Mandira Bedi, even today, is popularly known as Shanti because of her erstwhile Indian daily soap – Shanti. Mandira had a drastic image makeover when she became the host for ICC Cricket World Cup on Extraaa Innings (in 2003 and 2007) on SET Max. Her see-through designer sarees and low cut blouses made her a talk of the town then. In an interview with Nation Next, Mandira Bedi speaks about her maiden show Shanti, her clothing store – Sarees by Mandira Bedi – and her ‘unplanned’ transition from a girl next door to a fashion diva!
You are so poised and elegant and you have always made a very bold fashion statement. How did you develop this amazing fashion sense?
I don’t know how to answer that one! (Laughs) This fashion sense developed over the years. It all started when I wore sarees for the Extraaa Innings on SET Max as a cricket host. People would wait to see what I would wear next and follow suit! Eventually, I started designing sarees. I absolutely love what I do. I do different things every day. I feel that one can excel in his/her work if he/she really loves it.
The first role you played on television was of Shanti, who was a girl next door but over the years you have become sort of a fashion diva. Now you’re also designing sarees. How did the transformation happen?
Nothing was planned and no thought actually had gone behind my transition. Certain changes in me have happened naturally over the years. As I said, it started with Shanti and then Extraaa Innings, for which I wore sarees. I knew then that I would design sarees. Ultimately, I opened my store Sarees by Mandira Bedi. I never really plan anything. I just go with the flow.
Whom do you relate to more – the girl next door Shanti or the fashionista – that you are now?
I’ll never forget Shanti as it was my first ever television show. It taught me discipline and I worked really hard for many hours in a day. I wasn’t like Shanti in real life but my character taught me a lot. That character is going to stay with me forever. The ‘fashionista’ in me evolved gradually over the years. I definitely relate to Shanti’s character because it still holds a special place in my heart.
Fashion critics at times have applauded you and at times have panned you. How did you deal with them?
Not just fashion critics, but even as a cricket host, I got a lot of flak. The telecast partners of the first world cup match kept me away from all media interactions, as I was being discussed a bit too much! I still managed to change quite a few people’s mindsets. One has to show resilience, as there are lovers and haters in any field you‘re in. If you can’t take criticism sportingly, you shouldn’t go ahead with your work. There were people who didn’t like my first saree collection at the Lakme Fashion Week. But, at the same time, there were people who appreciated my collection for which my mother was the showstopper. Overall, I got a great response for my collection. The next season, I showcased Banarasi fusion sarees, which the critics appreciated, but it didn’t do as well as my previous collection did. I don’t really know how this business works but I don’t let negativity dampen my spirits!
How did you come up with the idea of launching your own saree brand ‘Sarees by Mandira Bedi’?
People had become curious about my clothes when I was the cricket host. Usually, a host is expected to wear western outfits, but TV channels would request me to wear my trademark sarees and blouses. It’s great to see hosts in glamorous outfits today. Once, during Diwali, I wore a saree that I had randomly designed for myself, and to my surprise, people were asking me which designer label I was wearing! Then, in no time, I was designing sarees for two exhibitions for which my husband, Raj Kaushal, had enrolled me in. The collection was sold out, which boosted my confidence to start my own store.
Tell us more about your 2016 summer collection – Salt.
I came up with the idea of Salt because of Sunburn Festival. Gillette Venus, who was the sponsor, wanted me to design a saree that would reveal legs. So, I designed sarees, which could be worn as a sarong too. It was a lovely cover-up and was revealing at the same time. My collection of 200 pieces was sold out. We even did a photo shoot for fashion, food and fitness bloggers ranging from skinny to plump body types. I couldn’t decide who looked better since my outfits suited every body type!
Since when have you been designing clothes under your label and how is it different from the rest?
It’s been almost three years since I’ve been designing sarees now. Whatever the trend may be, a saree is an outfit that suits every lady. I always use fabrics that are flattering. They should be draped well to make you look slim. Sometimes, a lot of work on a saree doesn’t add to the value of it. These days less work is more work (on outfits). My sarees are colourful, easy to wear, and can be worn anywhere right from a press conference to an evening party.
What are your future plans for your saree brand – Sarees by Mandira Bedi?
I had thought of designing sarees only but now I’ve started experimenting with crop tops and long skirts too. I experimented with beachwear, in summer 2016. The beachwear could be worn as a saree and a sarong both. As a designer, you should be open to new ideas and inspiration. One should never stop experimenting.
How have you maintained yourself so well? What’s the trick?
There is no trick! There’s no secret behind it. Nothing succeeds like hard work. I put on weight easily, so I have to follow a strict diet. I make sure I religiously work out six days a week. I hit the gym but if that’s not possible, I work out in my living room or even in the basement of my house at times! One just needs an excuse to not to work out.
Do you plan on making a comeback in the film or television industry anytime soon?
I haven’t done a movie in a long time and I don’t see myself in daily soaps anymore but I would like to be associated with not more than one big show a year.