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Bollywood dons rasta chic

Hindi cinema is figuring out that western labels alone do not spell style. Indian street chic does just as well.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 03:48 IST

Rastachic is on its way to getting a highly stylised flavour. After the success of Babli’s salwars – with material-cut-up-from-grandmother’s-closet feel married to a designer twist with Chinese brocade collars – in Bunty aur Babli, Rang De Basanti goes on to pay homage to street chic.

Street is in

From Aamir Khan’s homegrown khalsa tattoo — as opposed to the clubby tattoos of Arjun Rampal in Ek Ajnabee — to Soha Ali Khan’s chikan kurtas with Paris Hilton-esque rolled up jeans, the film makes a distinct point in favour of Indian street-style.

Move over, Dil Chahta Hai boys. For the Rang De Basanti boys, street is their choice of style, right down to their choice of organic neckpieces to the tattoo. As for Soha, styled by Lavleen Bains, from the fashion street kurta worn with a belt over her jeans, to the homely patiala salwars and tight kurtis, she combines street chic with a high fashion sensibility.

This is the latest in a series of key films that have gone on to set trends in retail and mass fashion.

Before the clothes by Aki Narula for Bunty aur Babli – where small-town sensibility met Mumbai-chic in what was termed the first Indian kitsch film -- there was Lakshya, where stylist Arjun Bhasin put Preity Zinta’s character in the petticoat skirt, an idea he came upon, he says, when hanging around street markets like Sarojini Nagar while trying to get into the skin of the TV reporter character– Zinta managed to be trendy and non-jholawali even when celebrating Indian-ness, and the Lakshya skirt became a mass rage.

Departure from past

Where over the last few decades jhola-chic has stood for anti-fashion and was restricted to art films while glamour meant prancing about in lycra hot pants, now it is infused by high styling and a chic genre in its own right. “I think it’s a great trend, because it relates film clothes to reality, while at the same time allowing Indian cinema to retain its unique identity and not become a clone of Hollywood,” says Bhasin.

Runway start

Designers like Manish Arora introduced street chic to Indian fashion, which till then was busy referencing the Mughal period and royal splendour in their ‘couture collections’. Tee-shirts with street slogans such as ‘Yahan Peeshab Karna Mana Hai’, images of ‘mass appeal’ Bollywood films on clothes and images of two Benarasi men embracing — a very street idea transplanted into high fashion — gave street its first runway outing at chic-ness.

Then there was Sabyasachi Mukherjee referencing the streets of Kolkata with his impression of Kolkata call girls in his first IFW collection. Aki Narula too has taken street references such as Bata chappals and put a pair of kissing parrots on them — street, kitsch and high fashion have combined of late in fashion.

Now, Bollywood is picking up where runway fashion left off. Three important films of late have been distinctly Indian street-inspired, as opposed to the trend of foreign-label sporting, at-home-in-New York studs or chicas of Dil Chahta Hai and Kal Ho Na Ho.

Real films, real style

Designer Nikhil Mehra, giving a nod to the trend, says: “Directors are now putting in a lot of research and going into the crux of society and finding out what makes a character, and I’m glad stylists are also getting inspired by the stories.” He adds that it is also testimony to the fact that “the connection between Indian fashion and Bollywood is becoming stronger, and they are working as partners.” As mass scripts celebrate the spirit of the common man, stylings are working to pay tribute to his wardrobe.

In Rang De Basanti, Bhasin takes the street theme further with the character of Aslam (Kunal Kapoor)taking jholawala-chic to poetic levels, with layers adding romance to casual wear, soft fabrics and jeans and kolhapuri chappals. Bains does the same with her outfits for Soha with thigh-long dresses worn over jeans sporting ambi prints and tight-fitted kurti in different colours. ‘Sonia’ is girl-next-door-chic in chikan kurtis, and comfortable doing the jhatka matkas in the title song in everyday salwar-kameez rather than glitzy over-the-top ghagra or western club-wear.

According to Bains, it is the reflecting of a “a new fashion sensibility, where real fashion has a cultural context, but not in an ill-fitting, shabby way.” She calls this “The new face of India, where the attempt is for a conscious globalised Indian stylisation in films.” She adds: “It reflects the global and domestic fashion scene, where Indian textiles and textures are being incorporated into a global fit.”

Everyday India is finally Shining. Celebrate it.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 03:48 IST