I am Obsessed With Decoding Celebrity Airport Looks and I Can’t Lie


I am Obsessed With Decoding Celebrity Airport Looks and I Can’t Lie

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

If you like me go about your day with your face buried deep into your Instagram timeline as your fingers fervently hit refresh, I don’t need to convince you that the photo-sharing platform is the new celebrity magazine. If the ’90s had reporters from Filmfare and Stardust scaling Bandra walls to report juicy anecdotes from celebrity house parties or stand for hours outside vanity vans to reveal the latest B-town feud, 2020 has Viral Bhayani and his free internet connection.

For the uninitiated, Bhayani is a paparazzi photographer with the soul of a poet – there is probably no other photographer who can make catching celebrities at their most mundane moments look so engaging. A random collage of Taimur Ali Khan with his father Saif Ali Khan acquires even more emotional tension than the Raichands could muster in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. In case you can’t tell, Viral Bhayani is my favourite Instagram account, philosopher, storyteller, and life coach rolled into one. His Instagram captions have a level of perceptiveness that is impossible to achieve unless you’re a vipassana-returned Gautam Buddha armed with a degree in enlightenment. All Bhayani has with him is a DSLR camera and yet he makes it work.

Ranbir Kapoor

Ranbir Kapoor at the Mumbai airport while returning from Vancouver.

Milind Shelte/The India Today Group

There’s also this one other beast that Bhayani and his cohort of paparazzi photographers who’ve turned running behind celebrities at various public places into a financially competitive sport, have slowly popularised: celebrity airport looks. 

In the last two years, somehow, the idea of being relayed a daily update of what our favourite celebrities were wearing while they were breathing regurgitated air on a flight became something that excited us as much as the possibility of a SRK-Kajol reunion. By all accounts of logic, a celebrity airport look isn’t even a look – it’s the outfit version of a hasty mishmash of a comfort sandwich; one that prioritises convenience and sustenance over allure. And yet despite all logic, airport looks became a thing, then a trend of its own, and ultimately a guilty pleasure with the exact dividends that are derived from a Splitsvilla finale. 

But I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t love them with all my heart. That I didn’t wait with bated breath for every picture that chronicled exactly how Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt looked when they were coming out of the airport: Were they twinning? Were they holding hands? Wait, if they weren’t does that mean they had a lover’s spat or is Bhatt actually upset because of that sandwich she had on the flight? I zoom in and study their faces for clues much the same way explorers must have devoured maps when they set out to colonise unsuspecting nations.

By all accounts of logic, a celebrity airport look isn’t even a look – it’s the outfit version of a hasty mishmash of a comfort sandwich.

Before you think I sound possessed, tell me this: have you never found yourself wondering whether Sonam Kapoor is secretly convinced that she’s heading to a super-secret, invite-only version of Cannes red carpet and not actually the airport? Look, her collection of airport looks – brunch-friendly cold-shoulder dresses, a three-piece co-ord set that I’d like to wear to the next spoken fest, and plenty of suits (for an airplane journey?) – is easily my favourite and yet it is so wholly unnecessary. If you know an outfit is something that can be pulled off only on the spreads of a fashion magazine, Sonam Kapoor will go out of her way to wear it on a flight. None of it makes any sense unless the venue for the next edition of Lakme Fashion Week is in the clouds.

I’ll be honest. The reason I’m so addicted to these celebrity airport looks is the same reason why I have sat through every Roadies audition ever: There’s nothing more fun than witnessing a group of people go out of their way to make themselves uncomfortable – just because they can. Especially if that group of people are the richest one per cent who wear sweats and T-shirts that you could afford only if you’d gone to Kaun Barega Crorepati, won the prize money of ₹10 crore, won another lottery, encashed your fixed deposit savings, and then used it all on one airport look. 


Ranveer Singh arrives at Mumbai Airport with wife Deepika Padukone after their wedding, which took place in Lake Como, Italy.

Milind Shelte/India Today Group

But even more pressing than that is my belief that if I just investigate every celebrity airport look possible, I might have the answer to that one question that I have every time I look at these pictures: Is Madhur Bhandarkar secretly pulling off a coup by shooting the sequel to Fashion at the Mumbai airport starring the whole of Bollywood and all of us have no clue about it? What else explains Ranveer Singh boarding a flight wearing a baby pink pajama suit layered with a jacket that can only be described as a love child of cellophane and aluminium foil? I guess we’ll know soon enough, but if it is you, Madhur Bhandarkar, thank you. This has been more entertaining than all of your films put together.