DECKING UP THE BRIDE Neeta Lulla giving makeover to Surbhi Chandna, lead actress of “Ishqbaaaz”   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

In a free wheeling chat, designer Neeta Lulla talks about India’s tryst with fashion and her journey in Hindi film industry

Unbelievable it may sound today, but veteran couturier and stylist Neeta Lulla learnt fashion sensibilities in films while working with Sridevi. By her admission, the latter played the crucial role of mentoring her when she was a novice in film industry.

“I am a designer of repute now. Back then I was just an 18-year-old girl,” recalls Neeta, who dressed Aishwarya Rai in a 12-metre long sari in Devdas andmadePooja Hegde look ravishing in period drama, MohenjoDaro.

“At that age, I met Sridevi for my first assignment. She had seen my work in Tamasha. Veteran photographer Rakesh Shrestha was doing a photo shoot with her and she asked for me because she wanted to gauge the kind of work I do. Those days only few designers had studied fashion. Lot of star mothers and aunts were doing clothes,” says Neeta during a telephonic conversation.

And how was the meeting, one gets eager. “So I went to Centaur hotel, where she usually stayed, with a 24 by 24 inch bag. Sridevi asked where is the dress and I replied it is inside the bag. I took out a four metre long gold crushed fabric and kept it on table. Sridevi didn’t utter anything but she must have been shocked. She said she is okay with it. She had rollers on her hair and asked what I want to do with hair. I said don’t remove rollers. I had to design the entire look and decide how I should project her. I draped the fabric around her in different twists and made her wear chandelier kundan earrings. It came out stunning. It was a cover shot for Movie magazine.”

Sharing experience of working with Sridevi, she says: “I learnt a lot from Sridevi; she knew her make-up and had colour sensibility. If she said she wanted pink, then it had to be that particular shade of pink. And when you saw it on screen you realised why she wanted that particular shade. She has fantastic fashion sense.”

Learning the ropes

Back in 1980s, when she was working with Juhi Chawla and Salma Agha, there were no ready to wear clothes. “Everything had to be stitched, every shoe had to made and a concept was thought about before we went ahead with clothes. We would see lot of bright bold colours on clothes, shoes, make-ups, curly girly hairs, lot of bling and belted waistlines.”

In the 90s, she says, worldwide everything became straighter and lighter colours came in vogue. “Straight hair became the need of the hour because globally also this was the trend. In the 80s, we didn’t have information on fashion trends. It was only in late nineties that we started getting information and India saw advent of designer stores and brands. We could easily pick stuff off the shelves for film costumes.”

According to Neeta, the new millennium saw mingling of Western and Indian cultures. “The attitude changed from getting clothes stitched to getting them off the racks and getting actors work with stylists became easier.”

Now with Make in India mantra, the stylist says, lot of Indian designers have started adapting their fashion trend to making indigenous fabric and weaves available to global markets. “And this has started reflecting in films as well. Not much, but it has started.”

 Within and without

Neeta always had an eye for ethnic appeal. “During past 35 years, I have made one collection every season which is either from Indian weaves or fabrics. I mostly use Kanjeevaram and Kalamkari. Young generation sees saris as bulky which does not complement with their body structure. I make them contemporary and functional like new age handwoven fabric and use Georgette to give global appeal. As a designer, I love to play with colours. I also like working with Paithani as it allows me leeway to use colours with bold prints. It is very vibrant and suited for Indian women who like colours.”

But what defines Neeta is her ability to match indigenous fabric with Western cuts. “My favourite is Edwardian era and colours from the Renaissance era. This has been my philosophy. I am fascinated by architecture of forts. Sometimes I even cut my clothes according to a particular palace which I have liked. I have worked around Taj Mahal, Meenakshi temple, Konark temple….”

After Sridevi, Neeta worked closely with Aishwarya Rai’s, whose flair for fashion reflected in films. “When I first met Aishwarya, she was a model heading for Miss World pageant. During the photo shoot, we hit it off very well. After the pageant, I learnt she is doing a big project Jeans in Tamil. She asked me to work with her. It was a very fashionable film. Everything was created, nothing was bought off the rack.”

On the current generation of actors, Neeta says they are very good to work with; interaction is more professional. “The new girls know fashion, they can absorb so much as there is influx of multiple fashion, brands. In 80s, there was a kind of taboo about consumers wanting filmy clothes. But now they want clothes worn by actresses.” She says the line between filmy fashion and ramp fashion has diminished. “It is easy to work for them and it is easier to understand their fashion sensibilities.”

At present, Neeta has her hands full with television. She has designed bespoke trousseau for three TV actresses, Surbhi Chandna, Shivangi Joshi and Shivani Tomar, who will be shown in their bridal finery in Ishqbaaaz, Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai and Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon onStar Plus.

“All three girls have different characterisations and they hail from different cities. To give an authentic touch, I first tried to understand their characteristics, background and family aspirations. Each outfit has an impeccable embodiment of drama, intricacy and elegance coupled with a playfulness that brings to the fore their core persona. I have created a collection which stresses on marriage of traditional and modern.”

Eye for fashion

Among males, Hrithik Roshan has the best take on fashion.

“Hrithik is very meticulous; even if there is quarter inch difference between right shoulder to left shoulder in a scene he would tell you.

You measure it, and he is right,” says Neeta with justified pride in the former’s fashion sensibilities.

Credit – The Hindu