Supermodels, unseated

THE VANISHING ACT

Supermodels, unseated


On a balmy, mild-sunny weekend in June 09, exotic Macau, just across the sea from Hong Kong, became the venue for the glamorous IIFA 2009 Awards function. On the newly-conceptualised Green Carpet — to commemorate the World Environment Day — were a bevy of Bollywood’s sexiest beauties showing off India’s stunning designer clothes and jewellery. Neha Dhupia, Raima Sen, Mugdha Godse and Minissha Lamba modelled for jewellery design houses like Nakshatra, Asmi, Gilli and D’damas, making onlookers gasp in wonder! As if this was not enough, Manav Gangwani’s special ensembles were modelled by Suzanne Roshan, Zayed Khan, Lara Dutta, Dia Mirza and Raima Sen. Manav even boasted that he had “glammed up” Raveena Tandon for the events of IIFA! Further, jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali had fabulous ambassadors for her exclusive jewellery — her bro-in-law Hrithik Roshan agreed to wear a black diamond-studded pendant in the shape of a falcon in flight while wife Suzanne teamed a red Manav Gangwani dress with Farah’s necklace and earrings studded with diamonds and emeralds.

What happened at the IIFA is certainly symptomatic and perhaps shows the near-collapse of the supermodel era in India’s fast-changing show and fashion business. Today, only the regular fashion weeks which take place annually in Delhi and Mumbai, for Western and local buyers and are aimed at specific markets, feature professional models, who are outsmarted by show-stoppers from Bollywood. Here too, there is a constant race among seniors and wannabes to cut rates and find a place on the ramp to wear the creations of a growing army of designers. And yes, at the year-end, they feature in one or two highly-publicised calendars where the emphasis is more on revealing bodies than on modelling. For the rest of the year, the supermodels lie dormant and sometimes are featured for their presence at parties.

Not about body anymore

“The reasons for this ‘vanishing act’ of supermodels are obvious,” says Madhu Saxena, a busy model coordinator. “Today, people want to see beautiful achievers, not just beautiful bodies. The fashion show business is crowded by foreign girls from many countries looking for an opportunity in the Indian show business which has now gained a global status. If a dress or piece of jewellery is to be displayed, just a beautiful body is needed and India’s supermodels are so expensive that they make the budget of a show top heavy. Designers ask show coordinators to choose models from among the wannabe foreigners or Indian girls who come with a background of training in beauty and poise. With show-stoppers invited by the designer, this makes a complete team. No supermodels are needed.”

Add to this the fact that stars like Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Asin, Sonam Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, John Abraham, even the recently-arrived Slumdog Millionaire star Frieda Pinto — who has made it to the cover of Vogue — and many others are now favourite show-stoppers or models for not only leading designers — who also design ensembles for films — but also for product advertisers, and you have a situation where beautiful men and women with no brand value attached to their names vanish into anonymity within a short time. Today, achievement and news-worthiness is the key to popularity.

Earlier, the fashion design and show business were completely separate from the entertainment industry. But today, the two have mingled to make one big glamour-bazaar worldwide and the footprint of the multi-million fashion/film business covers all countries where Bollywood has made inroads in the NRI or local population. On the wings of Bollywood, the fashion and jewellery industry of India travels to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Europe, South America, Middle East, Canada, South Africa, the UK and the US because they together sell a complete “exotic India dream” rather than just clothes or films.

Advantage actors

“The fact is that stars can play supermodels but supermodels cannot become stars at any cost,” says Neena Singh, a Bollywood talent agent. “This has been proved in recent times with top models like Aditi Govitrikar, Noyonika, Jesse Randhawa, Monikangana Dutta, Nethra Raghuraman, Shonal Rawat, Anupama Verma, Kavita Karaiyat, Priyanka Shah, Vanessa, Indrani Dasgupta, Yukta Mookhey, Mehr Jessia and hunks like Milind Soman being considered just ‘clotheshorses’! They are losing their halos gradually in comparison to the stars that walk the ramp. Don’t forget Priyanka Chopra and Kangana Ranaut who made superb models in Fashion!”

Today, the gap between supermodels and stars has widened so much that being merely beautiful and svelte is no longer enough for a woman to reach the top. She needs to be famous, media-savvy and have a distinct personality to climb the ladder.

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