The Green Room
595 pp 356
There is always the risk of being too presumptuous while setting out to write an autobiography. After all, who would care enough to want to know about your life? My initial
reaction to Wendell Rodrick’s memoir The Green Room veered around similar sentiments: who wants to know; 45 is too early to tell a life story; not another expose on Indian fashion please…
The Green Room is not a fashion story. It is the story of a young man setting out on an adventure to find love and passion. The narrative, meticulously chronological, takes off from the birth of baby Wendell, and stays endearingly modest with a lot of time spent on meeting the Rodricks - mom, dad, brothers, uncles, aunts, cousins, with their stories of love and deceit. Eventually, Wendell picks up his own story from life in a Bombay chawl infested with sweet-smelling hash addicts to catering school, and finally the realisation of his true love: beautiful clothes, and of course, another man. But those looking into Wendell’s life for voyeuristic pleasure will be disappointed. The book is not a tell-all. The gossipy nuggets are more amusing than shocking: the mystery of Malaika Arora’s disappearing pantyline, the designer who slept indiscriminately with male models… Even the big bang of Indian fashion – the breakup of Indian Fashion Week into two battling events, Lakme Fashion Week in Mumbai and Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week in Delhi – is discussed with clinical detachment. And that probably is the only failing. Despite Wendell’s stories within stories, characters and caricatures, there is little insight into the industry he represents. Being the first autobiography to come out of Indian fashion so far, we would have been happier with a little more.
At least, a bit more on fashion’s pet project: homosexuality. As India’s first homosexual celebrity to enter into a civil union with his soul-mate Jerome Marrel, Wendell could have contributed to the cause had he been as open about it in print as he is in deed. What was it like growing up gay in a pre-satellite TV, pre-liberalisation India? Did his family react negatively to his formal uninon with Jerome because they didn’t know? We certainly don’t know. Maybe there is another story to tell. One of love, passion and fashion. Till then, The Green Room will have to do.
Neena Haridas is Editor, Marie Claire
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