Main Hoon Na released in 2004, and it has been written and directed by Farah Khan. The film stars Shah Rukh Khan, Sunil Shetty, Amrita Rao, Sushmita Sen and Zayed Khan. Each of them delivered a performance that had us all hooked. But back when I watched the film, I remember being particularly awestruck by Chandni Chopra (played by Sushmita Sen) and her sense of style.

Chandni, Main Hoon Na

The credit for how Sushmita Sen was styled in the movie goes to designer Manish Malhotra and Sanjeev Mulchandani. As we saw, Miss Chandni mostly wore breezy and elegant chiffon saaris throughout the film. In fact, this red and black polka dot saari was all the rage, for the longest time after the release.

Chandni, Main Hoon Na

But before I really delve into why I admired Miss Chandni’s outfits so much, let’s get one thing straight – this admiration is in no way a justification for the sexualization we subject women teachers to. Because, yes, it is unfortunate that Chandni Chopra’s style catered to the male gaze and the fantasy of the ‘sexy professor.’

I am simply offering personal insight into how her effortless, sleek, and stylish saaris inspired me when I first watched the film. This is only and only about the chiffon saaris Miss Chandni wore & NOT about what that meant to the male audience.

Chandni, Main Hoon Na

To me, Miss Chandni’s lightweight saaris and bikini-style blouses symbolized freedom and progressiveness. It was probably the first time I saw a woman wear a saari that didn’t hold her back from moving around the way she wanted.

Because often, Indian women are (yes, still to this day) pressurized into wearing heavy, traditional attire and saaris that restrict their comfort and movement. But Chandni Chopra’s chiffon saaris were so breezy, they could easily replace a sweatsuit. And her blouses? How cool is it to imagine a woman wearing bikini blouses where ever she wanted?!

Miss Chandni’s saaris were bold and they encouraged celebrating one’s body, which is generally frowned upon in our culture. Women are constantly told to pull their saaris/lehengas up, so as to not show that much waist, or discouraged from wearing blouses that flatter their bodies. But Chandni Chopra’s chiffon saaris went against all of that.

Plus, can we ever forget the colors and styles of these chiffon wonders? The oranges, pinks, the reds, the sequins! Not to mention, the elegance which Miss Chandni carried the wonderful outfits with.

These looks and outfits opened up a world of possibilities for my 12-year-old self. A world where women can wear whatever they want, without anyone policing or trying to tweak our outfits so that we don’t cause a ‘fuss’ to the people around us. And I will forever be grateful for that.