Her deeply kohled eyes and dusky skin complement the dull silver hues of the chunky tribal necklace. If 34-year-old Nirmala Marandi was nervous, she didn’t show it as she faced the camera, an off-white, magenta and yellow linen sari draped over her small frame. A few minutes into the session, she proved herself a natural. As did Agatha, Hasda, Cecilia Tudu, and Seeta Hasda, all tribal women from the interiors of Jharkhand, who came to Mumbai to attend a workshop on design organised by designer Anavila Misra last October and ended up striking a pose.
“At first, we were very scared but after a few shots, it was great fun. Never before had we worn our hair in this manner or such make up. But now I try and style my hair like this sometimes,” giggles Marandi, as Seeta adds that given a chance, they will probably do it again. Misra, who is known for her graceful, understated linen sarees wanted “real” women to model her latest collection. “Here were women who help keep this traditional dress alive by wearing it all the time — in the fields, while fishing or travelling. I felt they deserved to show the world the saris we had created, instead of regular models who wear them just for a shoot or a one-hour ramp show and never go near them again,” says Misra. The 37-year-old designer from NIFT presented her four models with saris at the end of the shoot.
Far away in the serene precincts of Auroville in Pondicherry, Renu Niogi found herself in a quandary when designer Uma Prajapati called her to model for her organic clothing line Upasana. Niogi,who turns 50 in July, had done some shoots in her youth. “But they were amateur stuff and I had not modelled since I became a parent. I hesitated but went ahead anyway,” says the mother of two.
For Prajapati, Niogi was the ideal choice for her designs. “It’s easy to sell cool and sexy. But I wanted to position the Indian woman who has a language of her own. And that language is one of grace above all, along with wit and personality. When I called Renu for the assignment, she thought I was kidding. She told me she had grey strands, I told her that’s the reason she was selected!” says Prajapati, 44, also a NIFT graduate, who has been living in Auroville since 1996.
A little less than a decade ago, when Kolkata-based Kamal Ahluwalia was in her 50s, she walked the ramp at a society club in the city. It was the theatre actor’s first stint as a model and she was quite apprehensive. “I had never done anything like this before,” says Ahluwalia. As continued…