Ezhilmathy was the costume designer in Thiyagaraja Kumararaja’s Super Deluxe starring Vijay Sethupathi, Samantha Akkineni, Fahadh Faasil, Mysskin and Ramya Krishnan. From using battery prints on an Ice Cream man’s shirt to a scrunchie on Samantha’s wrist, she is one of those rare designers who depicts characters as credible, yet deep.
“I was always interested in teaching.”
Ezhilmathy started out her career as a physiotherapist and then her interest grew towards teaching children with special needs. She has even headed schools and has strongly believed in inclusive education. Ezhilmathy pursued her Masters in Inclusive Education in the United Kingdom. “I get bored with what I do quite easily. I initially grew interest towards physiotherapy, but I got distracted towards teaching. I have been doing all this, but styling has always been very interesting for me,” she says. Ezhilmathy believes that teaching the children at Vidya Sagar School, Chennai, was the right turn in her life. “I initially was roped in for doing physiotherapy for the children, but my passion deviated towards teaching,” she adds. Till date, she remains a teacher and a trainer for the children although she designs for huge projects today.
“I work only with Thiyagaraja Kumararaja.”
The way she has impeccably styled each character in the film Super Deluxe added to the success of movie. However, here’s some new information: this spectacular costume designer works only for the Aaranya Kaandam director. “I have earlier worked for ad shoots but Kumararaja’s projects keep me occupied, she adds. Ezhilmathy owns a clothing brand named Stoker. From bags to clothes, team Stoker designed it all for the film. “I have always wanted to build a school of what?, but I just did not know how. That is when the idea of starting my own brand cropped up and that was Kumararaja’s idea honestly. It sounded fair too,” she says.
Talking about her own school, she says, “The design’s ready and plans are coming into place. So, now we will just have to wait and see.”
“Kumararaja’s attention to detail helped me design.”
When Kumararaja met Ezhilmathy, he had every detail ready for her. The entire script, narrative, intricate detail was read with him. She truly believes that Kumararaja is one of those very few directors who has a keen eye for details. “He is someone who visualises everything and that really helped. He just knew how everything had to be,” she adds. Throughout the film we could see hues of blue and red set as the colour palette. Talking about how she carried it throughout the film, Ezhil says, “We began drawing while visualising each character. For example, Samantha’s character is portrayed to be an art student and she is from a middle-class background so she is seen wearing a simple T-shirt with a skirt but as the character develops we can see Sam given more layers like a shirt, a scarf around the neck or the head and a rubber band on her wrist. With Fahadh, he is an aspiring actor so there was a lot of bling added to his look. From a green-coloured watch to a ring, he was done up in comfortable clothing.”
“Vijay Sethupathi’s character was the hardest to style.”
“He is such an amazing man and to give him a completely feminine look was undoubtedly a huge challenge,” adds Ezhilmathy as she walks us through the journey of transformation from Vijay Sethupathi to Shilpa, a transgender woman. The saree that Sethupathi had worn initially was a pink one. Ezhilmathy says that there were only three sarees made and used throughout the entire film. “As the depth of the character increases, the shade of blue and the patterns in the Saree vary too,” adds the designer.
Vijay Sethupathi had once mentioned how the Saree was one of his inspirations to completely transform into the amazing Shilpa. On asking how she feels about this, she says, “It was my work. So, this only means that I have done my job right, that’s all (laughs).” From the wig to the accessories, everything was carefully curated for the film.
A detailed piece of work for each character
Ezhilmathy is a true craftsman in bringing back simplicity into the films. Simplicity is the only way to explain the complexity and depth of any character. “The four boys in the film were very casually dressed in a way that no character looked stereotyped. All the sarees of Ramya Krishnan and Vijay Sethupathi’s sarees were Kochampalli cotton since I do not use silk in my clothes. Kochampalli cotton is not very easy to find and on top of that, I designed and printed all of those,” adds the stylist.
There is an ice-cream seller in the film whose shirt was designed by Ezhil, but what’s exciting about it is the creativity. “The shirt the seller wears in the film actually has print made from battery. You reverse a battery and print on it. Kumararaja wanted a block but I suggested that we not go for a block print, it wouldn’t gel with the character if it is a small role,” says Ezhil.
When it comes to the Gaji Balaji character, she describes the character to be a different kind of intelligence. “He has no big qualms about life but the way he looks and describes the universe explains to us the depth of his character. So, he was given the famous one-sided cat T-shirt,” she adds.
“With Mysskin’s character, we had to show what he believed, so he is seen wearing an all-black all the time and he was not to wear any footwear. It may look simple but simplicity is the most complex to understand,” says Ezhil.
Be it the alien’s unusual, yet recognisable clothing or be it bringing back the rubber band around the wrist trend, Ezhil dressed up each character with its development in mind.
“We would wash all the clothes constantly so that it wouldn’t look new. The story is a sudden occurrence getting in the way of daily lives of people so we cannot show them wearing new clothes, that is not how it works for us (laughs),” adds Ezhil.
The future for Ezhilmathi
Ezhilmathy loves a good storyline with terrific characters, which she says, is the reason she feels that Thiyagaraja kumararaja is the director she prefers working with. But, what about the future? “To me, the present is everything. I leave everything to the moment. I work hard for the moment, I think for the moment. My work should always keep me occupied and that is exactly why I prefer working with Kumararaja; he is a handful (laughs).”