Fashion trends may take birth at fashion weeks and shows but nothing popularises them the way Bollywood does. Who can forget Dilip Kumar’s curled front forelock — a hairstyle that became the ‘in’ thing for filmi fashion aficionados in the late ‘40s?
Or Amitabh Bachhan’s ‘angry young man’ look, with the front buttons of his shirt left open, inspiring every Tom, Dick and Harry to do the same? Or even Amir Khan’s ‘Captain’ hat from the 1991 release Dil hai ke manta nahin — a fashion faux pas that became popular nonetheless and found its way to the likes of Zainab Market and Liberty?
While Bollywood can be held responsible for starting off certain fads that were downright garish or just plain silly, the Indian movie industry can also be credited for making some beautiful, spellbinding fashion statements. These are fashion trends that became iconic in their popularity and continue to be followed to this day. Here’s a look at some of the most popular fashion statements dictated by Bollywood for all times to come:
Mughlai splendour: Aishwarya Rai in Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar
Not all women can look as beautiful as Aishwarya Rai in a heavily embroidered sari. But since the actress’ opulent wardrobes in both Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar, many women certainly have aspired to somehow emulate the elegant Mrs Rai-Bachhan.
Managing to carry off the heavy brocade, silk and velvet ensembles with all the grace that an ex-Miss World should have, Ashwariya Rai had the bridal market in a tizzy. Designers would be asked to watch Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar while designing bridal trousseaus and Devdas-inspired artificial and gold jewellery — bangles, bracelets, earrings, chokers and teekas — were popular purchases. To this date, there are still plenty of Devdas/ Jodhaa Akbar look-alike brides to be found.
The fashionista courtesan: Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam
Mughal-e-Azam’s doe-eyed, love-struck courtesan, Madhubala’s Anarkali danced and twirled, resplendent in an ornate, elaborately worked Anarkali dress and chooridar. The dress became an instant hit back in the ‘60s, when Mughal-e-Azam was released, and similar styles have since been worn by many other actresses. But Madhubala will always be remembered for epitomising the ‘Anarkali look’, as she defiantly declared, ‘Jab pyar kiya toh darna kya?’
Chiffon made sexy: Sushmita Sen in Mein hoon na
Want to start a fashion trend? Get an ex-Miss World or Miss Universe to wear your clothes in a big-banner, long-awaited movie, preferably starring one of the Khans. Or, at least, it seems that way. Saris are nothing new to Indian cinema but Sushmita Sen’s polka-dotted number in Mein hoon na made the fabric popular all over again. Svelte and graceful, Sushmita certainly knows her way around a sari, exuding a heady mix of traditional Indian charm and glamour. It is no wonder then, that different versions of her polka-dotted sari became a frequent sight — on ramps, on other actresses in various movies and at parties and weddings.
Bohemian haute couture: Zeenat Aman in Haray Rama haray Krishna
Long hair, headbands, bell bottoms, big sunglasses … the ‘60s keep making their way back into latest fashions and Zeenat Aman in Haray Rama haray Krishna swaying to ‘Dam maaro dam’ in a supposedly stoned stupor comes to mind whenever the all-out hippie look becomes a rage. Sure, the look may have been copied from Hollywood but for us, it’s Zeenat Aman who made hippie bohemia stylish.
All-white elegance: Sri Devi in Chandni
Before a kohl-eyed Sri Devi made white elegant with Chandni, the colour was usually left aside for the hero’s widowed mother/sister/bhabi! The long-haired, svelte actress had a predominantly white wardrobe throughout the movie; in saris, two-pieced dancing costumes and, our personal favourite, long kurtas with chooridars. An all-white wardrobe may be nothing new today but remember that the colour really came alive back when Sri Devi ruled the roost, proving it to be much, much more than just a hue for mourning!
Purple gets haute: Madhuri Dixit in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…!
Sooraj Barjatya’s ode to cheesy, happy weddings was a huge hit in the early ‘90s with audiences scrabbling for one particular sari worn by the leading lady in the super hit ‘Didi tera devar deewana’. This heavily embroidered, backless purple number reportedly cost about Rs15 Lacs and with Madhuri Dixit sashaying in it, the ensemble looked all the more beautiful. Look-alike saris and dresses immediately began making the rounds in wedding circles and even today, the heavily embellished purple look is easily recognisable as the Hum Aapke Hain Kaun…! sari.
Black and white … Amitabh Bachhan
Battling age, a dwindling career and a constant urge to dye his hair an unappealing jet black, Amitabh Bachhan finally decided to look his age but in a rather suave way. The actor’s hair continued to be black but he let his beard go white — a look that was instantly taken up by older men with whitening hair. Black hair, white beard and crinkly, intelligent eyes … Amitabh showed the world that it didn’t hurt to look your age, as long as you did it with panache!
‘He-men’ on the rise … Salman Khan
There was a time when heroes would be lanky, sweet-faced boys-next-doors who would, despite their slight frames, manage to beat up the villain and his band of fifty or so goons. All this changed for good when Salman Khan became an avid bodybuilder.
People stopped noticing Salman’s then-receding hairline, overacting and usually mindless movie storylines. Instead, they would wait and hoot and cheer every time the actor took his shirt off on screen. A few other heroes may also be credited for being Bollywood’s first few muscle-men but nobody popularised bodybuilding the way Salman did. Suddenly, a dozen other Indian heroes were spouting biceps while gyms popped up here, there and everywhere. The trend continues even now … and Salman’s still taking his shirt off!
The ‘Chamak Chalo’ red: Kareena Kapoor in Ra-One
Red is a popular sartorial choice for women in both Pakistan and India and Kareena Kapoor’s made the colour hotter with the sari she wears in Ra-One’s infamous ‘Chamak Chalo’ song. The shade worn by her has duly risen in demand and is currently a trendy choice for casual as well as formal wear. Christian Louboutin may have their own claims upon a particular red but here, in a country filled with film-loving fashion phobes, it’s the ‘Chamak Chalo’ red that’s working wonders!