(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) This creative genius needs little introduction. When he made his foray into Bollywood over two decades ago, the Indian film industry was going through a dry spell.
Fashion had taken a back-seat, and style was as good as gone.
In fact, the fashion police was close to writing off B-town for its flawed experiments with the many tacky and garish outfits that jarred the 70mm screens of cinema halls. Then, in 1995, Ram Gopal Varma's Rangeela happened, and everyone was forced to sit down and take notice.
Actress Urmila Matondkar became Bollywood's new poster girl, and her bold statement, an assertion that Indian celluloid was coming of age. But the man of the moment was Manish Malhotra, the designer responsible for this jaw-dropping makeover.
Today, he is more than just a name; he is a global brand, credited with styling some of the leading divas of both Bollywood as well as Hollywood.
The celebrity fashion designer will be coming closer home, when he will showcase his latest creations at a star-studded charity dinner organised by Trinity Investment Partners on the lawns of InterContinental Hotel Muscat on February 20, to help raise funds for local charities Dar al Atta'a and Oman Cancer Association.
In a candid interview with Muscat Daily, Malhotra promises to wow his audience in the sultanate with designs that he claims will bring along with them, a touch of India. ''I always believe that when you go to another city and present a fashion show, it must speak your language and what you represent. I represent Indian culture, and I intend to bring this to the city of Muscat through a very modernly-told story,'' says the designer, while speaking about the creations that he has planned to showcase at the gala event.
Malhotra's troupe, comprising 20 models, will display his signature style of the long kalidar lehenga with flowy cuts and colourful blocks, emerging out of his three-year-long association with the Indian state of Kashmir.
''You will get to see a lot of traditional Kashmiri thread-work and zari embroidery. The fabric and designs go from my Mumbai warehouse, and the embroidery work is done in Kashmir. The embroidery work alone takes around two to four months, after which the final designs are executed in Mumbai. I will also be displaying some pieces from Mijwan, an NGO I support with actor Shabana Azmi; these pieces will showcase the amazing chikankari work done by some very young and talented girls back home,'' says Malhotra.
Interestingly, over the last couple of years and especially since he launched his own couture, Malhotra, through his creations, has been working towards reviving traditional Indian handicraft and designs. His need for reinvention, he admits, was initially spurred by the influx of designers and boutiques that were copying his style.
''I felt it was time to go back to my heritage, and improve upon my own work by reviving ancient embroidery and craft. Until and unless you upgrade your style and work, people wouldn't be able to differentiate between a Manish Malhotra original and a copy,'' he says, adding, ''I also realised that it would help encourage and support a lot of local Indian artisans, whose talents need to be brought to the forefront. They get paid for all the effort that they put in. Also, when they see their work on celebrities, they develop a sense of self-worth...that pride is a great feeling, isn't it?'' It is this constant desire to reinvent and push the envelope of time and space, that still helps Malhotra connect with the younger generation.
''In 2014, I will be completing my 25th year in Bollywood, but the fact that I still dress some of the younger crop like Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Imran Khan, means that my creations are not considered jaded or old-school. One needs to constantly evolve to fit in,'' he says, adding, ''The only thing that hasn't evolved is my personal style. You will usually see me move around in a black shirt, because I am always fighting weight and age.''
According to Malhotra, one of his biggest assets, which worked for him as a designer, is his deep understanding of colour. Not many know that before he shot to fame as a costume designer, he used to paint. ''Well, I really enjoyed painting, and if I remember, it is all I did when I went to school,'' he says, breaking into peals of laughter.
''Later, while in college, I worked as a model; that's how I got introduced to some of the leading designers of my time. So, I never actually learnt designing...my only connect with the field was my love for painting and sketching. But I knew and understood style, and since I was a painter, working around colours came naturally to me. Also, there wasn't any fashion statement coming out of Indian movies in the early 90s. This is why I decided to get into costume design; I thought I'd be doing something different and something that would stand out,'' he said. Having been to Muscat before, Malhotra is more than excited about his upcoming visit.
''It is such a beautiful and warm city; I have been to Muscat before and have thoroughly enjoyed my stay here. I love its culture and am more than impressed with what the women here and across the Middle East, have been doing with abayas. The brilliant play of chiffon and lace on the abayas has taken the traditional garment to a completely different level, and made it so much more elegant.'' When asked if he has plans to open a store here, and he immediately breaks in, ''Get me somebody who wants to start a store with me in Muscat...I'd love to do it.''
Of all things, one thing is definitely certain, there is clearly no stopping Bollywood's favourite designer. From transforming the image of fashion in Bollywood to elevating Indian couture on the global platform, Malhotra has done it all. His mantra in life is simple: ''Wake up early, enjoy your work and love your style. Style comes from everything you do: the way you speak, the way you deal with people, and the way you do your