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She's got the looks

Neeta Lulla, the high priestess of Bollywood fashion talks on the nuts and bolts of filmi couture

NEETA LULLA transformed Yash Chopra's vision into an ultimate style statement when she draped Sridevi in pristine white in Chandini and since then there has been no looking back. Fifteen years and 300 films later, Neeta continues to be the queen bee of Bollywood fashion. Neeta, who was in town to inaugurate the new branch of the Hamstech Institute of Fashion & Interior Design, seemed the right person to settle the enthralling question of whether fashion influenced films or vice versa.

"It is symbiotic," said Neeta, running her perfectly manicured nails through her tinted tresses. "Films, whether it was Sadhana's haircut or Rekha's blouses, have had a major influence on fashion. The way it works is the outfit is designed for the movie and once it becomes popular is adapted for the street."

Neeta attributes the "corporatisation of Hindi cinema for the designer taking care of the entire look of the film. Earlier a designer would do one or two stars and would face flak for stuff they have not even done!"

Flak is something Neeta had to face big time for Aishwarya Rai's outfits at the Cannes film festival. "I do not wish to retaliate or redress and make a bigger issue of the whole thing. I believe in taking these things in one's stride and basically moving on. These things should be taken with a pinch of salt."

While Neeta has faced flak for Ash's Cannes wardrobe, the bouquets are just too many count. From the National Award for her work in Lamhe to Devdas it has been a glitzy glorious journey for Neeta.

Ask her if there is a particular star she enjoys designing for and pat comes the reply, "does a mother have a favourite child? Each artiste I work with is unique and has a special something. The difference is the challenge." Neeta faces a similar quandary when asked to name her favourite film. "Should I say Lamhe? Or Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam? Or Taal? Or Roop Ki Rani, Choron Ka Raja? Every movie was special and I cannot name one over all the others."

Her future projects include Subhash Ghai's Kisna where she designs for "Esha Deol and Lara Dutta. Then I am off to Romania and then there is this humungous project that I cannot talk about now sometime in October. My effort has been to top Devdas and this project, while not as opulent, gives me a chance to do so."

And if you have ever wondered how one manages to set trends while designing for films that come out a couple of years later, then, as Neeta explains, "We have access to fashion forecasts from the Net. I basically work around the artiste - their comfort levels, the character they are playing. Everything has to come together. I look at the film as a whole not just my designs in isolation."

A firm believer in beauty without cruelty, Neeta uses faux as "there are so many fabrics and materials that give the feel of leather that I do not see any reason to harm an animal and use its skin for fashion."

While Neeta's line on screen is dramatic and flamboyant, she describes her prêt line as "wearable. Even my trousseau collection is not about once in a lifetime outfits. I create coordinates that with a bit of mix and match can be worn for different occasions." Neeta, who has been in trousseau business for the last 17 years, says, "People always liked to spend for weddings but now there is a trend towards styling the entire look."

Neeta, who did her schooling from St. Ann's, is impressed with the "positive fashion scene" in the city. And before signing off what are the trends to look out for? "Pink, long skirts, A-line dresses - basically a mix of many styles." So you have it dudes and dudesses - dance to Aerosmith's Pink while your long, long skirts swish the floor!


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