Anuradha P Dhawan was nearly 50 years when she was approached to walk the ramp for a charity event for the Cancer Society of India. When she glided down the walkway, she caught the eye of many a fashion photographer. Less than a year later, she was asked to do a swimsuit photoshoot for a major fashion magazine. The rest, as they say, is history.
“They wanted to dexualise swimwear, a sort of age-no-bar kind of a campaign to fight age shaming. There were a number of other women of different ages, including Radhika Vaz and Mandira Bedi. I was the oldest there. At first, I was a bit apprehensive, but then my daughter encouraged me to go for it and I did. The photos were really powerful, none of the posey pictures you have for photo shoots,” recalls Anuradha.
Since the photo shoot, Anuradha has been modelling for several brands and has done a number of shoots to spread the message that age is just a number and has nothing to do with beauty. “I’ve noticed that youngsters today don’t age-shame you. They are much more open-minded about things. It is people who have already reached a certain age that judge others their age according to what they wear and their behaviour in society overall. I feel young at heart and I think I’m going to keep going till I’m 100,” she smiles.
Young at heart, the model loves to travel, often going on solo trips and trying out new and exciting adventure sports. “I love hang-gliding, zip-lining and rafting. I love the ocean, so I’ve gone scuba diving as well. I remember the first time I went was in Thailand and my husband waited on the boat for an hour for me to come back up,” she recalls with a laugh, adding, “I love travelling in my down time and I’ve covered most of India. I love this country with its diversity, the root bridges in the North East, the hills near Indore, the architecture in Ajanta and Ellora. But one solo trip abroad I remember is the first I ever took around 20 years ago to England to visit relatives. From England, I covered the rest of Europe — Milan, Paris, Florence, Rome, Salento, Venice — all of it. The next trip that I am really looking forward to is one to Antartica. I don’t know if I’ll step on the ice, since there are now restrictions, but I want to see the continent from a ship, at least,” she adds.
It is often from these journeys that she gets inspiration for designing her line of clothes. “My work is very experimental, so I look for inspiration everywhere. For instance, the ceiling frescoes at Ajanta caves in Aurangabad inspired an entire series of garments with chatai-like designs,” explains Anuradha.
Ask her what fashion means to her and Anuradha, who admires the works of Rohit Bal, Anita Dongre and Stella McCartney, says, “Fashion should be versatile, it shouldn’t leave a big carbon foot print and it should be fluid, such that one garment can be worn in several ways. Mostly though, it should be inclusive.”