Cocktail releases this Friday and all eyes are going to be on the two DPs (uh… Diana Penty and Deepika Padukone for those of you who have been living under a rock!) who will battle it out on the big screen for the style and beauty stakes. What’s your take? The sexy, sassy, uber-experimental, Chanel and Mawi draped Veronica (Deepika) or the casual, creative, slightly quirky, kurtis and chinos sporting Meera (Diana)? Who is more hot? And who is more haute? In short, which is the one you will be channeling in the coming months?
It seems that you can’t walk for 30 seconds nowadays without running into an anarkali kurta, whether it’s on the college-student-packed roads of Colaba, the designer boutiques of Palladium, the blingy Delhi weddings or even the international catwalks. What is it about this loose, umbrella-shaped tunic that has so caught the world’s fancy?
Let’s start from the very beginning
It began in the Mughal period – with an A-line kurta (long tunic) that had a clinched waistline and numerous kalis (flared panels) to create dazzling drama when the nautch girls (dancers) took centrestage. As their feet moved and whirled in a tantalizing rhythm, the glittering dresses flared out and seduced with their own intriguing sensuality… here showing a brief glimpse of a delicately sculpted leg, there reaching out and moving away from arduous admirers.
Then came Anarkali – that most seductive of Indian seductresses, who danced her way into the heart of prince Salim (later to become Emperor Jahangir), leading him to stage a revolt against his father, the Emperor Akbar. This enthralling slave-girl-turned-court-dancer was eventually buried alive by Akbar, who like all good emperors, did not like those who defied his diktats. But not before she had left her own indelible mark on fashion (and love stories) with her signature dancing costume – the Mughal A-line kurta paired with intricately embroidered bodices that heightened its theatrical effect. Today, more than 400 years later, the anarkali kurta continues to beguile, charm and wend its way through the world.
Back to today
When Mehr Rampal wore that gorgeous yellow-gold anarkali on the Cannes red carpet, the world watched in awe. And the demand for anarkali kurtas in the Indian market went up manifold – I myself spent two days hunting for the perfect flare, courtesy mom, who wanted one “just because!”.
Which brings up the question of what exactly makes up a good anarkali? Ideally, according to the purveyors of contemporary Indian style, it’s a long kurta made up of two parts: The upper portion is snug empire waist bodice; the lower part is paneled and flares out like an umbrella. The bodice is heavily embellished, the bottom is highlighted with a beautiful border and the sleeves are tight. It is worn with a churidar – a fitted trouser-like bottom that perfectly offsets the voluminous top.
In the hands of a skilled designer like Rohit Bal (who dressed Mehr for Cannes) it can go all the way from uber-glam and seductive to elegant and semi-casual. And while the original Anarkali wore only silks and brocades, today you can do just as well with georgette, crepe, chiffon, zardozi and mirror work. An added bonus? It’s perfect for adding a hefty dose of Indian grandeur to the wardrobe of those who are not really used to wearing the more cumbersome saris!
Cannes 2012 is done and dusted but it has left a trail of style and beauty moments that are sure to influence fashionistas for months to come. And, happily, despite the many (many many many MANY!) sartorial disasters from Team India (Aishwarya Rai, Mallika Sherawat, Freida Pinto, Sonam Kapoor – I refer to you), there are three trends inspired by Bollywood celebs (actually only two celebs – Mehr & Arjun Rampal) that have already caught the global fancy. I have been receiving loads of messages asking about the anarkali tunic, bandhgala and jodhpur trousers. So, here goes – a quick primer on the haute-st looks of the coming season! Let’s start with those dashing jodhpurs.
JODHPURS: Ready to make the jump?
Unlike what a leading fashion magazine reported Arjun Rampal’s jodhpurs are not a new invention. They are having a revivalist’s moment of fame in 2012 but the style is almost 125-years-old! This style of trousers was first made famous by Maharaja Sir Pratap Singh of Jodhpur in 1890 and is based on an ancient Indian trouser called the churidar, which is tight around the calf and baggy at the hips. The first jodhpurs were cut in a wing shape – flared at the hip and then tapering down to fit snugly from just below the knee to the ankle, with reinforced fabric protecting the inner calf and knee from rubbing. Their prime purpose was allowed free movement of the hip and thigh while riding a horse on the polo field.
When Sir Pratap Singh visited Queen Victoria during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897, he took along his entire polo team. The royal young bloods immediately caused a sensation among the fashionable circles of Britain, with their reputation enhanced through victory in most of the polo matches. The jodhpurs were rapidly taken up by the British polo-playing community and were soon being produced by Savile Row tailors in London. By the 1920s, ladies began wearing jodhpurs as well – one of the most famous proponents being Coco Chanel. In India, the female icon of jodhpur-wearing chic was Maharani Gayatri Devi, acknowledged as one of the most beautiful women in the world.
Today, jodhpurs are not only de rigueur riding garb but also a major fashion statement, having been picked up by design houses ranging from Gucci and Ralph Lauren to Etro and Dolce & Gabbana. The classic versions (like those made by Indian designer Rohit Bal for Arjun Rampal’s Cannes appearance) are still cut full at the hips, fit tightly from knee to ankle and end in a cuff with a strap under the instep. Some of the more experimental varietals, however, use modern stretch fabrics to remove the flare and yet remain supportive and flexible. However, to me these newer versions just don’t evoke any of the romance of watching dapper young men striding through a polo field (or a red carpet) full of daring and an almost brash bravado that tempts and tantalises with its very insouciance.
And though everyone in the world of haute couture is scrambling to produce these regal garments, somehow their very charm still lies in the small by-lanes of the towns that first invented them more than a century back. Looking for the original stuff? You won’t go wrong with Jodhpur Tailors, which is still patronised by Jaipur’s royalty!
PS: The word jodhpurs is often used interchangeably with riding breeches, though this is technically incorrect, as breeches are riding apparel that come down to only about mid-calf, designed to be worn with long stockings and tall boots.
Cannes 2012 might be over but it’s ghosts continue to linger. Hindustan Times apparently paid Rs. 25,000 (approximately $450) for each of these (and similar) photos of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s six-month-old baby, as mom and daughter touched down at the Nice Côte d’Azur airport to start the journey down the red carpet (and we all know how that went!).
While you can’t see even a tiny inch of Beti B’s face, to me the pix are worth it to see the ridiculously hilarious lengths that Aish would go to prevent a photo of her baby from emerging anywhere. Why? What’s the point? Seriously? Any guesses because I am truly befuddled by this strange aversion to the camera from people who have actually chosen to live in the public eye.
While I can understand that everyone wants privacy – even our celebs – isn’t this a tad extreme? What will happen if someone does get a glimpse of Beti B? Besides the fact that all the whipped-up curiosity will be satisfied and everyone will stop running after mom and baby and dad and granddad? Or, maybe, that is the point
Helppppppp… the aliens have landed!!!! And they have crowned Mallika Sherawat as their queen. It’s obviously not a style savvy race (at least by Planet Earth standards) but that’s not the point. I am scared because chances are pretty high that they would go after those (*me*) who have dared to criticise their leader. But what to do? Even the fear of eternal torture by little green men with fish scale skin cannot pull words of admiration from my befuddled brain, especially after seeing what looks like the alien coronation gown that Ms. Sherawat recently donned for amfAR’s Cinema Against AIDS gala dinner at Cannes yesterday night.
Designed once again by Ali Mahdavi (someone please check – has the normally stylish designer recently hit her head?) the nude-hued gown wrapped up Mallika’s body like one big bandage, veiling even her head with a mammoth Jedi-style hood, proving once and for all that being fully clothed is no guarantee of looking elegant. Unlike Mallika’s nude concoction at the premiere of Madagascar 3 a couple of days back, which showed every inch of flesh that could have been shown, this one actually covered every inch of the same flesh. Yet, it still looked awful! Now, if I think that Mallika looks as bad with clothes as she does with most of them off, it’s time to invest in a light sabre to ward off the alien army. Any suggestions on where to get a good one for a reasonable price?