Last week, Kangna Ranaut was looking for a yellow gown to wear to the premiere of Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai, a film inspired by the life of Haji Mastan, where she plays the role of Mastan’s glamorous lover. Ranaut’s wardrobe has been making tabloid headlines ever since she established herself as one of Bollywood’s few stylish women who is choosy and eclectic in her taste, and can carry off Western as well as Indian wear with ease.
In New Delhi to walk the ramp for J.J. Valaya’s show at Pearls Infrastructure Delhi Couture Week, the actor says she sometimes sketches the outfit designs she wants and discusses with designers how to achieve that look. Of late, Ranaut has increasingly been opting to go classic. Here she shares her style secrets. Edited excerpts:
Photo: Yogen Shah
Your style has changed. You are dressing more grown-up.
There was a phase when I liked the cute look, like the white gown that my friend Rick Roy made for Iifa (International Indian Film Academy) in 2009. It was a Barbie look. But now I have grown up. Earlier I loved pinks but now I prefer more whites, beiges, dusty rose, navy, black and deep blue.
I love clothes and everything about them. I am happy to experiment and try out new designers. I don’t just experiment with different silhouettes but also with new hairstyles. A look is a complete package. You can’t have the same hairstyle and just change the clothes.
How are you styling your look for events?
I wear my own clothes. It is unlikely that an international fashion house will lend you a dress for every occasion. Good dresses can cost a lot and I want to build my wardrobe.
Do you shop a lot?
No, no. I’m not a shopaholic. But of late I have started investing in dresses that are classy. I don’t buy things that are at the moment fashion fads.
What are classic dresses according to you?
Dresses I can wear more than once. I don’t want to invest Rs5 lakh in a gown that I wear once and can never be seen in again. That black dress (refers to the Dolce & Gabbana dress) is very, very expensive. It is classic because of its colour, the slightly puffy sleeves, and the length. Even after five years I can wear it and it will look like a new dress. I can dress it up with long gloves or wear it with a pearl necklace and it will look different. I can do so much with it. I make sure when I invest in clothes, I do it properly.
Was this advice from a stylist—invest properly in your wardrobe?
No, no. I don’t need anybody to tell me how to style myself. If you always take advice from other people, you will go wrong. Why ask stylists to tell you how to define your style or what suits your body? It becomes their style then, not yours. I don’t get influenced by anybody. I make my own decisions. It’s not so difficult.
Among Indian designers, who do you like wearing?
I like Sabyasachi (Mukherjee). He has an earthy feel to his clothes. I like Suneet Verma’s net saris. Manav (Gangwani) is good with gowns.
How do you decide between Indian designers and international design brands when you have to choose a gown for a red carpet function?
Depends on how much time I have. Sometimes design houses send gowns, usually 10-15 of them, and I see if I like something from among those. Otherwise, if there is time, I prefer a gown or an outfit to be especially created for me. When I am nominated or am getting an award, I want that moment to be special. For the National Award, I worked with Shoaib Ali Khan, who owns a boutique Hi Craft in Bandra (Mumbai), to design the churidaar -kurta I wore.
Between bags and shoes, what do you gravitate towards?
More shoes than bags definitely.
Did you have any inputs for your look in ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai’?
Actresses must always have a say in how they look for a film. I am not a model but an actress. I will not wear just anything. I have to perform in those clothes, so I have to be comfortable in them and feel the character in them.
I looked up lots of references for retro looks. I worked with the designers Rushi Sharma and Manoshi Nath. Rehana (the character she plays) is more Western than Indian. High-waisted dresses, jumpsuits, polka prints, low-neck gowns, Can-Can dresses—all these were elements of my wardrobe in the film. It is a look inspired by Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman— very bold in attitude.
Anything from the 1970s that you hope sees a revival?
I wish those hairstyles, the elaborate hairdos, come back. They are so grand and add so much height to a woman.
So you want bouffant to make a comeback?
Not exactly the 1970s’ bouffant but the elegant hairdo that Audrey Hepburn had in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That kind of a hairdo makes every gown look so elegant. These days women leave their hair open with any outfit and they think it looks good. I don’t think so. If I am wearing a dress I make sure my hairdo is as elaborate as the dress.
What about sari gowns from Tarun Tahiliani or Gaurav Gupta?
I don’t know what you are talking about. I have not seen these things. I am not as updated with fashion as people think.
Why the fetish with drainpipe trousers?
After working out regularly, now my body has changed. My legs have toned up and I can carry off drainpipe pants. Earlier, when I was skinny, people used to make fun of me if I wore such trousers. My friends used to say “Haath agarbatti pair mombatti ” (the hands are thin like incense sticks, the legs are thick like candles).
You don’t seem too focused on jewellery?
My style is not about jewellery. I hate forcing pieces on. I like solitaires. Or chandelier earrings.
Do you never seek a second opinion about your style?
Never. I cannot handle opinions. I will go mad. People seem to have ideas that are opposite to mine when it comes to dressing me. Anyway, I become stubborn, and do the opposite of what is advised. I lose my confidence in any case.
You are so big on gowns, why have you never been seen in a Gauri-Nainika?
(Long pause) They have never approached me.