Sanjay Leela Bhansali & ethnic fashion of his heroines
Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one of the few Bollywood directors who are known as perfectionists in Indian cinema. But Bhansali has another feather in his cap, and that is his perfectionism in traditional Indian fashion. His movies are perfect statements on the ethnic fashion of India that he celebrates by draping his heroines in the best of ethnic lehenga choli fashion in collaboration with renowned Indian fashion designers. The worldwide popularity of his cinematic creations has globalized the traditional fashion heritage of India. I am sharing some glimpses into the on-screen wardrobes of Bhansali’s leading heroines.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is the first chapter of Bhansali’s fashion saga on celluloid. Among the Bollywood actresses who are fortunate to have worked as Bhansali’s heroines, Aishwarya Rai is the first to look graceful in Indian ethnic wear designed by Neeta Lulla. Neeta Lulla’s colorfully embroidered and richly embellished lehenga choli designs bear a testimony to the director’s keen interest in Gujarati fashion and style. The resplendence, vibrancy, richness and delicacy of the lehenga choli outfits for Aishwarya in the songs – “Ankho ki gustakhiya”, “Dhol bare dhol baje dhol”, “Nimbura nimbura” and “Chaand chhupa badal mein” put the movie Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam on the map of global fashion. Bhansali has celebrated his diehard love for ethnic fashion of India through Indian cinema in all of his next directorial ventures.
In Devdas, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s obsession for Indian ethnic wear became Madhuri Dixit’s fashion statement designed by Neeta Lulla, one of the famous Indian fashion designers of Bollywood. Devdas is one of the few Bollywood movies which captured the exclusivity of Indian ethnic wear fashion in the reel and took it to the global heights beyond the frontiers of India. The unique beauty and rich embellishment of Madhuri’s lehenga choli in the classical song “Kaahe chhed mohe” was the talk of the fashion town in 2002. Neeta Lulla defined Chandramukhi’s beauty, as visualized by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, through her fashion sensitivity and sensibility. In the song “Chalak chalak chal”, Madhuri Dixit was made to look her best in the half saree and half lehenga outfit of deep maroon with golden border, the simplest of lehenga designs.
It was Sabyasachi Mukherjee, one of the renowned Indian fashion designers, who brought the fashion of the Victorian era alive in Aishwarya Rai’ wardrobe for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish. The ensemble of costumes that Sabyasachi designed with all his creativity in harmony with the vintage setting of the movie transformed Aishwarya’s character Sofia into a lady of the bygone time when Goa used to be a Portuguese colony. Complying with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s love for ethnic wear fashion, the designer decked Aishwarya Rai in low-neck blouses with long sleeves in deep monotone colors paired with floor-length flurry skirts, an exotic version of Indian lehenga designs. The skirts were layered with laces of net adding to the fluffiness. Indigo, maroon, crimson red and dark black were the dominant colors in the palette of designs by Sabyasachi Mukherjee for Bhansali’s heroine in Guzaarish. Especially, her sublime appearance in a signature outfit of subdued monotones for the song “Udi udi” was accentuated by a crimson red scarf.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s obsession for Indian ethnic wear is amply manifested in the traditional fashion and regional styling of Deepika Padukone’s character Leela in the movie Ram Leela. Anju Modi’s signature creation transformed Deepika Padukone into a Gujarati belle in multicolored and multilayered lehenga choli designs. Deepika Padukone is one of the few Bollywood actresses to be draped in authentic Gujarati handicraft fashion of patchwork, mirror work, bandhni and handloom. Anju Modi made the most of traditional Indian fashion to get the best of Deepika’s sublime and sensuous beauty in most of the sequences including the holi festival song “Lahu muh chakh gaya”, the navaratri song “Nagada sang dhol baje”, and kamasutra-styled lovemaking song “Ang laga de re”. She created ethnic lehenga designs to make Deepika look sensuous in bold colors.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali has again signed Anju Modi to create desi fashion extravaganza for Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, two leading heroines in his upcoming Bajirao Mastani. I am eagerly waiting to have a look into their wardrobes of culturally rich and sublimely designed ethnic ensembles for Bajirao Mastani, a periodic romance drama.