It is just another day in the life of Prasad Bidapa. Except that the rehearsal of the fashion show he is conducting is not for a designer but a two-day brand show ‘Great India Fashion Week’ which concluded at Great India Place in Noida over the weekend. The veteran stylist-cum-choreographer screams his lungs out explaining nuances of catwalk to models who are brimming with enthusiasm as they are to be joined by actress Disha Patani, the showstopper.
This development comes as no surprise as Prasad has always believed in giving fashion a new lease of life whether it was taking models from his hometown Bangalore for big gala events in Dubai to grooming Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma which acted as a catalyst to their entry into Bollywood.
Reminiscing his association with Deepika Padukone, he says: “I would regularly meet her father Prakash Padukone, my good friend, at Century Club in Bangalore. Since my clients came in the morning, I would go early and see Deepika practising badminton. I would say, ‘Prakash your daughter is so pretty, why don’t you let her become a model’. He would say maybe next year. I asked her to join me and she said only when dad gives her permission she would agree. They must have thought that she would become a national-level badminton player. At one point, Deepika realised that time was running out and she joined me. In two years, I groomed her in Bangalore like how to walk on the ramp, do make-up, photograph posing and how to maintain her hair.”
Prasad is impressed with the way Deepika’s career has shaped. “I look at Deepika, focussed and hard working, as my daughter who is doing well in life. Today I find Deepika even more beautiful. Bollywood was not a cakewalk for her. Along the way she learnt her craft and today she has become a great actress. Today I cannot take her as I want the focus should be on designers and weavers. If we have Deepika walk the ramp at events like the Rajasthan Heritage Week, media would only put the spotlight on her”.
In Anushka Sharma’s case, her parents brought her to Prasad when she was only 13. “They categorically told me that she was crazy about becoming a model. Anushka was already a tall girl and started modelling straight away. Soon she started walking for Wendell Rodricks and Rohit Bal. Luck favoured her when her father, who was in the Army and posted at Bangalore, got transferred to Mumbai. So she had a base of her own. Ninety per cent of girls struggle in Mumbai. Life is constant struggle till they make it big. She went for open auditions. One of them turned out to be Shah Rukh Khan’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi .”
Elaborating the art of choosing models, he says: “We are careful about grading. Those who are photogenic become print girls. Tall ones usually go to television, thin make it to runways. Those who can dance and emote are the film girls. Girls who can do all of these are supermodels; the Aishwarya Rais of business. We make our own judgement. When parents come to us and say they want to make their daughters runway queens we tell them to relax a little bit.”
On Bangalore turning out to be the hub of models, Prasad says, “Bangalore has cosmopolitan culture you can do things that you may not dare to do in Delhi or Noida.”
Turning to his tryst with the Rajasthan Heritage Week as the show director, Prasad says, “Two-three years ago, I told the Rajasthan government that your State is richest in weavers yet they are beginning to leave their profession. Ten years later their artistic skills would be dead as next generation would discontinue their forefathers work. I told them that challenge was to create fresh market for weavers; create a jugalbandi between big designers and weavers. So that weavers can contemporarise their work and allow designers to understand heritage of textiles.”
Prasad has one-point agenda to break the monopoly of middleman. “Four months before the show, designers work with weavers and create fresh, traditional products. They show weavers colour chart as they can easily get misled by middleman. I only want sensitive designers on board.”
Elucidating the art of dressing up, Prasad says “A true fashion maverick mixes designers, high street brands and then evolves his look. Personally, I would chose ikat kurta from Abraham & Thakore and mix it with Zara pants or jeans. If you dress from top to toe in designer wear, you are a fashion victim. Somewhere you have to strike a balance.”
Mapu, the mentor
Talking about his guru Martand Singh, who passed away recently, Prasad turns remorseful. “His passing away has been a big blow for all of us in the fashion industry. He mentored the Rajasthan Heritage Week. He taught us how to take weavers to the floor. Almost 30 years of mentoring; luckily I came to Delhi one day early so I was able to go to his Chautha and meet his family. With him a whole generation of textile revivalists has come to an end,” says Prasad.
Explaining how Mapu (as he was popularly called) dreamt of taking indigenous fabrics and techniques to a new level is important for the growth of Indian fashion, Prasad says: “Khadi is not just fabric for freedom; it is a metaphor for us. It is luxurious fabric as it is made by hands. For Indians to sit on charkha and spin is considered an act of spiritual meditation. Every thread has spirit of spirituality. Creating handwoven fabric is of immense value. We have invested in spirituality of human touch and want to tell the world that instead of shelling out astronomical sums for mass production clothes produced in factories in China, why not buy a jamdani or Benarasi sari for ₹ 3 lakh. If you notice, the technique used in Pochampally to make ikat, weavers’ wives tie intricate small knots and lose feel of fingers when by the time they are 30 or 40 as they get crippled with arthritis. Martand Singh understood their skill and their pain. He played a significant role in bringing them to the mainstream fashion. This is how Martand Singh led the way.”