Monday, July 6, 2009

Filmi Fashion Faux Pas

Why desi actors never get it right…!

The day I spotted a Page 3 picture of a minor TV star ( are there any other kind?) wearing an Ed Hardy tee and baseball cap, I knew it was all over . For Ed Hardy. Edgy International brands have never had it so bad. First , the recession. And then, Desi Men wearing Korean knockoffs. Poor Ed. All was going well for the brand till that point. At least when it came to true blue fashionistas like Yash Birla, who joined the Ed Hardy club years ago, when it was a relatively unknown label, popular in L.A. but nor really worn outside a small, charmed circle of ravers who liked the graphics and colours of the brand. This is a story that repeats itself each time say, a Sohail Khan, shows up wearing something hot off the fashion alleys of New York. The brand gets instantly devalued.It happened with True Religion, and J Brand jeans. And it happened over time with Gucci, Armani and the worst hit victim – Versace!! These brands have still to recover. Every second mechanic tinkering under your neighbour’s Porsche, wears Versace ( pronounced sweetly as WERE – SASE). Even the building watchmen who thoko smart salaams when in mufti, prefer Versace over other fakes…. Though, heaven help Ed, but I can see them switching loyalties rapidly.
So…. Why can’t Desi guys with means, be sensible and stick to desi gear? Why can’t they dress like Rahul Gandhi, for Chrissake??
Because they lack confidence.
Because they can’t be themselves.
Because they want desperately to be someone else …. Someone ‘cool’.
And nobody has told them that the coolest way to look is desi.
Not necessarily designer desi – just basic Fab India desi.
Our men look their sexiest in dhotis. Don’t believe me? Check out Shah Rukh Khan in a black dhoti, floating down the backwaters in Kerala with Preity Zinta. He has never looked better – before or since. And you can keep your six pack image of the star clad in shredded jeans and a wet shirt from ‘OMO’. Similarly, Akshay Kumar in the opening sequence of ‘Sinngh is Kinng’ (forgotten how many extra ‘g’s’ or ‘n’s’ there are in the title), looked just amazing in a long, pink khadi kurta worn over sloppy, non-designer jeans. This was inspired imaging, at once desi and super cool. His attackable chest is visible through the open, unbuttoned kurta (let’s not go further South – we know how much trouble that caused the guy!) made him look rugged and sexy, but not available and gigolo-ish. Most of our stars don’t get that distinction. You can look dishy, without providing the cutlery gratis.
Bollywood has gone brand-insane. The label consciousness and dependency has robbed actors of any individuality – they dress alike, look alike and talk alike. I miss the old rogues – those completely OTT guys who went out of their way to stand out… not conform, like today’s chaps. Remember Raaj (“Jaani’) Kumar, with his collection of carrot-coloured toupees and crazy velvet smoking jackets worn over breeches?? Or Pran, perennially clad in a maroon dressing gown? Dev Anand wearing impossibly high collared shirts ( maybe five of them, one over the other) under even higher collared jackets, topping the look with a cap at a rakish tilt over a well-constructed wig. Not forgetting the Isadora Duncan scarf, the broad belt and ankle length slacks ( shades of Michael Jackson). The late Feroz Khan, now being hailed as a style icon (how generous we are to the dead!), who invariably dressed like he was auditioning for a Spaghetti Western – a Clint Eastwood gone wrong. Come on, you guys… who wears a Stetson outside Texas? Feroz!! The Desi Cowboy rode into town from Bangalore and perpetually behaved like he was fighting Injuns in his backyard. Perhaps, he was!
Elvis had his blue suede shoes and our Jeetendra his shiney white ones. He loved his whites and still does. Along with Govinda and Mithun Chakraborthy, Jeetendra can get away with sartorial hara-kiri. These fellows are originals – bizarre, outlandish, scarey. But we still love them. Purple pants, yellow shirts, pink ties, green socks. Bring it on, brothers. Don’t ever get into the Dolce set. You don’t need to. Your fans love you just the way you are – disastrous but adorable. Leave the labels to the younger insecure set. Or be like John Abraham, who is happiest in nothing more fussy than snug swimming trunks. John The Butt has his fundamentals in place. He is the chilled out chappalwalla, who is so sure of himself he doesn’t feel the need to bother with dress codes.And being John, nobody reminds him. Salman has given a bad name to too many brands, so let’s leave him out of this. He is Salman. Cute and red hot. He is shirtless at the best of times, and so he should remain. It is only when he gets into designer clothes u wearthat one wants to scream, “Stylist!”
The bachchas on the block are B-O-R-I-N-G . I mean, Imran Khan does not have to wear rasta checks with Hanes undershirts at all times, surely?? Or that silly string tie? But he does! Shahid wears the same expression and outfit (can he not think beyond white shirts and jeans), but at least he looks like a regular insaan. Baby Bachchan is perpetually struggling with his weight, and often dresses like a maitre d’ – perhaps he thinks his height takes care of the details. No, honey, it really doesn’t. You cannot wear those strange dj’s with velvet lapels and hope to get away with it. That leaves Hritik Roshan. I’d say out of the lot, he shows some individuality, even if he does miss a fashion cue or two occasionally. He clearly loves his biceps as much as he loves Barbara. His shirt sleeves are rolled up tapori-style, no matter where and what.Royal purple sems to be his favourite colour ( a hangover from ‘Jodha Akbar’?). But it goes with his personality and I am sure Barbara loves it on him. Saif Ali Khan is frequently referred to as a Nawab who knows his style. I’d agree. Forget those bandanas for a moment ( even men have their bad hair days), but this Khan gets it right down to the last button.
My suggestion to all these wonderful men is simple – style is not about who or what you wear. It is about who you are when the lights are switched off. Once you figure that one out, everything else automatically falls into place. Jai Ho!


This appeared in the Asian Age over the weekend. As you can tell, I had fun writing it.

More fun than analysing the bloody budget ( the market's tanked).

Officially, the budget is supposed to be 'sensible and pro-growth'. But frankly, it is a huge letdown and most disappointing. Pranab Babu - between you and Mamatadi, we are screwed!


krish said...

hi thr

A good read......but care less abt wht thy wear........

well said btw mamta did and babu we r a screwed lot......lets mak mumbai a rural village anyway the slums r all over ...that way we wud get sum .....(benifts)(not being cynical about the poor they need the most help without the leakages....(life is such hell in the subs and south mumbai......whrz our city going heart bleeds for mumbai.....kya kare control nahi hota hai!!!!!!!!!!!



Jogeshwar said...

Really enjoyed reading this, you did'nt left anybody :D. Even I find it very annoying when they describe on TV who they are wearing at the red carpet, why don't they choose on their own, aren't they the one's who wear it.
Yes Akshay looked super cool in that desi Kurta and jeans, but I think the movie was 'Namaste london', it was, I checked on youtube. I think designer pre shredded jeans makes no sense, a jean is a jean, if you want your jean to be stylish, wear it like a cowboy.

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Theyoginme said...

I wear indian outfits to any major celebration or event organized at my company (this includes nehru suits, made in india shirts and pants) and I always get compliments and it stands out... India has such clothing - I don't get the obsession with "foreign brands". Indians need to realize, India is COOL!

On that note, I am coming to India last two weeks of August (mumbai, pune, bangalore. Would you like to try our local Oregon Pinot Noir, since you seem to mention vinot-pinot in many of your posts? Our Pinot Noir is considered one of the best. I am sure the Mumbai customs will let me through with a couple of bottles.

Anonymous said...

Rib tickling stuff :) I guess you have many more interesting things to say about Indian 'Nayikas'.

Nandini said...

You're so bang on target about these wannabees! Did you forget to include the ladies???
Raj Kumar undoubtedly had the most striking persona, and I can watch Waqt over & over again without getting bored.
My shares have plummeted with no hope of a decent recovery for a long time now. I think the last time we had a sensible Budget was during PV Narasimha Rao's tenure.
It's always going to be tragic if the allegiance to the poor is on the basis of a consolation scheme rather than a proper employment scheme.

cmpershad said...

"Why can’t Desi guys with means, be sensible and stick to desi gear'
coz. they want to speak english, eat english, sleep english and .....look english:)

The abstract scientist said...

I agree to your opinion. Rahul gandhi is the coolest. He loves Indian clothes and loves Combodian women.

Sun said...

ouch! your razor tongue/keyboard has slashed out again!!...

simply flaunting designer labels is too wannabe...but most of reasonably (and more) moneyed India is displaying this nouveau riche syndrome...what about all the silly society chicks and aunties flaunting huge handbags and sunglasses with brand logos blinging all over...

true class has nothing to do with ANYTHING external...

Roshni said...

A nice post ... would like to hear your comments on Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff.....I love their dressing's a no nonsense macho and sexy style they flaunt...

Sun said...

hey, and what abt the horrendous 'designer' sarees that seem to be all over the place ever since Manish Malhotra popularised them some years ago??

I remember catching an episode on the telly some mths ago where I saw some rather garish sarees designed by you, with some hoity toity description abt the modern woman etc what you like Shobhaa, but none of those 'sorries' are a patch on the glorious handlooms and weaves of the traditional Indian sarees...those are true masterpieces..each one of them..those are the handlooms...not the ridiculous fake gem encrusted crap one sees nowadays

Sun said...

whoops...i meant..those are the heirlooms, not handlooms

Mona said...

That Ed hardy sure is Chayaa huaa in the LA alley these days!
The offs are spilling alright :D

The abstract scientist said...

You have got more than 1000 followers now. Congratulations. Look at this silly fake ipl player, he has got 8182 and counting. hahaha. All that glitters is not gold.

The abstract scientist said...


Anonymous said...

Do you seriously think Indian men should wear dhotis around, that's some fantasy you have.

While I think you are right in saying bollywood is becoming more brand conscious and overdoing it, I wouldn't agree in your thinking that people can't pick their brands. You are being rude to those guys out there.

Gajendra said...

haha...awesome article...enjoyed it totally

milind said...


Liked the frankness of the article.

MJP - Seychelles

Ida said...

Great post....I guess we are just going in for an era when everyone will look the same, dress the same, eat the same and act the same...something like Wall-E idea of future humans!
Although all of them look good these days- well groomed and all, they are a bit too "perfect" and way too boring..."style is not about who or what you wear. It is about who you are when the lights are switched off." So true!

anamika said...

Hahahah ....I feel the same for AB junior who with his valvet clothing just cant put himself across smartly.
Hritik is a perfectionist in his own way.What ever he do he does it with hardwork and style.Did u hear him singing"tere jaise yaar"in recent IIFA awards.Splendid it was...

I always find budget almost one or less the same.There r only some minor changes here and there and ofcourse slowly increasing LPG prices and reducing gadget prices..
strange increasing the cost of essential and reducing the cost of luxury.

Heeral (Nairobi) said...

totally agree...indian actors/actresses just can not get it right with the exception of a very few. Preity Zinta is usually classy and Saif is the only KHAN who CAN..always suave and classic.
Lara Dutta usually has it right but nobody ever notices.

Abhishek Bachchan would be better off raiding his father wardrobe. Hrithik Roshan should stay away from those greens, purples, blues and button up his shirt soemtimes.that look is gettign really boring.

Salman Khan..well if dus ka dum is anything to go by then hes better off commando.

Ranbir Kapoor and Imran Khan suits at the filmfare awards were way toooo tight. when are INDIAN ACTORS GOING TO RELAISE THAT TIGHT DOES NOT MEAN BETTER FITTING!!!!!


Heeral (Nairobi) said...

Oh since you were speaking of fab holidays i have to tell you of one i just had in the famous maasai mara...i feel so blessed to be living in this ocuntry which has so much to offer. the highlight of the trip would have to be the balloon safari at the sun cam up on the plain of mara as we were 1000 feet in the air with only a basket and balloon holding us up!!

tempting enough? i you havent see the migration in mara you have to

I'll try 2 be truthful said...

So should we start singing " who are the hottest guys in the town? are desi guys our desi guys"

Even thought i don't consider myself as some great fashion connoisseur, am sure that you are one. Had read one of your 'autobiographies' some time back and was pretty impressed by its candid candour.

ps- i do like ranbir kapoor though :)

AG said...

That was a good read.... how many times we Indians think that we can only look cool only by adopting the"Western Dressing Sense", but we forgot that our country that boasts of so many cultures has a plethora of dressing options that not only look cool but also reflect the culture.

Psst: The mention of Akshay Kumar in Pink kurta and jeans was from the flick Namaste London rather than Singh is King!!

Anonymous said...

Fashion is what makes a person comfortable.

wanderlust said...

My all time style icon - Gulzaar saab. Prisitine white dhoti and kurtas, no one can be as elegant as him.
And yes, no designers can beat our desi 'Fab India' that is true Indian style!

angel eyes said...


I am a big fan of your writing. Keep it on... Living in London, I can see western world's obsession with fashion labels and brands. Personally, I feel spending on these brands is utter waste of money. When I come to India for a visit, I buy the latest kurtis and wear them during my stay in India. my friends just laugh at me... they say how come I dont wear the london brands in India.. i say to them, guys i rarely get a chance to wear kurtis thanks to London weather. In mumbai's hot climate cotton kurtis go well and they look supercool too!!

numerounity said...

Very well thought and pointed out. Once again you have live up to the expectation to talk “politically incorrect yet real stuff!

Bollywood actors look such a bad caricature of big “phoren” brands. Looks like after applying so many roles they have forgotten their real identity and take labels ka support to seek attention, personality be damned!

The “know your style when lights go off” is a cool expression…Kudos Amigos!!

Yusuf Martin said...

As usual, well written and poignant, damn I wish that I had written it!

Sidhusaaheb said...

"Because they lack confidence.
Because they can’t be themselves.
Because they want desperately to be someone else …. Someone ‘cool’.
And nobody has told them that the coolest way to look is desi.
Not necessarily designer desi – just basic Fab India desi."

That reminds me of girls/women who wear Western dresses even if those make them look ridiculous, simply because they absolutely have to avoid the behenji look.


Sidhusaaheb said...

BTW, I thought minor TV stars were the kind employed in contravention of child labour laws.


Sanju said...

I am a true Fab India fan. You might think its an uncool brand because its inexpensive, but it surely works for me. The collection of short kurtas and shirts in bright solids, stripes and printed motifs goes just about right with basic denims and chappals. And with the kind of prices they have, atleast you dont need to pull out your credit card to make a payment. Cash mein heen sab nipat jaata hain. Truly FABulous.

Anonymous said...

Pakistan fashion is the most elegant and stylish, the designers are doing a great job nowadays and this is helping promote fashion. Wear Pakistan stuff and have good time.

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