October 27, 2008 / 6:12 AM / 10 years ago

Bollywood film offers peek into India fashion trade

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - A new Bollywood film takes a long hard look at India’s fashion industry, putting the spotlight on its underbelly of drug abuse, depression and politics at a time when haute couture is making inroads into middle-class homes.

“Fashion,” which opens in cinemas on Wednesday, comes close on the heels of three high-profile fashion expos in New Delhi and Mumbai, in a fortnight that has seen the country’s media obsessed over post-show parties hosted by India’s top designers.

Director Madhur Bhandarkar, an award-winning Bollywood filmmaker who created some of the most memorable woman protagonists of Indian cinema, said he hoped to give Indians an intimate, fly-on-the-wall look into the corridors of fashion.

“Two years ago, a common man on the streets in India wouldn’t have cared about models and brands and ramp shows,” Bhandarkar told Reuters in an interview. “Suddenly, fashion has entered our lives like never before.”

India’s fashion industry has raised its global profile, following a rise in disposable incomes, victories by Indian beauty queens at international pageants and a multitude of fashion events.

“The common man still can’t afford many of those clothes on the ramp, but modeling as a career is a bright option for many girls,” said Bhandarkar.

Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World, is cast in the role of a small-town girl who harbors dreams of becoming a supermodel, but has to battle obstacles to succeed in the big, bad world of Mumbai.

“This industry has back-stabbing, politics, superficiality, envy and all that,” said Bhandarkar.

The filmmaker, who went backstage at fashion shows and modeling shoots as part of his research, said “Fashion” also deals with drug abuse and homosexuality in the industry.

Industry insiders agree that the film is for the most part accurate in its depiction of India’s fashion fraternity.

“A lot of what is shown in the film does happen,” said fashion designer Narendra Kumar, who has designed the film’s look.

“I am not saying every model does drugs or that every designer is homosexual, but this is the story from the director’s viewpoint.”

Made at a budget of 180 million rupees ($3.6 million), the film has earned an adult rating from India’s censor board, making “Fashion” off limits for any one under 18.

“This film should open up our eyes to what goes behind the making of a model,” Kumar said.

Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Bappa Majumdar and David Fox

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