The ramp was in inky darkness,except for a spotlight over two figures. They were standing in a pool of water,sprinkling it playfully over each other. The spotlight suddenly shifted to a door,and models,dressed in white,walked in one by one. This was the opening act of the fashion show,Panchvastra,by designer Ritu Kumar on Thursday. The fusion of performing arts and and fashion is hardly novel on the ramp,but Kumar and theatre person Neelam Man Singh Chowdhry injected a refreshing depth to the show.
More than 200 people sat through the 30-minute delay on the lawns of The Aman. When musicians began to sing,evoking the sounds of the Indian heartland,it was a fitting reward for their patience. People left their drinks half-way in the bar,and hurried back to their seats.
The show had five mythological women characters as symbols for the clothes Ganga,Draupadi,Kunti,Amba and Gandhari. They portrayed looks such as purity,seduction,swayamvar,exile and darkness,respectively.
Adding an interesting layer to the event,Kumar had roped in stalwarts from non-fashion fields to walk alongside models. While Bharatanatyam dancer Anita Ratnam played the charming Ganga in a shimmering white outfit,Kirron Kher preened and simpered in a red swayamvar outfit,and Seema Biswas enacted the role of a burdened woman with the baggage she was carrying as Amba. Sushmita Sen displayed a black-and-white churidar-kurta,a stunner all right,though not a believable Gandhari,who lived in enforced darkness. Diya Mirza was too pale to be the seductive Draupadi.
The 20-minute performance kept the audience riveted and the standing ovation at the end saluted Kumar and Chowdhry as well as Vidyun Singh and Asha Kochhar,who had choreographed and produced the show.