Turbanators
Sunny’s tying his third, Amitabh his first. There’s even a Mr Sikh Universe on the anvil. The pagri’s going chic, finds Manraj Grewal

It’s showing up all over. On the pages of Vogue, at the music awards in Monaco, on the big screen and in plenty of ads and shows on the small one. A turbaned Angad Bedi, son of former cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi, scorched the ramp for JJ Vallaya’s fall-winter collection and Punjab has been seeing a spate of all-turban fashion shows since.

Slowly, but surely, the pagri is inching its way towards the arc lights—the French government’s resolution against sartorial religious displays notwithstanding.

‘‘A pagri sets you apart, a big plus when you are in the business of getting noticed,’’ says 20-year-old Bedi. New York-based hotelier Vikram Chatwal, who was picked up by Vogue only because of his exotic headgear, would agree.

As does Bollywood, if you go by the success of Border, Gadar, and Legend of Bhagat Singh. This year Sunny Deol’s tying his third one for Rahul Rawail’s Jo Bole So Nihal, and Sanjay Dutt’s rolling up his for Sarhad Paar. Even Amitabh Bachchan will sport one as Lt Gen Jagjit Aurora in Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon, while Bedi will play the protagonist in Anthara, a film set against the backdrop of the 1984 riots.

The ramp has inspired many. Jaspal Sehgal, who was crowned first runner-up in Grasim Mr India 2002, still remembers the incredulous looks he got when he entered the contest. It took this business graduate from Canada all his savoir faire to stick on and come up trumps. ‘‘I wanted to show that a turban is no handicap in the world of glamour.’’

Sehgal hammered his point home by bagging the Grasim Mr Intercontinental title besides being declared the Best Dressed Male Model in Mr Tourism International in Panama. And, in doing so, inspired many like Gurmeet Gill. Last year, this 23-year-old graduate from Delhi University set up Launchers, a modelling agency, after he was shooed away from a model hunt in Delhi. ‘‘They told me to come without my pagri,’’ he recalls.

Stung, he put an ad in the papers, offering a crash course for turbaned models. Voila, it seemed Delhi was teeming with them. ‘‘I must have received over 500 calls in a day,’’ he grins. Today, he ferries his team of bearded hunks from one all-turban show to another while also working on a Mr Sikh Universe pageant he’s planned for March.

Launchers started out by taking part in the NIFD show at Delhi in the fall. Abhay Singh Bhamra, who was in the second batch, tells you about the stir they caused. “I was really tickled when former Miss India finalist Divya Jaitley walked up to me and said, ‘you stole the show’.”

‘‘A pagri is no handicap, it’s just another headgear that lends a regal look to heavy ethnic wear,’’ feels designer Aki Narula.

Now Bhamra, a 25-year-old call centre executive, has auditioned for anchoring Star TV’s rural news programme Mera Gaon Mera Desh. Jaskirat Reikhy, a BSc (Hons) student who shelled out Rs 20,000 for Launchers’ 10-day crash course, was picked up by Gurinder Chadha for a bit role in Bride and Prejudice. “Can you imagine, we got to dance with Aishwarya,” he grins. Friend Daljit Singh has been cast in a music video by Balkar Sidhu, while another has done a BSNL print ad.

The pagri’s junior version—the patka—is not to be left behind either. Chubby boys are selling Marutis, detergents, mobiles and more.

Director Anil Sharma, who proved the commercial viability of a turban in Bollywood by casting a Sikh hero in Border and Gadar, feels that Sikhs represent India. That’s flattering, but Sehgal warns about the turban’s limitations in the ad world. “Be pragmatic. The advertiser has to keep his target audience in mind, and Punjabis don’t really make up India, do they?’’

The turbanators don’t mind so long they get their share of the glam pie.

 
COMING UP
 
Amitabh Bachchan is a retired army officer in Anil Sharma’s Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon. Bobby Deol plays his grandson who is also in the army Sanjay Dutt journeys Sarhad Paar in the Raman Kumar film and life is never the same for him and his family Sunny Deol dons the pagri for Rahul Rawail’s Jo Bole So Nihaal. The film’s set in London and Deol plays a man who believes in a cause. Crooner Kamaal Khan plays the bad guy