Thursday, October 4, 2012

Book Review: The Green Room by Wendell Rodricks

Title: The Green Room
Author: Wendell Rodricks
Publisher: Rain Tree (Rupa Publications)
Pages: 356
Price: Rs 595
Genre: Non Fiction / Memoir / Autobiography
Rating: 10/10
Format: Hardbound

At the onset, ‘The Green Room’ stands out because of its gorgeous cover page – a black and white picture of Malaika Arora Khan in Wendell Rodricks’ famous mussel top, and the yellow colour spine.

‘The Green Room’ is a personal memoir by Wendell Rodricks about his life, his many passions and inevitably, the fashion industry, when he is completing 25 years of being in the business. If you think this book will be full of fashion jargons and about a rich lifestyle, you cannot be more wrong. This book is about a person who is driven by his passions, and who rose above his humble beginnings to realize his dreams. It is about a person who has lived his life well, who is content in what it has to offer and who makes the best of the opportunities, always eager to learn.

In ‘The Green Room’, Wendell Rodricks sets the pace with the ambience and feel of a green room, which is essentially the backstage room during fashion shows where models get ready. The early chapters are about his family tree and its roots in Goa, his humble early life in a glorified chawl at Mahim (Bombay), graduating from Dadar Catering College in pursuit of a glamorous career in hospitality, working as summer trainee at Taj Mahal Hotel and starting his professional life at Centaur Hotel (Santa Cruz, Bombay). He moves to Muscat for better opportunities and money to support his family income.

Muscat, in retrospect, had a far reaching impact on his life. He met his love and long time partner Jerome in Muscat, and with his support, changed his career track and went on to pursue fashion. Wendell Rodricks studied fashion in Los Angeles and later in ‘the fashion capital of the world’, Paris.

The book chronicles Wendell’s journey through the years – his ordinary early life, returning back to India to flag off his career in fashion (and ‘put India in his clothes’), teaching fashion students at SNDT, Mumbai (as he would say, he was “born to teach, to guide, to mentor”), his stint at the prestigious Garden Silk Mills, his First show ‘The Premier Collection’ for Glitterati, international acclaims, some stand-out shoots which made him famous, his articles for a myriad of publications and different subjects, setting base in his beloved Goa putting his promising career at stake, his fascination for Goa and its culture, stint at FIT, association with the first Lakme India Fashion Week, his path breaking work with Braille in fashion (the Visionnaire collection), involvement with environment conservation, his brush with politicians and politics while at IFFI, legalizing 21 years old relationship with Jerome by signing PACS, promoting Goan culture and Goa artists, researching Pano Bhaju (the old Goa costume), his extensive, enviable trips around the globe and many such important events and engaging snippets of his life.

He talks extensively about his shows, inspirations for clothes, how a designer works, the making of a fashion show, behind the curtains incidents, and yet it is never boring or repetitive.

In the early chapters, he also highlights the things which reflect the early indications of a designer’s eye, for example, the detailing of his aunt’s dresses, the sketches he made while in Muscat, the spectacle that stayed with him from childhood which he would later recreate in his clothes or shows.

He has kept the book delightfully above any controversies or scandals of the fashion world. He is also quite matter-of-fact about being gay. He handles it sensitively, and points out that while people look at the sexual element of gay love, for him it was just a celebration of love. 

He is a natural storyteller and a gifted writer; picking anecdotes and events, and relating them with the same gusto and detail as they would have occurred.

He is often funny.
One day, Mr D told me to go to Salalah. ‘By buffalo,’he said. ‘I have booked it!’ He was joking, I hoped.
The Buffalo turned out to be an old World War II aircraft …..”

“I would not do another film again even if they dragged me by hair, I decided. Seven years later, however, I was happily on the sets of Madhur Bhandarkar’s film Fashion.”

“There were three vanity vans in the lot where film was being shot. On one was a sheet of paper that said ‘Priyankaji’. The next said ‘Kanganaji’. The third – yikes – ‘Wendellji’!”

He is full of wisdom.
There would always be people with less or more, I figured, and there is no point in comparison. Even now, I am always content and hold to the belief that the best things in life are free. The stars in the sky, the monsoon rain, the pleasures of a walk on the beach …”

“I sat later on a parapet, over the bridge under which Princess Diana
 would die so tragically a few years later, looking at the Eiffel Tower with tear-blurred eyes. Madame Saint Laurent was right – I had to put India into my clothes. I needed to go back to my country.”

He is amusing.
I watched in horror as she came hopping down the ramp with mincing geisha steps. What the hell was wrong? Then I saw it. The dimwit had put both her legs into one palazzo leg. And then, horror of horrors, because the other leg was dragging on the floor, she had picked it up delicately to hold like a sari pallu or dupatta. The other models grinned and zoomed past her as Madam Mannequin continued to hobble on the ramp.”

He fittingly describes ‘Fashion’ as “that magical world of youth, colour, beauty, glamour, exotic travel, luxury, passion, ambition, corruption, intoxication, scandal….”

The most extraordinary thing about Wendell Rodricks is his relentless pursuit of knowledge, his passion for life and childlike enthusiasm for new things. His passion for fashion, traveling, food, Goa, culture, history, heritage, art and music; and the love and warmth with which he talks about his partner, are hard to miss. His enthusiasm for life is infectious and inspiring.            

He comes across as a prolific personality, and a fitting prodigal son of Goa.  He heaps praises on people who believed in him and supported him in different phases of his career, but most of all, his partner, who encouraged him and believed in his dreams.

At some point in the book, I stopped evaluating the book and style, and got deeply interested in him as his person and his life. This book is for everyone because simply put, it is about a person who accomplishes so much despite his modest beginnings.

P.S. At the end, my head was spinning with the information on all the traveling he has done. He has visited a mind-boggling 269 countries and 965 cities (at the time this book was being written).

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  1. Ah! have this book will now pick it after reading Casual Vacancy...

  2. Absolutely, do! He is such a passionate person. It was really inspiring to read it and the travelling he has done is mind boggling!

  3. Wow!! Looks so very interesting. Loved the excerpts you have shared! LOL @ Wendellji and Madam Mannequin! :D
    And your rating of 10/10... Needs to be read POSITIVELY!!

    1. Oh you are making me nervous about my rating, but jokes apart, it is a good read :-) assuming you like non fiction / memoirs.

  4. Wow...when I first saw the book name & its author, I thought it would be another glorified autobiography but reading your review has spiked my curiosity!!! I must say, your takes on the books are spot-on..recently came across your blog while researching for books on Mahabharata & must thank you for your awesome read list on the topic.. :-)

    1. Thank you so much, I am over the moon with your remarks! First of all, thank you for visiting and taking time to go through the reviews. I spend a lot of time on writing a revieq, sometimes it takes the whole day! I too visited your blog. Blogging is such a great way to organise your thoughts about books and share views. I have added few more books on Mahabharata, guess, it is time to do a book list soon!

    2. Oh I absolutely agree with you,a book list would be great. And thank you for visiting my blog. I have just recently joined the blogging community so a lot to learn!! :-)

    3. Welcome to the gang of book bloggers :-)