Rehane and Gauthami talk to each other with style `n' sass
Roles got brief, clothes briefer
Though Chennai is changing, it still retains its identity Gauthami
The sky is slate grey with shards of baby blue. The clouds roll lazily and a mild drizzle makes a guest appearance.
As the photographer goes clickety-click, it's time for Chennai's ace designer Rehane and actress Gauthami to get soaked in nostalgia.
Education, career, marriage and motherhood... their friendship has survived them all. Effervescent as she is, Rehane is getting ready for the prelims of the Lakme India Fashion Week with a neo-classical line that captures the essence of the South.
While Gauthami is all set to stage a comeback in showbiz, her made-to-order figure and pomfret pout still intact! Next to the two glowing women who get yakking animatedly, you feel like a dull brown mushroom. Never mind. Over to the conversation that has plenty of style and sass.
T. Krithika Reddy records.
Rehane: Gauthami, you remember those Bishop Cotton days? I used to call you Gautama Buddha. You were always reading one book and had three others to read.
Gauthami: Yes, Re. The only boy-company I knew was my brother and his friends!
Rehane: Though I was creative, I was just an average Joe in studies. The matron was always behind me. My uniform was never one shade, but five! You always did well in studies.
Gauthami: Imagine I was an engineering student who tripped and fell into films.
Rehane: (With meaningful pauses) Such an active mind like yours... you've been lying low for quite a while... the best, I'm sure, is yet to come...
Gauthami: It's to do with the difficult choices I had to make. Marriage and baby happened. But now, I hope there's some excitement in store. I stopped acting at a time when the roles were getting brief and the clothes, briefer. Sometimes there was a big difference between the way a role was narrated and the way it was picturised.
So I had to step aside and do some introspection. Even during my sabbatical, I declined many offers. But it's strange. Once you have a baby, you are asked to do akka, anni or amma roles. People imagine you must've turned fat and frumpy. I know I will not look convincing in such roles. (Beams with confidence about her well-preserved looks.)
Rehane: But Gauthami, though you made a success of your acting career, I must tell you I've got this gut feeling that you'll do well in politics. But this isn't the right time. Perhaps after a few years?
Gauthami: I dipped my toe in once. Ideals apart, politics involves huge personal infrastructure. And an investment of time as well. I bring up my daughter single-handedly. Then there are other priorities like work and career. I'm not ready to dive into the cesspool.
Rehane: Tell me, how less nasty is everyday life?
("Hey! This is serious", she whispers and continues) If you are a beautiful woman with a mind of your own and want to play your own number...
Gauthami: Yes, then it's 10 times more of a struggle.
Rehane: Everyday life is as bad as politics. So you might as well go for the kill. Add a dimension to your life and change life around you. And I know you're not faint-hearted.
Gauthami: Life has taught me so much. I lost my parents and I was alone with a baby in my arms.
You have to hold on and keep things going. It was a significant learning curve that left me stronger.
Coming to you Re, design suits you so well. You took a bold step eight years ago and continue with the same conviction. You have created your own place without slipping into the mainstream. I guess, it's time you made some noise at the national level.
Rehane: (quite uneasy with all that adulation. Looks around, knows she can't even fake shyness and gushes... ) Hey Gauthami, I'm too stunned. Come on, someone take that Kinley bottle and pour it on my head. (Gets serious and continues... ) I am selling across the country.
But not making much noise nationally. That's because my clothes are already doing well in the metros selling at double the price. The fact remains that I have a balancing act to do. I've just had my third child. Most designers who are successful don't have domestic responsibilities.
I don't want to rush the kids, my home life or the relationships within the family.
Again, talking about Chennai designers, we lack media support nationally. Top filmmakers, musicians and IT professionals are from this part of the country. Fashion will follow. But it's going to be a battle getting there. Luckily, I'm tough. You knock me down and I'll come right back.
I'll put Chennai on the national fashion map. For the forthcoming LIFW, mine is going to be a line that celebrates the quintessence of the South with inspiration from the Kapaleeswarar Temple.
Now, Gauthami, you always had a good sense of style...
Gauthami: Not really Re, I've my share of mistakes in films. But I loved those pavada-dhavanis with matching bangles till the elbow. They became a rage then. I didn't like being caked-up too. I used to keep wiping off the make-up. Even if it is an advertisement, it has to be shot aesthetically.
Rehane: Thankfully, tastes have evolved. The whole nation has woken up. And Chennai too.
All the coffee we've been drinking all these years has finally worked. It's nice to see people on the go. It's like the whole city's been dunked in cold water. Awareness about lifestyles is catching on however bad some influences might be. I see this change translate into sales at my store. I'm doing more 11-and-a-half-inch skirts now than in the past eight years.
It's not that I endorse Western influences. But let's not forget it's another cultural choice. And people are not boycotting another culture. That's nice. They are open to change which according to me is growth.
Gauthami: One significant aspect about Chennai is that though it is buffeted by change, it still retains its identity.
Rehane: (Jocularly) Yes, men are holding on to their girlfriends and their wives as well. (They burst out laughing.)
Gauthami: Coming back to aesthetics, I'm planning to launch a grooming school...
Rehane: (Even before she completes the sentence) Please do it. Chennai needs it.
There are bits and pieces of services, but never a comprehensive package. People keep asking me.
Gauthami: (Feeling reassured) I'm discussing the proposal with experts in the field. Hope it concretises soon.
Rehane: I'm sure it will. Do it fast, else others will tap into your mental flow. It happens quite often in design. By the way, are you still getting those autograph requests?
No one asks me for my autograph. Once someone asked me. I was overwhelmed, I asked the girl to give me her autograph. Hey, I'm kidding. You guys are so lucky.
Gauthami: That's why you must do more work in showbiz. Are you taking up costumes for films seriously?
Rehane: I'm doing clothes for Vikram Singh's film "Take Two." (Smiles) What a coincidence, this chat is for the Take Two column.
Gauthami: The working patterns are different in showbiz. Guess you must risk your autonomy and time...
Rehane: Yes, I know designers involved with films on the verge of a breakdown! Anyway, I don't think I can compromise on my originality and go by formulas.
Gauthami: Re, despite all this independent, aggressive thinking, you are quite a disgrace to feminism in one aspect.
(Rehane looks bewildered, Gauthami smiles and continues) Why is it you get petrified when a woman is at the wheel?
Rehane: That's because I get nervous when I drive.
I get the accelerator and the other thing... that... always mixed up.
Gauthami: Never mind, such things make people individuals.
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