Spotlight is shifting

Diminishing identity The young lot ’lacks a distinct personality’

Diminishing identity The young lot ’lacks a distinct personality’  

Threatened by Bollywood and pigeonholed by the media, models are a worried lot, finds Anuj Kumar

“People don’t expect that I can enter the kitchen and cook well,” laments Diandra Soares. Call it stereotypes or nature of work, we get to see a monochromatic image of our models. “Courtesy my bold image on the ramp, people think that I am unapproachable, which is not true. I am a reserved individual but not snobbish,” says supermodel Nina Manuel.

These ravishing models are not alone. Sameer Soni, a leading model and actor, says it hurts when the media terms the industry as full of people with loose morals and alternative sexual preferences. “Such people are present in every field. Just because the fashion and entertainment industry is under flashbulbs all the time, we have to face such generalisations,” says Soni, who is playing the role of a gay designer in Madhur Bhandarkar’s Fashion. Generally we think it’s the actors who face the threat from the models, but it’s the other way round as well. “Models are no longer used as showstoppers, as was the norm earlier. Now designers bring in their Bollywood friends. We feel neglected,” says Diandra. “In fact, be it ramp or television commercials, cricketers and actors have taken up lots of assignments, which were meant for models,” she adds. Nina agrees that it is a trend, but doesn’t find it unhealthy. “There is no longer a line between fashion and films. There are some models who fit in the Bollywood frame, and there are some actors who are ideal for the ramp. Of course friendship and business deals also decide the showstopper at times.”

Once theatre used to be the breeding ground for actors. Today the ramp is giving it competition, leaving the designers little to choose from. A recent renegade is Muzzamil Ibrahim, who quit modelling at the height of popularity to do Pooja Bhatt’s Dhoka. The film failed but he doesn’t want to return to the fold. “Modelling is no longer the career it used to be some years back, particularly for men. Today almost anybody with a good face and a fake accent can become a model as many designers don’t give value to the class. I don’t want to be seen with such models. So I have reduced my assignments considerably. Theatre continues to be important, but some people like me discover their creative instincts while facing the camera for television commercials.”

Diandra, who is a mentor on Channel V’s Get Gorgeous-V, agrees that most youngsters don’t know that modelling and acting are two different worlds with special requirements. “After the success of Bipasha, many young girls come for glamour and easy money, to use modelling as a stopover to move to films, and in the process lose out on both. Modelling is not just about looking good. It requires discipline and lots of stamina. Also, it is team work, and your personality and upbringing show when you work in a team and all eyes are on you. It demands certain physical attributes like height. Now girls ask me why they can’t walk the ramp when petite models like Malaika Arora and Yana Gupta have done it in the past. They don’t understand when Malaika did it there were not many options for designers and Yana had the backing of a cosmetics company.” Similarly, she says, Bollywood demands certain traits. “I didn’t accept film offers because I am not fluent in Hindi and don’t fit in the hanji hanji (yes man) atmosphere of Bollywood. I am more comfortable in styling shows and designing shoes.”

This confusion, says Nina, is responsible for India not being able to produce supermodels anymore. “A supermodel has a distinct personality, an aura, which the current crop doesn’t have. They all look the same.” However, as a modelling career is short-lived, the supermodel tag can be dangerous, for those who want to branch out. “I have been able to break the snobbish image by hosting shows on television, where I am affable and chatty,” maintains Nina, who hosts two shows for Zee Network.

Diandra says the recent issues of Kareena’s size zero and wardrobe malfunction shows how much the media understands fashion. “Something which was incidental was made out to be deliberate. Similarly somebody lost baby fat and they called her size zero. It was a publicity stunt for a film, but it painted us in the wrong light. I am a U.S. size four and a U.K. size eight and have never been asked to achieve size zero, which is an impossibility for an Indian body to achieve.”

Model qualms

l “Such people (those with alternative sexual preferences) are present in every field. But we face generalisations because of media attention.”

Sameer Soni, model and actor.

l “Modelling is no longer the career it used to be some years back, particularly for men.”

Muzzamil Ibrahim, model-turned-actor

l “A supermodel has a distinct personality, an aura, which the current crop doesn’t have. They all look the same.”

Ninal Manuel, model and TV host.

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