Karisma Kapoor may have given the silver screen a miss these last few years, but she cannot escape the public gaze as she continues to redefine and grow her sense of style. Here is up-to-the-moment dressing ensconced in a gentle vibe from another era, discovers Shirin Mehta from Verve, who probes the reclusive fashion diva's style depths.
Rewind a decade, or more. To a time of celluloid innocence, a time of histrionics and performance but little style. A time when a teenaged Karisma Kapoor, daughter of the first family of stardom, broke through familial taboos of girls joining the industry and stepped into roles that belied her age. And remember, the girl who was churning out films then, had more energy and gumption than Pizzazz, being all of 16 years old.
Today, I am looking at the picture perfect image in front for me, sitting demurely in an armchair too large for her, and thinking, boy, has Karisma come a long way. Like a sartorial shooting star, blazing a fashion statement all her own. Earlier, she had bustle into the room, immediately upping the energy quotient, her frail shoulders hung with a huge Channel day bag. Her Victoria Beckham jeans molded a perfect derriere while the black Gap T-shirt remained her statement against a head-to-toe designer look. Fendi leather encircled her perfect waist.
Rewind half a decade or so to Yash Chopra's super-hit, Dil Toh Pagal Hai. "It all started with that, where designer wears became the trend for films. And with Raja Hindustani, the whole look became important." While DTPH put fitness-inspired sports looks on the fashion radar, the commercially successful, Raja Hindustani, had young moviegoers begging for the straight hair look that Karisma sported. A look that, may we add, has somehow remained in the audiences' psyche even today. "Yes, Karisma has been iconic in changing the look in Hindi films," says designer, Manish Malhotra.
While the young actor endeavored to bring fashion realism to Bollywood, there have been roles that she completely enjoyed portraying. "For me, it was a gradual growth as an actor and my style growth and growth as a woman all happened together. In Dulhan Hum Le Jayenge, I liked my clothes, in Haseena Maan Jaayegi, I had worn baggy jeans, which was unheard of for an actress in those days." Her favourite look was in Fiza and Zubeidaa, which were perhaps also her finest performances, meriting Best Actress Awards. "In Zubeidaa, my look was very '50s' glamorous and authentic. I wore real jewelry from Gem Palace and some of the outfits were genuine antique. While, in Fiza, I was in Lucknowi outfits off the road and no make-up."
Who would have imagined that so many years after Karisma vanished from the silver screen, a veteran of 75 films, almost as many looks and several awards, she would continue to capture the imagination of the public and an aggressive press. Her pictures waft around the electronic highway, even as she continues to make her private style statements. This works for her. She has a model's figure that she puts down to good luck though she insists that she has (and probably controls) the Kapoor trait of love of good food. "The power yoga that Kareena goes, is too much for me. I prefer Pilates."
"I think she is a true style diva. Whatever she wears, just comes across as class," claims Bollywood star and younger sister, Kareena Kapoor. "She has always been very fashion conscious, even as a child she knew exactly what she wanted. After all, she has been born in a blue-blooded home." The sisters share everything from confidences to clothes and shop together whenever they travel.
In today's timeframe, she veers towards Jennifer Aniston's clean silhouette, as well as the contemporary chic of Carla Bruni and the toned down elegance of Princess Raina of Jordan. And she looks to inspiration also within her own family. "My co-ordination has come from my Mum and my mother's mother who always said that we should be impeccable and coordinated but never totally matched." And the fashion legacy continues as Karisma dresses her three-year-old daughter, Samaira, in look-alike clothes. "She is already becoming fashion conscious."
And so we loop around to be the question that must be asked. That everyone is asking. Will Karisma return to films, and when? "She will always be successful... I keep telling her to come back to films," Malhotra asserts. But the actress demurs: "When other young girls and boys were partying, I was making a life. There were days when I would do four shifts a day, jumping from set to set. It has literally been my sweat and blood in every film." For her, it has been a much-needed break and that too when she was at the very top! "I am just being lazy," she admits with a gleam in her eye, "I am looking for a great script. After all, it is in my blood." In the same way that style and pizzazz unfailingly are!