When Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai released in theatres, it became the highest grossing film of 1998. Over the years, this coming-of- age tale spruced up with a love-triangle has been often revisited for a gamut of reasons; for being able to rekindle the SRK and Kajol magic after Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, for dispensing the immortal catchphrase soaked in a life-lesson, "Pyaar dosti hai", and most importantly, for being a film that revolutionised the very concept of campus cool.
It heralded a trend where campus films derived their idiosyncrasies as much from the youthful exuberance of its leads as it did from the language of their fashion. Since Kuch Kuch Hota Hai — when Bollywood officially graduated to the school of cool— campus films have not only made statements but also strove hard to wear them.
But campus fashion has not always been this flashy or obvious, even though it has always had recurring motifs. Through the 1950s, college fashion didn't come to have a distinct identity in the same way college films didn't occupy a separate genre in film-making.
It was only in the campus films of the '60s that fashion started to become more pronounced. And while campus fashion in the sixties revolved around frills, froth, and fun, it still remained quite understated.
However, this subtlety was completely disregarded in college films of the '70s and '80s that were hellbent on creating recognizable and standout looks. In short, fashion in campus movies of these two decades were allowed to retain a sense of individuality that over the years ended up boasting of immense recall value.
These were also the decades when polka dots became the rage, exploited often in campus attire, as seen on Deepti Naval in Saath Saath (1982) and in Tezaab (1988).
THE COOL CATS
But even that can't hold a candle to the campus fashion of the nineties. To be fair, the unique and hard to emulate campus fashion of the '90s also benefited from the shift in film-making at the time that wholeheartedly embraced campus films as a legitimate genre.
We met Rahul Khanna, Tina Malhotra, and Anjali Sharma at a time when the proliferation of the Western influence was just starting out. With the advent of satellite television, the '90s was a time when Indians were opening up culturally; the youth were consuming shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S and the affluent were heading out abroad for vacations.
It's only befitting then that through its fashion, the universe of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai sought to give a face to the aspirational India that was germinating in that period. The film's three trademark fashion statements comprising Kajol's bob haircut, SRK's GAP sweatshirt, and Rani's crop top and mini skirt set had an inherent westernised appeal that immediately became the latest fad that hodes of teenagers were desperate to emulate.
The noughties have seen an abundance of campus films, most of which are necessitated to be as fashionable as possible, because the millennials inhabiting the universe of these films resort to expressing themselves through their clothes.
2008 onward, campus films (save for Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham) went one step ahead of using fashion as a form of expression by being enveloped in distinct fashion statements, wildly different from its predecessors.
And, last but not the least, in Karan Johar's Student of The Year (2012), Bollywood's last out and out campus film, fashion was a protagonist in itself, with Alia Bhatt's Shanaya as the millennial update on Kuch Kuch Hota Hai's Tina.
The over-dependence on fashion in campus films undoubtedly gives space for unbridled experimentation, and if the promos of Student of The Year 2 is any evidence, the newest campus fashion fad may just be going almost shirtless to college à la Tiger Shroff.