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50th birthday special: Manish Malhotra's iconic contributions to Hindi cinema


On the fashion designer’s 50th birthday today (5 December), we examine his various contributions to the Hindi film industry. Costume designer Abhilasha Sharma, the next generation, discusses Malhotra’s inputs which changed the styles of Hindi film actresses from the 1990s onwards.

(Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

Sonal Pandya

Manish Malhotra first began working in Hindi cinema with the film Swarg (1990) in which he designed the outfits for actress Juhi Chawla. Within five years, every actress wanted to be styled by him after his stunning makeover of Urmila Matondkar in Ram Gopal Varma’s cult classic Rangeela (1995).

Urmila in Rangeela (1995)

That same year, the first ever award for costume design was initiated at the Filmfare Awards for his work on Rangeela.

Abhilasha Sharma has been a costume designer on Talvar (2015) and the upcoming Hollywood film, The Ashram, starring Radhika Apte, Kal Penn and Melissa Leo. She worked under Dolly Ahluwalia for several years before becoming an independent stylist for ads and films. Abhilasha says, “Before Rangeela there was never much thought given to costumes. Manish Malhotra created looks for Urmila in the film, a wide range which was never seen before. And people realised that costume is as important as any other department to create the right look for the film. Not just costumes even hair and makeup got a makeover because of him.”

After Matondkar, Malhotra gave Karisma Kapoor a makeover in Dharmesh Darshan’s Raja Hindustani (1996), leading to a close relationship between the actress and the designer. Though retired from films, Karisma walked the ramp for Malhotra at Lakme Fashion Week in 2014. Besides Matondkar and Kapoor, Malhotra has styled all the top heroines of the industry from Sridevi to Anushka Sharma.  

Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Abhilasha, who has been in the industry for a decade, feels Malhotra's most iconic looks have been Matondkar in Rangeela, Karisma in Dil To Pagal Hai (1997) and Kareena Kapoor in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham... (2001). Besides these actresses, she feels even Shilpa Shetty benefited from his styling in Dhadkan (2001).

Most of his most popular outfits have been for Dharma Productions and Yash Raj Films. In fact, filmmaker Karan Johar counts him as one of his best friends and is throwing him a big 50th birthday party in Goa that will be attended by all of his close friends in the industry. Malhotra was responsible for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s and Anushka’s effortless looks in Karan’s latest release, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016).

Anushka Sharma in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Since the 1990s, Malhotra has been a style influencer and a trendsetter in the industry. “His styling is so effortless and wearable. Unlike certain costumes that we see in films which would not be practically possible to wear in real life. People in India get really influenced by what they see in films and Manish Malhotra's costumes become a great influence for styling, because it's easy to connect with them. His cuts and styles connect to all age groups,” says Abhilasha.