Category: The P&P Project

Throwback Thursday: Rajnigandha

Let’s throwback to ‘Rajnigandha‘ this week, a 1974 film that starred Vidya Sinha, Amol Palekar and Dinesh Thakur. Though always having enjoyed the song, I only got around to seeing the movie in late Nineties. And the impression that it made on me then still holds true- how refreshing was the styling in the movie? It really was a palette cleanser from all the visual overload then and now.

Styled in handloom saris, bindi, braided hair and minimal jewelry, the actor’s look perfectly mirrored the style of the character she played- an educated, middle class woman in the Seventies. The colors and patterns definitely attested to the time. It’s as if the simplistic, non-fussy story-telling was aided by just as simplistic, non-fussy visual clues.

Vidya Sinha In Rajnigandha, 1974

The saris and hair-do might not have left much leeway for the actor to go glam, but that didn’t stop her from working a dramatic cat-eye through out the movie- asleep, washing her face or out and about, the winged eye-liner remained, un-smudged and consistent. You’ve got to love that!

Through the span of her career she came to be known for a certain look- simple Indianwear, pulled back hair (most of the time) and a look that essentially said ‘the (good) girl next door’. Having briefly modeled for textiles and consumer goods before her debut in movies, she perhaps had an innate ability to make a look her own.

Do you have a favorite moment from the movie? I have a few, and among them is this still that triggered the post.

Vidya Sinha In Rajnigandha, 1974

P.S: With these throwbacks, the intent is to go down a memory road, picking certain movie moments that stood out to me personally for their style. The intent is not to however deep dive in to an actor’s filmography or review the films in question.

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Throwback Thursday: Khoon Bhari Maang

Oh boy, there’s so much to talk about the 1988 film, ‘Khoon Bhari Maang’. But let’s limit ourselves to that one pivotal part of the movie- that post-makeover point in the plot-line where Fashion had as much of a starring role as Rekha did in the movie.

Rekha In Khoon Bhari Maang

All of Eighties excesses were given the ‘Bollywood’ treatment and refined down to its campiest, is-a-model-must-be-debauched vampy, glamorous essence. And quite frankly, can’t imagine anyone but Rekha braving the lamé.

Rekha In Khoon Bhari Maang

Let’s not forget the epic dance-off. Mo’ fashunn! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I give you this-

Yes, it didn’t age well. But it’d be unfair to write off the part cringe-y-part awesome fashion in this movie. It pretty much summed up the average moviegoer’s perception of “high fashion” then and looking back, it offers a unique insight into the time. Perfect for a throwback!

Also, the lamé. So. Much. Lamé.

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Throwback Thursday: An Evening In Paris

This week let’s throwback to ‘An Evening In Paris’, the Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore starrer. To be honest, I don’t quite remember the movie, but the leading lady sure left a lasting impression.

I love the Sharmila of Ray’s movies (that’s another post entirely) but this one was quite something else. Maybe it was the poise and elegance with which she imbibed the fashion of late Sixties, a fashion era that am quite partial to. She delivered the style of the time and then some- bouffants, dramatic cat-eyes, tightly draped saris with short pallus and blouses knotted at the back that she wore through the movie.

I am a child of the Eighties and didn’t discover this movie until much later and by then it already had the vintage appeal I have since come to love. (If you follow me on Instagram, you know.)

Though the styling wasn’t particularly path-breaking or novel for the time, the reason why it holds up so well even today is essentially because of Ms. Tagore. Some of the most stylish cinematic moments/movies have worked because of both the fashion employed and the chemistry brought in by leading ladies’ style in to the mix. And Sharmila sure made those chiffon saris look super chic in Paris!

Sharmila Tagore In ‘An Evening In Paris

A stand-out moment from the film was when Sharmila burst on to the screen in a swimsuit. A scene that caused mild controversy and some censoring on TV, but one that cemented the movie’s high-on-style status. Can we all agree she nailed the look? I mean it’s not easy competing with that blue unique to South of France and still come out on top!

Anyone who can rock a one-piece swimsuit with pigtails is a-okay in my book. But kids, don’t try this at home.

Sharmila Tagore In ‘An Evening In Paris

I wish I was able to source better images but this was all we could get our hands on. If you have any memories of this movie or any other that you particularly remember for the fashion of its time, I’d love to hear it!

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Spotlight: Vaya Weaving Heritage

A love affair with the Maheshwari sari that started in the late 1980s led to a larger love of textiles and then a career in a Maheshwar non-profit for 22 years. Growing up admiring her mother’s elegance who wore a gorgeous organdie every day, meet Mira Sagar, the force behind Vaya Heritage Weaves. Excerpts from a chat:

What prompted you to launch Vaya?
It was always a dream to have a store for handwoven textiles showcasing weaves from all over the country, spanning various techniques and price points, but also contemporary enough that my daughter would also find something in the same store. Bappaditya of Bailou, Gaurang Shah and I shared a common vision about the handwoven sari — that it need not be drab and boring — and that was instrumental for the launch of Vaya. I strongly believe that if we convince the generation in the 30s age bracket to appreciate the culture, tradition and heritage that we often take for granted, we have possibly saved it for the coming 30 to 40 years making the ‘revival’ forward their responsibility.

Having worked with weavers for more than two decades, what are some learnings?
The important thing I’ve learned is to respect a weaver’s work, his or her time spent on the loom and never to bargain. It is only then that weavers are willing to improvise and produce the best quality textile. I also learned that weaving is a form of meditation and when the weaver is at peace with himself /herself, the result is an exquisite, flawless textile.

What are the challenges India faces to protect our heritage weaves?
Our biggest need is businessmen/women who understand the intricacies of handloom and what it takes to run a successful business. Another hurdle is rampant copying. So much goes into bringing out new designs, techniques and concepts which unfortunately, get copied overnight, instantly killing the market.

Which three weaves top your personal list?
Maheshwari for its simplicity of texture and design, Jamdani of Andhra, Bengal and Benares for flexibility of the technique and lightness of the textile, and Patan Patola for the richness and ease of being able to wear it anywhere, anytime.

P.S: Look up Vaya here.
Image credit: Vaya Weaving Heritage

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Beyond Six Yards: Gaurang Shah

Gaurang Shah embarked on his journey as a textile advocate almost two decades ago.  His mission was simple: Make handloom relevant to the global Indian woman because he believes that she is the best ambassador of India and its unique textile heritage. His story began with reimagining the Upada of Andhra Pradesh, and in the last 17 years he has grown from working with 8 weavers in one region to more than 800 weavers through the country.
With a focus on textile fusion and artisanal diversity and harboring a soft spot for the Jamdani weave, the brand has now expanded to include Kota, Paithani, Benarasi, Patan Patola, Khadi and Dhakai. We caught up with the designer to chat about our fave fashion topic — the sari.

What was the sari scene like back in 2001?
The love for the sari were almost fading as more and more women in India were choosing western wear. Back then, handlooms lacked the modernity women craved and there was a strong drift towards chiffon and georgette due to its ability to drape easily. For a textile admirer like me, it was like a moment of ‘pause’, where I felt the need to come up with ways to make the handloom sari back in vogue. Weavers needed to be convinced to innovate with unique techniques and to create a new fusion of textiles. It was challenge but I loved every moment, and today when I see the sari receiving  standing ovation on fashion week runways or on celebrities, the satisfaction is immense.

The designer specializes in Jamdani. Jamdani is a brocaded fabric woven with discontinuous extra weft yarns. When Gaurang couldn’t find craftsmen to weave his creations, he began training local weaver’s families, even setting up new looms and introducing them to new forms of Jamdani weaving.

What is the mission of your brand?
We believe that there is a heirloom piece for every single woman out there and we hope that women will take great pride in wearing the sari on every single occasion. Our mission is to make the handloom relevant to the global Indian woman because we believe that she is the ambassador of our nation and its unique textile heritage. The goal is not only to make our brand universally appealing, but to make handloom a sustainable grassroots activity offering weavers and other ancillary trades a stable livelihood. Creating new clusters, new looms, artisanal diversity for our weavers and rewarding them with economic boom, was and will always continue to be my main focus. The goal was to bring sari back in vogue and according to me, the only way you can make craft a passion is if you emphasize on productivity and economic impact.

How would you describe your design sensibility?
A fine balance between traditional heritage and a contemporary sensibility.

Looks from Chitravali, an anthology of 40 handcrafted ensembles inspired by 30 frescos from caves of Ajanta. “A master painter replicated the frescos of the caves and Kalamkari paintings were created using natural dyes and involved 17 tedious steps to process.” Kanjeevaram’s signature bright colors were subdued in the natural dyes, using korvai weaving technique while maintaining with archaic temple tales.

What is the process of creating a Gaurang sari?
Every pattern that we envision is laboriously sketched for days and months before turning them over to the weaver to be woven in his looms. The process and the technique are different and unique for each weave and state, so the timeline depends on the design and weaving complexity. Some of our creations have taken over three to four years to become a reality.

Did you ever imagine your label to experience this mainstream success and how important is it to have a celebrity like Vidya Balan patronize the brand?
The mainstream attention certainly wasn’t immediate. It took me a couple of years to make my customers understand what my creations were and what it would mean to them as a fashion statement. In the early days, my almirahs were full of stock, the khadi saris hardly sold, and now they fly off the shelf as soon as they leave the loom.
Vidya Balan is a constant inspiration for us. She is passionate towards the handloom, especially the sari and has a deep understanding of how it is woven, the eco angle, the natural colors and so much more. It is the confidence with which she wears a sari that makes it glorious.

Runway image credit: Gaurang Shah

P.S: High Heel Confidential is an associate producer of a film that’s part of The Sari Series: An Anthology of Drape. The passion for Sari is real, like you didn’t already know that!

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