A walk on the ramp
Modelling seems to be a craze among youth in Kerala. But how many of them can make it to the top? AMBIKA VARMA writes...
WITH A bevy of Indian models making their mark on the international fashion scene, youngsters even in small towns and villages feel inspired.
Modelling is fast becoming the route to instant fame. And when models such as the Kerala-born Tinu Verghis set the ramps of Monte Carlo on fire (Verghis was selected the best ramp model at the FTV Model Award recently), it is not hard to understand why the young in the State have a sudden interest in modelling.
Opportunities for modelling are few in conservative Kerala. "In cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai, models have an easy time landing assignments for ads and fashion shows, unlike those of us out here," say young hopefuls. In such metros, modelling is considered hip; not without reason the top models earn quite a few thousands for each assignment.
"In Mumbai and Bangalore, modelling is considered a profession and pursued even after marriage. Such professionalism makes a lot of difference," says Rahul, a Thiruvananthapuram-based model and compere, who was `Mr. Hotch Potch'.
In Kerala, walking on the ramp is looked down upon. Where does that leave our models and wannabes? In the lurch, no doubt.
"We can't make a living through modelling, and are forced to seek other jobs. This, in turn, leaves us little time for modelling," says Finniey Benjamin, model and consultant.
Becoming a model is not a cakewalk by any account. It needs a lot of grooming. Models are put through rigorous training, which includes `how to walk, sashay and twirl' on the catwalk.
The first thing that an aspirant has to do is to get his/her portfolio done. The cost of a good portfolio, comprising slick photographs in various costumes and poses, can be quite high. The more renowned the photographer, the higher would be the fee he charges for a portfolio.
Says Maya Kartha, a model for six years: "If you don't invest in a portfolio, you'll lag behind in the race for glamour."
She feels anyone can make it big in the modelling scene with "loads of luck" and a "liberal dash of self-confidence".
It is not as though, in Kerala, modelling assignments are hard to come by and `home-grown' models are out of work. There are enough assignments coming their way. But models from other States bag a chunk of the work.
"Even the ads for local products are handed over to them," complains Rahul. "Blame it also on the local models. They don't take the profession seriously; for most of them it's just a hobby".
But Sreedevi, who has done several ramp shows and ads for SBI Housing Loans and Jana Kapi, has a different view.
"Our girls are unwilling to wear revealing clothes. Some even refuse to don trendy dresses. I know many who refuse modelling assignments if they are asked to wear short skirts."
On the other hand, models from bigger cities do not have such hang-ups. "They are professionals when it comes to work," says Sreedevi. "Here, society doesn't allow us the leeway."
Observes Finniey, "Given the existing problems, it is not surprising that our models are nowhere in the big league."
That a fashion institute would, perhaps, make a lot of difference in inculcating professionalism among the models is a sentiment echoed by many youngsters in the city.
Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore have institutes that help groom aspiring models. The fashion institutes there have in-house shows that provide a `springboard' to success. At such shows, new entrants into the modelling world "get noticed".
"A grooming school for models is yet to come up in Thiruvananthapuram. There are a few such in Kochi," says Finniey.
Students who are into modelling could form associations within their colleges, says Sreedevi; these could go a long way in extending support and advice to aspiring models. "Such groups can take up ad and fashion show assignments when ad agencies approach them. If they do a good job, more offers will come their way," she says.
One such is `Kriyatmak', a city-based group that helps groom aspiring models. The registration is free; as and when opportunities for work arrive, the members are contacted.
Many parents don't like their children to become models. They would rather have their children pursue a career in medicine, engineering or civil services. "Anything short of this is unacceptable".
Says Maya, "At times, we fall short of models for fashion shows and have to scour the campuses looking for someone to fill in. Many youngsters are interested in taking up modelling as a part-time job, but they tell us that their parents will disapprove. Modelling is still considered unsuitable for those who hail from `good' families. The attitude is yet to change."
Some parents encourage their children to take to the ramp provided the youngsters do not neglect their academics. "My parents were not supportive initially. But, with some persuasion, they came around. I assured them I'd not let modelling affect my studies," says Finniey.
When Maya told her father she was keen on modelling, her father advised her to "be perfect" in whatever she does. Youngsters are smart to realise that modelling in a place such as Kerala could not become a full-time career. They have chalked out elaborate plans for their future.
"I plan to go abroad for higher studies. Once things work out, I'll bid adieu to the glamour world," says Maya.
Rahul is doing his masters in philosophy and wants to be a professor and his book, `The Philosophy of Philosophy', has just been released.
Another model, Tara is a degree student. She aims to specialise in criminal psychology.
Some of them look forward to a stint on the silver screen.
"If offers to act in films come my way, I'll do a few. But I'm not interested in taking up acting as a profession," says Maya. Rahul, on the other hand is ready to try his luck in movies "just for the fun of it".
Filmdom does not attract Sreedevi, unlike Rahul. Though she was offered a few roles, she turned them down. "I want to get married. Working in movies would affect family life. Once into the glamorous world of films, I may not want to quit, even after my marriage." Sreedevi says.
Modelling seems to be the craze among Kerala youth. But how many can make it to the top?
Send this article to Friends by