He is too humble to claim it, but the title for the best-dressed, most stylish actor of the Kannada film industry has to go to Diganth Manchale. His career has been on a steady rise for the past four years after films such as Mungaru Male and Manasaare. His latest film Pancharangi, directed by the industry’s most successful director, Yograj Bhat, released on Friday.

Manchale’s sense of style has got him as much attention as his acting skills. After meeting him, we discovered that his seemingly casual style is not accidental, but has been worked to perfection.

Close fit: (clockwise from left) A jacket over his T-shirt gets Manchale ready for a big Page 3 event; Manchale dresses casually in T-shirt and jeans when he is at a film shoot; and he enjoys stocking up on watches and belts. Photographs: A Chowdhuty / Mint; Accessories Images: Hemant Mishra / Mint

Edited excerpts from an interview:

How did your sense of style evolve?

I started my career with a Kannada film in which I wore what I was told to. I come from Thirthahalli, a village in Shimoga district in Karnataka, and my understanding of clothes was limited. Looking back, I must say I dressed very badly. But right after the movie I started modelling. My first assignment was for Madura Garments, I wore Allen Solly and Louis Philippe suits with basic and neat cuts, for print advertisements. The colours also were neutral and I loved the way I looked. That was the beginning. After that I began to model for designers like Rocky S., Wendell Rodricks and Rajesh Pratap Singh.

Just being surrounded by people like that changed my perspective. I picked up the concept of fit and how I should carry myself. I remember that someone I met on the shoot of my first movie met me three years later and was astounded by how I had changed. I’d define my style as casual—I am a jeans and T-shirt sort of guy. That does not mean I don’t enjoy wearing formals, just that my roles or the kind of places I am seen at don’t really demand formal wear too often.

What was the transformation like?

Six years ago, there were these boot-cut jeans that looked horrid on men, and I used to turn up for screenings wearing those! I have slowly realized what fashion is all about.

So it was just through observation that you developed a sense of fashion?

A lot of serious observation. I figured quickly that slim fits suit me. Even now before going for a shoot, especially photo shoots, I take references from international fashion magazines and shows. When not shooting, I watch fashion shows on television and have never missed the Bangalore Fashion Week. I like to know what’s in and what’s not. For me, that is a part of my job. People look closely at what I wear.

Do you then change your everyday style according to the film you are working on at the time?

The Kannada film industry hasn’t come to a stage, or rather there hasn’t been a role that has required me to change my look entirely the way Aamir Khan or Hrithik (Roshan) do. I wish I had those opportunities too. I think half the character is portrayed in just the way the person looks.

What do you usually wear to parties?

At a party for youngsters, I’d wear jeans, T-shirt and canvas shoes. But for a party with socialites, I’d dress it up with a suit maybe. Often, what I do is I wear a smart jacket over my jeans and T-shirt.

Do you reinvent your style often?

It’s time for me to get a makeover now (laughs). People have seen me like this forever.

Do you shop with the designer for a shoot?

Often, I have used my own clothes for shoots. I am very specific about the fit. Some films that have the budget have dedicated designers and I often go shopping with them and sit down to discuss what I should be wearing.

What is your shopping style?

I am not an easy shopper. I don’t blindly pick off the rack. It has to look good on me. I’d take a girl shopping rather than a guy friend. Girls have a sense of aesthetics. They can see the outfit on me. But gifts for men, I think boys should buy. From experience I can say that girls pick up the wrong sizes always.

And where do you shop?

When it comes to denims, I buy brands such as Diesel, or Jack & Jones because they have slim fits that suit me. I haven’t reached a point where I can afford very big designers or brands. I know someone who exports clothes to the biggest brands, so I just go to his warehouse and pick up tees from there. But from the Indian designers I’d like to pick up clothes from Rocky S.

Your shoes seem to be a favourite with fans.

I like shoes that are casual. Often they are just canvas shoes from brands such as Zara or Lacoste or even a pair of Converse that are ankle-high. I fold up narrow-fit jeans to show the entire shoe. I wouldn’t go for bright colours or graphics on my shoes.