Roti, kapda aur marquee

Manish Speak

Go for skirts, not trousers Don't be shy of colour Inherent style matters for men You can wear sari with attitude Conceptualise a complete `look'

"I LOVE giving interviews and being photographed. I never play hide-and-seek with the media and make it appear as if I've squeezed in time with great difficulty. Come on, who doesn't like to be seen in print?" That's Manish Malhotra. What you see is what you get.

With funky wrist accessories and neatly scissored hair, the immaculately dressed costume-and-fashion designer, television host and now filmmaker can be mistaken for a model. "In fact, I modelled for three years before fame and fortune happened. My passion for photo shoots is still intact. Recently, I modelled for designers Falguni and Shane Peacock."

The man who orchestrates that perfect "look" for screen sirens such as Urmila Matondkar, Kareena Kapoor, Shilpa Shetty, Rani Mukherjee, Preity Zinta et al continued his conversation with perfectly timed pauses... "To me, design is a package. When I took up costumes 14 years ago, my USP was `do something different to stand out.' I hated the way the heroine's look was tampered with. In one stanza of a song, the heroine's hair would be short and straight. In the next, she would wear cascading curls. It didn't make sense. That spurred me to conceptualise a complete look. Earlier, it was the masses that followed filmi fashion. Now, the class audience look upon it as a barometer. "

Driven by colour

At a time when "pretty" was the byword, Manish broke the rules to give tinseldom a little something to reflect a heroine's sensuous aspirations. "Rangeela" happened and Manish's scrip scored. "Looking back, it's been a happy coincidence. Colour has always been an obsession with me and `Rang-eela' worked wonders."

An unfettered spirit that discards conventionality, Manish confessed, "I didn't have any design philosophy. No formal training too. All I had was a fascination for Bollywood. In school I survived on grace marks. My mom tells me I cried for films, not toys. I guess design comes instinctively. Bollywood to me is synonymous with colour. Be it costumes or clothes for retail, mine has always been a celebration of colour."

Truly. As he unravelled his first-ever pr�t line at Evoluzione, Khader Nawaz Khan Road, what instantly hit you was the colour and flamboyance of the styles. Embellished with sequins, the creations were visually stimulating. "Real style is not about imitation. It's about establishing trends with quiet confidence. Today's woman has this I-am-myself attitude. She demands distinct looks. And I don't want to be another rack in the stores. I'm not so much into crafts as into colours and details in styling. What comes with femininity is a certain dose of sensuality. I feel clothes must reflect that."

Does haute couture to pr�t mean an attempt to reach out in terms of styling and pricing? "Absolutely. I call it pr�t, but it's actually diffusion at the price point of pr�t. It no longer appeals to me to have these one-off clients. I want more people to try my clothes, feel good, look glamorous, and yet pay reasonably. My colour schemes will tell you that my clothes are for happy occasions — dinner, date, Diwali or weddings. Life is for living. And colour brings cheer."

No-frills show

With a smile as warm as the cups of coffee served, Manish went on... "That way, my clothes are a reflection of me. Films, fashion and food are the three Fs that dictate my life. Each has been a learning experience. For instance, The Manish Malhotra Show that I host teaches me a lot about how to use my voice on television. It also gives me glimpses into the lives of celebrities. Being a no-pretence, no-frills show, there's honesty about the personalities interviewed. Can you believe it? When Kajol was featured she said she hated designer outfits!"

Does film direction mean compromising on designing? "No. In reality, designing is only a six-hour job for me. It's a passion that clicked. I will keep it going with the same commitment. Nevertheless, filmmaking is time consuming. My film is a young, feel-good musical. It will have a happy story, great music, aesthetic sets, fabulous costumes [hey, that's by me] and above all a star-spangled cast," said the designer whose clothes were raved about by Michael Jackson, Naomi Campbell and Lady Webber.

From modelling to costumes, fashion, television, films, designing interiors for Mumbai's happening Oriental restaurant Soy and footwear line for Metro, Manish's success story has the trappings of a happy Bollywood film. Cool and disarming, Manish also has an inexhaustible supply of optimism. That's besides his fixation with food, fashion and films. Or should we say roti, kapda aur marquee?

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