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Archana Pania Is Mumbai’s Fashion-Forward Radio Jockey

Archana Pania Is Mumbai’s Fashion-Forward Radio Jockey

   Prasant Mandal

No matter where a person travels, it’s usually in their hometown that they find a sense of belonging. And it was no different for Archana Pania. Though born in Kuwait, she always stayed true to her roots. Her family had to leave Kuwait during the Gulf War, and eventually, she had to shift to Mumbai. Little did she know that this unintended move would change it all for her. Here, her career kicked off as a web designer. But within a couple of years, she did shift its course to become a professional Radio Jockey. In no time, she became one of Radio’s favourite voices. If you’ve listened to her on her morning show Kasa Kai Mumbai, her chirpy personality is something you will fail to miss. And after meeting her personally at her lovely home in suburban Mumbai, Team WODROB concurs that her personal vibe is just the same. In conversation with us, Archana talks about her profession, her style evolution, on being a Sabyasachi bride, and more. Read excerpts from the interview…

Tell us about becoming an RJ.

I used to be a web designer, and back then I wondered how is it that people sit at the computer all day long. I find it very boring. So when I was planning to pursue a Masters in Art, my art teacher said, “This isn’t for you. You talk so much, you’re meant to be on the radio.” At that point, I found it very funny. But later, I thought about it… there was no harm in giving it a shot. I auditioned among thousands of people and to my surprise, I was selected. Post that there was no stopping. I dubbed for advertisements, did voiceovers, I even did a musical. I’ve worked for 15 years in this space now and I’m so glad I took the plunge. You know, I’ve never participated in school debates or even elocution, so radio, for me, was deliverance. Honestly, it made such a difference in not just my personality but also my ability to opine.

Your profession involves meeting and interacting with celebrities who are always up-to-date with their looks. So how do you prep up for work when you’ve got to interview a celebrity?

I love my job because I’m always behind the scenes. But now, thanks to social media, we RJs also have to look presentable all the time. You know, I have an oxymoron personality — I will go all out and dress up on some days, and on other days I won’t put any effort at all. I think the asset I have is that I ‘feel’ anything I wear. The positive of a morning show is that you can be lazily dressed. Even though I say this and despite the fact that I wake up at 5 am, I’m probably the most dressed person at my (radio) station. I love wearing saris and I dress up the fastest in it. But I must add that the best gift to women is a dress; you just have to wear it and go. Considering how humid Mumbai is, a dress is the best option.

Since you’re a part of this industry, you may have to attend many award shows. Tell us how is it that you plan your red carpet outfits?

I remember my first red carpet outing was when I went to Macau for Zee Cine Awards in 2011. It was special as I got the opportunity to interview the first three rows as well as sit with them. At such times, you end up being very conscious about what you’re wearing. Today, because we have so many followers, designers are willing to give us their clothes. But back then it wasn’t the same. So for that event, my friend Rozzlin Pereira (who plays Aunty Maggy in RozzCity), who’s been my style inspiration, knew this tailor who would stitch dresses for her for a lot cheaper. I went to him with a golden shimmery fabric and got a high-neck and low back line with 3/4th sleeves dress stitched. Though I’m minimalistic, I love plunging back lines… and this dress was very memorable.
Now I’m blessed to have designer friends. One of them is Amy Billimoria; I love her gowns.

Women and men should dress their age — we’ve heard this time and again. What’s your take on it? Do you think women and men should follow a set of do’s and don’ts when it comes to dressing according to their age?

NO! My dad is 73 and I still want to see him in cool clothes. Personally, I don’t feel my age. And I don’t think you should dress a certain way at a certain age. I feel you must wear what you feel, and age shouldn’t be a factor. Clothes are a personal choice and I think age shouldn’t govern it. Take Anil Kapoor or Jackie Shroff, for example. They’re aging with such grace and can still pull off many looks that young actors are wearing today.

What’s your personal style like?

I love wearing pajama pants, and I’d pick them up when I’d visit Hong Kong. The entire shopping street there is lined with cotton linen pants, and I like wearing it with T-backs. That look is very me. That apart, I love Indian clothing. I owned this Anita Dongre white kurta. And I will never forget how I met Jagjeet Singh one day wearing it, and he said to me, “You look divine. You look like a star.”

Tell us three words that define your style?

Casual, imperfect, comfortable.

Archana Pania on what to wear when brunching with girlfriends

Want to look gypsy-chic? Opt for a bohemian dress with a pair of gladiator flats and you’re good to go.

You mentioned you like travelling and meeting new people. Has that influenced your personal style?

Always. During my recent trip to the States, I met my husband’s cousin, who is a very interesting person. She’s got bling in everything she owns. Framed mirrors with bling, and so much more. I’m not that person for sure, but I realised that a little bling can glam up an outfit. She gifted me a blingy Swarovski watch, and now when I wear it I’m like ‘that looks good’. I also met this girl from Seattle, who perfects matte lips. In fact, whatever she wears, she opts for a shade lighter to that colour. And seeing her, I decided that I should be more experimental.

Tell us what your closet is like.

My wardrobe is a fantastic mix of Indian clothes and my home clothes. I love the variety we now have in ethnic Indian wear. And you’ll find few jeans and tees in my closet. That said, I love torn jeans. The section of my wardrobe I love the most are the clothes I wear at home.

Do you look back at your style and regret doing something? Any fashion faux pas…

Priyanka Chopra’s mother once said to us ‘if your inners are right, then everything is right’. I think that’s true. I personally think my style evolution has happened through that observation. I don’t consider myself naturally fashionable, but I’m blessed that I look decent enough in anything I wear, mainly because I ‘feel’ what I wear.

Are you an impulsive shopper or do you plan your shopping?

I am definitely an impulsive shopper. I have wasted so much money buying random things. Now I’ve been investing in plains rather than prints so I can mix and match. When there’s a last-minute interview or a film premiere, I usually wake up from my slumber and wonder what I’m going to wear. I find it very difficult to decide on something to wear until the time I’m not under pressure. I feel like Tintin in a race when I’ve got to buy something for a show.

Archana Pania on what to wear when on a vacation

A statement sleeved off-the-shoulder top and denim skirt with white sneakers is a perfect casual look.

Offline vs Online… where do you shop from?

Some people find online shopping very exciting, but it’s not for me. I am someone who wants to see my clothes. Also, I’ve never been lucky with online shopping, So it’s is a big no for me. Nowadays I feel bad to be in malls and I often wonder if it is emptying up because of online shopping. It is only a boon for new mothers because they don’t get the time to go out.

Are there any brands or designers you’re particularly fond of?

I think my first love is Anita Dongre; it’s how she’s made her entire brand to appeal to women of all sizes. And of course, there’s Vintage Earth… I love their colours. That place has managed to blend class, colour, and vibrancy. One brand I tend to repeat a lot is Zara. Then there’s Sabyasachi… when I see Sabyasachi, I’m like ‘this stuff is divine’. I genuinely think his clothes make Indian culture come alive. To me, he is the Sanjay Leela Bhansali of the couture world. Fortunately, I got to wear his label on my wedding.

You were featured on Band Bajaa Bride, right? Tell us a little about that.

It was a fabulous experience. I got to see his store, which is grand and looks like an art gallery. I also love how minimalistic he is with his words. I was all over the place and he said ‘you shall wear red’ and that was it. It’s almost like my style in a way. I don’t think he does opulence. I fact, he does desi. For instance, it’s like taking a woman from the village and asking her to walk a ramp in New York Fashion Week. He blends the textures and work of the common man and makes it look classy.

Who do you look up to when it comes to style?

Neha Dhupia I think. She’s very unconventional. She’s not petite, and I like the fact that despite it, she carries off everything she wears. And she layers so well… I find that very intriguing. If I want to dress like somebody, it’s Kangana Ranaut. She does both androgyny and feminine outfits really well. Recently, she wore a very country cotton dress with lace on it and I wanted it the moment I saw it. Also when she wears saris, she teams it up with Kohlapuri chappals, and I love anyone who can underplay. I’d also like to add Vidya Balan to that list. I like the fact that she’s so minimalistic, and her biggest asset is her smile and her attitude.