The 1970s was a decade when there were no rules for dressing. Zeenat Aman in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), Dimple Kapadia in Bobby (1973) and Parveen Babi in Suhaag (1979) were the style icons. It was also the decade of Neetu Singh, who became one of India’s beloved actresses, but hers was not a sense of style that stood out.
“She was effortless and approachable,” recalls veteran film journalist Rita Mehta. “She started so young, working on her first film when she was just five, so I do not think she had the time to develop her own style till she got married.” Singh married Rishi Kapoor, her co-star in many films, at the age of 21. By then she had acted in almost 100 films.
Today, as she makes her comeback, though, Neetu Kapoor is increasingly being noticed for her style, especially by mature women and social media influencers. At her son Ranbir’s wedding to Alia Bhatt, Kapoor’s choice of clothing—from the pink-and-yellow ensemble at the ceremony to her sequinned green co-ord set at the post-wedding party—made as much of a statement as that of the bride and groom. Though it is not by design, there is no question that at 63, Kapoor has become a style influencer.
Most of Kapoor’s work since her wedding has been with a family member. She was paired with Rishi in the few films she did after marriage, or with Ranbir (Besharam, 2013). She took to the spotlight again with a series of advertisements for a jewellery brand with daughter Riddhima Kapoor Sahni around 2010, her grooming and elegant disposition shining through. “We did it for many years,” says Kapoor. “After that a lot of people started doing mother-daughter shoots.”
Kapoor made her debut on Instagram with the release of Ranbir’s film Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani in 2013, and now has over 1.8 million followers. “I just did it for fun and to post about my son’s and Rishi’s films,” she says.
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For her, it may have been family first, but it gave us a glimpse into her life and her own sense of fashion, though she never really posted about clothing. She shared pictures of special moments with her family, and what we noticed was her poise, style and infectious smile. When I ask Kapoor about her style, the term that keeps coming up is “age-appropriate”. She is happy to try something new if it meets her own standards.
“She has a chilled and cool approach to life and this reflects in what she wears. She knows what she wants and being comfortable and elegant is key,” says Sandeep Khosla, one half of Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla, who describes Kapoor as a loyal client.
“Neetu radiates energy and warmth. She can do justice to clothes. Linear cuts suit her and she carries them with grace, elegance and fun,” says Manish Malhotra, who dressed her in one of the first ensembles from his new Diffuse line. Kapoor and Malhotra recently appeared in an Instagram reel, dancing to a track by @liamdrija. “Manish said he really liked the song, and a bunch of us were together, so we just put the music on and did it. We didn’t practise,” says Kapoor.
It is this combination of elegance and obvious joie de vivre that has made the social media world take note. “I like to share my happiness and not my sadness because that is my own,” she says. It was, in fact, grief at the death of her husband in 2020 that led her back to work. “My husband kept me busy. There was always something happening in my house, he was a very energetic man. And suddenly, there was a quiet in the house, you know, there was nothing. For me, I could have gone into depression,” she says. Ranbir and Riddhima advised her to focus on work again.
Almost serendipitously, Karan Johar offered her Jug Jugg Jeeyo opposite Anil Kapoor, which is set to release in June. She is also working on two television shows, including Dance Deewane Juniors, with social media following and sharing her fashion choices. A look that recently went viral was her black and gold structured jacket with palazzo trousers. Shweta Kapur, the designer behind the Delhi-based label 431-88, which curated the look, says Kapoor knows exactly what she wants and how she wants it. “She didn’t route her order through her stylist (which is often the norm) but just picked up the phone to discuss what she wanted,” she says. “I love this new vibe of hers: It’s super chic, relaxed, and clearly shows that she’s having fun.”
Dubai-based designer Reema Ameer, who designed the emerald sequinned shirt and matching harem-inspired pants that Kapoor wore to Ranbir-Alia’s post- wedding party, says the actor was clear about the kind of clothes she wanted. “She knows how to combine the need to dress appropriately while feeling free-and-easy,” says Ameer.
Throughout the wedding, Kapoor wore Toni Pons espadrille wedges. “You know, they have a good grip. So, you can jump around,” she says, proof that you can be fabulous at any age. Fitness and health are important to her; she makes sure she walks every day and is committed to a regular exercise routine.
While she is aware that she is seen as the mature woman’s fashion influencer, she says it is not something she wants to put time and effort into. “I can’t because I have my hands full. I don’t want to do things under pressure. I would like to post what I like,” she says. You can be sure Neetu’s style story has only just begun.
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Sujata Assomull is a journalist, an author and a mindful fashion advocate.