Costumes in Mani Ratnam’s movies

Simple, Neat and Contemporary – That is how I will describe the costumes in Mani Ratnam’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 Ratnam’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 Ratnam’s movies. 😉

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. 🙂 In Yuva, Kareena’s kurtas were too good.

In AE, I didn’t like some of the shirts of Siddharth that had flower designs and all.

Cottons in Mani Ratnam’s films

Shobhana’s and Geeta’s sarees in Thalapathy, Revathy’s in Mouna Raagam and Anjali and Madhubala’s in Roja, Sharanya’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 Sriram’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 Heera’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, Simran’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 😉 )

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. 🙂 You can’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 Swarnamalya’s silk sarees in the wedding scene, in the scene where they go to Madhavan’s house and the scene where Hari Nair and his family come to their house are all so lovely. So are Shalini’s sarees in the song Snehidhane. 🙂

Special mention has to be made about Madhavan’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 won’t write anything more about this movie. 😉

Talking about colourful costumes, the ones in Tere Bina (Guru) will also feature in the list. Each one of Aishwarya Rai’s costumes (esp. that blue-coloured one) and Abhishek Bachchan’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 don’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 Ratnam’s movies and for this post, I yet again, relived many scenes. 🙂



  1. July 17, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    You can do a Ph.D on Mani movies. What next? Art direction? 😀

  2. Nithya said,

    July 17, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    “Special mention has to be made about Madhavan’s shirts……………and the list goes on”

    😀 😀 😀 drool drool drool….Only Mani Ratnam can make a thug like Inba look cute in his movies 😛
    And as mentioned in ur post, the cotton saris worn by the heroines in Mani’s movies are very subtle, sweet, DECENT and soothing 🙂

    “In Yuva, Kareena’s kurtas were too good.”

    very true…Loved all o em and loved her purse (in the Hey Khuda Hafiz song) too 😛 😀

  3. Sathej said,

    July 17, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Oh! Great analytical skills, Aparna. Sure,yes,, you can consider a PhD on the movies of Maniratnam.

  4. sivaramang said,

    July 17, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    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

  5. Adiya said,

    July 17, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    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. 🙂

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

  6. sangs said,

    July 17, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    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 😉 romba flashlight technique use pannitaanga ;-)) ,nothing worth remembering ?

  7. Rukesh said,

    July 17, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Aparna,

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


  8. sreekrishnan said,

    July 17, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    ….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 !! 😛

  9. Nanyaar? said,

    July 18, 2007 at 3:45 am

    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.

  10. Bharath said,

    July 18, 2007 at 10:54 am

    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…

  11. Aparna said,

    July 18, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Thanks for the suggestion 😛 I don’t know what next 😛

    I didn’t find Inba handsome 🙂 I liked Lallan (Abhishek), the thug, though 😉
    Yes decent is the word for the cotton sarees.


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

  12. Aparna said,

    July 18, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Adhu enna maggie hair? 😛
    You seem to be knowing lots about sarees. Enna already buying lotsa sarees for you-know-who? 😉 Btw, I don’t think that’s a designer wear. Besides, neat cotton sarees are available from 250 Rs. or so itself 🙂
    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 😉

    Yes I ran through all the movies in my mind before writing 😉

  13. Aparna said,

    July 18, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    I can to some extent 🙂
    >Mani’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? 😛

    That’s so true!

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

    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 🙂 In Humma Humma, I liked the combination of bright red and blue of Sonali’s costume.

  14. sreekrishnan said,

    July 18, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Mallika is the undisputed thalaivi !!

  15. Adiya said,

    July 18, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    wet maggie hair .. aa dhuva.. 🙂

    3sha oda hair Maggie Noodles maathiri erukum.. 🙂 adhu dhaan appadi sonnain.. 🙂

  16. D said,

    July 19, 2007 at 6:26 am

    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. 😉

    Nice post Aparna. Mani roacks!


  17. ranjhith said,

    July 19, 2007 at 7:43 am

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

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

    Madhubala’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” – 😉 Screen shots of the costumes/scenes you talk abt wud hav given an extra good reader experience. 🙂 Nice.

    > I didn’t like some of the shirts of Siddharth
    > Special mention has to be made about Madhavan’s shirts.
    > Abhishek Bachchan’s sherwanis
    Thats almost 33% – we’ll withdraw from revolting. 😀

  18. Bindu said,

    July 19, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    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!!)

  19. srinivasu said,

    July 19, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    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 .

  20. vikikumar said,

    July 19, 2007 at 7:55 pm

    it was fabulas about costumes in maniratnam films

  21. Ponnarasi.K said,

    July 19, 2007 at 8:21 pm

    Yabba! 🙂 Great analysis! It was nice and interesting to read 😀 me being a person who would hate movies..

  22. Pravin Shankar said,

    July 19, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    So feminine…..Nothing in there for guyz !!!.Still gud wrk

  23. Aparna said,

    July 19, 2007 at 10:42 pm

    Oh I see 😛

    ok 🙂

    Welcome to my blog. Thanks 🙂
    >It brings out the trendy urban chick feel to it.
    >Easha’s costumes had a French flavour
    Oh I have no clue about French flavour clothes 😉
    Hey, that scene in Roja was the one I wanted to mention in the post!! 🙂 I totally 4got!

  24. Aparna said,

    July 19, 2007 at 10:44 pm

    >Let me continue reading for educational purposes.
    That’s a good attitude to have 😛

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

    >Then you too hav chosen good phrases
    Thank you 🙂

    >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 😦

    >Thats almost 33% – we’ll withdraw from revolting
    Please don’t withdraw. I want to hear what you have to say about it 😉

  25. Aparna said,

    July 19, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    Thanks 🙂 Hope you observe the costumes the next time you watch his movies 😉
    I too would have liked pics. But, as I have said in the earlier comment, I iddn’t get the time to do it 😦

    Welcome to my blog 🙂
    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 🙂

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

  26. SK said,

    July 20, 2007 at 4:33 am

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

  27. ranjhith said,

    July 20, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Withdrew becos men are not totally ignored. 🙂

    > I want to hear what you have to say about it
    Athai inimale thaan oshikannunga. 😀

  28. Aparna said,

    July 20, 2007 at 5:37 pm

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

    I see 🙂

  29. Srinivasu said,

    July 21, 2007 at 11:36 am

    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

  30. Aparna said,

    July 22, 2007 at 11:45 am

    Thanks for yet another comment with interesting observations 🙂

  31. chiroti said,

    July 22, 2007 at 3:40 pm

    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. 🙂

    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…;)

  32. Aparna said,

    July 22, 2007 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks 🙂 Nice comment from you too 😉 Since I anyway watch his movies again and again, I don’t really remember whether I noticed the costumes the first time or not 🙂
    Girija in Geethanjali – I was a small kid at that time so I hav no idea whether her cholis became a rage or not 🙂
    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!

  33. santosh said,

    July 31, 2007 at 11:20 am

    Good….deep research…

  34. Aparna said,

    July 31, 2007 at 5:17 pm

    Welcome to my blog! Thanks 🙂

  35. Shiva said,

    August 7, 2007 at 2:00 am

    Such devotion to the master. I’m proud of you! Check out for yours truly’s take on Guru.

    And we should have the “Which do u think is his best?” debate sometime. 🙂

  36. Aparna said,

    August 7, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    Will read your post later. Yeah we can have the debate soon

  37. Prabakar said,

    August 10, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    Good… Nice Observation…

  38. Aparna said,

    August 11, 2007 at 10:12 am

    Welcome to my blog! Thank you

  39. Niyamath Seth said,

    August 22, 2007 at 6:12 am

    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

  40. Aparna said,

    August 22, 2007 at 8:51 am

    Niyamath Seth,
    Welcome to my blog. I have no idea about Priyadarshan’s movies

  41. rashmi nagabhushan said,

    December 19, 2007 at 8:26 pm

    Hey aparna!!

    It feels really gud to know that u have noticed every bit of the MR movies to such details. I read your blog and all the details… This defiitely shows that craze ppl have for his movies. Like u even I follow MR’s movies closely.. I totally agree with your blog. Good job da!!

  42. Aparna said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Welcome to my blog 🙂
    Thanks! Great to know that you like MR’s movies too

  43. Krishnan Nair said,

    July 17, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Aparana you have a great analytical skill… superb…You noticed Mani Sir movies very closely…

  44. Krishnan Nair said,

    July 17, 2008 at 9:25 pm

    I am also big fan of Mani sir. I want to know about his next film. When it will start.. I am eagerly waiting for that..

  45. Vini said,

    August 29, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Where did Shalini get her costumes from…? Any idea??/

  46. tonny jeffry said,

    September 16, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    can you caoment to me about costume in film. i mean, the important costume in film. espescialy period film.

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