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Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  From Vidya Balan to Amitabh Bachchan, it’s a costume catastrophe at Cannes

If three films at the Cannes Film Festival 2013, a packed hall, an audience applauding for Monsoon Shootout at the Grand Lumiere hall, do not make Indian actor Nawazuddin Siddiqui the new black of India at Cannes, then his black suit certainly does. “Kaala hai chal jayega (its black, it should do) he told Hindustan Times film columnist Anupama Chopra about the suit he wore to the Cannes red carpet last year which he repeated this year again for his appearance on Day 4 of the festival. It is the most original clothing statement seen and heard ever since the world’s glamour brigade stepped out at the French Riviera last week. Let’s not underestimate Siddiqui’s moustache accentuating his brooding looks, making him the dark and angsty hero, symbolic of us as an audience, forget for a moment the celebratory drumbeats of Indian cinema’s hundred years.

Much of the rest of what Indian “stars" are wearing on the same red carpet is embarrassment for our fashion industry, including some choices of Bollywood’s best clothes hanger Sonam Kapoor. After her pretty Dolce & Gabbana voluminous floral dress, she appeared in a Shehla Khan lehnga, a black and white lace concoction with a boob tube inspired blouse worn with Chopard jewellery. It did nothing for the fashion sense she usually leads with. If someone is keeping an account of Kapoor’s glamour quotient, please deduct fat points for this appearance. No mystique, no originality, no drama.

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Amitabh Bachchan’s unsuitable jackets made it amply clear that India is going nowhere with its fashion sense. Photo: Reuters

In this “earnest India" project, Mr Bachchan has avid help from jury member Vidya Balan dressed by Sabyasachi Mukherjee. She seems to have got completely carried away with traditional India in her Cannes wardrobe mixing up costume with clothing in the most clichéd way. She is a working woman here, a jury member, expected to watch world cinema, take notes, make comments, form an opinion but her covered head (on Day 1), big nose rings and fabric pouches make her look like a museum piece instead.

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The black embellished Sabyasachi sari made Aishwarya Rai Bachchan look grown up and frumpish. Photo: Reuters

So what’s going on? Are customers of wedding couture (that form the largest chunk of the buyers’ segment back home) and devotees of ‘more is more’ influencing the work of designers instead of the other way round? After all, these appearances can be hardly ticked off as confused style statements of an enthused republic. They have been planned for weeks if not months to represent the new Indian narrative. Should they be so off the mark? Instead of challenging former notions that Indian fashion is largely about excess and bling or showing that at least some of our designers are now capable of creating global-local sophistication, these stars, their stylists and designers are reiterating notions about overdone looks being synomymous with Indian wear.

What an unfortunate misrepresentation of all the inspiring and contemporary work that’s going on in our local fashion industry. Standing next to global stars who emphasise elegant restraint (look at DiCaprio’s tuxedos or Nicole Kidman’s sophistication), India’s effervescence about “being itself" seems to have got overwritten with the style mess it is serving as daily fare.

Somebody make a new flag for modern Indian fashion please.

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