For someone who has been on more Best Dressed lists than she’d care to remember and whose annual outing on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet keeps fashion blogs buzzing for weeks, Sonam Kapoor’s latest turn as Mili Chakravarty in her home production Khoobsurat, has been a rather incongruous one. A far cry from her couture-heavy, stylishly accessorised real-life self, is Kapoor’s reel avatar — eschewing Jean Paul Gaultier for Janpath bargains and forgoing Elie Saab glamour for thrifty Hill Road finds.
But if you thought her outing as don’t-give-a-damn, uncoordinated and unconventional Mili was as easy as throwing something on, please note that the look was a systematically orchestrated endeavour, right down to the last mismatched pair of socks. It was, perhaps, the biggest challenge for her stylist Karuna Laungani. “Every look of Mili’s was a clash — of colours, prints and styles. To come up with 45 variations of outfits that are mismatched, yet work beautifully, was difficult. It was great fun,” says the former fashion editor of Elle magazine.
Having studied fashion design at Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai, and then having spent six years at an editorial job, Laungani admits to being slightly apprehensive about accepting her first Bollywood offer when producer Rhea Kapoor called her. “Sonam and Rhea are both very inclined towards fashion and when it comes to creativity and aesthetics, they totally get it,” says Laungani.
What also drew her to the project was that Mili is, quite literally, “a royal misfit”. “She marches to her own beat, is unique and full of life; someone who doesn’t care what the world thinks of her. Her clothes needed to reflect these qualities. And since I don’t like to follow conventions myself, I liked that she wasn’t a typical Bollywood heroine,” says Laungani.
Once director Shashanka Ghosh said that Mili should stick out like a “sore thumb”, especially in the confines of the royal palace setting that she gets transplanted in, Laungani set about putting her character together. But it wasn’t as easy as teaming a red shirt with a yellow skirt. “In the beginning, I kept it kind of subtle. But Rhea said: ‘Push yourself. Don’t be restricted by the fact that this is a commercial Hindi film’. This helped me flesh the character out,” she says.
The resultant look was an unabashed “sporty-meets-Indian-meets-tomboy” hybrid. Laungani tried to think like Mili, a middle-class Delhi girl, who shops at Janpath and Sarojini Market and sports high-street brands. She’s a physiotherapist by profession, for whom comfort is paramount and she especially loves bright colours and prints. “So, she’ll wear a Jaipuri printed kurta with coloured jeans and comfortable sneakers. Her version of Indian wear is dhoti pants and a short printed shrug,” says Laungani, who mixed street-side picks and brands such as Zara, Mango, River Island, Adidas and Tomms with ASOS.com finds and designerwear from Anupama Dayal and Karishma Shahani for some “Rajasthani flair”. “When you look at her, you think it was a happy accident,” says Laungani.
However, it was no accident that, in the midst of a whirlwind shooting schedule and a packed pre-release promotional event calendar, Laungani not only kept Kapoor’s merrily mismatched narrative going through her public appearances, but also managed to launch her very own fashion label Jodi. Started in partnership with former colleague Gauri Verma, the label aims to give Indian textiles and prints a crafty twist. “Jodi takes quirky block prints and unique motifs and translates them into young silhouettes that a modern woman would want to wear,” says Laungani. It’s perhaps something Mili would wear too, going by one of Kapoor’s recent promotional appearances for Khoobsurat in a printed Jodi dress. As for the on-screen association between Kapoor and Laungani, the styling collaboration will continue in Dolly Ki Doli, an Arbaaz Khan production, set for a February 2015 release. Looks like this jodi will continue to surprise us.