue!

Although it has taken TLoMJ a while to reach theaters—at least six years from the film’s initial conception—now that the premiere is just a few days away, I am having the chance to hear some fascinating behind-the-scenes tales. A movie that promises to be high on visuals and style has been teased in the trailer and promotional images. It is said that director Lashari used an astounding variety of special effects. The famed celebrity cast of the film appears

“We had worked with Bilal Lashari before and he used to mention that when he made his next movie, he’d take us on board,” says stylist Maram Azmat, one half of the Maram Aabroo duo responsible for the spectacular styling of TLoMJ’s characters. “Around the end of 2015, we started working with him on TLoMJ. He asked us to do research and we would spend hours brainstorming with him.”

Yak hair and splashes of blood

Maram Aabroo was so enthused by the scope and creative flexibility that TLoMJ would give them that they went above and beyond to make sure that their work appeared authentic. At Pinewood Studios in London, Aabroo underwent a wig-making course. Additionally, they haphazardly contacted Brian Sipe, a prosthetics and makeup artist who frequently collaborated with Marvel Studios, via social media. They were surprised when he replied. As recalled by Maram, “He was very worried that we wouldn’t be able to do things correctly and even invited us to physically visit the Star Wars set where he was working at that time.” “He was very worried that we wouldn’t be able to do things correctly and even invited us to physically visit the Star Wars set where he was working at that time.”

 The Natts

“Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that!” says Aabroo. “But Brian has designed his own prosthetics line and among other things, it allows you to recreate bruising, scars and blood. Eventually, we placed orders with him for his products. We bought different sets for different actors. Ammara invested heavily into ensuring that the characters’ styling was at par with Hollywood standards!”

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Wigs were created for each character and since they were very expensive, they were safeguarded with great effort. “I learnt wig-making especially for this movie,” says Aabroo, “and I went to great lengths to customise wigs for each character. I specially travelled to Karachi to create moulds of Hamza and Gohar’s heads and faces, wrapping their faces and marking the hairline and beard line. The wigs were so expensive that they had to be taken off very gently.”

The characters’ beards offered their own challenges, structured from yak hair that had to be stuck together hair by hair. “Basically, you had to hold the hair in your hand, trim it to size and then apply it to the face,” describes Aabroo. “There were times when we would go through about three hours getting the actor ready and it would start raining and shooting would get cancelled. It was exhausting!”

And then, they ran out of yak hair. “I asked one of my husband’s friends who was the Assistant Commissioner of Hunza at the time to send us some hair and he sent us a huge unprocessed bundle, sheared fresh off the yaks!” laughs Maram. “We had to clean it, treat it, dye it — it was a once in a lifetime experience!”

Did it stink? “Oh yes, it certainly did!” confirms Maram.

Aabroo was the designated “blood thrower” on set, but she didn’t just splatter fake blood anywhere. I would splash the blood where necessary to determine the angle at which they had been injured, she explains.

Actors would be “dirtied down” before the camera started rolling, having mud caked under their nails, on their hands, neck, and even on their feet. “We just made sure that the actor was dirty all over because we didn’t know what angle the camera would be shooting from,” adds Maram.

Makeup had to be unusual and believable. Hamza Ali Abbasi‘s Noori Natt was given eye-bags and kajal to give her an appropriately ominous appearance. Humaima Malik‘s evil Daaro was given a “somewhat goth” appearance, according to Maram. “She had kajal on her eyes, and her hair was absolutely straight and pitch black. Because we wanted her to look pale with her blue veins showing, we didn’t apply blush on her face.

 Maula and Mukho

As the brave Maula, Fawad Khan must have a good-looking but rugged appearance. Being a street combatant with few resources, he was particularly heavily soiled. According to Maram, his leading lady Mahira Khan aka Mukho had her hair braided to maintain a “playful” appearance.

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Of dhotis and gauntlets

Beyond the hair and makeup, the responsibilities for wardrobe were handed over to designers Fahad Hussayn and Zara Shahjahan for the male and female characters respectively. “The movie is framed in a time at which there were no stitched [clothes] and people would generally use draped cloth,” observes Hussayn. “I couldn’t do that so I created very baggy, uncomplicated silhouettes, hand-hemmed with minimal stitches so that they had a rough, unprocessed look.”

 

 Fawad Khan

Also, in an effort to make the wardrobe authentic, Hussayn utilised organic fabrics, colouring them with natural dyes. “I did all these experiments in texturisation,” he says. “Bilal was very particular about the colours that he wanted to see on screen. He would sit in my studio and make me dye something 20 times until he was able to see the ‘dark green’ or ‘very dark blue’ that he had in mind. When I stood behind him, watching the screen of his shoot, I would understand why he had wanted something a particular way.”

The wealthy, malevolent Natts wore deep, black hues. Their clothing was adorned with belts, swords, money bags, and extra gauntlets that Hussayn himself made. The most flamboyant character in the film, played by Gohar, Maakha Natt, even had strings of taaweez wrapped down the length of his arm.

Except for the love scenes, where he will be seen wearing lighter colours, Maula donned dark tones. The backdrop’s villagers’ colour scheme was primarily earthy; according to Hussayn, there were occasionally up to 300 extras on site.

With the exception of the romance scenes, where he will be wearing softer hues, Maula wore dark tones. Hussayn thinks that occasionally there were as many as 300 extras on site. The villagers that make up the backdrop had a colour scheme that was largely earthy.

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Hussayn’s turban-tying staff was given the difficult duty of hand-tying the turbans of every character, from extras to the main cast. Turbans were exclusively hand-tied back then. The designer claims that there is no other way we could have it.

Zara Shahjahan, on the other hand, stayed true to her concept for the female characters. The designer remembers having lengthy brainstorming meetings with Lashari; it is clear that just coming up with the idea for TLoMJ was a tiresomely drawn-out process. She claims that “the character development was as crucial as the outfits.” “The magical stories I read as a child in Urdu served as my inspiration. Humaima was malicious, and she wore expensive clothing and had long hair. I chose satins and silks for her. She pays respect to Punjabi cinema sirens in a few sequences by donning a dhoti and a fitted satin top, the actress explains.

“For Mahira, I chose simple earthy colours. Her clothes were fashioned from khaddar and malmal and paired with traditional dupattas. Her hair was braided and she even had slight freckles,” describes the designer.

 

 Mahira Khan

Was it a worry that the actors, who are all well-known figures in Pakistani entertainment, looked good even in costume? There was at first, but over time, Maram explains, “we all warmed to the idea of just making the movie look as authentic as possible.”

There was likely considerably more effort and care put into this one film than is typically the case with typical motion picture fare. However, TLoMJ does appear to be the kind of film that was created more so out of passion than anything else. The effort is evident in the trailer and the advertising materials; perhaps, it will be even more stunning in person.

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