Ash-tonishing makeover | india | Hindustan Times
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Ash-tonishing makeover

She's gone from tacky kitsch queen at Cannes to the understated global diva.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 17:30 IST

She was a flop as the Mistress of Spices- "lifeless, poetic but unelevated". But what’s the verdict on her as the Mistress of the Red Carpet?

At the premiere of Da Vinci Code at Cannes, she wore a structured black ruffled gown and a clutch-bag, following it up with a Cavalli cocktail gown in stylish midnight blue.

She looks polished, cultivated and, by now, a red-carpet pro. According to Rocky S, the experience of previous years has taught Aishwarya Rai a lot. “Her dresses this year are just perfect. The gorgeous gown had just the right amount of femininity and glamour. Everything from hair and make-up to the bag is just perfect. Compared to previous years she’s showing the right amount of skin…” Rocky says.

After her Armani-clad appearance on the Cannes red carpet (2004), and Gucci and Armani (2005), this year’s appearance reiterates the dominance of Global Brand Rai over Ambassador of India Ash.

Andie McDowell, Kerry Washington and Aishwarya Rai attend the world premiere of The Da Vinci Code at the opening night of the 59th Cannes Film Festival.

She looks great, but it’s an anonymous sort of beauty that could belong anywhere, to any place. As says Ritu Kumar: “Though I’ve never seen her look this great in a Western outfit, the dress does not have much of an identity.” She adds: “We’re not saying she needs to dress in a gypsy Indian look, just an element of Indian ness to her wardrobe.” Designer Narendra Kumar agrees, “Her claim to fame is as the ‘most beautiful Indian woman’, she’s at some level an ambassador for India on a global stage and needs a hint of Indian.” Er… poetic but soul-less?

It wasn’t always like this. Her initial outings on the world red carpet had her paying tribute to her country – after the yellow sari for the Devdas premiere in 2002, it was kurtis and Neeta Lulla-designed dresses teamed with Chopard jewellery in 2004. It promptly earned her titles such as Meg Ryan’s Handmaiden.

Indian designers bitched about how she was showing too much bosom; Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla said her kurti made her look like somebody taking a stroll down Breach Candy rather than a Cannes jury member. Since then, Ash has moved further and further away from Indian clothes and designers.

According to some, it may not be such a bad thing. Says designer Falguni Peacock: “On an international platform like Cannes, you should wear international labels.” Many others continue to believe that the casualty of Aishwarya’s ‘global look’ is ‘Indian-ness’, especially baffling when international fashion is referencing India. A good example is Mallika Sherawat, who got the western press’ thumbs up with her twist to the Anita Dongre designed ghagracholi – with a slit right up her thigh and no chunni – at Cannes . It was global, yet had an individualistic ‘Mallika’ stamp on it.