Decoding the PM's look: The many layers of Narendra Modi's demeanour
Despite always having sported a clean-shaven and well-kempt look for several years, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now projecting an image of a monk -- albeit a better-groomed version -- by growing out his beard and hair. Modi's 'lockdown look' can now also be considered to be keeping in lines with the 'No-shave November'. But is it really that simple? Or is the national leader slowly and steadily crafting his persona to match up to the looks of the great historical, political and philosophical icons of India?
If public forum discussions are to be believed, there has been a sentiment that Modi is trying to project himself as a true 'Ram Bhakt' who brought 'Ram Rajya' back to India.
There has also been a sentiment that it is probably his way of maintaining social distancing and avoiding visits to the barbershop.
But is it the case?
Modi has always dressed in traditional Indian attire and was also seen sporting a 'gamcha' as a mask. The leader is also known for demoting 'Suit-boot ki Sarkar' and capitalism in general; making way for his nationalist beliefs. His recent call for #VocalforLocal and #MakeinIndia all show his strong belief in the power of Indian traditions and culture.
But this sudden change in his look has given rise to questions and speculations among the people. Here's a look at previous comparisons to understand his current attire better.
In the year 2014, during Maharashtra elections, Narendra Modi's bearded look was compared to that of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, an important historical figure and leader in Maharashtra. Now that Bengal is expected to go into elections in January and February 2021, there is a notion among people that the national leader's beard holds semblance to that of Rabindranath Tagore, a historical poet of Bengal.
There have been discussions about these being subtle ways to create a connect with the people of Bengal and becoming more relevant to the culture.
But this is not his only connection with the state.
Exploring the Bengal connect
In the sixties, Narendra Modi was a part of the Ram Krishna Mission in Bengal and lived at Ram Krishna Math. He worked in the temple and had decided to renounce all worldly pleasures. But Swami Atmastha Nanda Ji, a senior preacher, advised him against it. These years still play a role in his life.
Swami Atmastha Nanda Ji advised Modi to consider giving into public service and doing good for mankind. Modi later entered politics and became the CM of Gujarat.
Considering this, Narendra Modi already has a strong foundation in Kolkata to connect with the people. But then what is the new look trying to communicate?
Understanding the 'Modi Style'
We spoke to Akanksha Agarwal an Image Consultant & Etiquette Presence Coach, about Narendra Modi's style over the years. "(Modi) is the most stylish Prime Minister ever who known for experimenting with his looks. So whether it is the traditional kurta pyjama or formal suits, he makes sure to look dapper and suave in all his ensembles. He also particularly seems to like layering," she told The Bridge Chronicle.
Akanksha Agarwal is the founder of The Verve Image consultancy in Pune.
"Jacket or anything as a third layer adds authority and power to your attire. Along with that, he shows a great deal of experimentation in his choice of colours as well," she added.
In the year 2014, when Modi addressed Indians in The United States, he chose to add a hint of patriotism to his ensemble. Styling his creme kurta with a Kesari jacket, he instantly aimed at creating a connect with his audience. So despite the formal attire, the colour made him look more approachable.
Agarwal also added saying, "Modi does not fail to look elegant and sharp every time he is making a public appearance. His attention to detail is visible in all his choices -- be it shoes, accessories, or colours. All of this is a reflection of his personality and qualities of being sharp, systematic, and attentive. It takes us back to the style of governance he believes in which is both original and fresh."
Perspective on the beard
"Why Rabindranath Tagore? Why not Virat Kolhi? He also has a similar beard," she added, laughing.
"The thing is (as many people say) a clean-shaven person is ready for a formal setting or a business setup. But nowadays, sporting a beard and a moustache is also acceptable. Well-trimmed and groomed facial hair makes a man look more matured, learned and experienced. It also adds a wise touch bringing listeners attention to your face."
Agarwal also shared that Modi's current look could be attributed to spirituality, and he is an ardent follower. His visibly calm and composed demeanour is a result of continued practice of meditation and yoga. And he is now trying to take spirituality to a global level after yoga.
"It could also be his way to draw a connection between our traditional preachers, kings and gurus -- all of which sport long beard and hair," she added.
A global statement
It is also a known fact that Modi bought global attention to yoga, an Indian-origin wellness practice after he declared World Yoga Day. He has also always opposed to 'Suit-boot ki Sarkar' and sported more Indian attires. So, is the long beard and hair an attempt to bring attention to Indian traditions?
Elaborating on the perspective mentioned earlier, Agarwal said,
"(Modi) has always tried to glamourise Indian traditions by bringing them to the forefront. People now don't shy away from wearing Indian formals, (which he also sports globally) as Modi jackets are now a style."
"Being a nationalist by nature, Modi has made strong choices and shown confidence in Indian traditions," she concludes.