The Telegraph - Calcutta : Look
The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hot & Haute

All the world’s a ramp and all the men and women merely models. Come July 23 and that’s what the universe is likely to morph into, with those in the reckoning strutting their stuff with 'lan. The Miss Universe pageant to be held in Los Angeles in three weeks time will once again highlight that some models are more equal than others.

Gone are the days when lithe bodies and sharp features guaranteed a spotlight on the ramp. Today attitude, body language and emoting skill underline a model’s success story not just in the international arena but also on the Indian fashion turf. Small wonder, then, that brain rules over brawn, girls are preferred to women, while boys have replaced men.

“For women, tall and lissome is the order of the day; for men, it’s the lean, firm look instead of the muscular, beefed-up appearance,” points out fashion designer Rohit Bal. And among the relatively fresh crop of models, there are those who, having made the grade, are treading the line of beauty with aplomb. Sources in the fashion industry and ad circuit aptly call them the hot and haute lot.

Neha Kapur, the elegant Miss India 2006, is a case in point. All set to fly to Los Angeles on July 4, she is at present busy preparing for the Miss Universe pageant. “I feel good but nervous,” says the excited 23-year-old for whom the past couple of weeks have been “stressful and unnerving”. Ritu Kumar, president, Fashion Design Council of India, is all praise for her. “She is versatile and has stage presence. She can express more than the clothes and is able to carry off a variety of looks without diluting the classicism of the ensemble.” That, feels Ritu Kumar, is her USP.

Kapur’s focus has always been on the ramp rather than commercials. “I enjoy walking the ramp because it has a spontaneous feel. People wait for your entry, designers trust you and it’s a challenge to carry off an outfit well enough for it to be sold,” she says. Today, with the Miss India crown placed firmly on her head, 15 minutes on the ramp has translated to endless hours of fame.

Fame also sits pretty on Deepika Padukone’s delicate shoulders. Fashion designers and ad gurus wax eloquent about her as Padukone is comfortable doing all three ' commercials, print ads and ramp shows. “Professionalism, charisma, style and some acting talent ' she has it all,” says ad guru Prahlad Kakkar.

Padukone, however, is choosy about her work. “I am particular about brands,” she reasons. Besides, she admits to having inhibitions. “I’m comfortable showing ex-amount of skin.” Her shoot for the Kingfisher calendar, however, contradicts that statement but Padukone offers a ready explanation. “I had complete faith in the photographer which is why I went ahead with it.”

Faith in the brand is also what prompted the stunning Shivani Kapoor to do the Lakme campaign. Rumoured that she will act in a Sanjay Bhansali film, Kapoor now spends her time flitting between India and London.

But those like Monikangana Dutta would rather divide their time between India and Paris. While fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee defines Dutta as “one with international potential”, the charming Ritu Beri has other reasons for rooting for the Monte Carlo girl. “An ideal model should understand the clothes and feel at ease in them. She should also connect with the audience.” Hailing from Assam, this model ' who shot to fame two years back after her tryst with the ramp in Paris ' fits the bill on both counts.

Dutta is also a perfect example of another qualitative change that has taken place in a model’s profile over the years. “Today, there are no international boundaries. The models in India compare and sometimes more than equal the best,” Ritu Kumar emphasises. Tall, dark and unconventionally beautiful, Dutta is one such model who’s got the look that can set any ramp ' in the East or West ' on fire.

Among men, Ignatius Camilo is the one with an “unusual face” ' as ace make-up artiste Cory Walia puts it. For Camilo, it began with a visit to designer Wendell Rodricks. He was accompanying a friend who went to audition for Wendell’s show. Since the friend had entered Camilo’s name too, he was called and asked to walk. They liked it and that’s how it began. Like all Goans, Camilo too is fond of music, which explains his fame as DJ Iggy.

It’s been a while since models have moved beyond being clothes-hangers. Juggling multiple roles as models, actors, DJs, choreographers, they are now more adept at portraying a particular character on the ramp. “But they should never overshadow the clothes per se,” stresses designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee. However, as Ritu Beri points out, models today are bound to work on their individual looks because of the wide exposure to the fashion world in the West. And that applies to both male and female models.

Upen Patel and Aditya Bal ' two male models who, industry sources claim, had in them the makings of a supermodel ' have worked rigorously on their looks. “That’s essential to avoid a homogeneous look,” points out Atul Kasbekar, director of Matrix Modelling Agency in Mumbai. But having done that, Patel and Bal have now graduated to films. “Their shift is a loss to the fashion industry,” laments Arjun Khanna, who specialises in men’s wear and designs the personal wardrobes of Bollywood actors. But neither Patel, who made his debut in the film 36 China Town, nor Bal, awaiting the release of his comedy, Main Roni and Joni have any regrets as both agree acting is the next obvious step.

But not all male models are keen on acting. Last year, Sahil Shroff ' who features with Aishwarya Rai in the Lux ad and the Tata Indica ‘Dumb, Dumb, Dumb’ ad 'took on modelling assignments after his return to Mumbai from Australia. Shroff says he would rather get into the export business and do modelling on the side.

On the other hand, Muzamil Ibrahim, winner of the Gladrags Manhunt 2003, does not intend to give up modelling so soon. This enigmatic model from Kashmir enjoys walking the ramp as much as doing ad campaigns. But he does have movies on his mind. “Walking the ramp gives me a high, but I don’t want to hang around in the modelling circuit for too long.” Together with Mudasar, his elder brother ' another enterprising model ' they are touted as the best looking guys around. But Ibrahim brushes that aside, stressing that it’s hard work coupled with a positive attitude which is the key to success.

It is this attitude that fires this young lot. In an industry known for its ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ volatility, they can’t help but be in cutthroat competition, jostling with the veterans and competing with themselves, setting their own benchmark as well as surpassing it. And no one knows that better than Neha Kapur ' all set to conquer the universe.

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