Understatement | Commenting on Cannes


Understatement | Commenting on Cannes

Now that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has done her “much awaited” walk on the Cannes 2014 red carpet after making people wait with “bated breath” and pictures of her “jaw dropping appearance” that apparently “silenced her critics” have been sent to our inboxes, we are supposed to spew some style wisdom. But I am not sure if it’s the most exciting writing assignment of the week this time. Unlike last year when one of India’s best and most spunky actresses Vidya Balan represented the country as a jury member and gave us a meaningful and relevant reason to dissect her appearance. But this time, assigning new adjectives to the same old L’Oreal girls plus the mandatory bore—Ms Mallika Sherawat seems a bit tedious.

Aishwarya is an extraordinarily beautiful woman—there is little debate that she looks quite the stunning mermaid God made her to be. But the Roberto Cavalli fishtail gown, I wouldn’t give it a thumbs-up. It’s a blingy piece with much too much criss-cross detailing making it look busy and shiny. Her hair looks fabulous as does her red lipstick and as many bloggers would soon quip if they haven’t already, Aishwarya has lost enough weight to carry off red carpet couture without looking mommy-ish. But her gold garment is hardly representative of faultless taste. The diva who has been trying to balance her Cannes appearances over the years with fashion-ability, criticism management, has never been seen as an arbiter of taste even if she has been applauded for her mesmerizing glamour.

For some years, she looked quite a bomb in her Elie Saabs or Armanis, in others she made beautiful couture look dumpy with unexciting accessorizing and severe hairstyles. This once, as golden gowns go, proves again that Aishwarya’s taste in style is still a question mark even as her glamour quotient remains high.

Others who write on glamour may have done this too but I have often asked myself if there is a sense of petty triumphalism we feel in assessing Aishwarya’s fashion acumen. My answer for myself is yes. But instead of simply calling it prejudice or misplaced envy, I think we need to understand it a bit more and confess our reasons to our readers. As far as I am concerned, Aishwarya’s many coquettish poses, twirls and turns on the red carpet—even this time—blowing kisses to her fans in girlie helplessness, half-bending her body, glancing sideways, flashing smiles of different denominations, put me off. She presents herself as a female star to be assessed for her appearance and I believe she shortchanges herself. Or, that’s perhaps my prejudice as a woman with feminist concerns who thinks even the most beautiful woman must do something to showcase her brains. That’s not the body language you get from Eva LongoriaMeryl Streep or Vidya Balan.

Raking up Aishwarya’s acting talent or lack of it has become a redundant argument over the years, not because she sometimes looks drop dead gorgeous and sometimes puffy and bored on the red carpet but because she has been unable to bring nuances of a powerful woman to her appearance. She aims to be a doll, so she gets assessed as one.

That’s the long and short of the Aishwarya-Sonam KapoorFreida Pinto Cannes style politics that gets provoked every time these girls walk the red carpet. They represent the same beauty brand so they become victims of comparison which may not be fair to them as individuals. We pitch one against the other and I am not sure if that was the reason why one of the PR agencies handling L’Oreal communication to Indian journalists made such a big deal of the Aishwarya-Freida “bonding” at Cannes. Two women being nice and chatty with each other is made out as news.

It’s a pity that Aishwarya, Sonam and Freida have been pasted with certain labels. Aishwarya—who is obliged to “silence her critics” every year; Sonam who is “fashion’s own child” so she will get it right one way or the other and Freida who can look very sassy and stylish but will never set fire to a red carpet.

I suppose we do a more incisive job of style blogs when Indian actresses (and actors) arrive on the Cannes red carpet because of their critically applauded films shown there or for jury roles. Else, we are all skin and little substance. Like begets like.