In 1990, Manish Malhotra stepped into Bollywood’s wonderland. His choice of career seemed almost pre-destined, given his love for commercial Hindi cinema. "I’ve been passionately in love with movies since I was a kid and unapologetic about it. I’ve watched every movie in the theatre and dreamed of being accepted into the mainstream some day," he reminisces.
Twenty years later, Manish Malhotra can proudly claim to be the first Bollywood costume designer to win an award, for Rangeela. He was responsible for Urmila Matondkar’s headline-grabbing metamorphosis in the Ram Gopal Varma film that made baby doll dresses a best-seller.
Malhotra has flagged off other style fads as well, including Kajol’s mehendi green lehenga in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Madhuri Dixit’s Indo-Western fusion wear in Dil Toh Paagal Hai.
He’s made a sari statement, draping six yards of chiffon around Karisma Kapoor in Raja Hindustani, Shilpa Shetty in Dhadkan, Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and more recently, Priyanka Chopra in Dostana. Of course, PC’s desi girl look changed almost overnight as he turned her into a campus cutie for Pyaar Impossible.
"The makeovers just happened as I worked to reconcile with the demands of the script. Trends were set without any conscious planning. Who would have thought that Kareena’s (Kapoor) salwar-tee look in Jab We Met would click in such a big way?" he reflects. "I’ve never tried to intelluctualise my work, just connect with the audience."
A global brand now, Malhotra still continues to be one of the busiest designers in B-town, juggling with nine big ticket movies. He
deconstructs the looks in them.
It’s tee time for Imran
Imran (Khan) is a beautiful boy who’s perfect for rom-coms. I gave him jeans and tees that I picked up from my travels. One of them has Al Pachino’s face on it, while another has ‘Bollywood sucks’ scrawled across it!
Punit insisted on sneakers with the laces left undone. I insisted on a Paul Smith bag but was out-voted and had to settle for a Calvin Klein haversack for him. They wanted it dirtied up. I couldn’t bring myself to do so, so Punit and the boys did it.
Like Sonam, Imran’s clothes in the film too compliment his personality, which is that of a preppy city boy.
Sonam skirts couture to settle for jeans
Sonam Kapoor has it all — looks, lineage, style and talent. But in I Hate Luv Storys, I didn’t want her to be seen as Anil Kapoor’s movie star daughter or a fashionista in haute couture. I wanted to project her as a pretty girl-next-door who the collegian-next-door could think of as his girlfriend too.
In Saawariya and Delhi 6, her look had been very Indian. In my nephew’s film, she’s comfortably contemporary. She’s playing an art director who is always on a film set. So Punit wanted her in jeans like the other assistant director. Since you can’t play around with jeans, I played around with layered tops.
I’ve also given her some short denim skirts. You may hate love stories, but I’m confident, you’re going to love this Sonam.
‘I was the oldest guy on the I Hate Luv Storys set’
Punit’s (Malhotra) film is set against the backdrop of Bollywood, yet the look had to be contemporary chic rather than commercial Hindi cinema glamour. I was the oldest guy on the sets and given the job of dressing up a young lead pair.
Over-styling was out.…
It had gone out with the 1990s, which meant no three-in-one package of a tee, a shirt and a jacket, coloured keds peeking out from under torn jeans. Both Sonam (Kapoor) and Imran (Khan) had to look cool in a way that youngsters can connect with easily.
Triple treat for Kareena
Tomboy of Golmaal 3
In the third installment of Rohit Shetty’s hit franchise, Kareena (Kapoor) plays a boisterous tomboy. Rohit wanted casuals, so I went with drawstrings and tees. We even got film titles printed on some of the collared T-shirts. Brightly coloured bangles added a feminine touch.
Stepmom in Sydney
In the Indianised version of Stepmom, Kareena who steps into Julia Roberts’ shoes, is a designer in Sydney. That called for glam but not hi-gloss glam because that she is mostly confined to the house with the kids. I played around with checks on shirts and dresses, and gladiator shoes.
Ra.One in London
In Ra.One, Kareena is Shah Rukh Khan’s wife and a working girl in London. So we will be going with skirts and dresses that won’t look out of place on London streets. Since it is summer, no winter coats and no umbrellas. I hate umbrellas! But I’ll give her some cool bags.