"When Rinku ( Sharmila Tagore, to friends) called me about this, I was more excited about the challenge it posed," says designer Ritu Kumar, who restored the antique shaadi ka joda that Sharmila had worn for her wedding (way back in 1969), for Kareena to wear for her nikaah with Saif. So much so, that the restoration work was referred to as the Kareena Project, and work on it went on for five months. "Kapda ekdum khatam ho gaya tha, only the border was there, and we had to recreate the embroidery with the original thread, and also totally re-weave the old Banarasi tissue - it required a lot of patience. Since I am interested in restoration, I can say that perhaps, it was a Wajid Ali Shah period mastercraft. It was painstakingly recreated inch by inch, the way purane zamane mein pure gold thread ka kaam hota tha, that's how this was done, we basically wove a piece of gold," recalls ace designer Ritu Kumar.
The first time Kareena tried it on in front of both Ritu and Sharmila, she wasn't wearing any makeup, and Sharmila thought Kareena looked like a princess. "We didn't let her run around in it much, I was scared aur damage ho jayega. But she looked beautiful, and she also said as much," recalls Ritu. Back in those days, three kinds of surface ornamentation were very much in - butiyan, thapka and tikka. And all these works were used on Kareena's outfit. Ritu had also designed for Sabah and Soha, Saif's sisters, and again, both the designs were based on early 19th century designs - that goldish, off-white colour was in vogue back then, and the embroideries were also replicated from an era gone by, there was that khada dupatta and farshi pyjamas.
The best part about the Kareena Project, says Ritu, "was that this outfit was part of a family heirloom that was used again. People don't do that these days. Very rarely does this happen in India that a wedding lehenga is restored and used. Everyone wants to spend a fortune on buying a new one. But India has such a beautiful tradition of textiles, and exquisite embroideries, nowhere in the world do we have stuff of this stature in historic value. I wish more such restorations projects happened." But on a parting shot, ask her about all that drama of who designed Kareena's outfits between her and designer Manish Malhotra, and Ritu says, "No comments. I don't want to get into such things."