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Vamp the show Cr ossover fashion

The first suggestion of Indian fashion, the


jodhpurs, was probably just a pair of churidar
Romancing the
pyjamas worn by horsemen, converted into high rains... in
street apparel when a royal visitor from Jodhpur in r eel time
London had to get himself some gear stitched for
riding when his baggage was sunk at sea. The This still, part of a song
ballooning-at-the-thigh and tight-from-knee-to- sequence from the 1950’s
ankle pants have since remained trendy among a classic Shri 420, is among
certain set. the most enduring and
popular images of Indian
As Bollywood’s nautch girl, no one has — or will
cinema. Apart from the fact
— come close to the position of Helen, the original that it features the magical
item girl of the ’70s. Says Jerry Pinto, author of pairing of Nargis and Raj
Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, “When I
“Ohmegod! I won!” Kapoor, two iconic actors of
watch an item number now, I miss the old dances Hindi cinema, the image
in which Helen performed… In the move that is also owes its tremendous
the standard sexualized challenge on every female appeal to the lyrics of the
dancer’s face, I do not find the laughing invitation song, “Pyar hua...”,
to naughtiness that I remember in Helen’s.” expressing love. Ever since,
the Indian monsoon has
been part of the imagery of
Bollywood, connoting
lyricism and romance.

The first kiss Milky way


That’s Devika Rani and Himanshu Rai in The Indian milk pail
Karma, 1933. Considering that even today could almost be a totem
leading actresses are reluctant to kiss for the middle classes, a
onscreen, it is no surpriise that this still has symbol of aspiring
attained such a cult status. Even in real life, Before IT, our most attractive export was Sushmita prosperity for those in
Devika Rani was regarded as a woman ahead Sen. Millions of Indians watched her win the Miss rural areas, suspended
of her times; strong, liberal and iconoclastic, Universe 1994 title, and saw her white-gloved from railway carriages
and her reel persona fitted right in. However, hands rise to her face in immaculate ecstasy. It was and two-wheelers by
despite such a “bold” beginning, the portrayal a heady moment, never mind that beauty pageants milkmen coming to
of sex in Hindi mainstream remained limited to may be exploitative and discriminatory. Since then urban centres to sell
the flowers and bees imagery for a long time. she has hardly taken the universe by storm, unlike their milk, suggestive of
rival Aishwarya Rai, Miss World in 1994. But Sen's Mother Dairy kiosks…
moment of victory remains uneclipsed. And now, in the hands
Original blockbusters of Subodh Gupta,
iconic image of wielding
If Mehboob Khan’s Mother India showed Nargis (in an ironically a work of
the plough) as a protagonist in the village, K Asif’s lavish Mughal-e-Azam, installation art priced
made over nine years, held the position of being the highe
st-grossing film in way above middle-class
Indian cinema. The record was broken 15 years later by Sholay, a revenge
drama of sorts. Before that was Raj Kapoor’s Bobby, with prices.
Dimple Kapadia’s
mini-skirts and Rishi Kapoor’s bell-bottoms, signalling the arrival of romance.

Mango for a motif


Kidney, comma, teardrop, mango or Welsh pear: it’s the paisley, the
Indo-Persian textile motif that's ubiquitous in Indian fashion and design.
It’s instantly recognisable in the West as well,
thanks to the East India Company, the Scottish
town of Paisley, which produced vast
quantities of paisley cloth in the 1800s,
and 1967’s Summer of Love, when
the paisley was one of the signs
The big books
Premchand’s last and greatest novel Godaan (1936)
of the psychedelic times. You
portrayed the harshness of village life, through the
see it everywhere. A Ray of light experiences of a poor farmer who gave his life to own a
Satyajit Ray (1921-1992). He made his films in cow. Jawaharlal Nehru used his years in prison well: one
Bengali yet they are of universal interest. For his outcome was The Discovery of India (1946), his most
subjects, Ray chose themes common to the entire famous book, a sweeping survey of India’s history and
human race — emotions, conflicts, joys and culture from Harappa to the British. And Indian writers in
sorrows. In 1992, he received an honorary English are grateful to Salman Rushdie opening up the
Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. He remains Western world of letters to them, and for making Indian
our most notable Oscar-winner till date. English cool. Rushdie’s breakout novel was the ever-
awarded Midnight’s Children (1981).

Photo Credits: Reuters, Priyanka Parashar, Anand Sankar, Amit Ranjan Rai, Kama Sutra: Art of Making Love To A Woman (Roli & Janssen), Maqbool Fida Husain (Rahul Art), The Penguin India Desk Companion 2009, The Nehrus: Personal Histories (Lustre Press/Roli), Polo In India (Lustre Press/Roli), A Historical Mela – The ABC Of India: The Art,
Book & Cinema (Osian’s), The Sari (Lustre Press/Roli), India: The Definitive Images – 1858 To The Present (Penguin/Viking), A Way Into India (Phaidon), Modern And Contemporary Indian Art (Christie’s), Satyajitray.org, Kunjamma: Ode To A Nightingale (Roli), The Watch Forum (UK), The Roo Vintage, Indian Air Force and Anonymous.