FIFTY SHADES OF GREY: Wendell Rodricks decodes Shah Rukh’s Style Sense
Prominent fashion designer and writer, Wendell Rodricks on what Shah Rukh Khan gets absolutely right and where there’s room for improvement… exclusively for Cine Blitz!
Let’s get this straight before we discuss the wardrobe of Hindi cinema’s greatest star… From the Khans that rule the roost, Aamir wins in cinematic acting by a larger margin, while Salman races ahead with his public appeal. But no one from the new generation can top SRK since the Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan eras.
Single-handedly, this young man from Delhi, with no film connections and a partly negative role as a start in Hindi cinema, won the hearts of a nation. Since that path-breaking debut, SRK has become a brand name that rivals the best in the country. Part of his success is his ability to charm. And the charm factor is highlighted by an astonishing rags-to-riches story that endears him to an adoring and affectionate public.
So what do we say about the clothes?
From the photographs on display, it is obvious that King Khan (or his stylist) decided very clearly about his wardrobe. On celluloid, colour, flamboyance and character work to suit a film. But in private and on the red carpet, there is no space for anything other than grey, black, white shirts and denim jeans. To many, this may spell a safe path to Western chic. Like James Bond. You will not see 007 in a banana yellow jacket nor Ferrari red loafers. Ditto with SRK.
Personally, I think this is a wonderful fashion strategy for Shah Rukh Khan. Staying with dark monotones highlights his character and charm. If he wore a brighter colour, it would make him stand out in the crowd. Anna Wintour at Vogue would never approve of this grey, black and indigo palette. But we are not the US of A...nor England. And in a country known for colour, SRK is prudent to stay away and stand out from the crowd.
This non colour palette clearly sets a mood for Bollywood’s mega star. It lets his charm shine through. With a wardrobe that borders on boring penguin gear, it is the perfect foil to show up SRK’s greatest asset.... Charm! I have seen many actors in my time. But none reach the charm stakes that Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh have. These are people-pleasers. With a dimpled smile and an infectious energy, clothes are the last crutch to hang on to... to please a crowd. It is not just the crowds and the masses; I have heard first-time actresses working with the great Khan, like Deepika Padukone and Anuskha Sharma, gush with praise about how he made them so comfortable in their cinematic debut. At a Tag Heuer fashion show event at the Taj Palace in Mumbai, I watched from the sidelines how his approachable persona had many ladies of finer pedigree swooning with delight. It made me think, ‘Are clothes relevant with that kind of aura? Will any of those people care what he wore?’ No! But they will take away that dazzling smile, positive energy and star quality with them.
So...though I may bemoan the fact that if I were to style King Khan, I would lose the scruffy, distressed jeans, bring a bit of Hedi Slimane (at YSL) into the wardrobe, lose some of those too shiny or too slouchy suede shoes for slicker Berlutis or racier Todds, junk those waistcoats-too-many for a sublime Tom Ford ensemble and give him a mega dose of Saville Row. Sadly I am not styling His Highness.
That said, for now, it works. Let his charm factor rule. With SRK, the media is unfairly obsessed with chipping away at his personal life, reporting on inane and insane aspects of it. The public, on the other hand, justifiably judge him by his film performances and successes. Activists deplore his endorsements for a men’s fairness cream. But unfortunately, no one ever talks about his generosity of spirit...which I am sure benefits many.
So do the clothes matter at all?
Not if one is the Emperor of the world’s largest film industry.
Long live His Imperial Sartorial Eloquence!
This article first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Cine Blitz magazine