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May 17, 1997


When Madhuri is shooting with Saif, she
wears two-inch heels; with Akshay Kumar
she ups the ante to four inches

Tabu with Kamal Hasan. Kamal sports those special uplifting shoes. Once taken off ( right) Tabu has to really lean over to make Kamal look even as tall as she is. Click to get the bigger picture.
So if Tabu ever comes in western clothes, it is in solo shoots or in cleverly composed mid-shots where you don't' see Tabu barefoot or the hero on a short stool. Luckily for Tabu, tall isn't necessarily taboo now in the Hindi film industry. So she finds herself being snapped up by the best of heroes, including another renowned shortie, Kamal Hasan, in Stree 420 (formerly Chikni Chachi). Well, how did Tabu manage? "She shrivelled up as usual and wore only flats," says Simple.

"Tall is in," authoritatively announces Manish Malhotra, the whiz designer who changed the images of Urmila Matondkar and Karishma Kapoor."I hate flats," he pronounces, "and I give my heroines a good four-inch pair of heels to wear. Karishma has started wearing four-inch heels and she carries them really well. I feel that heels add to the gait, they give grace to your walk."

Actresses like Karishma and Madhuri aren't too tall but they too run into trouble when their heroes are Aamir, Salman or Saif. So when Madhuri is shooting with Saif for Aarzoo, she wears two-inch heels and in the scenes with Akshay Kumar in the same film, she ups the ante to four inches.

Flats on her feet: Pooja Batra intimidated even the tall Anil Kapoor
"The problems arises only in scenes where the girls have to be with the hero," says Malhotra. "I give them two pairs of shoes -- Karishma wears four-inch heels in her dance sequences but changes to one and a half-inch ones when she's with a short hero."

Shilpa Shetty who is also tall, has an array of flats laid but when shooting for films like Auzaar (one lambi gal caught between two notorious shorties, Sanjay Kapoor and Salman Khan) she simply kicks off her shoes altogether.

And what happens when the heroine is a towering 5'9" like Pooja Batra? Even Anil Kapoor, who's above 5'10" was conscious of being sandwiched between Tabu and Pooja in Virasat. Both girls had to comply with the high heel ban on the sets.

Changing shoes with heroes: Shilpa Shetty
But luckily for both girls, tall really is in today. "It's only leggy girls who carry off western clothes really well," says Sulakshana. "Most of our heroines tend to have a very short distance between the chest and the waist (translation: small belly) which rules out western costumes immediately. That's why you'll find someone like Jaya Prada who's barely 5'2" so uncomfortable and awkward in western clothes while some one like Rekha, despite her tendency towards plumpness, carries them so beautifully."

The tall heroines are find they can stretch, now that taller actors like Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Sunjay Dutt and others are coming up.

"Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan also have no hang-ups," says Naresh, the guy behind Masculine, the shop that outfits most heroes today. Dress designers have to take extra care to provide the right footwear to the heroes as well.

Footwear with several inches of padded insoles are a must as are those thick pads that go on the outer soles. One hero who has mastered wearing the right kind of shoes is Aamir Khan. He is, perhaps, the shortest among the best-selling stars of today. Aamir who's under 5'5" never does a barefoot scene and executes almost every scene with his (padded) shoes on. Even his Kolhapuri chappals in a film like Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke were specially made with heels.

The tallest of the bunch: Sushmita Sen
Even Juhi Chawla who's only 5'5" has major problems with Aamir, confirms dress designer Neeta Lulla. "She manages when she's with Govinda but with Aamir she has to take special care never to wear heels. She too slips into flats."

A popular story that was told when Dev Anand's Awwal Number was being filmed Aamir's shoes (yup, the one with the two-inch insoles) just to tease the guy. But shooting was held up for hours as Aamir wouldn't budge out of his room until he'd found his shoes and put them on.