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April 3, 1997


'Main Hindustan aa raha hoon...'

Suparn Verma

Michael Jackson in a sherwani?

You've gotta be kidding.

But that's exactly what event manager Wizcraft, in tandem with Bombay-based fashion store Roopam, have planned for Whacko Jacko.

Co-sponsors Roopam are, at the moment, putting the finishing touches
Michael Jackson's Indian clothes
Viren Shah, proprietor, Roopam, with the
clothes designed for Michael Jackson

to six traditional Indian outfits that have been specially designed for the entertainer of the century. "We will," says Viren Shah, proprietor, Roopam, "gift them to him when he lands in Bombay."

The outfits include two Lucknowi sherwanis billed at Rs 20,000 each, two Rajasthani Jodhpuris for Rs 15,000 each and two churidar kurtas costing Rs 10,000 each. These intricately embroidered garments are made from matka silk - a special material brought from Bangalore and Benaras. The rock star is to wear them during his three days in Bombay.

"We thought," smiles Shah, "that it would be nice if Michael wore Indian clothes on his maiden visit here. Wizcraft liked the idea because even they were not sure if he has any traditional Indian outfits."

The initial plan called for sending the outfits to Jacko, even before he descends on the country in his special aircraft. The pop icon was supposed to touch Indian soil wearing an off-white embroidered silk sherwani. "But," shrugs Shah, "its too late for that now."

It took 10 artisans nearly a week to complete the outfits. The designs have come from 20-year-old Zaki Khan, fashion designer for Bollywood stars Akshay Kumar and Aamir Khan. "I was stunned," recalls a visibly happy Khan, "when Viren told me I will be designing for Michael Jackson."

Based on Jackson's measurements, which were faxed to Roopam, Khan and and his team went ahead with the production of the outfits. "He has a very good body for western clothes," says Khan. "Indian bodies are heftier and, in case of ethnic wear, broader in the shoulders. So we've made some basic alterations."

Khan has opted for padded shoulders, which will make Jackson look bigger and the dress, higher and broader. The colours, too, have been chosen with care, keeping in mind Jacko's taste and pale white skin colour. "Since he is always dressed up in jazzy
Andre, Jackson and Viraf
Andre Timmins, Michael Jackson, Viraf Sarkari
outfits," says Khan, "we have two pieces of each design - one sober, and the other with a jazzy colour scheme so that he has a choice. And, since his favourite colour is black, I just had to make a black outfit."

Keeping the rock star's comfort in mind, other changes have been included. Jodhpuris, for example, normally have a hook on the collar. But since Jacko is not familiar with Indian ethnic wear, Khan has devised a split collar. "We have given him a style that is different from the normal Jodhpuri," says Khan. "We have designed it to look like a three piece suit."

Besides, the Jodhpuri can also be worn on stage; it has been designed to give him maximum space for movement. "We have," says Khan, "even kept loose ends in his armpits to allow for comfortable movement."

Accessories include a bandini shawl for formal, outdoor meetings. A spare dhoti has also been kept ready, in case Whacko Jacko decides he wants to sport one. While the churidar-kurta, designed specially for evening wear, will be enhanced by a plain waistcoat.

With the deeds almost done, it's time to sit back and await results. Will MJ oblige his fans by wearing these special outfits? Will he look, as Khan fervently hopes, like an Indian when he wears them?

The curtain, on this act, will only raise on October 30, 1996.