A FASHION SHOW, more often than not, is considered something of a female preserve. Well, no longer. This rare one that I attended, titled Men for Mijwan, was a fashion show with a difference in more ways than one. Besides a series of traditional and contemporary outfits with delectable chikankari work that every member of the audience wanted to own, the front row was distinctly star-studded and all for a good cause. An initiative started by actor Shabana Azmi and Manish Malhotra, the fashion show, more an empowerment platform for women in the far-flung village of Mijwan, is evolving into a fashion event with a heart and a mind of its own.
A beaming Shabana Azmi accompanied by her family members — Javed Akhtar, Baba and Tanvi Azmi, Shaukat Azmi — was playing hostess to the hilt, greeting guests as they strolled in, while Malhotra was busy backstage putting finishing touches to the high-powered evening. The ramp scorchers included top models such as Dipti Gujral and Carol Gracias, besides Bollywood’s leading men — Akshay Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Farhan Akhtar, Sidharth Malhotra and brand ambassador Ranbir Kapoor dazzled in their finery, each bringing to the runway his own distinct charm — Kapoor instead of looking grim — commonplace to models both male and female, generally smiled a lot, struck a funny pose and had everyone break into a wild applause. Big B got a rousing reception from everyone when he turned to wife Jaya’s table and struck a pose exclusively for her.
Cheering wildly from the sidelines were Bollywood’s pretty ladies — Aditi Rao Hyadri, Dia Mirza, Kajol, Kalki Koechlin, Parineeti Chopra, Richa Chadda, Sonali Bendre, Sushmita Sen and Urmila Matondkar, among others. A few of them have been a part of the Mijwan fashion show in earlier years as have other male stars but this once, in a break from tradition, Bollywood was represented only by its men on the runway. This switch, it turns out, was deliberate, to make a point.
The idea, Azmi shared in the due course of the evening, was to highlight a thought her father, noted poet Kaifi Azmi had cherished and articulated in his poem Aurat, almost 60 years ago. “Qadr ab tak teri tareeq ney jaani hi nahi Tujhmein sholay bhi hain bas ashkfishani hi nahi Tu haqeeqat bhi hai dilchasp kahani hi nahi Teri hasti bhi ik cheez jawani hi nahi Apni tareeq ka unvaan badalna hai tujhe Uth meri jaan mere saath hi chalna hai tujhe”
Well, the sentiment expressed so eloquently in those lines of a woman being a man’s equal, as one whose entity goes beyond youth and beauty is something that showbiz is gradually warming up to. The male of the species may still dominate the box office but the gap is narrowing. With heroine-driven flicks such as Queen and Kahaani fetching an impressive return on investment, producers are beginning to change their views on such projects. And in a happy turn of events, heroines and women in the film industry are fast taking to nonglamorous duties with equal gusto. If men have joined them in preening and pouting before the camera, the women are not doing too badly what with a greater number now equally interested in behind the camera activities.
For instance, Kangna Ranaut has channeled her inner scriptwriter and others such as Dia Mirza and Lara Dutta have taken to movie production. Then there is the young and enterprising Guneet Monga, coproducer for films such as Monsoon Shootout, Peddlers and The Lunchbox, who has opened up a whole new business frontier for Indian films through international festivals. Fortuntaely, there are several more waiting to sign up for roles hitherto reserved for men. Quite clearly these are interesting times what with greater acceptance of female talent (across sectors) in Bollywood’s evolving narrative and hopefully, men will play an equal and stellar part in scripting it.