She started out as television’s most popular bahu decked in quintessential chiffon saris and tons of bling. She also took the reality show route to fame with dance reality show 'Jhalak Dikhhla Ja', clad in ‘performance’ outfits that spelt garish more than glamour. But the Prachi Desai who has lately been making the rounds of studios and radio stations for the publicity of her recently released film 'Bol Bachchan' is a far cry from the 19-year-old girl who first stepped on to the Bollywood red carpet for the premiere of her debut film 'Rock On!'
Gone is the georgette salwar-kameez-clad TV actress or even the ever-so-slightly callow Bollywood newbie clad in ill-fitting dresses. In place is a confident 23-year-old, who has traded in the pageantry outfits for an on-trend peplum waist black number, at other times sporting a printed Zara jacket and hip-hugging jeans with equal élan, designer bag neatly in place. Her hair is sleeker, the make-up more polished than ever and a playful red pout has become a norm rather than an exception. The transition from gauche to gorgeous has been gradual, yet visible.
First came the “close to impossible” attempt to break the shackles of her TV character Bani from the primetime show Kasamh Se. “It is extremely difficult to change people’s perceptions. And the unfortunate part if that if you do something different, you are going to be damned anyway. But I took it in my stride. I had to make a lot of effort to show the world that this is the real me,” says Prachi.
When stylist Niharika Bhasin Khan first stepped in to transform her traditional bahu avatar and lend it some south Mumbai coolth for Rock On!, she knew she had a difficult task at hand. “Thankfully, Adhuna (Akhtar, the hairstylist) and I hadn’t seen her in the serial, so we designed the look in keeping with the director (Abhishek Kapoor’s) vision.” The result was a chic new hairstyle and clothes that spelt sophisticated charm that fit in with the milieu of the movie.
But it was off-screen, when the actress decided to make her own attempts at shedding the traditional tag. “In hindsight, those mistakes were also very important. It’s only after you make mistakes that you realise that you need to take a stand and look into the mirror more than listen to what other people are saying,” says Prachi.
And she did take a very good look at the mirror. “When the media started fussing over what people were wearing, I realised that it was part of my profession and not something I could easily neglect,” she says. She started taking a deeper interest in what cuts, colours and styles suited her. “I was 17 when I started working. My idea of fashion has evolved since then. Earlier, I didn’t experiment much. But I guess with time and confidence you start becoming aware of what looks good or bad on you,” says Prachi. “Currently, my style is girly yet chic. I fluctuate between being either very stylishly dressed or going casual cool, but I always make sure that what I’m wearing is not boring,” she adds.
And the growing confidence is doing wonders for her. “Earlier, she dressed within the framework of what her TV role demanded. Today, there is a growing understanding of what looks good on her. She is now more comfortable in westerns and that’s showing,” says Khan.
For the promotional activity surrounding Bol Bachchan, Prachi worked in conjunction with stylist Anisha Jain. “I took into account the shape of my face, my body, and consciously didn’t wear something similar to what I’ve worn before. I wore colours and cuts that worked for me and made me look my age,” she says.
With the help of “progressive and creative criticism” from her trusted friend Aadore Mukherjee and stylist Jain, Prachi has been putting her best foot forward lately. That paired with the make-up expertise of Tushar Indulkar, hairstyling talents of Tina Gupta, and a regime of yoga, free-hand and cardio exercises, the actress cuts a confident and youthful figure now. “Prachi really enjoys clothes and takes personal interest. I always try to keep in mind that she’s very young. We constantly try to mix it up and experiment,” says Jain.
From dreading days when she had to go out — “I used to wonder, ‘What mistakes am I going to make tonight?’” — to enjoying the process of “making it work”, Prachi has come a long way. “I understand styling much better than I used to. I can look at something and say how it’s going to look on me. And it’s so important to reach that stage. Otherwise, you just blindly keep trying,” she says.