He is one of Bollywood's favourite designers and has dressed up the best in the movie business. But if Manish Malhotra had to choose between his label collection and movies, the ace designer would opt for the former because that is his priority.
"Today, if I had a choice between a label collection and movies, I would choose the former. At this point, my priority is my label. My goals are to create a diffusion line, open stores worldwide, and expand the avenues of my label. However, films are my first love, I'll never leave them, and they'll never leave me, hopefully," Malhotra told IANS on e-mail when asked how he maintains a balance between runway shows and movie styling.
Malhotra entered the film industry as a costume designer when the concept of "costume designing" was alien to many. With a successful run of over 25 years in movies, he has redefined and modernised costumes in films like "Rangeela", "Raja Hindustani", "Dil Toh Pagal Hai", "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", "Mohabbatein" and "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham".
So how do Bollywood engagements add to his design creativity?
"Looking back, I think that I couldn't have had a better training ground to feed my passion and creativity (than) Indian cinema, as I love the medium. Since I had no formal training in design, the way I worked was reading scripts and engaging with actors and then devising their costumes," he said.
He, however, faced some challenges too.
"One challenge was that there was no access to scripts or even big stars; it was impossible for a technician to have one-on-one time with them. In fact, there was no question of fittings and trials. The first few years were very difficult for me, as it was not about changing a process, but a mindset...
"I've always believed in working closely with my actors to understand the character. For instance, I sat with the late superstar Sridevi to decide her look for her film 'Gumraah', as I wanted to maintain the character's continuity throughout the film.
"I can't say the make-up artists encouraged my effort, because they saw it as 'interference', but all I was trying to do was devise a look -- from the shoes to the bag," he said.
He has also given some of Bollywood's leading actresses makeovers that changed their fate in showbiz.
From Kajol, Karisma Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Rani Mukerji, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Preity Zinta to the current generation of Bollywood like Alia Bhatt, Parineeti Chopra and now Sara Ali Khan, he continues giving fashion a new definition with all his projects.
He feels that in a country where cinema and its influence are as prevalent as it is, actors are looked up to as much for their sartorial choices as for their performances.
"Even though most of them have stylists, the stars are very aware about the choices that they endorse for global viewers, most of whom are very much influenced by their personal style.
"Individuality is in vogue, and most of the actors that I meet are confident, stylish, well-versed with fashion all around the world and open to experimentation. At the same time, they see tremendous beauty... in Indian handloom and timeless crafts such as Chikan -- especially knowing the power that it has to uplift an entire community of talented weavers," said Malhotra.
Malhotra will celebrate the seventh edition of his label in association with the Mijwan Welfare Society on April 9 in Mumbai. The show will see the presentation of some of the finest works by Malhotra in Chikankari.
"While this is the seventh edition of my show, this in my ninth year with the Mijwan Welfare society. Inspired by the artful handicraft of Chikankari, this time the collection will be a lot more contemporary with sheer fabrics and intricate pearl embroidery to add a touch of glamour.
"Along with with lehengas, we will also be adding opulent, T length skirts, sheer long and short capes, dresses and also elaborately embroidered shoes and fringe clutches. We will be highlighting each silhouette with a burst of pearl embroidery, along with feather and fringes," said the designer.
(Nivedita can be contacted at email@example.com )