Later in the 1970s, Rajesh Khanna’s “Guru” kurta became such a hit that both men and women, boys and girls wore it. And, do you remember the Sadhana haircut that covered the forehead. Not to forget, the kind of saris that adorned shop windows in India’s metros, and each was named after a film or the heroine who was draped in the six-yard splendour.
The picture is not very different today. The lehenga that Aishwarya Rai fancies or the hot pants Bipasha Basu may tease you with or the sunglasses that Sanjay Dutt sports or the leather jacket that Shah Rukh Khan flaunts or even the bare, clean shaven chest that Salman Khan shows off to his cooing female fans has become part of the fashion statement that both the young and the old want to make.
India’s style gurus often use Bollywood – or, for that matter, Kollywood or Tollywood or any other Wood – as a pad to launch themselves into the dizzying orbit of design. They dress up stars and let the films speak. The dresses become popular in no time: while the rich and the affluent may go the original designers, the others patronise the copies, made by lesser known stylists or plain darzis/tailors. I remember Delhi based Gitanjali Kashyap once ruing the fact that copies of her designs were as much a pain to her as fakes were to the art world. But who is to tell her that it is all a question of financial affordability: an original Ritu Beri outfit can cost tens of thousands of rupees and how many can buy that.
But these do not ultimately impede designers. They continue to “decorate” their stars, and treat plagiarism as part of publicity. Stylist Manish Malhotra dressed Urmila Matondkar in “Rangeela”. Anaita Shroff Adajania got designer assignment for the recent blockbuster, “Dhoom-2”. Aki Narula-designed ties that Shah Rukh Khan embellished himself with in “Don” are out in the stores and selling as hot as the tickets for a Khan movie.
Malhotra has come a long way since then to become Bollywood’s favourite style boy, bagging hits such as like “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” and “Kal Ho Na Ho” and upcoming and much hyped “Salaam-e-Ishq”. For the last one, Malhotra had Vikram Phadnis as his associate. Phadnis won laurels for his latest collection presented at the recently concluded Lakme India Fashion Week.
As far as actresses go, Rani Mukherjee’s ethnic skirts in “Bunty aur Babli”, Bipasha’s power dresses in “Corporate” and Aishwarya Rai’s bare-and-dare fare in “Dhoom-2” have plodded and provoked star gazers to imitate.
Another Bollywood pet, Neeta Lulla, is now designing costumes for “Jodha Akbar”. With a beauty like Aishwarya in it, Neeta’s work becomes both a pleasure and a challenge.
Indian designers have also made a little mark in international cinema. Hollywood celebrities love the feel and finish of Indian wear. Stunning Sophie Marceau, the French diva, slipped into a gold salwar-kameez in the Bond extravaganza, “The World is Not Enough”. It was made by Mumbai-based Abu Jaani and Sandeep Khosla, and every time Sophie is in London, she steps into the duo’s studio to pick a few dresses.
And, the run from the screen to the streets is often short and sweet, and in no time men and women are trying their best to look like a Khan (pick any one) or a Rani or a Urmila or, who knows, a Sophie.
Sometimes, designers look at street wear to find inspiration, and I remember John Galliano of Paris’ renowned House of Chanel telling me that he loved to wander the lanes of his city to hit upon ideas. Of course, these can eventually translate into celluloid dreams only to get back into the streets. It is, all said and done, a marvellous two-way affair whose weft and weave imprint not just fabrics, but also the mind and body.
(Webposted December 12 2006)