“Vidya Balan’s torso doesn’t jut out when she walks, so probably she doesn’t wear heels high enough for her body to acquire the tautness it needs with her heavy saris." This casual observation made by a young student of fashion who is eagerly waiting to watch Balan’s many appearances as a jury member at the International Cannes Film Festival 2013 that begins today--may just be right. My thoughts raced back to a funky piece I stumbled into in a Footwear News bulletin by WWD (Women’s Wear Daily) titled Top 20 shoes from the Met Ball. It was reported from the yearly red carpet blitz held last week which celebrated an exhibition by the costume institute of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is one red carpet event to watch out for every year as American and European celebrities who attend this often add ever new dimensions to expressions of fashion and couture. Last year at the Met Gala, designer Marc Jacobs came wearing a see through black lace dress, white boxer shorts and pilgrim shoes. The Commes des Garcons dress sold out soon after.

This time, the theme of the exhibition that opened on the 9th of May is Punk: From Chaos to Couture. Punk is a wild, voracious theme and many celebs honoured it by turning up in terrific interpretations, a spectator sport not limited only for the fashionably curious. The slideshow of the shoe procession on WWD is quite a treat. While Beyonce’s baroque embellished boots by Givenchy wonderfully matched to her costume stood out as she swept up the red carpeted steps, Madonna’s Casadei pink suede pumps with blade heels (she has a karmic relationship with punk anyway) and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Christian Louboutin velvet tartan over-the-knee boots supply new reasons on fashion being such a powerful commentary of our times.

It would be difficult to manage a similar shoe-focused piece on Indian celebrities. Our paparazzi may still be distracted by clothes, hair and the makeup of celebs (nude vs. smoky) to bother about framing footwear but it is not as if we have really stunning footwear walking out regularly to arrest and shift our attention. Vidya Balan did wear a tall slick pair of black heels at last year’s Colours Screen Awards (2012) with a Kanjeevaram sari. But in the same season she wore fuddy-duddy open toe wedges on television host Anupama Chopra’s show First Row on Star World. The best shoes we see on celebs are largely in fashion magazine editorials, where the footwear is chosen by smart stylists who are talented, experimental and strategic. At events reported incestuously by fashion blogs, the shoe fixation--while existent—doesn’t come across as fierce. Our stars are stylish but only in conservative ways, like Deepika Padukone, Shilpa Shetty, Gauri Khan, Anushka Sharma, Malaika Arora Khan, Kareena Kapoor or Priyanka Chopra who do seem to love fashion. Chopra in fact, was chosen by Florentine brand Salvatore Ferragamo as representative of their idea of “Indian celebrity"—they dedicated a Swarovski encrusted shoe to her. She was even the first Indian celebrity to have foot cast at the Ferragamo Museum in Florence.

Kangna Ranaut and Kalki Koechlin have it in them to shoe shock us, so we are waiting for something to come hurling. While famed clothes horse Sonam Kapoor is (and so are we) too engrossed in her clothes and overall look to single out shoes and give them a run for their money. “If India was a shoe, it would have to be a bright coloured sandal with some gold," said shoe guru Christian Louboutin to an interviewer when he launched his shoe “Bollywood", inspired by the Hindi film industry.

Right. Our stars stick to trendy shoes by luxury brands but seldom experiment with off-beat, risqué designs--let’s say zany polka dotted boots, printed sneakers, blade heels in shocking colours or a crazy pair that leaves us Google eyed. “These girls are all too busy being hot, so how can you expect them to be cool?" shrugs the same fashion student. Quite so.

This fortnightly series is a comment on popular culture statements made through actions or words.

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