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Hindi Cinema & The Art of Dressing to the Profession

Hindi movies have come a long way when it comes to meeting the guidelines of image management for their characters in the films. In phase-I, the clothing was uniform in the form of sari, salwar kameez or the occasional trouser ensemble.

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Nargis Dutt Asha Parekh Sharmila Tagore
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Hema Malini Hema Malini

The Unique Look

During phase-II, directors sensed the importance of clothing and began giving a unique look to the heroine. Eg. Karisma Kapoor in baggy pants in Haseena Maan Jaayegi.

Unique looks work well as long as the heroine’s background is generic like in Haseena Maan Jayegi. Or when the heroine’s profession or hobby is that of a dancer, where the designer can play around with her look, Eg. Dil to Pagal Hai.

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Haseena Maan Jayegi Dil to Pagal Hai

The saving grace is that the heroine’s friends get special importance these days. They have a distinct personality of their own and it is reflected in their clothing, unlike the yesteryears’ hangers-on whom you wouldn’t remember once you step out of the theater.

Jaane To Ya Jaane Na

Profession Impossible

But when the film gives a specific background and profession to the heroine, then the image management guidelines of that profession begin to apply. We are speaking of clothing in particular, although body language too is an important element that is not adhered to.

If we take Pyaar Impossible for example, while Priyanka Chopra is supposed to be a public relations executive, her dress reflects anything but that. Her clothing in short hemlines and shoulder-less ensembles is that of a model who has stepped into the office. Professional corporate clothing is anything but that. It is about power and grace and it speaks of the industry and the domain in which the person works. At the same time, it does not draw attention to the person in question.

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  Priyanka Chopra as PR Executive

Similarly, you would be hard put to call Sushmita Sen a teacher in the movie Main Hoon Na.

Sushmita Sen as Teacher

The Last Mile

In the recent past, in phase-III, Hindi movies have begun paying attention to the character to the situation. Eg. Vidya Balan in maternity dress throughout Kahaani.

Vidya Balan

Those that get the clothing right, tend to go a slight bit overboard at times, like the Bipasha Basu character in Corporate. The choice of clothing and accessories gives an extremely severe look. It could of course be argued that her character required such severity, but it probably is just a case of going a tiny bit overboard. There’s also case of the missing blouse beneath the jacket which could have rounded off the look without giving a hint of the cleavage which it does in the current image.

Bipasha Basu – Corporate Excecutive

So whether the character is a teacher, corporate executive, home maker, chef or dancer, it helps to pay attention to the clothing, grooming and body language of real world people to get the character’s image right.

Since clothing is the first view that the audience gets of the character, attention to this aspect reflects well on the role being assayed, portrays the characters and situations realistically, lending great credibility to the story. 

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