Pretty boys all sleep their way to get ahead,” says the stylist-owner of a modelling agency — let’s call him Himmat. “Oh, but don’t quote me on that sweetheart,” he laughs. “I’ll put you in touch with the show stealers themselves.”
By which he probably means the likes of Amit Ranjan, a model for the past three years who recently walked the ramp in Samant Chauhan’s earthy raw silks. Or Saqib Salim, one of nine men who walked for Manish Malhotra, or Sahir Beri, eyes defined in kohl, who was on the runaway for designer Raghuvendra Rathore.
All three seem to have accepted the workings of the industry where men hit on men, indecent proposals are everywhere, and ‘you know how it works’ is euphemism for ‘bed me’. And if women are ahead in the game, more often than not, the men are okay with it.
Not too many of the pretty boys will spill the dirt on what goes on backstage. Himmat, for instance, has been in the business for seven years. He knows his models and has, in seasons past, seen his share of histrionics — on the runway as well as backstage.
“Men have the biggest egos,” says Himmat, who’s known for the kitschy man bag he lugs around everywhere. “Backstage can be incredibly snooty. You’d think it was just the women, but men have the same issues — the fight for the spotlight, for make-up artists, and the more subtle, money tussles.” With top-notch designers on speed dial, Himmat is clued to exactly which model — male and female — belongs to which camp. And “cliques”, he says airily, “are not just a Bollywood thing”.
Not a man’s world
Towering over everyone in the hotel lobby that is the venue of one of the fashion weeks, six-feet-three Arkesh Singh Deo started off getting paid Rs 1,200. The going rate today is around fifteen grand a show. Not bad. Besides, ramp modelling is not the only avenue of income — print and TV ads are big too. Put together, it makes for a decent living.
But the life of a male model is not an easy one. One model, Ranjan, says his personal life has seen something of a role reversal. His (non-model) girlfriend can drink, smoke and “eat all the calories she wants”, while the poor hunk has to hit the gym and think twice before ripping open a packet of chips.
But if male models have a raw deal compared to the women, it’s only a reflection of the fact that men’s designer wear counts for little in the fashion industry. Indian men don’t buy Western wear, especially not designer Western wear, says designer Siddharth Tytler. When not sporting corporate wear, they have their Diesel jeans and crisp white shirts — the uniform of party-hopping Punjabi boys — to take them through adult life.
“Guys getting married will come to me or Gudda (the flamboyant Rohit Bal) and want an achkan or sherwani designed,” Tytler says. “Models are all just hangers for us,” Tytler says disparagingly. But his collections usually constitute 25 per cent men’s wear.
Does he mind playing second fiddle to the women, I ask Arkesh. Smiling, he confesses that being surrounded by pretty women is an occupational hazard he’s learnt to live with.