To comprehend how iconic Pooja is, think Maddy from Euphoria or Regina George from Mean Girls. The OG It girl for brown girls. Her looks made the 2001 film Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… Characters since have been trying to replicate her; she is the template.
Pooja gave us exaggerated phrases like P-H-A-T (pretty, hot, and tempting). Her expressions are legendary, and her overdramatic behaviour was ground-breaking at the time of the film’s release. Her behaviour didn’t fit the mould of the traditional Indian girl that we had seen thus far in Indian cinema. She was confident, beautiful, outspoken, and completely original. That’s what makes her so timeless.
And her wardrobe? Some would say it’s what made her such a memorable character. Now that so many 90s trends are making a comeback, what better time to incorporate some staples from Pooja’s closet into your university outfits? We take a look at a selection of standout Pooja looks that will fit perfectly into your 2023 wardrobe.
A staple in Pooja’s closet. In the film, she opted for fur in the form of a fur-trimmed cropped jacket, long coat, bolero or a mini fur scarf, as well as a white fur-trimmed zip-up jacket.
Asymmetrical and Backless tops
Pooja set the trend for asymmetrical crop tops. In her opening shot of the K3G film, she wears a pink, glittery, asymmetrical crop top with a brown mini skirt, an iconic Y2K combination. She even started the trend of backless tops, which birthed an iconic scene in Indian cinematic history (if you’ve seen K3G, you know).
Even her memorable ‘Bole Chudiya’ (a popular Bollywood song) sequence had her pairing her ‘Gharara’ (a South Asian garment of clothing) with an asymmetrical cropped top.
Pooja is one of the first ever characters I saw on screen who didn’t wear a dress to prom. Instead, she styled a blood-red co-ord set with latex trousers and a sequined crop top. Many people noticed that Kylie Jenner wore a very similar outfit in 2016; naturally, they both looked incredible.
Skinny scarves, animal prints, and sequins
These were the foundation for many of Pooja’s outfits. A skinny scarf, or “the thin, useless scarf'” according to Vogue, can tie a look together in a Y2K aesthetic. It seems to resemble an Indian garment called a ‘Dupatta’ and fulfils essentially the same role. Therefore, it can also add a little Indian flair to a Western outfit. The combination would be similar to a trend that is circulating nowadays – pairing traditional Indian earrings called ‘Jhumkas’ with Western outfits. If the character of Pooja was reimagined today, I’m sure she would approve.
Pooja was one of the first non-resident Indian (NRI) character representations in Indian cinema, and I think that’s a large part of why she is as popular as she is. She appealed to a large demographic that hadn’t previously been represented authentically or free of judgment.
As an NRI myself, I often experience internal cultural conflict. There is always a feeling of not being Indian enough, not fitting in with our Western counterparts. Being called ‘whitewashed’ or ‘coconut’ and experiencing a phase of our lives where some small part of us feels happy upon hearing this, maybe because it means we’ve blended in well, and a large part of us feels guilty for feeling happy. Then, we grow older and actively try to connect with our roots and culture so we can be recognised as truly Indian. Pooja was a blend of Indian and Western, representing what we, as NRI, are at a time when we needed it most.
I think many brown girls value Pooja because we can simultaneously admire her, aspire to be like her, and identify with her.
Take a look at the previous article in the ‘On screen style report‘ series to see how Effy Stonem from Skins would dress in the 2020s.