Sari... means never having to say Sorry! - Vidya Balan
Prominent fashion designer and writer, Wendell Rodricks on what Vidya Balan gets right and where there’s room for improvement… Exclusively for Cine Blitz!
With Vidya Balan and sartorial style there is an elephant in the room. We all know that elephant’s name. It is that dreaded red carpet in Cannes. So let’s do away with the elephant before we visit the Balan closet.
The Cannes red carpet has drawn flak for the best of our actors and actresses. From Aishwarya Rai to Mallika Sherawat, it is a tightrope act that draws too much criticism. If Ash did not wear a sari, she faced a volley of barbs. When she did eventually wear Indian, the arrows came out again. It appears it is a situation of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Which is what happened to Vidya Balan.
She went to the best in the country to clothe her for her Cannes red carpet debut. And Sabyasachi delivered! Everyone went on about the MUGHAL-E-AZAM look. But frankly, it was the accessories that were what got most people’s knickers in a twist. What was Vidya supposed to wear? A Dior gown that would swallow her petite frame? A Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit that would look most certainly bizarre? A Chanel jacket! Nahin! Nahin! Nahin!
So she went with Indian and saris, for the most part. Balan’s job is to act. Not play dress up for Cannes. And act she does darned well. So let’s give her what is her due. When I first saw this actress at a Jet Airways counter, she was like a wave of fresh air. And she was gracious enough to smile and start a conversation. I can never forget how the genuine, humble persona of Vidya Balan stayed with me.
However, even then I was restyling her look in my mind. A short stature cannot carry off a long kurta. And definitely not an Anarkali. It is the worst garment, making women of a petite stature look like either a Christmas tree or a Khomeini robe. Stay miles away from a long line kurta with spindly, barely visible chudidaars. Stay with shorter tops and trousers that elongate the body. Better still, play safe with saris.
There is a quality about saris that many Indians do not understand. A traditional sari is one of the most clever garment drapes in the world. Those borders and that pallu, the pleats and the drape....they are vital for the sari look. The borders act as rivers of light. They very intelligently create an illusion of slimness, height and elegance. Look at the way the borders move. Not horizontal. At an asymmetric slant. The slant across the neck is like a one-shouldered gown. The other diagonal goes from knee to arm, hiding all flaws and then cascades over the arm into a finale of light at the pallu. The pallu can cut a hip in half like nothing can. And now look at the pleats. Not one but four to six vertical lines that give that wonderful elongation exactly where you need to be long in the leg. People ask me about my first asymmetric silhouettes. Truth be told now, I stole the secret from the sari.
What creates the problem is when we tamper with those borders and put the focus elsewhere. Too much shine, too large dots or motifs and too much bling can kill the very essence of the sari.
When Vidya Balan wore traditional for her wedding, I applauded in Goa loud enough to be heard in Mumbai. The ‘chokri’ from Chembur got it spot on. See her at the recent Ganesh celebrations and she wins again. Because she stuck to the traditional!
So Vidya dear, stay away from the modern fantasies of designer creations. As a designer, I should not be saying this but ignore designer wear. Or reserve them for the screen where they can add to a dreamy illusion. Keep the accent on your beautiful face with small ear rings, not too large necklaces and avoid clunky bangles or bracelets that will shorten the arm. Keep the colour and garment accent around the face. Stay with three-quarter sleeves that elongate the arms. And play with asymmetrical or multi horizontal lines that add height.
And ignore all those carping critics! After all, we have just done away with that elephant in the room!This article first appeared in the October 2013 issue of Cine Blitz magazine.