Exclusive Interview: Manish Malhotra on His Favourite Bollywood Looks Over the Years

As Manish Malhotra celebrates 30 years of costume design this year, he has an exclusive chat with Brides Today about his favourite festive Bollywood looks.

It was the dawn of the new decade—the 1990s—and Bollywood was ready for change. And Manish Malhotra rode that wave as a game-changing costume designer. His bold approach reshaped Indian cinema’s fashion landscape. He reinvented bridalwear in unusual colours, and saris with modern drapes; plus, with Rangeela, he brought in a bold, new aesthetic. As the designer completes three decades in the industry, it’s clear that his influence on both the Indian girl and international red carpets has been indelible. From dressing celebrities such as Demi Moore, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, and Michael Jackson, to designing bridalwear for actors Kareena Kapoor Khan, Preity Zinta, Urmila Matondkar, and Karisma Kapoor, Malhotra is always in the news. It’s only fitting, then, to revisit some of his most-celebrated bridal and festive looks across his illustrious career. The designer shares his memories for each movie, and shows you how to style each look for yourself.

DILWALE DULHANIYA LE JAYENGE 1995

“The green lacha worn by Kajol in ‘Mehendi Laga Ke Rakhna’ would look great for the mehendi or dholki ceremony at a summer wedding. For the modern bride, I’d recommend draping a shaded chiffon dupatta across the torso, rather than placing it on your head. And you can play with the fabric texture, too—I used a beautiful satin crepe de chine for Kajol’s outfit to add subtle shine.”

KUCH KUCH HOTA HAI 1998 

“Kajol’s peach sari from the wedding sequence was the first time this colour was used for an on-screen bride. I used a tone on-tone embossed fabric for the look. It soon became one of the most-copied designs and is perfect for a day wedding, even today. Her lehenga in the song ‘Tera Ghar Aaya’ is special, too. I remember that Karan [Johar] and I were walking on Bond Street in London, and we came across a carpet shop with a patchwork carpet inside it. I decided to create a skirt just like it. We completed the look with gold latkan earrings, taking inspiration from my mother’s friend who always wore similar long, Kashmiri earrings If you plan to recreate this look, my advice is to use jewel tones for the patchwork lehenga, and pair it with a beige top to balance the colours.”

MOHABBATEIN 2000

“What we see today—the strappy blouses, halters, and asymmetrical crop tops in Indian wear—is what I started back in the ’90s. In the song ‘Humko Humise Chura Lo’, I dressed Aishwarya [Rai Bachchan] in a black Chantilly lace sari, which she wore with boots! And in ‘Aankhein Khuli’ we see her in a beautiful skin-coloured lehenga with silver work. Similarly, the pastel lehengas in ‘Pairon Mein Bandhan Hai’ are perfect for today’s weddings, especially with the big ’90s fashion comeback.”

KABHI KHUSHI KABHIE GHAM…2001

“Who doesn’t remember the pink asymmetrical top and sharara pants that Kareena [Kapoor Khan] wore in ‘Bole Chudiyan’? This style works very well these days, as the sharara has become hugely popular over the past two years. A small maang tikka and hair worn open will complete the look perfectly.”

KAL HO NAA HO 2003 

“Preity [Zinta’s] blue-and-skin-tone lehenga in the song ‘Maahi Ve’ is perfect to wear to a fun sangeet. It is one of my most popular outfits, till date. To keep it modern—like her character in the movie—forgo gold or silver embroidery for blue threadwork and self-sequins work.”

DOSTANA 2008

“For Priyanka [Chopra Jonas’] look in the song ‘Desi Girl’, I wanted to create a sari that ran parallel to her gold swimsuit from the movie. I designed a French two-tone chiffon sari with sequins, worn over a silver sequinned petticoat. In order to accentuate your silhouette, I recommend that you drape it close to the body. What is great about this style is that it will always be integral to the modern-day bride’s wardrobe.”

STUDENT OF THE YEAR 2012

“The hot pink bling in the song ‘Radha’ came about because Karan [Johar] wanted to go ‘all out’ with the glimmer and shine. Alia [Bhatt’s] look is young, it’s sexy, and great to dance around in.”

YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWAANI 2013 

“Deepika [Padukone’s] blue sari with the golden frill in ‘Badtameez Dil’ is the quintessential cocktail sari. Its design came about on the spur of a moment—I was looking at the fabric in my warehouse in Mumbai, and it occurred to me to put a golden trim on the edges and pair it with a black blouse. Many times, a very simple outfit becomes the most popular, and we’ve sold it over 500 times.”

2 STATES 2014

“For Alia [Bhatt’s] mehendi sari in this movie, I combined a South Indian Kanjivaram drape with a chiffon one, because she is very petite and it needed to sit well on her frame. I cut the borders, removed the pallu, and reconstructed the sari with chiffon. I don’t waste any fabric, so the extra was used in making the blouse. I created a similar one for my niece when she got married in 2014.”

AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL 2016

“Anushka [Sharma’s] look in the song ‘Channa Mereya’ is perfect for the girl with an individualist style—there’s colour blocking, golden embroidered roses on the fabric, and large jewellery for a bohochic- meets-Indian vibe. Emphasise your eye makeup with this elegant look, and you’re good to go.”

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