Book Review: The Green Room

I volunteered to review Wendell Rodricks’ The Green Room. I had heard only briefly heard of Wendell (courtesy one of his controversial shoots), I only knew he is a fashion designer. Since I did not know a thing about fashion, I thought it would be new knowledge. But when I saw the hard bound 355-page thick book, my spirits plummeted. I thought who wants to read soliloquies of a designer who is obviously too self-obsessed to write such a thick autobiography/memoir.

Half-hearted I dug into book, to my surprise the writing was good, it was in simple storytelling voice. I easily dug in the story. And story began right where he, a Goan guy, was born in a Bombay chawl and his journey to become the man he is today. In between, there are interesting vignettes such as about 1965 war, tales from Marinagar, and his Grandma Rita’s mystifying Konkan ritual to get rid of ‘disht’, an evil eye. And I thought, why did I never ask my parents how was it for them during the war, how, they were affected by several historical on goings. That is the stuff history is made of, that is how books like Art Spiegalman’s Maus come along and take their place in recording history.

But I digress, Wendell’s book though enshrines the ongoing historic pieces, it is in face a memoir of his personal journey. It is story of a Goan boy from middle-class Bombay chawl who goes on to make his name in International fashion.  It is achieved through variety of experiences starting from Oman where he worked in a hotel and then his dream to save and go to US to study fashion. Passing out with summa cum laude, he returns India to teach in SNDT college in Juhu and he finds he loves teaching. This is my favourite part too, to know few of India’s talented fashion designers such as Hemant Trivedi and Wendell love to teach. Wendell, eager to learn more, goes to Paris to study again – something that would stay with him all his life. He would years later go again for an internship in a Portuguese museum to learn about costume etc.

Wendell’s book is full of who’s who, he steers clear of controversial stuff in fashion. Couple of times if he mentions an incident he doesn’t name the person. Though I could make out one referred to Shobha De as a model who was slapped because she was busy kissing a male hunk before the show. But even if he had any bad blood with people, he didn’t name them, and kept away from bitching.  Though he seems very fond of Malaika Arora, who has been his favourite model for several of his shoot and it is Malaika who adorns the cover of his book. He also reveals a caring attitude for exceptionally beautiful and exceedingly untalented actress Aishwarya Rai. He discloses a green room story where Ash was being treated badly by all models and she broke down. Other than such tid bits, the book expectedly is all about Wendell’s life.

Once cannot close a review on Wendell’s book without mentioning his long time French partner Jerome with who he had relationship over two decades, their love for travel around the world in 269 countries and 965 cities (as Wendell himself claims in the book). He never mentioned an angst about being gay in this country, it seemed his family was accepting until Shobha De printed about his singing PACS (Pacte Civil de Solidarite) with Jerome. That was only time it seemed hell broke loose and Wendell was estranged with him family for sometime .

I did not learn much about fashion from Wendell’s book, only that money in fashion mostly comes from retail, designers also have silly Delhi vs Mumbai quarrel, of new and old fashion weeks, of importance of being written about in magazines and contacts with reporters. But I learnt, Wendell loves Goa and he in always involved in all sorts of projects for Goa and encourages new Goan talent. He not only likes to reach, he sometimes writes. And reading this book, I can vouch that he writes simply and writes well.

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7 Responses to “Book Review: The Green Room”

  1. 1 Radhika November 3, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Poonam, fashion designers these days are always viewed with a sort discriminatory glance, unless very popular. I’m glad you started reading it as a story before you made up your mind that it was not a good read.

    Since you’re quite a keen blogger, I was hoping that you’d want to be part of the India Is Global Photography Challenge 2012. All you need to do is go through and blog about it. By doing so, in words or pictures, you’ll help our team map India visually- through your experiences! Add the essence of what you feel about India, let your readers know about this global initiative and help us showcase India at its best!

    Of course it’s got its benefits, like India Is goodie bags! Do participate in this initiative, and claim yours.

    Looking forward to you joining us!

  2. 2 Reema November 3, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    Only book reviews nowadays eh? How are you doing? Still in Bangalore?

  3. 4 Ish November 27, 2012 at 12:07 am

    Wendell is an interesting fellow, or so I’ve heard. He’s quite attached to his Goan roots, too. Very recently he featured in a video made about voting in Goa by Remo. He’s another interesting fellow.

    Being based in Goa, we really wanted to invite the guy as a speaker for our fest. But the college is a bit conservative and all, and Wendell being openly gay, they just didn’t allow us to get him. Wonder when people will start looking beyond these things.

  4. 5 Poonam Sharma December 16, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    @Radhika: Thanks for your comment. I did visit your web site, nicely designed, only your objective is not quite clear at first glance. If it were it would have been easy to share with readers.

    @Ish: After a long time! Apologies for not replying earlier, I did reply you in my head. It is sad that one missed to invite a talent because of their sexual orientation. But, what are you studying in Goa? And how, Goa of all the places?

  5. 6 Reema Sahay March 25, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    So I rediscovered your blog through GoodReads but feels great to be back. I loved Green Room. I was reluctant in the beginning assuming that it would have too much on the fashion industry etc but it was about him as a person, and his many passions. One of the reasons why I love reading memoirs. You meet so many intersting people, don’t you? 🙂

  6. 7 Poonam Sharma April 30, 2013 at 4:38 am

    Reema, thanks for your comment. I saw you on Goodreads today and subsequently looked up your blog as well. How in the world do you manage to get review copies from so many publishers? Let me know how I could get it too.

    Btw, you say, ‘rediscovered’ my blog, have you been here before?

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