Anita Kanwal

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Meeting the bubbly, energetic and enterprising Anita Kanwal was a treat to the senses and the heart. She is entertainment personified; no wonder she was in the film industry making waves with her various roles in Cinema and TV. Her penchant for acting bagged her acclaimed roles in the movies like Aarakshan and Gangaajal and daily soaps like Sasural Genda Phool and Zindagi Abhi Baaki Hai Mere Ghost.

She spoke passionately how she came from a conservative background and once visited Bhopal for the Aarakshan shoot scheduled with Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and wanted to take a picture with him, but was told that today’s shoot is cancelled you can go back. Her determined spirit did not allow that conclusion and she said that she would not leave without having her picture taken with him on Valentine’s day. So she went towards his van and requested him for a picture and when it was the time to take the picture, her hands shook and the camera fell from her hand. The innocent way that she narrated this incident with wide eyes and a shy smile gave me a glimpse of the small cute girl still living in the body of this lovely woman.

She put up that picture as HER VALENTINE very proudly for all to see. This shows how a heart can be passionate and humble at the same time!!

1. What inspired you to start off on this path?

Her childhood was very much into performing arts, like always into dancing, singing and acting. Very fond of dressing herself up and then her daughters, they were her dolls. Her mom was also very artistic.  When she was sixteen she wrote the wrong age on the Doordarshan form and said she was 18 so that parental consent would not be needed as she knew her parents would never agree to her acting escapades. Doordarshan had just started that time and they called her for the audition. After the audition only they sent the approval letter which unfortunately landed in her father’s hand and that ended her wishes as her dad was very upset.

Later her father was in ICU and he wanted her to go ahead in her acting career. In the old days auditions were not like today where they give you a piece and ask you to act it out. She was in an auditorium in Delhi with 200 people and they said just go on stage and do something, no script or anything. She wanted to just run away but she stayed and did something that she remembered. She was again selected. That was her passport to stardom and also cured her fear of rejection. After that she was constantly shuttling between Mumbai and Delhi and did a lot of work. Banegi Apni Baat happened, Shanti happened. She was doing 13 shows at one time. By then she was in her 30s

Then films happened, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naah and she also did a children’s film which went international and she did a French film which went into festivals. Then came 30 years of work, work, work. But now this is her new passion, sarees in the modern age. She has no designers under her and does all the designing herself. She is using a contracted workshop in Khar to make her creations which is owned by her very own cousin.

2. How is your normal day or how many collections do you bring out?

Anita emoted that she is not a pen and paper person. Her last concept was a touch of flowers. She took floral patterns and appliqued them into fabrics, to be points of attraction or rather distraction!

Like a Japanese flower on the pallu (the loose end of a sari), or a butterfly on the shoulder and so on. There are certain concepts which keep going on like her Kathak kalis sarees and her Durga eyes sarees over the years and are still being loved. But this year she somehow went for music as the theme as she felt nobody had really done justice to that theme. Like Sitars, Veenas, etc. and a saree made full of musical notes. Now she is doing trending items as well, like kurtas and capes which are so in right now. In those she has an evil eye embroidered somewhere or a piece of jewellery embroidered somewhere. Anita likes to do things that she has not seen before. She doesn’t like to go to other designers stores and get influenced by their designs and maintains her unique style. Though Sabyasachi and Ritu Kumar are her all time favourites. She would still like to be different from them. She always creates focal points in her clothes and believes that someone will require guts to wear her clothes. You need to have that attitude that you can stand out in a crowd to wear her clothes. As that is a reflection of her own personality. As, if she enters a place everyone must turn once and look and say – what is she wearing! Wow!! Accessorising also makes a huge difference. Her advice is that “When you step out you must believe that – I am the most beautiful woman in this world and what I am wearing is the best in this world.” That projects out to the world. It is the same thing in acting. Sometimes characters seem forced and not natural. It is like chemistry and you have to become the character. She feels that her every creation is a film. If she is presenting it to the public it has to have a soul, a concept and a story.

She has been on online portals selling her creations in the company of the likes of Anita Dongre, Tarun Tahiliani, Sancheti Verma and the likes. She sold her first saree in the first 3 days of being online and thereafter sold a saree every day and was so encouraged. In one night the portal sold 7 sarees out of the 14 they had given, that was very encouraging.

3. So you pay a lot of attention to the blouses as well?

Anita said that the blouses were unstitched ones, again made to accentuate the saree and not to overpower it. She gave an example of a blouse that has net on the top and a sitar embroidered into it to look like a tattoo. The blouses have to be body stitched as it is a garment made to the perfect shape of a woman’s body.

Saree being a dying tradition with most of the current generation not even knowing how to wrap a saree, Anita has come out with a Dhoti Saree, which is very easy to wear. Where you have to just make 4 pleats and tuck them in and put the pallu. She has also made Harem pants and leggings under sarees, leather tassles on the saree with a touch of denim and trumpets painted on the saree.

A line has been made specially for youngsters with guitars, harps and musical accents and tassles with touches of leather. A young woman can look very glamourous with the saree and she brought this to life with a photo shoot where a model was doing kathak in a temple in a saree with red lace gloves. Or saree with a cross sling bag or with pumps. That is the way she wants to project stuff and wear sarees with boots or keds. Like a denim saree with keds.

4. What colors inspire you?

Anita being an Aries – a fire sign, it is uncanny but there is always fire in her clothes. Orange, yellow or red. Grey and orange created with Sitars. Black with a bright turquoise blue border. Aqua is now her favourite with the fire and water clashing. Pastels is not her thing as she always needs a dash of color. I said that most of the designers were going gold and white or beige. Anita said that she would do that but would then put bright pink roses on it or aqua blue accent on it. For Anita color is so important. She emoted that the things of nature are so colourful and nobody keeps a sparrow as a pet as it is so dull. Everyone will keep lovebirds which are pink or parrots which are so colourful. All her pieces are unique and not repeated. As there are some fabrics that you cannot get again.

5. Now for Dubai what is your plan?

Anita looks forward to offering the fashion conscious Dubaites trendy Anarkali capes, Dhoti sarees for a touch of feisty to festive, very festive pieces for Diwali for the ones wanting to go traditional but not lose the young fire, crop tops under capes. She has also a unique offering of embellishments on Abayas which can transform a simple Abaya into a piece with a focal point.

Quirky and chic sarees by Anita Kanwal is what her first collection was tagged as, so it is very exciting to see how our Indian fashions have matched up with the international fashion scene with maestros like Anita Kanwal.

6. After Dubai what?

After Dubai Anita has a show and exhibition in Delhi and then to Singapore next depending on the response in Dubai

7. Who would you like as the muse for the Anita Kanwal collection?

Sonam Kapoor and Vidya Balan are her top choices as they carry eclectic and Indian very well. They can carry off anything with a lot off élan.

As said by her as a parting comment from Anita to the fashionistas of Dubai.

“Her Collection is for the Bold and the Beautiful and Dubai is full of the Bold and the Beautiful.”

So look forward to seeing Anita Kanwal at the Conrad Hotel on 22nd and 23rd September at Numaish.