Actress Soha Ali Khan and Bolly stylist Aki Narula are delivering sartorial sermons to style-challenged participants in What Not To Wear India, TLC’s first made-in-India adaptation of the British reality makeover show What Not To Wear, airing daily at 10pm. Soha settled down for a chat with t2 at the show’s launch in Delhi, hours before going shopping with her mother for her brother’s wedding. No, she still doesn’t know the date! Over to Soha.
What made you sign up for the show?
I had watched both the UK and US versions of the format and loved it. I may not be an expert but style is something I have grappled with. But when I told my friends I was hosting this show, they laughed for one hour and then asked: ‘Can we nominate you to be the candidate for the first episode?’ Now I have agreed to let them go through my wardrobe and throw away the clothes they don’t like. Jokes apart, yes, actors have apprehensions about doing television. But with this show, I had none of that.
What is the show about?
We have stayed on the international format. We chose people with a spectrum of issues and representing all body types. We tried to understand their insecurities — if they think their bum is too big or their legs are too short — and we told them that most of us think that way too. Physically, no one can be perfect. The idea is to overcome those insecurities, embrace them and celebrate who we are. We would start by viewing their secret footage to figure out what they wear at home and when they go out. Then keeping their profession and their personalities in mind, Aki and I would discuss and create tips for each of them. The aim was to show them how to dress so as to create an illusion of perfection. We did not drill anyone into being fashion victims. There is a sense among many, especially mothers, that ‘Dressing up is superficial and we are doing more important things’. We had to tell them we are doing important things too and we are not superficial people.
How did you prepare for the show?
I am not an expert on the subject. Aki is. We did some research on Indian body types. Of course, I know my body type. I look at myself more than anyone else does! I might have hosted a different kind of show before (Khelo Jeeto Jiyo) but this multi-camera set-up was new to me. In films we have one camera or at most two. Here, with cameras everywhere, you never knew when you were being covered. There was only a loose script and we had to be on the ball as there was no knowing what the participants would do or say. In episode one, I dare say we were more nervous than the participant.
Would you call yourself a fashion-conscious person?
In my growing-up years, I was high-street fashion-conscious. While I was in college in England, I’d notice what others were wearing and pick up the same things. I’d want to fit in rather than stand out. Now things are different. Being in the limelight and with pictures of what you wear being published and analysed in great detail, you have no choice but to become fashion-conscious.
What is your favourite item of clothing?
I have always been a laid-back person. If there is one item of clothing that would describe one’s personality, in my case it would be pyjamas. It is only recently that I have been forced to take what I wear seriously.
Who is your favourite designer?
I shop at the Armani stores because they make clothes for petite women. The rest I find make clothes for women who are six feet tall and I have to cut off and waste a lot of fabric. Among Indians, I like Anamika (Khanna). I also like Sabyasachi (Mukherjee) for fusionwear and the fun stuff that Manish Malhotra often makes.
Does your mother Sharmila Tagore offer you tips on dressing?
Oh, all the time! I stay alone in Bombay but when she stays with me, I never leave her alone in my home. Otherwise she’s sure to look into my wardrobe and throw away some of my clothes. She’s a hyprocrite, you know. She has about five million pairs of shoes and some 20,000 saris! But she’d tell me: ‘You need just one pair of black shoes and three saris.’ If I say that’s impossible, she’d tell me that I don’t have a big house like she has in Delhi. Her criticism is hard to digest but in the long run, it’s okay. It’s loving criticism.
Your father, Tiger Pataudi, was an immaculate dresser, even in a simple white kurta pyjama.
There were two sides to him. He wore multi-coloured socks. That was his style statement. He had his maroon pants and yellow shirts too. He would always shop for his own clothes and he’d never let anyone else style him.
What are you wearing to your brother Saif’s wedding?
Well, my mother is very good with such occasions. And she’d anyway have problems with whatever I choose on my own. So I thought it’s best to work with her on this one.
And when do you get to wear it?
(Laughs) Those two (Saif and Kareena) are off to America. When they come back, they will let us know.
Would you want to style Saif?
Definitely not. He’s very educated when it comes to style… knows even intricate details about lapels and collars and buttons. It would be a nightmare to style him.
Your thoughts on marriage?
I have had conversations with friends about this. See, for us, 30 is the new 20. I am the youngest in the family. I am not a responsible person. I can’t imagine growing up. And marriage is growing up and having children. I am still a child.
Who would you rate as the most stylish woman in Bollywood?
Earlier, actors depended heavily on their stylists. Now they come to the profession with a lot of knowledge. Among women, I’ve got to name many — Sonam (Kapoor) has an inherent sense of style and is not scared to experiment. Kangana (Ranaut) makes a statement every time she goes out. Deepika (Padukone) is very good. So are Kareena (Kapoor) and Katrina (Kaif).
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