At the recent Cannes Film Festival 2012,Aishwarya Rai Bachchan made a smart sartorial move. Given the unkind attention directed towards her weight gain post-motherhood,she cleverly chose to arrive in a sari,an Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla creation that was draped with the pallu in front. The blouse was a well-fitted,full-sleeved Nehru-collar jacket that complemented the drape. While Rai Bachchan wisely chose a cover-up,fellow actor Kareena Kapoor is now using the sari to her advantage. Stills from Heroine,Madhur Bhandarkars upcoming movie,have Kapoor dressed in a hot red Manish Malhotra sari with a sash-like pallu that shows off her gym-sculpted midriff. Like her,Bipasha Basu too flaunted her bikini-body quite suitably in a bikini-sari by designers Shivan and Narresh,which she wore to the IIFA Awards 2012,held earlier this month in Singapore.
While its usual to spot women in designer gowns on the red carpet,now the sari is making its presence felt. However,it is being draped to the advantage of the wearer like a gown and sometimes even without a petticoat and with shorts (as seen in designer Anupamaa Dayals show at Wills India Fashion Week 2011).
While cinemas new hero Vidya Balan is a traditionalist when it comes to wearing a sari,actors such as Neha Dhupia and Shriya Saran are choosing to play with the drape differently. But are we messing with the sari,taking away its essence by the way its draped? Textile conservationist Rta Kapur Chishti,who is also the author of Saris of India: Tradition and Beyond,feels this isnt so. The traditional drape will never get lost in translations. The sari is the most unique unstitched garment,as it is capable of constant recreation. It is worn in different ways,in accordance to the region,climate,occasion and functional need, says Chishti,whose book talks of 108 ways in which the sari can be draped. The multiple options is what most designers also say will add to the garments longevity.
The Indian woman of today has evolved and so has the sari. From nine yards of fabric,it has a become a pre-structured draped sari with zips. I have done pre-constructed saris before,but perhaps the time for innovation was not then. Now it is, says designer Tarun Tahiliani. With each collection,Tahiliani says,he strives to create a sari that screams Indian but has a universal appeal to it. The way it is draped has much to do with it. So while Oprah Winfrey chose to wear a sari by the designer draped in the traditional way during her recent India visit,Lady Gaga wore a sari-gown by him. Paris Hilton too was styled by Rocky S in a Grecian sari-dress by Malini Ramani. Designer Gaurav Gupta,whose collections comprise sari-gowns,extensively with his signature cinched pallus,also feels the drape makes the sari more appealing to the international audiences. Wheres the harm in experimenting with the sari or its drapes? It only adds to its appeal, says designer Shaina NC,who has showcased more than 50 ways to drape a sari at her shows and through her collections. For someone who promotes traditional styles,Shaina feels new ways to drape a sari shouldnt be seen as gimmicky. Be it through embroidery or ornamentation,fabrics or colour,designers are constantly working on the sari. Likewise with its drapes, says Shaina,adding that the new looks will appeal to younger women.
While the sari goes through its makeovers,Chishti feels there is a need for more widespread effort in exploring and widening the scope of the fabric. The future of the sari really depends on how much independent thinking grows,despite the temptation to take the short cut by imitation, she sums up.