“Women think of all colours except the absence of colour. I have said that black has it all. White too. Their beauty is absolute. It is the perfect harmony.” said the famous designer Coco Chanel.
I have often been bemused and have seen that White and women… These two words have almost always been connected to each other. They have been the colours which has portrayed purity and virginity! The biggest irony is also, these two words, conversely have also probably been only attached to Women and White!
White has been the colour of Asexuality throughout the world, throughout centuries. From the bride’s clothes in Christianity to widow’s clothes in Hinduism; it has always been white! It’s interesting in fact, cause both the traditions, despite the logical reasoning and religious ones too differing; had the same cause.
In a patriarchal society, virginity has always been held in high esteem and has been considered to be very important from the marital aspect. But mind it… only when the bride is concerned. The virginity of the bride was important in order to ensure that she didn’t have a past, so that no one else had a claim in the family fortune.
By this same logic a Hindu widow must be without sex; to ensure that no future claimant came to lay a claim to the family fortune! But virgin brides and widows became almost myths and were looked at some of the biggest objects of desire.
In Indian cinema, each time we have wanted to make the heroine appear ‘pure, fragile’ and wanted, we had her wearing something in white in her introduction scene. Each time we depict a woman as vulnerable and thus very sexy in this patriarchal society, we put her in white. Remember Pooja Bhatt in Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin, or remember Zeenie baby in Satyam Shivam Sundaram or the classic case of Madam Mandakini under the frothing waterfall!
In this context, I must mention some western movies as well. Remember ‘Bridges of Madison County’? When you think of Meryl Strip in her beige chinos and white shirt, working in the field, a committed and married woman in her middle age; who has almost no sex life. But her vulnerability must be depicted by white. Think Mike Lee’s ‘Secrets and lies’ where they use white as the defining colour as to sex and lack of it.? Also remember Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, where her wardrobe ranges from coloured ones to a gradual white, as her persona undergoes a change.
Red, black etc on the other hand, have always been associated and thought to be more predictable colours for sex and sexual predators. They have been colours for women who knows what she wants and knows how to get it! Contrarily, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, plays the sexual predator in a little white dress. But then contradictions are the only thing constant, aren’t they?
But then a patriarchal society doesn’t like women to be in control; so they must be damsels in distress and must be pure, innocent (and of course virgin) and therefore must need a saviour.
Thus over centuries and amidst all religion, white has remained intrinsically connected with sex or the lack of it thereof.
It’s again that time of the year and Durga Pujo is just around the corner. Durga Pujo to Bangalis have always been a glorious time, when families come together and there have been fun, frolick and lot of fashion thrown in between…. Thus to me Durga pujo has always been associated with lip-smacking food, fabulous fashion and a lot of pure and clean fun!
Who can get over the nostalgia or the attraction of having that cutesy good-looking guy looking at you with admiration? Or comparing notes with what the most fashionable friend is buying for the Pujo? Hours of thinking up entire ensembles for the four days had been absolute must while growing up.
While I was growing up, in that era; pujo fashion used to be ruled by films! Remember, MPK salwar kameez, that BHagyashree wore? Or that Cap that Salman sported? Even prior to that I have heard that UttamKumar in his heydays was the trend setter with his Guru Panjabi!
Despite the fashion scene being ruled by lot of Lehengas,Salwar Kamiz es or fusion dresses, to me , saree always took the foremost place specially for ashtami anjali and bijaya dashami immersion/bhashan… rest of the days would depend on whatever was in vogue. But since childhood, I have always preferred tailor made clothes, choosing the particular cuts, collars and their detailing by myself. That is probably why, as a designer too I believed in developing a personal style than following fashion blindly.
With the onset of globalization and with the advent of local and international brands, puja fashion has changed rapidly in the last 2 decades. But what has remained constant in these changing times, is the love and passion for dressing up during Pujo.
My favorite has always been saree from shoshthi to dashami. As much as I may wear casuals the year round… Pujo have always managed to bring out the traditionalist and conformist in me. I have Chosen lighter colour palettes and cottons, linens and other light fabrics for day wears and heavier materials have been kept aside for the evenings.
But these are just my fashion aesthetics, and it definitely doesn’t mean that saree is the only go-to attire for pujo. My one suggestion would be, that whatever you decide to wear – Indian, Western or Fusion; choose your attire carefully, keep the occasion in mind, don’t over dress and don’t underdress either. Just Don’t follow fashion blindly! Apart from the traditional white and red the colours which are trending this season are yellow and fuchsia. Use accessories and make up judiciously and create a look that’s uniquely you.
Make a style statement for yourself. Be a Diva .
Who can forget the abandon with which an ethereally beautiful Rosie throws caution and taboos asunder to sing Kaanton se Khinchke ye aanchal in one of the most critically acclaimed yet popular film in Indian Celluloid history? Possibly none. The film was Guide and still remains etched in the minds of cine-goers globally.
Rosie was beautifully played by Waheeda Rehman ,one of the most talented and refined actresses of the Indian cinema. She is also one of the most beautiful and loved faces of Indian celluloid. She has wooed audience with her laudable performances in not only Hindi, but in Tamil, Bengali & Telegu also. She has been eulogised by many as the most beautiful actress,, but what had attracted me to her most was the intelligence and the poise that came across. She was a thinking, cerebral actress who left her mark in some of the most unforgettable films in Indian Film history.
Born in a Tamil & Urdu speaking family, Waheeda first burst in the Hindi film industry as the mysterious Kamini in the film called CID opposite Dev Anand & directed by Guru Dutt. Followed which were impressive and unforgettable films like ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Kaagaz Ke Phool’, ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam’, ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chand’, ‘Kala Bazar’, ‘Guide’ and ‘Abhijaan’ under Satyajit Ray to name a few.
She is petite but not delicate. She may not look like a goddess but has an infectious charm and oodles of elegance. The glint in her eyes, the tinkle in her laughter, the mischievous surrender of her smile make her the perfect and undefeated child-woman. There is a touch of mystery in her which made the feted Guru Dutt consider her to be his Muse.
Her dancing abilities came into sharp focus in the film Guide and it is said that many had actually warned her against taking up the role of an adultress. But undeterred Waheeda gave almost the soul-in-her-eyes and a lifetime performance in the movie.
Waheeda Rehman oozes charm. You may love her, you may hate her, but you can never ignore her. She is the free spirited woman who is not scared to love. She loves being a woman with all its pleasures and pathos. Waheeda Rehman is a thinking-man’s actress. She is street smart, but she is also intensely feminine, who never forgets the flowers in her hair or her bangles.
She is the woman who surpasses the boundaries of age and times. Waheeda Rehman is eternally beautiful in her own right and is our constant inspiration.
Early morning, the rustle of the starched saree would wake me up… there would be this faint aroma of Marh ( the residual rice boiled water, often used to starch cotton clothes) and I would instinctively know that Ma was going about her daily chores.
Ma would be ready to leave just after I left, having sorted the house. But never did I see that being a deterrent for her not wearing a saree; more importantly a Taant er saree. In fact, my most abiding memory is that of wiping my face in her aanchol. It was only the precarious monsoons which would call for “synthetic” sarees, as their generation would call it. I believe most of our earliest memories of our mothers would be that of Taant er saree or Dhonekhali – stiffly starched, with a variation in borders with small motifs in the body.
The Bengal Handloom sarees actually have been perennial favourite. The fall of the fabric, the subtlety of the patterns, and the translucent intensity of the colours have made them much loved and sought after all over the country, so much so that when people would be visiting Kolkata, they would be sure to carry a list to take back some. Actually the Taant er sarees are perfect for our tropical climate; they are light and become softer with use.
Growing up in the quintessential Bengali household, I was struck by this textile wonder –the modest piece of Bengal Handloom. My mother, aunts, older cousins and women from our extended family, all wearing a variety of Taant actually made me fall in love with the sarees very early in my life. I realised that the Bengal Taant is very versatile. You can dress up,… dress down; wear it to work or a wedding. I noticed that it just needed the correct accessories – Wear silver, pearls, junk or stick to traditional gold; it all goes beautifully with the Taant.
The Handloom saree went through a series of lows in the past few decades. It became a common myth that the handloom sarees were impractical and high maintenance. – low in performance and high in maintenance. Power looms and synthetic fibers reigned so much that Losing patrons by hundreds, the weavers started suffering. They started compromising on quality to keep their livelihood and made do with the same patterns for years, thereby stopping all experimental works.
When I started weaving tales of these six yards, I was always certain that I will work with handlooms and thus I, in my limited capacity have worked with Taant, visiting the weavers personally all the time. It had been a collaborative effort, where I have sat with them for hours, trained and guided them on new techniques, devised newer designs and they in turn have taught me the nuances of various fabrics, weaving patterns, spoken about the long lost designs . I, in my humble efforts, have always tried giving them their due respect and paying them fairly.
I have tried reviving many patterns and designs which were lost or hard to find like the duure saree (all over stripes), the Chatai paar and the Nokshi Paar (borders with patterns and motifs). I have also tried experimenting with the thread counts making the fall of the saree better. In fact, lot of people say that I have given the Bengali Tnaat a quirky make-over.
In fact I have also experimented with colours in the Nextiles line of sarees making them quite a popular, go-to sarees with my younger clients. Sarees, which are versatile and can be draped and accessorised in various ways.
Tell us about your favourite Nextile handloom/ Taant saree and what you teamed it with…