Ahead of Frida Kahlo's birth anniversary, Madhurima Basak flaunts 3 looks for lensman Sandeep Sarkar
The actress gets real as she poses as a muse for photographer Sandeep Sarkar’s attempt to bring back his version of Frida Kahlo to life, albeit with an indigenous touch
Even 50 years after her death, Mexican artist Frida Kahlo never ceases to fascinate and amuse her fans across the world. Known for her deeply intimate and intensely emotional paintings -- mostly self-portraits in bold colours -- Frida is still celebrated for her resilient spirit and iconic fashion choices. Many moons back, celebrated French couturier Jean Paul Gaultier came up with a collection inspired by the artist, and in 2002, she was immortalised on screen by actress Salma Hayek in the much-appreciated film, Frida.
Ahead of her 115th birth anniversary, on July 6, we pay a tribute to Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón by exploring her boho-chic fashion choices, albeit in a more local manner, with local choices of flora and fauna.
Conceived and executed by talented fashion photographer Sandeep Sarkar, this exclusive photo shoot is an ode to the painter, who triumphed over all obstacles in life and poured her heart into the deeply moving paintings that go beyond defined gender identities. As a muse, we chose the beautiful actress Madhurima Basak, who debuted in June in Srijit Mukherji’s film, X=Prem.
We talk to Sandeep about what took to recreate and adapt the artist’s looks to the local context. Excerpts:
Tell us a little about the three looks?
In the first look, we have tried to capture Frida’s clean look that is just a representation of her simplicity, reflecting her unisex clothing choices. Through this picture I wanted to convey that just donning flowers on the head cannot turn everyone into Frida Kahlo -- you need to channel that look from within.
For the second look, I have used flowers on Madhurima’s head which are locally available and usually not used to adorn our heads during occasions or festivals. But these flowers are also equally beautiful, though our mindset never allows us to explore them as trendy accessories. I used these seasonal blooms to recreate the look to challenge the preconceived notions of trend-dictated fashion accessories. Frida, too, would never allow herself to be influenced by fashion dictates.
For the third look, I didn’t refer to any of Frida Kahlo’s portraits and instead of flowers we have used only leaves. It was a conscious decision to see Frida with only green on her head with no flowers. I want to style my own Frida in a green and sustainable way.
How did you conceive the shoot?
I went through several reference photographs, and the movie Frida where Salma Hayek played her, to envision my portrayal of Frida. I tried to use similar clothes or accessories to get the feel of the character. But one thing was very clear from the onset that my frames should have the quintessential flavour of my city.
The flowers of our city always provoke me to use them in my design palette. Red cotton flowers, basil on my balcony, lemon tree leaves, everything formed a collage of strong colours in my mind when I thought of the portraits for this shoot. Frida is synonymous with bold floral head gears and I wanted to recreate the same with local and seasonal flowers.
As a fashion photographer, what are the things that strike you most about Frida Kahlo?
Her joint browline, how she uses flowers as headgears, her sense of ensemble, and a special touch of gender equality in her clothes and character, and above all, her power of the soul to overcome everything and stand out in the crowd.
What does Frieda’s sense of fashion evoke in you?
She is an inspiration for most of the leading designers across the world. Whenever I see her portraits and photographs I feel that her sense of confidence to carry herself in public is something to emulate. We are too conscious about our clothing and follow trends, but we never see deep inside and try to find out our own true selves. Frida did that, and that is why she is still an icon. She is not a fad, she is a classic example in fashion history.
Channelling the Frida within me...
Actress Madhurima Basak tells us how much it meant to channel Frida Kahlo's looks for this shoot:
How did you prepare yourself mentally before the shoot?
I tried to understand the idea of Frida Kahlo and how Sandeep wanted her to be presented through this shoot. I had initial apprehensions as you don't step into the shoes of such iconic characters every day, so, I looked up and studied all the right reference points from books and the Internet.
What does Frida Kahlo mean to you?
A dreamer and a believer, she is indeed a story of hope, who triumphed over all her physical setbacks and emotional lows to give this world a piece of her imagination and faith through her incredible art.
What are the things you admire about Frida?
That she was vividly colourful and a true bohemian Mexican and stayed away from the traditional representation of feminine beauty. She was raw and honest yet surreal in her projection of life, death, heartbreaks, setbacks and body blows. She seemed to possess this dual identity, one that lived in her past and grieved over her losses and the other that rose above all grief to love and live through her art.
She had a short and troublesome life but she made every bit of it worth living.
Are you happy with the reaction to your debut movie, X=Prem?
The reviews have been extremely warm and encouraging for a debutante like me. We never expected huge numbers or a smashing success at the box office but we all knew we are making a good movie with the heart in its right place and it felt great to be acknowledged.
What are the next projects we will see u in?
Things are still at discussion levels, but you will get to know very soon.