Dear Film Fraternity at Cannes,
First off, let me apologize. Here you are, trying to celebrate Indian Cinema and giving Bollywood a platform to show the world what it’s made of (and get some big bucks foreign funding in the process, I assume). But for some reason, it seems that all our Indian actors have missed the brief and mistaken the Cannes Film Festival for a kitschy, garish, 2-year-old’s birthday party style costume drama. I assure you, their sartorial choices are not meant as an affront to your kind hospitality. Yes, I know it’s a sad day when the classiest person in a crowd of Bollywood superstars turns out to be Mallika Sherawat but there is logic at play here. Just bear with me and I will explain.
First up… Mr. Amitabh Bachchan
Let’s start with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. Now, as you well know, Mr. Bachchan is India’s reigning superstar (no matter that he is
100 70 years old). Which is why Buz put him in The Great Gatsby, I presume – to pull in some of the famous Indian moneys. Incidentally, was that why Anupam Kher played an anchor role in Silver Linings Playbook? I am sensing a trend here.
But I digress. There is actually a whole lot of logic to Amit uncle’s shiny, sparkly tuxedo at the Cannes Opening Ceremony. You see, Amitabh Bachchan is a family man through-and-through. So, since daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and son Abhishek Bachchan have both been unemployed forever now, the entire burden of running the household rests on him. Which is why, instead of being able to buy a brand new suit, Amit uncle had to economize and use one of Aish’s old saris to get a tuxedo stitched by the local darzi (tailor).
Added bonus: all the sparkle and glitter distracted from the fact that after paying the tailor’s fees (it can run into a couple of thousands, you know), the poor person did not have money left over for a proper dye job. And that’s why his hair is all a weird white-brown-orange combo. Not because he has absolutely zero sense of style. Nor because he basically is now an ancient relic and no amount of face job/hair job/clothes job can hide that fact. No, not at all. He is still a dashing, sprightly angry young man… don’t we have that kool polka dotted bow tie to prove that?
OK, I know you are going to throw Amitabh Bachchan’s afternoon costume – the one he wore during The Great Gatsby photocall – in the face of my arguments. There is a logic for that as well. You see, Cannes is all about celebrating the 100 years of Indian cinema and Mr. Bachchan has been around for almost the length and breadth of this achievement. Which is why his clothes are a tribute to various eras of Bollywood. The jacket is 1920s Bomber jacket-meets-seersucker-stripes-meets-1960s jumpsuit-meets-1980s mechanic uniforms-meets-wannabe-disco-era. Yikes… I am exhausted simply writing this. Imagine the effort that must have gone into putting it all together. And then there are the white trousers and white shoes, last seen on Mithun Chakraborty and Jeetendra in the early 1990s. Don’t worry. Next time we will make him hold a placard (preferably in front of his
old and wizened young and handsome face) explaining his sartorial savvy. And hope that Baby Aaradhya starts getting some roles soon, so that the poor man can once again afford some new clothes. And a stylist.
Welcome the dowager politician… Ms. Vidya Balan
Moving onwards and downwards, I also apologize for Vidya Balan not breaking into a mujra (dance) after promising the same with every inch of her clothes-change for the Cannes Opening Ceremony. Trust me, she tried. But the ghosts of village-meets-tacky-courtesan-meets-1980s-Bollywood simply failed to channel through at the last moment. Plus, she needed to be tightly clutching that ghoonghat (veil) the entire time. After all, didn’t you know that the entire beauty of an Indian woman lies in her very modesty? I mean, c’mon… what if the tips of her fingers had actually shone through all the gauze and froth? What would her maths teacher from 2nd grade think!
And Vidya Balan is nothing if not consistent. Earlier on in the day, she wore another Sabyasachi sari. Dull and drab colors? Check. Mismatched and not-so-elegant jewellery? Check. Every inch of the body covered with relentless fabric? Check. Unforgiving silhouette that does nothing for her curves? Check. Super-severe hair à la 80-year-old politicians? Check. 1980s-inspired shoulders that make her look bulkier? Check. Absolutely and completely boring makeup that makes her look far, far older than her years? Check. It honestly takes great effort to make a Sabyasachi ensemble look dull and dowdy but Vidya Balan manages to do it with great aplomb. Kudos!
But then we come to girl-of-the-moment Sonam Kapoor and Vidya’s theatrics almost start seeming like a welcome relief. In her own head, Sonam Kapoor is still that massively overweight teenager who had to be swaddled in fabrics. Because why else would she spoil what is actually a pretty lace-and-gold sari (by Anamika Khanna) with that weird shrug-like long jacket? Yes, it’s stormy at Cannes but what else can explain why Sonam struck us with a train that completely kills the body lines?
Also, take a look at the jacket itself: the badly fitted sleeves look just plain sloppy and make her arms seem humungous. Then there is that whopping nathani (nose ring) from mommy Sunita Kapoor’s jewellery line. No! No! It’s not lack of fashion savvy. It’s just Sonam Kapoor’s tribute to 100 years of Indian cinema. Because, you see, every one of us Indians go around wearing that massive piece of metal in our nose. So what if I even refused to wear it at my wedding, opting for a some also-ethnic kundan earrings instead? I am just clearly not ‘Indian’ enough. And just in case you missed the point, Sonam’s gone out of the way to wear a nose ring that’s at least two sizes too big for her face. C’mon, please applaud the effort!
(Oh! And before I forget. If there are any Indians reading this, do you know of any shop that carries Sunita Kapoor’s jewellery? I have searched for it everywhere but can’t find any. Does her mom make jewellery only for Sonam?)
Ah! And then there is the makeup. Severe foundation, concealer that’s one shade too light for her skin tone, eyeshadow overspill that highlights her dark circles, ’60s-Bollywood eyes, dark maroon lipstick, brown blush and lots and lots and lots and lots of shimmer everywhere. It’s like a makeup bag exploded on her face. Actually, maybe it did. Just as she was stepping out of the door. And the whole city of Cannes had run out of soap and cleansing wipes. Because nobody would voluntarily wear all this makeup and actually appear in front of other human beings, would they? Which also explains all the awkward and uncomfortable body language. You too would feel awkward and uncomfortable looking like this, right?
The one thing I actually liked was her hair – dressed up in a fluffy-but-neat bun placed low on her crown. Unfortunately, it fell into the too-little-too-late category with everything else happening on her person.
In short, by now I am sure that you feel we Indians embrace three signature looks – Fugly Fusion, Drab Dowager and Regressive Retro. But that’s not true. We have so much more to offer. Wait till you see Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ameesha Patel and Sherlyn Chopra. Then let’s talk again.
Anubha Charan – aka The Beauty Gypsy