Swara Bhaskar on Bollywood Bole Toh: That damn Airport Look
There are many precious lessons life has taught me. Perhaps the most important of these lessons is, 'You are what you seem.'
Carefully constructed look for the awaiting paparazzi
There are many precious lessons life has taught me, in the journey from being an idealistic, fresh-out-of-university, struggling actor, to a talented-actor-of-some-recognition, and a little-bit of-a-celebrity, even.
Perhaps the most important of these lessons, in an age where the most mundane of one's daily routines are Insta-story-worthy, is quite simply this: "You are what you seem." Which means the perception of you, becomes you, wholly; in the imagination of the public, anyway.
Bollywood star-makers, that is, public relation professionals and stylists, swear by this mantra. And this is the philosophy that led to my head-on collision with that thing called The Airport Look!
The airport look is a well thought out, consciously strategised, carefully put-together look: essentially, clothes, accessories, bags, hair, make-up, shoes (and shoes are critical) that celebrities sport, while going into and coming out of airports. The Airport Look (captured by paparazzi hanging about airports) sends the message to the viewer that, A) This person is very busy, he/she is a jetsetter, they have no time really. B) Somehow they just look so frickin' good. And they don't spend time on it. Else, how would they make it to their flights?
Now I'm someone who holds the distinctive record of having missed eight flights in a span of three months. I'm a disgrace to my family, as regards travel. I hate packing, and even on good days, I make flights by the skin of my teeth. I'm often spotted running madly past people at airports—pushing, shoving, getting into arguments, flirtations, pleadings (anything to get me on the flight) with airline personnel. I've fallen, slipped, stumbled, and in general, have been found in numerous undignified body contact situations at airports.
And I cannot wake up in the mornings! I am always late to everywhere and everything in my life. So you can well imagine that being bathed, packed, dressed in some civilised human clothing and being at the check-in counter on time is a feat for me. I've never understood how female celebrities manage to find time to blow-dry their bloody hair before a flight!
On my way back from an award function at an international destination a few years ago, I encountered the awaiting paparazzi at the airport and had the ignominy of not being recognised by them. I was complaining about this to my stylist, who said bluntly, "Well, you have to look like a celebrity, to be recognized as one! Have you seen how you go to the airport? You look like an assistant director!" In stylist-speak, this is possibly the most derogatory thing you can say to anyone.
Alright, that's it, I thought, "I'm going to embrace the Airport Look. I'm going to play this game." The next week I had an 8 am flight to Varanasi for an event. I asked my stylist to put together an airport-look for me, and we agreed upon a trendy jacket with jeans and sneakers.
At 5 am, on the date of travel, the bell rang sharp and crisp. I was still packing. I opened the door to find the stylist and my hair and make-up team grinning at me.
"Trials!" she barked. "WTF! I thought you threw together a jacket and jeans for me last night?" "Yes," she said seriously, "But, you know, I saw what PC was wearing at the airport last night, and it's ditto the same—almost—I kid you not! We cannot seem like we are Xerox-copying her."
"What? She's Priyanka Chopra for Chrissake! She's ruling Hollywood. There is no comparison. No one cares," I whined. The stylist gave me a withering look. "I'm going to miss my flight," I wailed. "Doesn't matter! You have to get good pictures," she shot back.
My make-up and hair team began to yank at my hair and eyelashes etc., while the stylist threw together outfit options. An hour and a half later, and in hugely uncomfortable heels, I left for the airport. My PR manager was travelling with me. She warned me that the press will be at the airport.
"At 7am?" I asked now, weary. "Yes." "Why?" "Because I told them to be there!" That day I learnt another precious life lesson—that heels limit speed, and hinder pushing, shoving, rushing abilities, seriously. We encountered the awaiting paparazzi, who recognized me this time! I had carefully nonchalant, candid images clicked. And I missed my flight in the process. Obviously!
"Good na, we will get great coverage," quipped my cheerful PR manager.
"Sure," I growled, whipping out my credit card to pay for two flight tickets on the next available flight; realizing, I will never be a true-blue celebrity. Because the Airport Look had defeated me.
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