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Fashion
February 17, 2009

Bollywood Style Awards 2009

Text by Sohiny Das. Photographs by Anushka Menon. Styling by Apsara Oswal. Realisation by Lamya Bhatri. Make-up by Manzoor Khan. Model: Shazahn Padamsee, Elite Model Management. Location Courtesy: Quorum and 24/7 Poolside, Intercontinental, The Lalit, Mumbai; and Sarai Restaurant, Mumbai

Year 2008 witnessed notable progress in film costume and styling, which go a long way in making the characters what they are, and in turn, making cinema what it is. Bollywood Style Awards returns, to commemorate the forces behind the hangers, drapes, hues, fads and sparkles of tinsel town. Verve sifts through the previous year’s releases and picks the sartorial spectaculars – each distinct, progressive and very well done

Authentic Recreation – JODHAA AKBAR
Neeta Lulla and Tanishq for Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan

Ashutosh Gowarikar’s epic love story of Mughal Emperor Akbar and Rajput Princess Jodhaa was a landmark film for Indian cinema, and one of the most awaited releases of 2008. For costumes, the director needed an expert.

Enter Neeta Lulla. With two decades of experience and countless awards (including the National Award for Devdas, despite the brocade and zardosi overkill), Lulla was cut out for the task. It took six months for her and Gowarikar to meticulously research and finalise the look, which was to be authentic; yet refined and relatable. Realisation of the costumes added another two months to the preparation time.

Reference to paintings and history books was just the beginning. The real challenge was to create costumes for the entire cast, including the leads Aishwarya Rai (Jodhaa) and Hrithik Roshan (Akbar). Straying from allover embellishment, Lulla concentrated on placement embroidery, using zardosi, gota, matte stone and crystal in panels and borders, letting the fabric flow, to create an overall simplicity. The earthy colour palette on silk, chiffon and cotton provided the ideal backdrop for antique embroidery, with accents like red, green and bright ochre.

Panelled, circular skirts, fitted cholis and long, sheer dupattas formed Rai’s wardrobe. (To authenticate Jodhaa further, the light-eyed Rai wore dark lenses and even deepened the tint of her hair.) Accessories included authentic Rajasthani embroidered mojris and of course, jewellery. Regal splendour was reflected (and how!) by kundan, polki and uncut precious stones, set in gold, specially designed by jewellery giant Tanishq. Whether tiny trinkets or grand sets, every ornament had its own story to tell. Jodhaa’s choker-breastplate inspired wedding neckpiece – solid gold encrusted with an array of stones – has been indelibly etched in Bollywood’s costume history.

Silk choli and embroidered georgette lehenga, by Neeta Lulla; uncut diamond and ruby necklace and earrings, from Ghanasingh and Sons; gold plated zircon bangles, kadas, nose ring and tiara, all at Sia Art Jewellery. All in Mumbai.

Understated Sophisticate – SARKAR RAJ
Urmilla Lal Motwani for Aishwarya Rai

Dark, political sagas are tricky territory. Being stylish without being ostentatious; all the while maintaining the right ‘image’ and treading the fine line between traditional and contemporary attire – tough.

Taking a cue from real life perhaps, Urmilla Lal Motwani struck a balance between corporate dressing and the desi politician’s uniform. The experienced costume designer (with Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair under her belt) chose to take the understated path, where quality makes a silent, yet strong statement. Complementing the lighting and cinematography, Motwani’s colour palette did not vary much, but revolved around monochromatic combinations, exuding the ‘elite simplicity’ that a powerful political family is expected to possess.

Aishwarya Rai’s character, Anita Rajan – the lead female protagonist, was initially a power plant CEO, who was gradually drawn into the political labyrinth. Thus, power dressing slowly acquired ethnic hints. Sharp suits, tailored jackets, crisp shirts and impeccably cut trousers almost transported us to Armani runways; towards the latter parts of the film, a pashmina shawl was shown wrapped over a shirt. More than costume design, the film required thoughtful styling, and sourcing from the right labels, for the right look. Serious style.

Staying true to the ‘less is more’ school of thought, Motwani brought in small details in the form of high-end accessories. Mont Blanc bracelets, diamond ear-studs, a sleek, studded belt, a state-of-the-art mobile phone and of course, expensive frames. Whether the story of Rai’s ‘Rs 10 lakh Gucci shades’ is authentic information, or an urban legend, we may never know, but dark glasses ruled this dark Ram Gopal Varma saga.

White ruffled top, from Let Me Be, New Delhi. Brown jacket and trousers, by Narendra Kumar, for Westside; leather watch, from Backes and Strauss, at Rose; diamond earrings and ring, from Tanishq; fileofax, from Fendi. All in Mumbai.

Urban Chic – DOSTANA
Manish Malhotra for Priyanka Chopra

As ‘Atkins’, ‘Pilates’ and ‘Molecular Gastronomy’ became accepted everyday language in tinsel town, the need to propagate a fitness-centric lifestyle was felt. Thus 2008 was the year of the toned body, athletic beauty and fab-minus-flab attire. All hail the fit new poster goddess Priyanka Chopra!

Dostana was your glamorous NRI saga set in another wishful sigh-inducing locale, Miami. Sun, sand, city. Tan, shorts, body beautiful. What was expected in Fashion (where Priyanka Chopra played a supermodel), was delivered in Dostana. Veteran style guru Manish Malhotra was responsible for yet another metamorphosis and we saw Chopra through her character Neha, like never before.

Complementing, rather than dominating, the dresses, tops, bikinis and shorts took a minimalist route. Not scanty, but devoid of unnecessary accessories. Solid, bright hues maintained a focal point and Malhotra played with colour-blocking through separates and stripes. The work and leisure outfits switched appropriately from designer chic to sporty/resort; a refreshing antidote to bling. Even the famous gold swimsuit and silver sari were more about shine than dazzle.

With flawless make-up and a modern, urban hairstyle, Neha (Chopra’s character) looked delectable throughout. Each outfit had at least one ‘ooh, I want that!’ piece. Malhotra’s attention to detail was spotted through Neha’s accessories. Whether satin mules or a bright beach tote or an evening clutch, classy and sassy did not give way to gaudy for even a second. No confusion between high-end and high street. After all, the co-editor of a magazine like Verve (in the movie) would certainly know her fashion initials like her A, B, C, and herbal tea!

Lurex sea-green corset and white mini skirt, by Swapnil Shinde, at Aza; crystal cuff and patent leather shoes, at La Kaira; hoop earrings, at Turquoise; flower ring, from Curio Cottage; watch, from Corum, at Rose. All in Mumbai.

Kitsch – TASHAN
Aki Narula for Kareena Kapoor

It is as much about the hanger as it is about the clothes. Question: would a goulash of elements translate into “The Kitcsch-style” (staying true to the film’s tagline) without ‘The’ Kareena Kapoor? Aki Narula would probably say ‘no’. This was a mid-year phenomenon. The Kareena size-zero debate, her then semi-fresh romance with Saif Ali Khan, and oh, ‘The’ swimsuit took up much print space. But this dizzy medley motion picture was, if nothing else, fashionable.

Ever since Bunty Aur Babli, Narula has built his forte of kitsch and glam-chic (Don). Kareena’s new, super sizzling avatar formed the perfect canvas for his experiments. Knotted shirts, low rise jeans, cut-out swimsuits, hot pants and singlets formed the wardrobe staples for the über-sexy Pooja (Kareena’s character). There were also some pretty lehengas and churidar sets on display during song sequences and Pooja’s initial good girl phase. Narula struck a balance between colour and detail and also between matte and shine, restraining from all-out bling. Accessories like suspenders (worn in a variety of ways), body chains and beads, studded leather belts, suede boots, charms and aviator shades lent a military-hippy edge. And to see Kareena sans her beloved (the late) boot-cut denims, what joy!

But if a single factor needs to be pinpointed as the key to the look’s success, it would have to be the make-up. Hopefully, it has heralded the start of a new chapter in the Bollywood cosmetics’ Bible. Fashion in our films has undergone cycles, but make-up has remained dated, for eternity. In Tashan, however, kohl-eyes and glossed lips lost dictatorship; instead, metallic eye-shadows, coloured liners, sculpted cheekbones and sun-kissed freshness supported the costumes, lending cutting-edge sophistication to the overall appearance. There was method in the madness, after all.

‘The pharmoola’ and ‘the goodluck’ might not have had the desired effect, but ‘the ishtyle’ certainly did.

Metallic soft leather tote, by Mandira Wirk, New Delhi. Denims, from Guess; lycra halter top, at La Kaira; white shrug, at White Peacock; brown leather belt, from Mango; lacquered bangles, from Vitamin K and Taxii; suede boots, from Tresmode; sling bag, from Sisley. All in Mumbai.

Youth Cult – ROCK ON!!
Niharika Khan for the lead male cast members

With a title like Rock On!! and a story line featuring drums and guitars, it was easy to take the leather and metal route, with Axl Rose and Steven Tyler as inspirations. But the cue to the costumes came from the film’s soundtrack itself. This was not heavy-dose rock, with clanging and banging unlimited, but indie, rock’s present favourite offspring. More accessible, more garage. No gods, these guys; just regular chaps who know how to play and sing.

Niharika Khan’s accurate study of the Indian adaptation of the indie culture was reflected in her portrayal of the characters’ attires. Visit any college fest and you see proof. In the movie, Ché Guevera, skulls and bones, a politically incorrect slogan or tattoo art graced the chests of the T-shirt and distressed jeans wearing clan. Hints of punk (studded wristbands, rings, Converse sneakers, pendants…) met neo-hippy (bandana, beads, head band, long tresses), and the result was the reverse of the Hindi film fashion effect. Instead of being aspirational to the masses (where we want to be Saif or Kareena), Khan took elements off the street, put them on the big screen, and re-trended an existing trend.

The distinctions between the pre and post ‘band days’ wardrobes divided the film’s overall look into two genres – cult and chic. While most of the female characters had ‘chic’ or ‘Bohemian’ costumes, the boys’ almost-grunge was the most appealing visually, capable of transcending gender and body type. Cult was the clear winner.

Khan’s genius of ‘keeping it real’, yet fresh and stylish, has made her a versatile force to reckon with. From 2007’s retro-chic Khoya Khoya Chand, this is a far cry. Unlike many other costume gurus, we cannot pinpoint a ‘typical Niharika Khan’ style, which is why we do not know what to expect of her next. Perhaps a hat-trick, if she does make it to our list next year….

Raw silk tube dress, by Shantanu and Nikhil; black skinny pants, from Bombay Electric; pointed boots, from Jimmy Choo; leather wristbands and cross chain, at Al’s; ‘Aviators’, from Ray Ban, at Titan Eye ; black shades,  from Dolce and Gabbana, at Thanks. All in Mumbai.

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