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Celebrating 3 Decades of Manish Malhotra: Maestro of Costume Design in Bollywood

When the history of Hindi cinema will be written, the chapter on Costume Design will be about one man.

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When the history of Hindi cinema will be written, the chapter on Costume Design will be woven and stitched together primarily by one man: Manish Malhotra.

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With a career that spans three magnificent decades, his journey has been nothing short of influential. From the inception of his remarkable voyage, where the very category of 'Costume Design' was invented at the Filmfare Awards to honor his unprecedented talent all the way back in 1995, to the present moment where he stands adorned with the prestigious accolade of Outstanding Achievement In Fashion in Cinema at this year's IIFA, Manish Malhotra reigns as an unparalleled titan in the realm of fashion and Indian cinema.

If we scratch the surface of how fashion came about in movies, how costumes narrated a character, how characters are still remembered by their look; all of these achievements and accomplishments are the result of one man; Manish Malhotra. Little did anyone know that a young boy from Mumbai would change the way not just Bollywood, but how the entire country looked at clothes.

However, a few accolades and movies aren’t enough to understand the magic Manish Malhotra weaves his costumes with. It’s the tiny nuances that he brings to his films that make the costumes stay relevant for decades to come.

When the history of Hindi cinema will be written, the chapter on Costume Design will be about one man.

Manish Malhotra

Image courtesy: Manish Malhotra

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What sets Manish Malhotra apart is his knowledge of filmmaking and his sheer conviction towards his vision. His costumes don’t look good for the sake of looking good. Each costume contributes to the character who wears them. The costumes make a statement in themselves, thus, contributing to the narrative of the film. This level of continued excellence is achieved after cultivating a taste for cinema’s visual language for decades. Understanding the film’s tonality, the characters, the milieu can help one design the costume of a film. However, it takes a Manish Malhotra to add a little magic to those costumes and make them memorable.

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Other key elements in Manish Malhotra’s metaphorical arsenal are his attention to detail and his knack for capturing the essence of characters. When he reads a script, he doesn’t just focus on the story or the milieu the film is based in, he imagines the impact that film will have on a regular audience.

Keeping the viewers in mind, he meticulously creates designs that become an extension of the characters, encapsulating their personalities and emotions flawlessly. His designs possess the power to evoke emotions, define characters, and transport audiences into different eras and narratives. Whether it's the regal timelessness in "Veer-Zaara" or the heart-breaking glamour of "Chameli," his creations resonate with the audience long after the film's release.

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When the history of Hindi cinema will be written, the chapter on Costume Design will be about one man.

Manish Malhotra

Image courtesy: Manish Malhotra

Manish Malhotra's influence has transcended the boundaries of cinema. His designs have graced international red carpets, making a mark in the global fashion industry. From dressing Bollywood's leading ladies to collaborating with international celebrities, Malhotra's creativity and craftsmanship have made him a sought-after name worldwide.

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His exceptional work has not gone unnoticed. With over 800 movies under his credits, he has been honored with an impressive collection of 56 awards, including 3 Filmfare Awards and 5 IIFA Awards.

Artists across generations swear by Manish Malhotra’s creative brilliance. From legends like the Late Sridevi, Rekhaji to the dynamic Alia Bhatt and the beautiful Jhanvi Kapoor, Manish Malhotra’s magic has been adorned by artists of various age groups.

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Beyond the realm of cinema, he has seamlessly transitioned to the realm of the red carpet, designing stunning ensembles for esteemed events and international celebrities. Notably, Manish Malhotra's association with the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre (NMACC) stands as a testament to his stature in the industry, being the only person from the world of movies to have such a significant connection with such a prestigious arts and cultural institution.

When the history of Hindi cinema will be written, the chapter on Costume Design will be about one man.

Manish Malhotra

image courtesy: Manish Malhotra

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To sum it up, Manish Malhotra's contribution to Indian cinema over the last three decades is nothing short of extraordinary. For a middle class boy who had no connections to the glitzy world of films, his achievements are an inspiration for every dreamer.

As he said in an interview long ago, “Stay true to your DNA but keep reinventing yourself”. Manish Malhotra retains the essence of the wide-eyed young boy who saw a dream, and yet has evolved to be the most prolific costume artist of his times. On the occasion of his latest award at the IIFA 2023, The Quint congratulates Manish Malhotra for a career weaved with golden strands.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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