The Flower Post

Mimi, on your birthday, tell me what should I buy?
A red sari, a silken blouse, a purple petticoat, and a shiuli‘s shade, its flowers dropping, when the night draws to a close. Selected Poems of Buddhadeva Bose

Getting up early in the morning we would go to the inner garden to collect fallen shiuli flowers. The dried flowers were soaked in water, which was then used to dye clothes. The Many Worlds of Sarala Devi: A Diary

The parijat (arisen from the sea) is a sacred tree in India and the subject of many myths, including the story of the churning of the ocean where it appears as one of two trees obtained by the churning (the other being the Kalpavriksha). The characteristic cream petalled, orange stalk flower of the tree is known by various names in India, including prajakta, harsingar, pavazha malli, shefalika and shiuli. Its colour, its night blooming, its scent and the like is a recurring motif in Indian literature.

The parijat is a flower that is collected after it has fallen to the ground. Apart from being strung into garlands, it is also used as a dye, either alone or in admixture with other natural dyes. The colours range from egg yolk yellow to orange.

In the extract from Sarala Devi’s diary, it is a household dye that was often used to colour new saris or “freshen up” old saris.

Images: pic 1 from Char Adhyay, X, X

Extras: Info on the parijat; How to make a parijat rangoli.

wp4Unlike jasmine, the prajakta is not really strung and worn on the hair due to its fragility.  This painting with a prajakta gajra and mang tikka is specially done for me by a friend. So many thanks to Arati Phadke for conceptualising and making this painting! Also note the pearl detail on sari and jewellery:)

A Birthday


My grandmother died not too long back, she would have been 88 today.  The studio pic is of her as a wee thing in about 1930-she was the eldest child so this must have been a special trip. She looks pretty good all decked up in a pavadai, loose “chattai” and bits and bobs. I like that ribbon touch the best but that’s just me, I love ribbons.

Later in life – and I don’t have a picture handy –  she was a slim 5’6’ who always wore a nine yard sari even as her peers abandoned it. She also  retained her two nose studs. Her abundant hair was always oiled and plaited, her person always neat and elegant. She was a calm and methodical worker, not the kind who cooked up a feast but the kind who would make two faultless dishes. Like many Tamil women of her age she had been instructed in music and was good at it.

Though we had a fractious relationship at times – she was strict and serious, I carefree and unruly – her influence on me in matters aesthetic is very strong. Most of all my fascination with the 30s-50s is thanks to my grandparents accounts of the times.

My grandmother gave me this photo as a keepsake when I was 21, she trusted me to preserve it and take joy in it. It’s a little battered with all my moves but still intact. In a way it was the first piece on my vintage inspiration board.

My personal journal has a lot of entries on my grandmother. When she died I found that she had kept copies of those pieces. To be remembered in a public post, to know that this first photograph of hers is still around, would make her happy. So here it is!

Recreating Vintage/Historical Art

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Like him or hate him, Raja Ravi Varma remains influential more than a 100 years after his death. Recreating his work seems to be a bit of a thing ranging from the recent Rang Rasiya to Makaramanju to Pushpamala’s photo performances.

Ananthabhadram recreates several paintings (Hamsa Damayanthi, Lady in her dressing room and a few other paintings of Malabar women, The Milkmaid, Maharani Chimnabai, Lady Holding a Fruit and Contemplation) in the song Pinakkamano.

Pictured here: Kavya Madhavan in Ananthabhadram and Ravi Varma’s In Contemplation (Reproduction) and Hamsa Damayanthi.

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Recreating Hemen Majumdar‘s Study of Miss Shelly Gupta (1939) for a new documentary on the painter.  See also X.

Though I guess every Hindi movie with clingy wet saris is a homage to Hemen:)

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Recreating Nainsukh’s Mian Mukund Dev in Amit Dutta’s documentary on Nainsukh. The lady in red is identified as the singer Amal.

Via cineaesthetica.

The Maharashtra Post

Zee Talkies got a bunch of actors to recreate iconic roles in Marathi cinema for its 2013 calendar. The ones in this post are:

Pic 1-Urmila Kanitkar as Shanta Apte in Kunku.

Pic 2-Amruta Khanvilkar as Durga Khote in possibly Rajmukut.

Pic 3-Sonalee Kulkarni as Jayshree Gadkar in Sadhi Mansa.

Pic 4-Mukta Barve as Smita Patil in Jait re Jait.

There are different kinds of handlooms in Maharashtra. I can’t exactly id the sarees but I am guessing Pic 1 is Maheshwari, Pic 2 is Narayanpet (a bit uncertain about this) and Pic 3 and 4 are Ilkal* because of the characteristic pallu. In Pics 1, 3 and 4 the blouse is khan.

In the pics you can see some of the several styles of bindi in Maharashtra. The first of course is the kumkum/sindoor worn by married women and not specific to Maharashtra.  In Pic 2 you can see the chandrabindu – normally a red crescent with a black dot underneath – which is quite particular to Maharashtra (and maybe parts of Goa and Karnataka).  In Pic 3 is a horizontal red line, also quite specific to Maharashtra.  I canvassed a couple of friends but the only information I have that it possibly worn by rural women and is specific to some castes. A few accounts of Deccan paintings refer to it as chiri. Last up the black designs that used to be worn by tribal women (sometimes these were tattoos).

*Ilkal saris made of silk and mixed silks in Ilkal in Karnataka were very popular and fairly expensive in the 1900s or so in Maharashtra. Subsequently cheaper varieties were developed in Maharashtra which is why its probably a rural sari in pics 3 and 4.

More Maharashtra posts on tumblr.

The 1980s Recap

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Apologies for my absence!

As always on tumblr the 1980s. Not the best of decades for fashion but damn young Supriya Pathak was a goddess. And my style icon back in time. And a good actress to boot – someone please resurrect Idhar Udhar for us 1980s DD tragics. The other photograph is of Jayalalitha and Sivasankari. True story. I met Sivasankari once on a flight. Lovely lady.  We had a brief chat in which I defended my lack of Tamil reading skills – what can I say, it was the age of Rushdie and Roy – recalling this makes me deeply embarrassed.

And all the work on each decade at this link. This might be the last decade I cover because I can’t make up my mind about the 1990s – retro or not?! Also 1990s fashion – just looking at it makes me faintly depressed….

The 1960s in India.

In no specific order:

The decade started with Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister and ended with Indira Gandhi as the PM.  From 1964-1966, we had Lal Bahadur Shastri (pictured here in 1964) as the Prime Minister.

In 1961 Goa was annexed becoming India’s 21st state. Portuguese enclaves like Daman & Diu also became a part of India as Union Territories.

The country was at war twice in the decade: The Sino-Indian war of 1962  and the Indo-Pakistan war of 1965.

Shastri was responsible for the Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan slogan of the 1960s.  Shastri’s visit to Amul was the first step in Operation Flood aka White Revolution that began in the 1960s and was intended to make India milk-sufficient. Per this link the Amul Girl was born in 1966.

Around 1961-1963 also saw the introduction of high yielding rice and wheat in India (see Green Revolution).  Part of agricultural policy post this decade was also a result of the Bihar famine of 1966-67.

The banks were nationalised in 1969.

The Naxalbari uprising took place in 1967.

The Dhori colliery disaster took place in 1965. It is listed amongst the world’s worst mine accidents.

Hindi was declared the official language of the nation in 1965 for all government transactions. Following anti-Hindi riots, English was adopted as an associate language in the same year.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad qas founded in 1964, the Shiv Sena in 1967.

The National Institute of Design was set up in 1961 subsequent to The India Report (by Charles and Ray Eames) in 1958.

The State of Art in 1960s India.

Reita Faria becomes the first Indian woman to win an international beauty pageant.

The fashions you have already seen.  The big stars of the decade – Sadhana, Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore, Saira Banu et al – sported tightly draped saris, tightly draped churidar-kameez, big hair, pale lips and dramatic eye make-up. The Sadhana fringe was a bonafide craze. Sharmila Tagore rocked a bikini. And there was Helen, the cabaret queen of the country.

Ray, Ghatak and Mrinal Sen worked through the 60s but by the end of the decade you see the beginnings of the parallel cinema movement of the 70s and 80s in films like Gejje Pooje, Sara Akash etc with Bhuvan Shome being a commercial success. [X]

Ads from the 60s in India and Pakistan – X, X, X

Rock in the 60s. The Sri Lankans visit. And the Beatles in India.

A general sum up of the decade through foreign eyes.

1960s. Sari History.

The 1960s in Film – Love in Tokyo (1966)

Love in Tokyo (1966) hardly needs any introduction. It’s the kind of frothy romance set in an exotic foreign locale (or at the very least Kashmir) that the 1960s specialised in. Naturally the leads are in their 60s best. With some curious Tokyo induced diversions.

Asha (Asha Parekh) wears a number of pastel coloured saris with elaborate embroidered borders. All very 60s.  These are teamed with fitted long sleeved blouses which are also common in the 1960s.  A similar combo, albeit with all over pattern, for Lata Bose (last panel).

It’s past the mid point of the 1960s, there is no way Asha wasn’t wearing a tight-fitted churidar-kameez.

Some other details: the eye make-up, the danglers(pic 1), the red sari and sleeveless blouse accessorised with an arm bracelet (pic 2), the back buttons on the blouse (pic 3) and the sari cape (pic 4 and 5). Neat hair ornament (pic 6). And pic 7, I don’t know what that is except that Asha seems to lounge around in while reading letters.   And of course there was the love in tokyo hair bands though they seem to have passed me by.

Asha wore a pillbox hat.

I wasn’t sure whether she was Chinese or Japanese,  we got both the cheongsam and kimono.  Further the cheongsam was worn with a kimono cape which is like way ahead of its times given its 2014 avatar (I kid).  To show us they are in Japan, Mehmood dressed as a geisha but we will NEVER SPEAK OF THAT AGAIN.

lt9 lt13Ashok (Joy Mukherjee) was the perfect chocolate hero in a suit and a 60s tee.


The piece de resistance? Surely Asha’s sari-wrap which predates the Mumtaz version by two years. It seems to be pretty much a stitched version of the sari. Also we see yet again sleeveless blouse=arm bracelet.

I don’t think Love in Tokyo resulted in a sari-kimono (still waiting for that day) but it’s clothing certainly captures the slightly frivolous, cheerful nature of 1960s fashions.