When Shantanu and Nikhil displayed their new collection at a fashion show in Mumbai over the weekend, little did the designers know that it would become a talking point all over the country. The Delhi-based duo, known to take inspiration from current affairs and history, titled their latest show Kashmiriyat. While it took inspiration from the sartorial sense of the valley, it also imbibed a political statement, showing its models with black bands running across the mouth and pellet wounds dotting the make-up. “There is darkness inside all of us. Yet we seek for that ray of light that will awaken belief & hope (sic,)” tweeted the duo in the lead up to the show, announcing the theme for the night.
It garnered much cheer inside the hall like most of the designers’ collections do, but wasn’t met with the same warmth in the valley. Former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, took to Twitter to voice his distaste for the theme of the show. “Am I reading this correctly, a pellet injury “effect” is being created for a fashion show? That seems macabre if not downright thoughtless (sic)” he tweeted, adding, “These pellets have blinded scores, to have the injuries recreated for a fashion show is inexplicable even if collection called Kashmiriyat.” Even Kashmiris elsewhere took to Twitter to vent their disapproval towards the theme.
Shantanu and Nikhil at the show.
However, artistes as well as the audiences involved believe the show was elegant. “The entire theme was very tastefully executed,” says a source, who was present at the show. “The vibe in the room was also that of solidarity with Kashmiri band Parvaaz providing a very soulful backdrop. It was a powerful statement, no doubt, but at no point did anybody in the room sense that it would take off to become an issue. The trouble started brewing only the next day.” Khalid Ahamed, vocalist of Parvaaz says that the band was specially brought on board as they sing in Kashmiri and Urdu. “Nikhil has heard our music, and quite likes our sound. Earlier he’d done a Jallianwala Bagh themed show, and this time he wanted to portray Kashmir. We were in Delhi for a gig and Nikhil specifically told us he wanted us to play Roz Roz,” he says adding, “When we went for the gig, we hardly got time to rehearse. But when everyone associated with the show was feeling so positive, we went with the flow too.
Everything was ten-on-ten for them, as well as us. Since it was a Kashmir-based show, we just wanted our music to be played on it.”
Standing by the designers’ right to address current issues, model Acquin Pais, who walked the ramp at the show is all praises for their work. “I liked the collection and it was fantastic. Now, what Shantanu and Nikhil’s portrayal of the issue was, I don’t know, as I didn’t want to get involved with it. When I was explained the concept, I was told it’s about Kashmir, and Parvaaz was performing. I would think about the show as art, and you don’t need to take it so seriously. Everyone has a different opinion, don’t they?” he asks solemnly.
Acquin urges people to look at the show for what it is — art. “I would look more at the clothes than anything else because Shantanu and Nikhil are designers. The clothes fit me and looked great; the story, the band — it all fell in place like a painting. Rajesh Pratap Singh did a show on pollution, didn’t he? Shantanu and Nikhil had a different story,” he asserts.
A dialogue is always respectful. Knowing Shantanu and Nikhil, I don’t think they would do that to hurt anybody. As far as drawing the line goes, who makes the line? We’re a free country, let there be freedom. Let’s not politicise fashion. At least let political guys not get into this and let us do what we do as artistes. I stand with Shantanu and Nikhil as an artiste and politicising anything after a while is not good for both the sides.
Every artiste has the right to freedom and expression to make shows and get inspiration from such issues. There's nothing wrong in portraying issues in an artistic manner. Obviously one takes care of all the things and tries to not hurt sentiments, but if you take such topics, it's not possible that everyone will like it. There will be a few who will object. Politics cannot be kept away from fashion.
With inputs from Yogita Chainani