“At 22, I was already mother to a one-year-old daughter,” says Neeta Lulla
Where were you career-wise?
I was already working with Juhi Chawla and Sridevi. I was crazily busy with a lot of actors.
It was a roller coaster ride because I was also married and had two kids; my daughter was born when I was 21. Fortunately, I could attend to both because my workshop was one of my rooms at home. I started with one machine; but by 22, I had three.
What was your bank balance?
I was investing whatever money I earned back into the clothes I was making as a fashion designer. My bank balance was the amazing response to my work.
And your relationship status?
There was romance in my life. The beauty of being married into a supportive family was that my in-laws took such good care of my kids.
Which senior actors would you have liked to style?
Madhubala and Vyjayanthimala because they were the epitome of beauty. Vyjayanthimala’s styling in Amrapali has always remained with me.
What was your focus in life then?
Work and family. I was doing several assignments with different actors, so I had to multitask—explain it to the tailors, drape outfits, buy fabrics, do my accounts and be on the sets. And there were no cellphones or pagers. If it was urgent, you stopped your car to make a phone call!
Also, I had to meet the needs of my kids and help them with homework at times. My husband and I would drive out of Mumbai with them for holidays.
A fashion fad from that time that you now look back at with amusement?
Balloon skirts. Everybody was wearing them but they didn’t agree with my sensibilities.
What was your fashion sense like?
Very quirky. There was a lot of power dressing, lots of boots. My fashion idols were Cyndi Lauper and Madonna, so the styles I wore were very edgy—a sari with a denim jacket and boots or trousers with a dupatta draped like a sari.
A memorable experience with a star?
My biggest dream in college was to design for Sridevi. By 22, I had started working with her and she really taught me a lot. Her reference for colours would be—to give you an example—a fresh green leaf that she had spotted at a shoot. When you saw the result on screen, it would be absolutely right. I had to urgently create a white outfit for her for a Tandav sequence. I went completely ballistic buying all kinds of whites and didn’t realise that I had combined four different gradients of the colour. Nobody else could spot it but Sridevi. She was very upset. I respect Sridevi; she has been one of my best gurus.
From HT Brunch, September 19, 2021
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