They have their ‘designs’ on their men! Erum Ali and Sarita Madhavan tell T. KRITHIKA REDDY what it takes to wave the style wand on their spouses

Madhavan and Abbas say “Yes Boss” to their wives more often these days. It’s not because they are acting in “Guru En Aalu”, a slicker remake of the Bollywood hit “Yes Boss”, but because when it comes to style, they leave it to the whims of their wives.

Catch up with designer Erum Ali and stylist Sarita Madhavan and the two flash such dazzling smiles, you regret you left your sunglasses behind! In a chat-a-thon that swerves from chic suits to scorpion pendants and style sense to creative flair, the fashionistas prove there’s more to them than their famous husbands.

“Actually, Sarita and I didn’t know that we were part of the same film. It’s only when our husbands exchanged notes about their ‘interesting’ clothes that we came to know of each other’s involvement,” says Erum. Sarita, who has handled Madhavan’s costumes in about half-a-dozen films says, “For ‘Guru En Aalu’, Maddy’s role demanded formal suits and some funky clothes. The Jamaican look for a song is a highlight. Since I’m basically a stylist, I put together things. It requires getting references, plenty of shopping (which I love) and using your ingenuity to create a look. So, for the formal suits, I used trendy ties and played with colour when it came to the casuals. I gave Maddy broad belts and asked him to wear the buckle on the side. He was like ‘Wow!’ I guess these small touches make a big difference.”

Having done a course in design, airhostess-turned-stylist Sarita has put together Madhavan’s costumes for films such as “Run”, “JJ”, “Rendu” and “Dil Vil Pyar Vyar”.

Talk about Abbas’ costumes, and Erum, an established couturier, says, “Since he plays the boss, I had to do plenty of suits. I created interesting hankies and scarves to perk up the formal wear. Though there wasn’t enough time, I managed to pull off a metallic look for a song.”

Having waved their style wand on their spouses, Erum and Sarita agree that the key to good costume is the rapport the stylist/designer shares with the actor. “In our case, the actors being our own husbands, we know what works. It’s easy for us and them. Maddy is not fussy about cut or colour. But when it comes to fit, he is particular. I’ve done some real quirky costumes for him (remember the Ichita Ichita song in “Run”?). But he’s carried them off so well. Off screen, he’s a T-shirt-jeans person. He’s got a simple aesthetic. Thanks to me, he’s changing. He takes care to dress up for parties and formal functions these days.” Chipping in, Erum admits, “Having been a model, Abbas is totally clued-in when it comes to style. He gives valuable inputs. And yes, I con him when he’s wary to experiment.”

And what about being a stylist for other stars? Sarita replies, “No, I don’t think I’m ready for tantrums.” Erum adds, “It goes out of control. You’re the boss in your store. But film work calls for too much coordination. Some stars are famous for their nakras. Now, I’m doing costumes for director Selvaraghavan’s “Aayirathil Oruvan” because he’s a good friend. His mind is a data bank and he gives me clear outlines. So, there’s no hassle. Karthi, Reema Sen, Andrea and Parthipan wear my clothes in the period film.”

So, is Kollywood approaching the fashion highway? “Things are changing gradually. We are far behind Bollywood,” muses Erum. While Sarita asks, “Where are the high fashion stores here? Most stylists fly to Mumbai and other destinations to shop. I did — several times for ‘Guru En Aalu’. I didn’t even get the kind of tie I was looking for.”

Switching to a pensive mood, Erum says, “First, producers need to allocate a bigger budget for costumes. Cinema is a visual medium. The stars must be more style-conscious and demanding. Today, in Mumbai, they make films for the sake of style — like ‘Race’! And there are filmmakers like Karan Johar who give so much importance to the look and outfit of the stars.”

None can deny that films roll out fashion trends. “Maddy always says, think ahead,” smiles Sarita. Erum explains, “People like to imitate film stars. Can’t forget the pricey to tacky versions of Madhuri Dixit’s ventilated cholis that hit the market post ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun.’ It’s a seamless explosion of fashion, thanks to films.”

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