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Meet the ramp scorchers

Unlike top movie-stars, we don’t know who’s the most sought after to burn up the nation’s ramps. With fashion-week season coming up, we did a monetary survey to figure out India’s currently highest-paid models.

fashion and trends Updated: Aug 25, 2009 16:45 IST
Sujata Reddy

The multiple fashion weeks about to unleash from September 9 (Kolkata Fashion Week) got us to initiate an informal survey on who could be India’s highest paid model. With designers eager to display their creations in the course of four fashion weeks, namely Kolkata Fashion Week, Van Heusen Indian Mens Fashion Week, Delhi Fashion Week and Lakme Fashion Week, it’s the proverbial golden period for the model frat.

But honestly, does the ‘top model’ category even exist? Turns out the pinnacle slot is shared by a bunch of them. The top three in no particular order, would be Bhawna Sharma, Monikangana Dutta and Carol Gracias. Industry insiders believe they charge a hefty Rs 35,000 to Rs 40,000 to sashay down the ramp at each show.

At a glance, the fee may not look impressive. On second thoughts, Rs 40,000 for an approximate eight shows, spread over five days, and a model will have pocketed a striking Rs 3.2 lakh. The catch, however, is that even the top models make an exception while walking at fashion weeks and walk the ramp at an approximate 25 per cent discount per show. “Lakme Fashion Week pays models on a per day basis, while Wills Lifestyle Fashion Week, Delhi, pays for every show. But a model makes more or less the same amount at the end of each fashion week.

Here’s knowing more about the top three:

Bhawna Sharma
Though spunk is her trump card, it hasn’t stopped the model from carrying off Indian outfits with equal élan. With a supposedly 25-inch waist, the model exudes a waif-like quality. The approximately 50 kg ramp star has a dagger look in her eyes when walking the runway. Team that with a pixie like pout and you’ll know why she was born to be on the ramp. A Delhiite, Sharma has walked for the top designers of India — Tarun Tahiliani, Ritu Kumar and Ritu Beri — and featured in several ad campaigns. After all, it’s a combination of both that enables one to be recognised as one of the top models in the country.

Monikangana Dutta
She’s not very media savvy and of late she walks the ramp like she’s just walked out of bed and on to the catwalk. But that hasn’t stopped designers from making a beeline for her to model their clothes. Assam-born, the turning point in Dutta’s career was when international model coordinating house IMG chose her (along with model Vipasha Agarwal) to project globally. The grapevine has that the decision had to do with both models’ dusky looks, that is considered exotic on the international runway. Dutta has arrived.

Carol Gracias
You probably know her as the girl from Bigg Boss 1 and of course, the one whose dress came off while on the ramp (in reverse order). Both made a la Gracias a household name and that gave her an edge over her contemporaries. As her colleague puts it, “To be able to command more than the rest, you have to be better known. And after the unfortunate episode, the photographers wouldn’t stop taking her pictures. Most designers wanted to cash in on this by wanting her in their troupe.”

Having won the coveted L’Oreal/Elite Look of the Year, her crammed portfolio includes walking for almost every fashion show throughout the country.

‘They’ve moved on to other avenues’
It’s been a couple of years since both Jesse Randhawa and Sheetal Malhar decided to explore other avenues besides walk the ramp but the industry still remembers them as the numero duo. “They were paid a tad bit more than the current number ones are. They could easily command Rs 45,000 to Rs 50,000 per show,” says an insider. But the duo is making a conscious effort to move beyond the ramp. While Randhawa is touring the country as part of a dance troupe, Malhar is supposedly focussing on television and print commercials. “To be one of the top models requires you to be able to deliver more than the next girl. Girls like Jesse and Sheetal are in demand because of their professionalism. They know how to walk, can carry off a range of outfits and you don’t have to break your head explaining things to them in detail,” says ramp-show choreographer Lubna Adams.

‘Boys always get the raw deal’
Even though female models are in a position to command close to Rs 45,000 per show, the boys have to be content with Rs 20,000 per show. Top male models like Tony Luke, Namit Khanna, Inder Bajwa and Saahil Shroff are reportedly paid between Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per show. “This is what they are supposed to be paid but most designers and agencies convince the boys to walk for a much lesser. They always get a raw deal,” says a choreographer who doesn’t want to be named.

Vahbiz Mehta model co-coordinator and backstage manager for over 15 years now, says that the reason the dudes can’t crack the deal is the stiff competition. “At every show there are two boys walking with 18-20 girls. It’s unfortunate but true,” says Mehta. Runway choreographer Suraj Shetty (name changed) says that very few male models refuse to compromise on their remuneration. “Namit Khanna and Aasif Azim do not relent or succumb to designer’s pressures but the rest will gladly do so as their primary motto is to be noticed,” says the choreographer.