Home Chennai The Substance of Style

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Venkat Nilakantan curates a weekly series that looks into the elements that build and influence personal style.
Through a commissioned portrait and chat, we feature women whose sense of style transcends fashion.


Gautami kicks off the series and is quick to admit that her quest for style is far from over — but she’s enjoying the ride.


“I don’t care about brands. I’m looking to see how far the creator of the product has pushed himself”
She says she never thought about style as a child or teenager — painting a picture of a nerdy, short haired bookworm, in a self-imposed “uniform” of her dad’s or brother’s shirts with loose jeans.
“I don’t care about brands. I’m looking to see how far the creator of the product has pushed himself”
Cut to the present and she slips effortlessly between an “interview appropriate”
chiffon sari for a local media channel, to skinny jeans and an open knit pullover in all black for our portrait shoot. Like many Indian women, her style is context aware.

So what brought her to where she is today? She’s clear that it’s the movie industry. Without a phalanx of stylists and image consultants in “those days”, the onus of looking right for the part fell on the actor. For Gautami, the real draw wasn’t the glamour of the industry, it was understanding the “tools” that made the end game better — the interaction of elements people saw on the screen, from set and lighting to camera and styling (no surprise that she enjoys working on set and costume design nowadays).
“My mother would wear the most beautiful cotton saris. She is till date the only woman I’ve seen who can wear a starched cotton sari and it looked like a chiffon sari hugging her”
Add another ingredient: her parents, who always encouraged progressive thinking. From her mother’s side of the bookshelf came a love of Russian classics, and from her dad’s, the love of a good thriller. Books, and the imaginarium they created in her head, shaped her for her career.
Her early film days and childhood bring her to the crux of her style sensibility: a curious balance between independent thought and what she refers to as maryada or a respect for context and expectation.

She says her discovery of personal style started only recently. A combination of factors — feeling good about herself, her daughter’s interest in design and style, taking care of her body, diet and soul, and a deep seated confidence in herself, all inspire her style decisions along her journey.

She’ll still kick back occasionally, as I recall, when, for her main course, she orders three types of potatoes (followed by an alarmingly large slice of cream filled cake) for dinner one day.

And that’s what makes it come full circle — a time for everything, and everything in time.


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