India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Cover Story
May 18, 2012

In Perfect Shape

Text by Shirin Mehta. Photographed by Prasad Naik. Styling by Nisha Jhangiani. Assisted by Nirali Mehta. Make-up and hair by Daniel Bauer (www.danielbauer.com.au). Location courtesy: Spices, JW Marriott, Mumbai.

Karisma Kapoor just cannot escape the ‘fashion icon’ label. Having given the silver screen a miss these past six years in order to spend time with her family, she remains in the public eye as she continues to make those classic style statements that are very much her own. A far cry from Bollywood bling and glitter, she creates a sharply-cut, almost monochromatic sartorial world for herself. Will her upcoming film, Dangerous Ishq make yet another statement, asks Verve

  • Karisma Kapoor, Bollywood Actress
  • Karisma Kapoor, Bollywood Actress
  • Karisma Kapoor, Bollywood Actress

Her waist would make Scarlet O’Hara, the super-clinched protagonist of Gone With The Wind, swoon with envy. But, her legs are strong – the mark of the contemporary woman who builds muscle and trains conscientiously in modern gyms – as she crosses her ankles gently, facing the camera with cool and practiced comfort. She is into details, the nitty-gritty. “My hair is not looking funny na?” No, of course not, her mane is fabulous and down to her waist. “Someone see, my shoes are looking okay na?” Straight-backed and poised, she is a porcelain goddess. A slender statuette in alabaster. “Looking away from the camera is better…?” If she was not a star, a child of Bollywood, Karisma Kapoor would have made it as the country’s finest supermodel. She has that clothes hanger frame that embraces all sartorial silhouettes, the camera loves her, she has the right attitude blended with genuine caring. And she loves clothes and fashion, as happy to be known as a style icon on the screen as in real life. “I think it’s a big compliment that people like my fashion sense today more than even my movies. So, that’s actually my personality coming out within me,” she says. We will rout for both, though!

She is in perfect shape. Amazing even, for a mother of two. Her face has lost its earlier roundness and looks chiselled without being sharp. She was only 16 then, a child when she had made her debut in Bollywood. Today, she has returned to the silver screen after a hiatus of six years. She is back where she so obviously belongs, where so many awards, accolades and other great things lie already behind her. Now, she is looking at her freshly-shot images on the laptop screen. “Prasad the magician!” she proclaims; you don’t expect modesty from her, but there it is. Someone offers her a pocket mirror where she checks her make-up one more time and as the camera crew discusses the images already shot, she reaches for her pretty pink cell phone with her French manicured finger tips. I notice her toes are perfectly French-manicured as well.

A chat with the style icon on her upcoming film, her fitness and diet regimens and, most of all, her love of fashion….

On her ‘comeback’ and Dangerous Ishq
I want to say for the zillionth time that I’m not making a comeback. I was on maternity leave and was really clear that I wanted to give that time to my family, my kids, my home. I never felt that I’m not in the limelight. I enjoyed being at home, being away from everything and actually everywhere I went, be it my fans, be it the media, be it the people, family, would ask, when are you going to do a movie? Everyone was really encouraging me to finally say okay. Vikram (Bhatt) had approached me twice or thrice but I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to work. Then finally he had his idea for Dangerous Ishq and said only you can do this film, just hear me out. So, finally we went to hear it and I was bowled over honestly. I don’t know what the fate of the movie will be but it’s a role that I’ve never done before and it really appealed to me enough to take me away from my children and go back on a gruelling, shooting schedule. The movie is a supernatural thriller; it’s not a ghost movie, it’s not a horror movie, it’s not an erotic movie…. It’s the journey of a woman in search of something and for that she goes through past life regression and solves the mystery through her different lifetimes. It’s a story that is very relevant today because all of us… with so much that is out there on the internet and so much research that you can do, everyone is soul searching, everyone wants to know about themselves and their lives. We all go to a tarot card reader or a crystal ball healer or do some face reading or past life or hypnotism. I think people are very intrigued by these things today. So, this movie deals with a very current topic in that sense. It’s not about reincarnation. Vikram actually wrote this story with his experience of going through past life regression.

On past life regression
I found it too scary to get regressed but I have friends who have. It’s amazing how current situations in our lives have to do with our past lives. I do believe that. Vikram, in one of his lifetimes, was a Japanese teenager and he’s very claustrophobic and has asthma and that had to do with him dying prematurely from suffocation. So, he’s dealing with that in this birth. It’s really amazing; I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it. This is a story that will appeal and people will see me in a very different light. I have very different looks – hair, costume, make-up, there is so much research that has gone into this film, for past life regression, the different eras depicted, or me talking in five different dialects. The important thing is it was all very interesting. Today I’m doing a movie for the love of acting, for the pure love of cinema, of being on the sets. Plus, it’s the first 3D, woman-centric movie ever made in India. So, it has been different, I’ve worked with a foreign crew and technicians of 3D. There was a lot of scope for performance for an actor.

On preparing to get back to the big screen
I’ve been working out for a while. I have always endorsed a healthy lifestyle, it’s nothing out of the ordinary for me. Whether it was having two babies and getting back into shape or for a movie, it’s just a part of me, of who I am. So, I just worked out as I normally did and I don’t know if you’ll believe me, but I eat everything. (She is digging into a bowl of pasta right now.) I believe that you should eat correctly and do everything in moderation in your life. I love to eat. I eat biryani, I eat carbs at night, I love eating ice cream and brownies and chocolates, because I’m not going to deprive myself. Kareena (Kapoor) and I really do believe in Rujuta (Diwekar) a lot. She monitors my eating habits.

On the ‘burden’ of being forever immaculate
I dress to just be me. I do not dress under pressure, like, oh, I have to wear this couture outfit and go out or I must carry the latest handbags or shoes. I’m absolutely the opposite. I may wear something that is four years old but is classic and timeless. I dress the way I feel at the moment. I mean look at me now, how am I looking? (For the record, she looks great in cargo shorts, a plain black tee, a large soft printed cotton scarf around her neck, slippers and her signature high ponytail. She is fussing about her eyes still being smoky black after the photo shoot, but hey! Even that looks fine! After all, her blue-grey eyes, inherited from her famous grandfather Raj Kapoor, have always been her finest feature. No harm in showing them off a little bit!)

On her signature style
I would call it ‘sophisticated classic chic’. I like good cuts. I’m not very into flouncy things but rather, well-fitted, tailored outfits; even a dress should have a specific design and an element to it. So, I like sharp looking things, yeah.

At the moment, I’m being forced by my kids to wear dresses. Particularly by my daughter. I had gone for a TV shoot so I went home in the dress I was shooting in and my kids were really excited to see me in a knee length – you know, how my daughter wears a birthday party dress – feminine-ish kind of  frock. She was super excited. So, maybe, that’s my thing right now. My daughter is becoming into quite a little fashion diva. She has a good fashion sense already.

I love all my black dresses. They’re my little treasures that I have collected over the years, be it day wear or evening wear. And I love my white shirts; cannot do without them. And I love jeans, that’s another favourite of mine, all types –7 For All mankind, Citizens of Humanity, J Brand….

I wear anything that I like. It could be even high street and I have absolutely no problem. I’m not at all a person who is brand conscious. I love doing high street shopping whether it’s clothes or even chappals. It’s nice to do a mix and match.

On her favourite designers
I don’t have any designers of the moment. While I feel that India has some fantastic new talent out there, my all-time favourites are of course Chanel, Armani, YSL, Prada – these are brands that are timeless and look at their collections, they are fabulous. Among Indian designers, Manish (Malhotra) is a favourite. I like Karishma Trehan and all the new ones. Honestly, I don’t know all their names but I enjoy wearing a lot of the new upcoming designers. I think their work is of international standards.

On accessories or a lack of them
I’m not at all an accessory person, I hate wearing jewellery. I wear it for shoots or events which are work, but personally, I’m very minimalistic. I rather just wear solitaires or any small sparkle and a good watch is very important for me. Not the latest, trendy ones, but something which is beautiful, you know. I do have some beautiful pieces of jewellery from my mum and my grandmother but I never get an opportunity to wear anything because I’m so understated in my general dressing. I’m not into baubles at all. But when it’s part of the job, I like to be a bit sparkly and glam.

On her favourite handbags….and shoes
I love…everyone loves Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, obviously, and I like YSL shoes. But again I’m not changing my handbag every day. I like a really large bag for the day which has my entire room in it. Currently, I’m carrying a red Chanel bag and I may change it every few months. I can’t say how many Chanel bags I have.

On black and white
I’m not at all a colour person. I love black and whites. If you open my closet, you will only see black things and white things and at the most a grey or a navy blue. Now, because of my daughter I like to pop an outfit, maybe a little pink or beige here and there. But even in there, my outfit has to have a black or white element in it, I’m obsessed with black and white.

On making a sartorial statement, on screen
It goes back a long time with movies like Dil To Paagal Hai and Raja Hindustani. Having a fit figure and being fit on screen kind of started, in a sense, with me. Manish (Malhotra) and I were a great combination working together. He understood me and I understood him. Raja Hindustani had the ’60s tight salwar kameezes which became a big trend and till today girls are wearing that tight-fitted churidaar. So, it’s nice to have been part of fashion oriented cult movies like that. Then with Dil To Paagal Hai, the whole active wear, sports wear look came in. Zubeida was also very special because it had its old world charm and it was so authentic. I think that was the first time in movies that I wore real Rajasthani jewellery given by Gem Palace.

The Lucknowi salwar kameez really got very popular after Fiza. Throughout the movie I wore very simple, mulmul kurtas in very pale colours. That became another style statement that really went down well at that time. Then Haseena Maan Jaayegi in fact brought the cargo pants into fashion. Very boy-kind, loose, baggy pants which actually no actress would wear because everybody is into wearing short and tight.

I remember at the Filmfare awards, when I won for Best Actress for Fiza, I had worn a fitted Versace dress with a complete open back and high neck. Nobody dressed like that for an awards night – you had to be decked up in a sari or salwar kameez dazzling away…. It became a big talking point because when I was walking up the stage, it was a very bare back that could be seen. I had no earrings on – just open, simple hair and a very sharp dress. I think that kind of changed the trend.

On her style mentors
Both my grandparents, my dadi and dada and my mum. I’ve got my love for the colour white from my grandfather and my grandmother. Most definitely, I think it’s come genetically down to me and because as a child I used to see how my grandfather used to love white and my dadi used to always wear white coloured saris. My mum loves black. She was very chic in the ’60s and ’70s looks. I remember as a child that she used to love wearing jeans. So that kind of came down to me.

On fashion faux pas
I think I’ve had quite a few in my initial years in films. I was 16 when my first movie released. Something that was a drawback then is my advantage today because actresses who are working today are my age. In that sense, I’m glad I started early. But those initial years, we had no say, no control over anything. Look at the newcomers today, they get a stylist, top of the line make-up and hair people – there’s so much that they get to package them. We had nothing. The director would say, ‘Inko frock pehna do…inko kuchh tiny kapdaa pehna do’ and we had to wear it because we were struggling and there was no concept of styling. So, when I see myself in those initial movies today, I go ‘Oh my God!’

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