As one enters the resplendent interiors of Manish Malhotra’s store in Mumbai, there is a certain frisson in the air—the crackle of excitement that the presence of an icon brings. Dressed in a regal gown, Sridevi is being intricately fussed over by Manish, as he smoothes out creases, hands over the right accessory, gives his final nod of approval before the photographer rolls. It’s a relationship of mutual trust that stretches back 25 years, with Manish having styled the clothes for her in countless films, and a friendship that endured long after. “The first time I met Sridevi, (photographer) Rakesh Shrestha had taken me to Mehboob studio where she was shooting for Pathar Ke Insan.” Sridevi smiles indulgently in the direction of this shoot’s photographer Rohan Shrestha, Rakesh’s son, who admits to having a pure fan moment on this shoot.
Manish continues, “I had just started my career then, it was around 25 years ago. Then I met her again at Rakesh’s photo-shoot with her where he gave me the reference of a brown jacket with lots of feathers around it that he wanted me to make and I went to Crawford Market to get it done. She liked that jacket so much that she asked me to make something for her in another song of hers,” fondly recalls Manish. “When I met her she was my favourite actress, already a huge star and I had loved her look in Chandni. She was always changing and evolving her style, and the last film before her marriage which we did together was Judaai. She’s quiet, she knows her craft, and I have tremendous respect for her. She carries a sari with such élan and style and also carries a gown with equal dignity and elegance, so I think if there’s one word for Sridevi’s style, it’s ‘elegance’.”
When I tell Sridevi about this she softly smiles, the kind of glow that old friendship brings. “I remember the first time I met Manish, he was a good-looking, young boy and he never behaved like a designer—he was very raw—but his enthusiasm really amazed me. And look at where he’s reached today—it is only because of his hard work and dedication! He never got stuck with a particular style, he changed with the times and evolved, and that is very important for anyone’s growth,” she says. “There are very few genuine people who you come across in your life and I feel so fortunate to know him. Not only me, but even my daughter Jhanvi is very fond of him.”
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