Manish Malhotra Gives Out Deets On Styling Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s Actresses
Every Friday release comes up with its own share of expectations, box office ratings, and critical reviews. But here at MFG, what we are most concerned about is not how a script makes or breaks a movie or how the actors perform, but every sartorial detail of the film. Be it the costumes, styling, and makeup of the characters involved in the movie or a star’s off-duty ensembles on promotional gigs, we spot, review, and even get in touch with the people behind-the-scenes who help build an actor’s style file both on and off screen.
When one encounters a dialogue that accommodates the themes fashion and films, the one name that is very likely to be included in the conversation is that of Manish Malhotra’s. The couturier par excellence, whose dedication and hard work is the reason he’s gifted with name, fame, and a 100-crore-business, has had 25 swell years (and counting) in this industry. Here’s a story of a guy whose mere love and passion for Bollywood films as well as style led him to build a space within the fashion empire. So much so that a theatrical wedding or not, more often you’ll hear an Indian bride using the words ‘something like a Manish Malhotra’ if not ‘a Manish Malhotra’ while talking about her wedding attire.
Of course, there are some who raise eyebrows about how his line-ups are usually just about the same — of high-glamour and grandeur. But the truth is he’s sure about THE winning formula in this industry, and sticks by it rather than experimenting. And that’s also how he’s found a never-ending list of loyalists who also make up the blue books; celebrities, socialites et al. Despite the creation of his own label, Manish still works as a stylist and costume designer for films, his latest project being Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM), in which Manish has styled both Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. In an extensive chat, Manish doles out all the details on how the film’s styling shaped its narrative and more. Excerpts…
1. Give us an insight to your treatment with respect to styling and designing for Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan for ADHM?
It has been great working on Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil because the look and style of the movie are very glamourous, and I enjoy doing that. We have tried to blend traditional and modern details throughout the movie, keeping each character’s personality in mind.
2. Can you identify with and brief us on some looks from this film, which according to you have turned out exceptionally well on screen?
Aishwarya plays an independent, contemporary woman living in Vienna. Since the film is set in winters, I have styled her in easy falling long coats and casual V-neck tops in colours, making it all a relaxed look. It was great seeing Ash in a chic and casual avatar as she is already so beautiful and carries off any look with utmost ease and panache. I had always wanted to try this look on her and luckily, Karan’s film came along.
Also, styling Anushka’s character for the movie has particularly been fun yet challenging. She plays a modern Muslim girl from Lucknow in the movie. My approach to her look was to give her a real-girl touch. So, you will see Anushka sporting an interesting combination of regal yet Mughal looks, teaming long chikan and threadwork kurtas with ripped jeans and smouldering dark-kohled eyes through many of her scenes. For her bridal look, we opted for a long trail dupatta with the revival of the red, interplayed with muted hues of salmon, pink and peach. While the former provided a traditional highlight, the modernity came through with the interesting play of colours. The focus was to keep in mind the cultural direction of what a modern Muslim girl would opt for, thus keeping it extremely real and true to the audience.
3. Did you only source the garments, or have you also custom-made outfits for the characters?
Keeping in mind the premise of the movie and the characters, a majority of our garments were sourced from fashion streets to high-end luxury brands from the UK, Paris, and India. We also customised a few outfits depending on the looks from the label. For instance, Anushka’s bridal look was required to be ethereal yet contemporary in its approach. Thus, the outfit has been specially customised for her from the label.
4. It’s needless to say that you’re one of the many reasons why and how styling/costume designing in films has turned out into a big industry in itself (ref: Filmfare actually gave away its first Award for Costume Design to Rangeela and you won it). You’ve seen this industry grow. Tell us how different has it become now?
It was humbling to see every Bollywood star wear a Manish Malhotra outfit in the nineties, and I am happy that over the years, their belief in the brand remains unchanged. From styling stars to creating my own label, my 26-years of experience as a designer as well as a costume stylist has been a wonderful journey of telling stories in the language of fashion. However, over the years, the term costume styling has inculcated a new connotation. Nowadays, elaborate films with large budgets such as biopics demand costumes that best convey a particular era or specific style. Thus, I strongly believe costume designing plays an integral role in bringing a film together.
I have been fortunate enough to watch this industry grow from the time I started my career as a costume stylist. As the industry evolved, I too looked to expand the boundaries and definitions of what generic costume styling entails. In my belief, this is the golden period for fashion in the country, since it draws from the best of local and Western influences. The script of ADHM demanded me to style the cast in garments that were a perfect blend of international and Indian accents so that our audience can both love and relate to the pieces.
5. Do you recollect any iconic fashion moments from your past film projects that made a huge impact in the sartorial space?
I remember the first film I worked on was David Dhawan’s Swarg in 1989. I did costumes for a song with Juhi Chawla in the movie. However, the turning point of my career was when I dressed Urmila for the movie Rangeela and then Karisma Kapoor in Raja Hindustani.
6. When it comes to cinema, is there a signature Manish Malhotra-style that you are bound to project no matter what the film?
My style has always been opulent and grand yet staying true to the nature of the character being portrayed. I feel true beauty lies in confidence. The ‘Manish Malhotra’ aesthetic accentuates the wearer’s personality and this is the foundation of every look that we create. I have always been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with actresses who carry my outfits in their own distinct way, with effortless grace. I love how they bring their own tinge of glamour to even some of my slightly understated, subtle pieces.
7. What are your upcoming film projects that are in the pipeline?
Apart from Karan Johar’s upcoming ADHM. I am working on Mom for Sridevi and Badrinath Ki Dulhania for Alia Bhatt next year. I don’t want to do more than two movies a year. I want to focus more on my label and expansion of the brand with a few movies now.