The brief

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By TT Bureau
  • Published 6.11.08

Calcutta boy Aki Narula is moving and shaking Mumbai. In a span of three years, Aki has given us some of the most recent wow screen style moments that have morphed into even more wow street style trends…. Rani’s colourful brocade-collar kurtas in Bunty Aur Babli, Abhishek Bachchan’s urbane metrosexual look in Bluffmaster, Shah Rukh Khan’s retro-printed silk ties in Don, Amitabh Bachchan’s Jack “Pirates” Sparrow jacket in Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and most recently, the high street chic look of Bachna Ae Haseeno.

And now, the La Martiniere student is storming the style scene once again — this time with a double dose! His trump cards: Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham, the super sexy beach boys of Dostana. “I am sleeping two hours a night. My lover these days is an espresso!” laughs Aki from Mumbai.

How did you get John to wear so little?

Well, the brief of John’s character was very brief — it had to be briefs, briefs and briefs! Karan (Johar) and Tarun (Mansukhani) told me that the film was set in Miami. Not just two songs, but the entire film! John, Abhishek, Bobby, Priyanka… all of them live in Miami. I went to Miami to soak in the culture. I was very familiar with New York but not so much with Miami so I had to spend time there to get into the Miami mood. Everyone there is dressed easy. If you go to the beach in a long skirt and top, people look at you in a “where are you from” sort of way!

So basically, it boils down to: darling, if you don’t have the best body, you can’t live in Miami! John worked very hard on his body. He plays a fashion photographer who works and lives on the beach. He is wearing lots of cargo shorts at work, boxer shorts at home and trunks when he is swimming. He is completely at ease wearing those tiny trunks and even in his bare-body scenes.

What is Abhishek’s style statement?

Abhishek plays a male nurse. His look is cool and chic, in fact I feel he has never looked better. He is wearing lots of long cargo shorts and bright mul shirts. His character has lots of colour so you will see him in red, pink, orange, yellow, green… His clothes are all cotton, to beat the 40-degree Miami sun. He is wearing some tie-and-dye shirts with co-ordinated scarves. Actually, I have made his shirts with 30-inch collars that fall like ribbons till his knees. These tie up like scarves. In fact, I’ve already got an order from London for these shirts!

Abhishek is also totally into accessories. There is a plethora of sunglasses and some jewellery too. It’s my fourth film with him after Bunty Aur Babli, Bluffmaster and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom.

I have also designed the looks for Boman Irani, Kiron Kher and Sushmita Mukherjee. Boman’s playing the director of a fashion house. His character is louder than life! Kiron is playing Abhishek’s mom, a typical Punjabi crepe salwar-kameez clad woman with gota and embroidery. Sushmita is playing a Sindhi woman who is in animal prints and diamonds, pearls, silver and gold. When we shopped for her, it was like, “Oh god, this is so tacky. Let’s buy it!” or “Oh I hate it. It’ll be fabulous!”

Do two actors fight like two actresses?

No, not at all! The chemistry between John and Abhishek is super. Abhishek has a wicked sense of humour and John manages to pick up all his lines! It comes across in their comic timing. These two boys can be the envy of any gay couple! They are sizzling on screen and off it. I believe that only if you are comfortable with each other off-screen can you be so good on screen. It’s bullshit when people say that actors who don’t talk to each other explode on screen.

John and Abhishek hung out a lot in the gym etc so that comfort level translated to screen.

And the two stylists?

(Manish Malhotra has styled Priyanka Chopra in Dostana)

I got along totally with Manish. He is a good friend. Karan decided to take Manish and me. Manish has done Priyanka’s look and this is my Dharma Productions debut. I believe that Priyanka has not looked better. Manish and I interacted a lot. We used to have meetings and discussions often and Dostana is a result of team effort — Manish, Mickey Contractor (who is god) and me. It was great fun shooting. If Manish would give Priyanka yellow, then I would go for a green for John and a pink for Abhishek! It was really a big family.

How has your style changed since Dil Chahta Hai?

I wouldn’t really call Dil Chahta Hai my film because I just sourced the clothes. I think we can graph my career since Bunty Aur Babli. I have definitely evolved so much since 2005. I have become more focussed. I have also started focusing a lot more on the script and the characters. I have realised that the characters and the emotions do the talking. Clothes have become more a part of them as opposed to clothes becoming the hero of the film. Also, my sense of colour has improved and I have figured out what looks good on screen. And the vibrancy of Dostana is screaming.

What’s next?

I finish Aditya Chopra’s Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi in the next week before I leave for New York for a month on November 14. We will shoot Rensil D’Silva’s untitled film staring Kareena Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan and Viveik Oberoi. I’m dying to take a break. A visit to Calcutta at this point would be lovely…


When do you miss Calcutta most?

Every Sunday while having lunch. I miss going out to eat with my dad. He is my best dining partner ever.

When do you miss Calcutta least?

When I want to er, have fun after 4am, especially on Saturdays.

Girls or guys — who do you like dressing more?

I swing both ways professionally!

Ultimate fashion fantasy?

Dirty overalls at a construction site in New York… (Pauses) And it would be lovely to have Jude Law and Kate Moss for company.

Who’s image do you want to change?

Prateek Babbar.

The film Fashion

No comment!

The best bit about John in Dostana?

The way he has carried off shorts through the film. Also how comfortably he wore slogan tees that shouted ‘Wear a Condom’.

The best bit about Abhishek in Dostana?

Abhishek looks great in anything he wears in the film. Dostana will be his biggest fashion statement ever.

What John carries off better than Abhishek…

Yellow trunks.

What Abhishek carries off better than John…


You can carry off John and Abhishek’s Miami look only if….

  • You are confident, grounded and humble
  • You have the right attitude
  • You have a super personality
  • You have a sense of humour
  • A good body is a bonus but the above are essential.

“Isn’t she looking really hot?” Manish Malhotra is saying, not so much asking. Yes. She is. Super hot, in fact. And suddenly, PiggyChops doesn’t seem such a fitting pet name anymore, something smouldering is more like it...

Priyanka Chopra is showing skin but when it is Manish directing the skin show, vulgar is really the last word that comes to mind. “We shopped a lot for her in Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas and then came back to Mumbai for fittings and to put together the style. We then went back to Miami to finalise the look,” he explains. The back-and-forth paid off and the Miami mood, in particular, is shining through the promos. Suddenly, Priyanka looks like she was born for the beach.

t2 caught Manish on the phone while he was lost in transit somewhere between Los Angeles, New York and London where he and KJo went shopping for My Name Is Khan’s star couple Shah Rukh and Kajol (she has a very “real look”) and Chennai, where he came to visit Shankar (filmmaker) for half a day. Over to the man for more…

What are the top traits of Priyanka’s look in Dostana?

I think the top traits would be clean lines, no accessories and lots and lots of colour. The look is very young, almost preppy. I would say it is not diva but girlie. She is mostly wearing shorts and singlets in the film. The basic look is very minimal and resort-like. There are no fitted garments and the silhouettes are quite loose and chilled out. In one scene, she is wearing a white shirt and gold Dolce & Gabbana shorts, which is looking stunning.

Also, since she is living with John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan who ‘play’ gay men, her character is very relaxed even at home.

Priyanka has worn colour like never before in this film. There’s lime, tangerine, cranberry, pink, yellow, purple… the rainbow! I remember when I met her initially, she was very apprehensive about wearing colour but then I managed to change her mind. She is wearing a bright tangerine in her introductory scene. Even Shilpa Shetty is sizzling in her song Shut up and bounce. Her look is very beachy, resorty and follows the same story as Priyanka’s.

She is sizzling in the golden swimsuit on the beach…

We created that by combining two swimsuits! The first one we picked up was very briefly cut so we attached the second one to make it what it is now.

How has Priyanka changed since you styled her for Andaaz?

She has definitely changed a lot since her debut film. She has grown and her style sense has also evolved tremendously.

You can carry off Priyanka’s Miami look only if...

  • You have a good figure
  • Are confident
  • You agree to go clean with no accessories
  • You look great in shorts and have the right body language
  • You are not afraid of colour because the idea that dark people cannot carry off all colours and some colours suit only fair-skinned people is totally false. “Everyone can carry off any colour.”