Manish Malhotra has been styling actresses in Bollywood for over 25 years and has been a part of the film industry on the whole for the last 30 years. From casual outfits, western wear, trendy athleisure, traditional wear and some of the most iconic sarees, Manish Malhotra’s design and sensibilities have stayed etched in our minds.
In an interview with film critic Rajeev Masand, Rangeela director Ram Gopal Varma spoke about asking Manish Malhotra to design Urmila Matondkar’s costumes when he couldn’t sign up veteran designer Neeta Lulla for the film due to a date problem. The rest as they say is history as everything Urmila Matondkar was seen in in the film — from skater dresses, to lehengas, sarees and more — became a part of Bollywood fashion’s glorious history 25 years ago.
Speaking to HT in a video interview for The Vogue Wedding Show 2019, Manish Malhotra spoke about the influence of films the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, when the flower power culture had taken over. Even though this diminished in the ‘80s, it was Manish Malhotra’s love for films that gave him the conviction to fill the gap through which he might be able to make a name for himself as well.
“Styling is what I introduced in the films — because in those days heroines had short haircut for a western dress and the next thing we have is long hair because it was an Indian dress. So I brought about all those changes and that’s how it all started,” says Manish on his Bollywood Fashion journey.
Rangeela, that released on September 8, 1995, starring Urmila Matondkar, Aamir Khan and Jackie Shroff in key roles was the first film to begin a Filmfare award for costumes.
Here’s a look at some of the most iconic Manish Malhotra looks from Bollywood fashion:
Urmila Matondkar in Rangeela: The film completed 25 years yesterday and even now, Urmila Matondkar’s style – from co-ords, skater dresses, to the oversized shirts, high-waist jeans and berets continue to be one of the most talked about points of this film.
Looking back, the designer shared a montage of various looks from the film on his Instagram account and said: “… the mesmerising beauty, breaking barrier glamour of @urmilamatondkarofficial .. and her styled looks in the film redefining style of costumes in indian cinema .. #Rangeela is a very special film to me and a film that for the first time introduced Styling with costume design .. Ramuji , Urmila and I all three of us passionate and with having long discussions , fittings and all the hard work resulted into .. #urmilamatondkars look which was revolutionary and redefining and @filmfare enforced for the first time the A costume Design Award .. The trendsetting spectacle of Urmila has made not only set the tone but will stay in the people’s hearts forever.”
Urmila Matondkar’s grunge look in Daud a few years later too added to the whole charm of the character she portrayed, also styled by Manish Malhotra.
– Kajol in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (DDLJ): Simran, Kajol’s character in DDLJ was a no-rule-breaker-ever girl-next-door who eventually rebels for her love. Starting with simple Chikankari kurtas and Bandhani dupattas, we saw the actor in interesting dresses and long skirts with slits. It was the colourful Georgettes in the Swiss Alps for a song sequence that takes the cake.
With the release of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, director Karan Johar and designer Manish Malhotra introduced several international brands in the Indian market with a huge focus on sportswear, athleisure and more. Kajol’s transformation from a tomboy to a gorgeous diva in sarees too is something that Malhotra is credited with.
Kareena Kapoor as Poo in K3G: Kareena Kapoor’s miniskirts, bralets, backless tops and even lehengas continue to be etched in our minds today. Her widely popular introduction scene and the red look for a song in the film are some of the most-sought-after ones.
In an interview with Pinkvilla recently, Manish Malhotra mentioned how the inspiration for Kareena Kapoor’s looks as Poo came from Hollywood outings such as Legally Blonde and Clueless.
This was followed by Kareena Kapoor playing the effervescent Geet in Jab We Met, where the tee-shirt with salwar look became one of the most iconic looks of hers. “Director Imtiaz Ali wanted Geet to be a small-town girl but a bold character. The film led to entire India wearing salwar with tee-shirts, kurtis with denim jackets and more,” Manish tells Pinkvilla.
Rani Mukerji in Hum Tum: The film that spans the lives of the protagonists over a period of a few years, also saw transformational looks on the actors, in terms of fashion choices, hairstyle and more. In the latter half of the film, Rani Mukerji was seen wearing skivis, turtlenecks, and more with long skirts with slits, paired with boots. In the parts shot in India, she is also seen in sarees that can easily be emulated for festive fashion years later in the present day.
Priyanka Chopra in Anjaana Anjaani: PeeCee’s lehenga with denim jacket and sports shoes look in the film’s climax implies a runaway bride, but the style has since become so popular that it’s something seen in Indian weddings where brides might want to get out of the more traditional heavy dupatta look and swap it with trendy jackets and shoes instead before they hit the dance floor and enjoy their wedding functions to the fullest.
Deepika Padukone in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: The electric blue saree with a gotapatti border is one of the most iconic looks of Deepika’s from this film, and also features on one of the film’s posters. It was different because of the bralet worn as a blouse, along with the saree.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: The long kurtas with jeans and boots came to be called the ‘Alizeh look’ after Anushka Sharma wore them through the course of the film, however, it was her entire bridal look in the film that made our hearts skip a beat for the intricacies in the entire look and how ethereal Anushka looked in the scene.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, on the other hand, never ceases to impress. Her overcoats, calf-length boots and the signature red lipstick are one of the most memorable looks of hers from this film, said to be a ‘comeback’ film of sorts for Ash.
Having launched his brand in 2005 and several flagship stores around the country, Malhotra is unstoppable and we can’t wait to see what he introduces next. In 2019, a number of actresses wore the sequin Manish Malhotra saree that the designer introduced in a variety of colours. His last film outing was Mrunal Thakur’s bridal outfits for the Netflix anthology, Ghost Stories in late 2019. He is now said to be designing for Sara Ali Khan’s Atrangi Re.