POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 29, 2010 AT 20:44 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 29, 2010 20:44 IST

Young designer Nida Mahmood's collection Sadak Chhaap that she showed today on the last day of the Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WLIFW) in Delhi, was an unfashionable mix of street theatre, an overdo of assorted paraphernalia and proof of an imagination that needs to be channelised. While her official note in press handouts says as much that the collection is inspired by street typography, scrap, colloquial advertisements, store sign boards, stickers with funny messages and the rest, what came across in this maddening kaleidoscope was the lack of smart thought and an absence of focus. Wrappers, packaging, nuts and bolts, combs, scissors, mirrors, buttons, hooks, a streetside naai (hair dresser), a motley group of local drummers and tamashbeens made up what cannot be called fashion. Nida whose graduation show at NIFT won her the most creative collection award, seems to still think like a college student. Sad, because she is clearly one of the most talented young designers around. I am among those who like her work and I love her bags. She has a sense of fun, the nerve to experiment, doesn't want a piece of the trousseau market, she creates fashion for those who explore it as a meandering cultural walk. She is great for for new disciples of anti-fashion and her own sense of dressing is innovative and personalised. A charming young woman with many new creative projects in the pipeline.

But today, she lived up to her PR profile in letter and spirit. It introduces her as designer, graphic artist, stylist, painter and columnist. Ironically, she tried to display all these talents at once. Her imagination ran wild on the ramp, her talents overlapped, making it difficult for the audience to differentiate Nida the artist from Nida the designer. She overdid her styling, brought in kitsch, noise, drama, experimental silhouettes, unconventional accessories and bold, chaotic colours all at once into her pieces. We had no idea if we were there to watch the clothes, the accessories or the performances by drummers and street theatre actors. By the time the models came to the ramp, you knew this was India overhyped. The girls wore everything you can imagine--cluttered saris with jeans, loud necklaces, accessories made of scrap, headgears made of combs and other knick knacks, carrying crazy bags with stickers glued to their bodies displaying a riot of Indian realities. Nida needs to make her niche in Indian fashion clearer--is she an accessory designer, a stylist for Incredible India or essentially a garment designer?

India is exotic. India is chaotic. India is diverse. India is unbelievably mind boggling. India is traditional. India is modern. But should you show all this at once in one collection, draining the idea of India and leaving little to imagination?  

By the way, to the many who said she is doing a Manish Arora on us, I would say only this. Manish is imaginative, inventive and a genius. He creates art with all the parameters of fashion in place. Nida is a bright student. Let's not do Manish an injustice by comparing them.


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POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 29, 2010 AT 20:44 IST, Edited At: Mar 29, 2010 20:44 IST
POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 24, 2010 AT 11:12 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 24, 2010 11:12 IST

Consensual sex between two unmarried adults, the core of many a controversy and now a common urban reality finally got the Supreme Court’s nod yesterday in a hearing on film actor Khushboo's case. Five years back, when a bunch of self-styled moralists took her to court for being vocal about her thoughts on pre-marital sex and virginity, it snowballed from an unnecessary controversy to an issue opening up many important debates. In an interview to me for Marie Claire India in 2006 on an anti-moral policing theme, Khushboo had pointed out how a section of those who accused her for openness were themselves culpable of sexually exploiting hapless women. It was something she had witnessed happening often to extras and smaller artistes in the film industry. She spoke about hypocrisy vs honesty.

Today the SC agrees in principle that sex with consent among adults is legal but this much needed view comes a little late in the day. While the Khushboo case dragged, India’s moral dilemmas have shifted elsewhere. We are now in the age of Love, Sex and Dhoka, and Emotional Atyaachar, UTV Bindaas’s programme that ostensibly sets out to protect the betrayed—in love and sex. The bigger argument is no longer about whether young adults should have sex or not. They are having it as such an obvious part of open and often live-in relationships that they now need TV crews and not-so-private detectives to nail down adulterous partners frenziedly having sex in various other combinations. Betrayal is the big story now with monogamous relationships the casualty. It has over taken pre-marital or live-in sex.

With SC catching up on India’s behavioural realities, I wonder what its opinion would be on the contentious morality of spying partners accusing adulterous ones, in pre-marital relationships? Aren’t both sides transgressing the same line of trust in different ways? Or, does the regular sexual partner in a pre-marital relationship have more rights over those of one-night stands or a casual bed buddy?

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POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 24, 2010 AT 11:12 IST, Edited At: Mar 24, 2010 11:12 IST
POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 16, 2010 AT 18:50 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 16, 2010 18:50 IST

Spring Fever, a series of events, readings, conversations, music, poetry and an open library organized by Penguin books at Delhi’s IHC, began last Saturday to last till the end of this week. One of the conversations, titled Kal, Aaj aur Kal brought together Shashi Tharoor, Gurcharan Das, Bibek Deberoy and Namita Gokhale—authors all, who had either interpreted the great epic; used it as a vast metaphor for their contemporary writings or as Deberoy said simply, “ I am only translating it.” In what came across as a conversation flitting between new curiosities and old truths (about politics, sexuality, celibacy, betrayal, intrigue, war and peace tactics) a few interesting points came up. “The Ramayana is a sacred text but the Mahabharata is a secular one,” said Shashi Tharoor. Quite so, that’s why the Mahabharata is so much more relatable to everyone who reads it, as every ‘character--except Krishna--seems human, real, vulnerable, paradoxical, defeatable. Despite personal situations and life experiences that prod us to take back a personal vision from mythology that is otherwise universal, it is the Mahabharata’s secularist girth that makes it an all time relevant work--open to interpretation in all moods and emotions that a human being is possibly capable of. Draupadi—the perennial favourite of everyone who has lived and loved the Maha epic--kept coming back into the conversation. But what appealed to me most and has left me wondering since was the consensus of the speakers on the fact that the word Dharma cannot be translated. None of them have been able to find any word in the English language that even remotely suggests the aura, the depth, the philosophy, the being of the word Dharma. “It is untranslatable,” said Tharoor, (clearly my favourite speaker). “But I would define it by saying Dharma is what we live by.” That’s a sharp insight worth pondering over. What do you think?

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POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 16, 2010 AT 18:50 IST, Edited At: Mar 16, 2010 18:50 IST
POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 12, 2010 AT 13:15 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 12, 2010 13:15 IST

The I&B Ministry has banned FTV from 7:00 p.m. this evening till 21st March. I stand very strongly against any kind of moral policing that chooses a code for everyone which is actually supposed to only protect a small number of offended/ affected/ shocked people. But this time, I think the I&B ministry has a point. 

For those who follow fashion as social anthropology or as a glamourous sport, a channel that gives you live or recorded telecasts of ramps across the world and backstage goings-on, is entertaining, educating and fun. Besides niche interests, we all know that FTV’s content--like that of any other channel, news or entertainment--can go from banal to theatric, from insightful to boring. But the Indian government’s disagreement with FTV and the subsequent ban is about the disregard of a contract. When a contractual omission is involved, there is no defense argument for any creative freedom on earth. 

Three years back in 2007, Midnight Hot, FTV’s controversial segment that threw the then I&B ministry into moral hectoring too, had allegedly broken the same rule. It had showed “indecent” stuff during the day whereas contractually, the programme had been cleared for adult viewing only after 11 p.m. at night. Priyaranjan Dasmunsi, then the I&B minister when asked what was meant by "good taste" had weakly responded, “what the government thinks is good taste is good taste”. But in an interview to Karan Thapar, he had managed to emphasize that the ban was because of the telecast timings of Midnight Hot and that FTV hadn’t responded to show cause notices sent by the Indian government. 

An agreement, however presumptive or conservative, must be honoured by both parties who signed it. So issues of moral policing, which impinge on fundamental freedoms and should be debated and challenged when thrust down by a government or a person, are not the core of the argument here. If FTV showed nude women between 15:00 hours and 19:00 hours, (that’s what the official press release by I&B ministry says) after agreeing that it won’t, it has broken an arrangement. 

We may argue that upper body nudity or stark nakedness is as real and important to the fashion instinct as is a drape or a cape that covers a model from head to toe. We may even argue that innerwear is a hot selling segment in clothing and fashion all over the world. Fashion shows, for instance those presented by Victoria’s Secret are some the most watched and spectacular shows. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Indian government believes that 3 pm to 7 pm in the day is not a good time to show nude or semi-nude models and this condition has been overlooked by FTV. 

Take note please: this “agreement” that serves as contention is actually ambiguous and subjective, it rests inside a casually constructed sentence…“offending against good taste and decency”. These words mean hundred things to hundred people, and cannot be pinned down in a court of law where they would only result as one party’s word against the other’s. But in the press release sent to the media, Ambika Soni’s ministry clearly states that “it showed women with nude upper body offending good taste and decency”!!

Is that a clever net of words or a moral position of the ministry? Maybe both, but a broken deal is a broken deal. It is another story that the same I&B ministry also has a Film Censor board that clears cinematic material, profanities and bikini scenes in Indian films where it thinks they are “artistically acceptable”. 

FTV needs to get smarter before signing contracts in India. It either must seek telecasting flexibilities at all hours of the day as creative liberty and then, as for all adult viewing material run a line of caution to alert parents and guardians to choose.

If not, they must hold their boob shows till the witching hour.

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POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 12, 2010 AT 13:15 IST, Edited At: Mar 12, 2010 13:15 IST
POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 10, 2010 AT 12:58 IST ,  Edited At: Mar 10, 2010 12:58 IST

Two days back at the Indigo restaurant in Lokhandwala, Mumbai, I happened to see actress Sridevi Kapoor. She was, presumably, with family and this seemed to be a completely private and casual dinner out.  I was just one of the many others seated at another table with a friend. The reason that I write this post is because I have been a fan of Sridevi’s stunning looks for more than 20 years. Her cinematic presence, her luscious glamour, her Indianness and voluptuous sex appeal that went from her first media nickname Thunder Thighs when she danced to Jumping Jack Jeetu's tunes in Himmatwalla to becoming a sophisticated Bollywood wife and muse of many a director and designer, was a journey I had watched over the years with fascination. My friends and I would often comment on the way she glowed after her marriage to producer-director Boney Kapoor. At film awards ceremonies where she is often called to hand over trophies, on Bollywood red carpets or the glimpses we get of her on the buoyant Page 3 till as as recently as Anil Ambani’s much publicized Bollywood party ten days back, she comes across as someone who understands how to handle the unfolding years and yet look glamorous and young without looking like a desperate aunty clinging to let go of her past.  

But day before was the first time that I saw her in person. My dream shattered. Had my friend not pointed out, I would have never guessed that this was Sridevi, that stunner, the idol of lakhs of Indian cinefans like me who were crazy for her dropdead appeal in Lamhe, Chandini and Mr India! This lady at the table across us looked scooped out, shrunken, with deep, dark circles under her eyes. She was clearly without the slightest trace of makeup. Those eyebrows that I always found wonderfully arched complimenting her expressive big eyes, looked flat. She has obviously lost enormous amounts of weight and her face looks small, her body waif like, her hair, without the intervention of a hairstylist was neither wavy nor straight. I was shocked. Not because she looked like any ordinary woman in a printed shirt tucked into smart blue jeans, having a quiet dinner but because I realized how I had created and hung on to (perhaps like many other fans), an image of hers in my mind that actually did her injustice. That lady who gives away film awards in lacy, sexy, chiffon saris and smiles that terrific smile is just a photograph in our heads, a creation of great makeup, and surely a lot of input on her part on how to present herself. No stylist, no makeup artist with his pots, pans and false eyelashes can give any woman or man a new identity unless that person herself does not know how what to do with the transformation.
I have worked with the fashion industry long enough to know the magic of makeup. Yet, Sridevi’s real looks left me deeply ponderous. No, she doesn’t look like a desperate aunty. Far from it. She looked composed and well-mannered. Plain and ordinary too. What could be wrong with that? I came away chiding myself for so vapidly judging her for her looks on screen and in photographs and for forgetting to be a fan of her talent. Most women in their late forties would look like her in any case. Dark circles are a function of age, they do not tell us about someone’s heart or mind or the fact that they have a life beyond makeup. Sridevi’s acting and dancing talent and the fact that she was one of the most popular performers of her time who would light up the screen does not change with the way she looks now without makeup. It is time people like me took off the rose tinted glasses through which we confuse made-up glamour with real presence.
Sridevi, I would still look out for you and clap when you walk the red carpet or give away the next trophy. But I will clap for who you are instead of mistakenly clapping only for what I realize now is terrific makeup.
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POSTED BY Shefalee Vasudev ON Mar 10, 2010 AT 12:58 IST, Edited At: Mar 10, 2010 12:58 IST
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