Idiot Box Dressing


Idiot Box Dressing

New Delhi : Why television anchors tend to go wrong with their wardrobes.

The stories behind the disastrous dressing of TV anchors are usually underexposed. It is difficult to digest that a stylist is paid to make Mona Singh look like a fright on Zee TV’s Star Ya Rockstar, that Khushboo’s blouses on Jackpot (an earlier show on Jaya TV), which looked like cages of endangered birds, were the hottest property in South Indian fashion; that the wardrobe of Hussain Kuwajerwala (who anchored most editions of Indian Idol) is a hot debate for a channel whenever he comes on board. With crotch-hugging clothes and blinded by bling, Hussain on TV, looks like a Class VIII sudent prancing around the trial room of Shopper’s Stop trying everything that catches his fancy, from the ethnic section to branded wear. If hacks like me get periodically bitten by the TV anchor’s wardrobe bug, it is Juhi Chawla’s chhamak chhalo kurtis with creased gold pants on Badmash Company that are to blame.

A Mumbai stylist who works with an entertainment channel tells me that the clout and commercial success of anchors influence what they wear. Amitabh Bachchan, whose wardrobe was designed by Rohit Bal for the fifth season of Kaun Banega Crorepati, and Simi Garewal, whose clothes are created by the sophisticated Shahab Durazi for Simi Selects India’s Most Desirable, sit on the top rung of this clout ladder. At its bottom are debutants who host comedy or music shows. They have no say. Sandwiched between the two categories are fairly popular anchors. Mini Mathur, for instance, an established anchor, insists on her own stylist and the expenditure is worked into her contract. That’s why you see a separate credit line that would read “Mini’s clothes by… “

The lesser-known anchors are styled by freelancers, usually hired on per day charges. The brief for female anchors is cryptic: flash, colour, and some skin show. An insider on Sony’s Comedy Circus tells me that the length of the anchor’s dress itself was a joke on the sets: the girl had been chosen for her legs and they had to be displayed. For men, printed, round-neck T-shirts with loud jackets get the hurried nod. A few hundred freelance stylists in Mumbai now seek daily work with TV, and many of them are of the here-today- gone-tomorrow variety. Some are trained in fashion and take pains to understand a programme and its theme. But most exploit the small screen to learn on the job, network and move on to assist in films or work in magazines. The anchor (and other participants) is often a hapless victim of their trials and errors.

Then there are the logistics, small budgets and tight timelines. The director is free to overturn the shoot brief overnight and stylists must run helter-skelter sourcing a starry dupatta for the anchor at the last minute. All clothes are sourced and returned to the shop or designer, after a credit line has run on the screen. Ditto for accessories. Usually accessory deals are made with some tried-and-tested small designers and then it is a game of “lagao yaar, if not here, then there”. That explains, to some extent, the procession of hideous jewellery seen on television. “Most junior stylists are smart cookies,” my source insists, “they work out deals with a slew of retail stores, nowadays even with big brands and are dictated by favouritism, not style.”

That’s how it works for biggies like Salman Khan or Sanjay Dutt. If they look like fashion criminals, it is because their personal stylists are style-retarded. For Dus Ka Dum, Khan apparently made it clear to Sony that his sister Alvira Khan will style his look. Sanjay Dutt, on the other hand, in his garish shirts on Bigg Boss, looks old, and is too stiff and tired to be rescued by even the best of clothes, say insiders.

In contrast, wardrobes of anchors are far more organised in news channels. Stylists are salaried people who come to office every day and have a boss who monitors them. Stitching is outsourced after precise measurements. Till quite recently, news channels like Aaj Tak and Headlines Today, for instance, got its anchors fitted out by Asif, a talented tailor who runs a shop in Delhi’s South Extension market. Asif is a reproduction genius, his copies of Rajesh Pratap pleated white shirts or Ravi Bajaj jackets are a fad among the not-so-rich and not-at-all famous. Not all anchors on news television, however, listen to fledgling stylists. So if you have a comment to make on Sonia Singh’s silk kurtas on NDTV, Sagarika Ghose’s leheriya saris and green eye shadow on CNN-IBN or feel the jackets Shereen Bhan of CNBC TV-18 wears, need better tailoring given her slim silhouette, you can send a direct complaint.

Recently, I asked a well-known designer about his business. “We sell alright but when I look around at the increasing number of badly dressed people, I wonder what will really come of India’s fashion movement,” he shrugged. An observation that TV might want to turn towards itself.