For a man who 'literally stumbled' into Bollywood, he is pretty wry about the industry. "It's disordered," Arjun Khanna declares. "It doesn't exactly excite me. It [working in Bollywood] was purely spur of the moment, and I am not looking at Qayamat [directed by Harry Baweja, starring Ajay Devgan, Neha Dhupia and Suniel Shetty] as a serious entry point into Bollywood. I have no idea how it has done. I am so not clued in about things like that."
But he also readily admits he had a blast working with the team, including Ajay Devgan, Sanjay Kapoor and Suniel Shetty. Devgan was a dream to work with, he says. "He would come to me and say, 'Arjun, here's what I'm playing. What do you see me in?' And we'd work from there."
Arjun's working style is simple. "I read the script, get into each character and then work up from there."
He also designs clothes for Devgan and Abhishek Bachchan, whom he calls 'a gem of a guy', in their first film together, Zameen. And, for an Aftab Shivdasani-Gracy Singh film. Aftab plays a designer and "he chilled out with me to get into his role," Arjun explains.
He was not above the couture design vs commercial film design sensibility clash, he admits. And his opinion about designing for films is clear, "I don't really think films need a designer. They need stylists. And a good shopper, pardon me for speaking the truth."
Why, you ask, is he still here in Bollywood? "Because the project seemed exciting. The team bonded. We became friends. It came from the heart. And we had fun," he answers.
Fun definitely seems to rank high on his list of priorities. His showing at the India Fashion Week 2003 fairly smacked of fun. Models Isiah and Kelly Dorjee, who were not participants at the fashion week, opened for Arjun, simply because "they're my friends."
Similarly, Rahul Akerkar (owner of Mumbai restaurant Indigo) and another friend walked the ramp, champagne flutes in hand, in clean Arjun Khanna evening wear, just because "they're my friends."
The message is clear. Like most designers at the recent IFW, Arjun also wants to reach out to the common man. Fashion today is no longer 'exclusive' and just for models. Normal people too have a stake in wearing comfortable clothes. "Did it look put on? Weren't they comfortable, so effortless? That's why I showed a bunch of people wearing them. I wanted to portray happiness, life, hope," claims Arjun.
He has some more hopes. Designing for a period film, for one. "Give me any project that involves some research, some digging into history. If someone were to offer films like Gandhi, 1942 - A Love Story and Little Buddha, I'd say fantastic."
And then his other hope: dressing up Rekha. The man positively moons at the mention of the actress. "She is an absolute diva. She fascinated me at 16. At 36, she still continues to fascinate me. Watch her at any public gathering or appearance. She is just impeccable, superb. She is an icon for actresses, just like Amitabh Bachchan is for actors. I would love to dress her, design for her."
Raveena Tandon's sense of pizzazz is another thing that attracts Arjun. "Look at the way she wears her clothes. She's got a lot of spunk. She is very comfortable in good clothes. It's not put on. Great personality.
"Oh, and Manisha Koirala. She's fantastic. Again, she's very comfortable in good clothes. I've designed for her in the past and she wears her clothes with ease."
Bollywood, it seems, will not get out of Arjun Khanna's system so easy.
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