Sparsh (1980) deconstructed

Just 4 years separate Kadambari and Sparsh but the former is firmly rooted in 70s styles while Sparsh gives a glimpse of the styles of the early 80s with barely a hint of the 70s.  So let’s look at what the actors (mostly Shabana Azmi) wore.  A heads up – given the DVD quality some of the screen captures are a little murky.

Since Ms Azmi plays a widow most of her wardrobe is quite subdued.  Her friend played by Sudha Chopra on the other hand is a little flamboyant while the men flirt with Indian “jholawala” styles now and then.

Since the early part of this decade was very “ethnic chic:, Ms Azmi wears a lot of handlooms. A lot of these are quite specific to the time and not seen as often now. You could say that the kind of handlooms in style also change with each decade.

The plain sari.  The oatmeal coloured sari is probably some kind of raw/matka silk. Here it is teamed with an ikat blouse.  The peach colour sari is probably a satin, teamed with a khann blouse. These  in a way precede the plain satins of Arth, Silsila, Masoom etc.

The time period of the movie seems to be autumn/winter so you see a lot of the little appliqued jackets from Gujarat in the film.


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The silk sari.  For a couple of social engagements Ms Azmi wears silks.  The id-ig of these proved to be the hardest. The white and black Kanjeevaram is pretty straightforward.  The red and yellow I think is a Banarasi sort (one her character buys for the “feel”) though they lack the characteristic “bootis” on the body of the saree.  In the third black and white sari, the motifs are a little unclear so it could be a Balucheri or a “South” silk (probably Chettinad, also the temple border suggests the south).  This could be a cotton but the drape and movement seemed like silk to me. Then a couple of printed silks in earth tones. And last an elaborate border saree in white, red and green which I found hard to id (probably a Kanjeevaram). Almost all have very broad borders, as do many of the other sarees worn in the film.


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The Odisha saree.  Despite varied colours and weaves the most common Odisha saree of the time was the one with a sandalwood colour base and a maroon ikat kind of border (as also the pasapalli).  In the movie the sari is teamed with a maroon ikat blouse (which is also used for the printed silks). Ms Azmi also wears a simple rust coloured sari with a black ikat border.


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The Bengal saree. A lot of 80s movies have Bengal cotton saris, usually tant.  These broad borders are no longer seen that often, indeed the tant as everyday wear (softening considerably with use) is also no longer common across middle class India.


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The South cotton.  Broad borders and vivid colours. I think these are from Andhra.


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Assorted Saris. Ms Azmi also wears a mauve applique sari, a few light printed cottons, a few Kota kind of sarees, a synthetic sari of the Vimal/Garden sort and a patola border sari in white and red (which may be a silk).


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The winter wear. The aforementioned Gujarati applique jacket (sometimes quilted) and shawls. The black and red one is probably Kutchi.


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Nightwear, blouses, hairstyles: 80s nightwear was usually the maxi (here collared), which Ms Azmi again teams with the applique jacket (the movie certainly provides ten ways to wear a crop jacket!). The blouses are close necked and V necked with elbow length sleeves. A lot of the blouses are the “matching” plain sort but there are a few discreet mix and match versions.  In most scenes Ms Azmi has a single plait but that casual knot while working reminded me of my mother.


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Sudha Chopra’s costumes: These have a upper middle class Delhi women of the 80s vibe. A lot of translucent georgettes and chiffons, a few muted silks, Punjabi suit sets but also a South (probably Chettinad) handloom witha dramatic temple border.  Also glass bangles, a short crisp haircut and immaculate nails.


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What the men wore: When they wear Indian, mostly kurtas and shawls.  A silk chudidar-kurta set for Amjad Ali Khan. And a few 70s touches as in the big collar shirts worn by the husband of Sudha Chopra’s character as well as the printed shirt of the little boy.


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There are a few sarees that are omitted but on the whole Sparsh gives a glimpse of early 80s middle class styles in India, albeit of the “arty” kind.  Apart from the costumes, as always there is a glimpse of interiors (the sunken drawing room), rough ceramic crockery of the Morbi pottery sort, outdoor places like the Chinese restaurant etc that all remind you of the way things were.

UPDATE: Some notes from life_in-a_saree via instagram on the sarees featured here.  Since she is a “handloom geek” and ids almost all her saris, her observations and corrections are pertinent and welcome!


  • Some initial thoughts on the Sparsh article, more as I read further down… The first white with black border may be a Kanjivaram or a Gadwal. The yellow and red saree is definitely a Kanjivaram, given the Petni joint where the palla begins and seppu rekku pattern in the palla. The black and white one seems to be of Tamizh origins too, with the double pet Annapakshi borders and the Korvai temples. And the last one seems to be a Benarasi to me…
  • The broad bordered Bengal cotton looks delish! I’m happy to report I do have a couple of older Dhonekhali taants that look similar… As for the South cottons, the last one with yellow broad borders looks like Chettinadu to me
  • That last Patola in the assorted sarees slideshow looks like a Pochampalli ikat silk for sure… So very pretty!
  • And Sudha Chopra’s gorgeous red silk seems to be a zero Zari Kanjivaram.


About Anu M

A potted history of Indian clothing and fashion.
This entry was posted in 1980s, 2017 posts, Actor, arthouse, Cinema, Costumes in Cinema, fashion, film costumes, Film Costuming, Hairstyles, handlooms, Indian Actors, Indian Aesthetics, Indian Cinema, Indian fashion, Indian Textiles, Indian Women, late 20th century, Men, retro cinema, retro fashion, Salwar Kameez, Sari, Sari Blouse, sari history, Sets, Vintage, vintage cinema, vintage costume, vintage sari, vintage style, winterwear, Working Women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Sparsh (1980) deconstructed

  1. Such beautiful fabrics must make anyone feel fabulous!

  2. lovely collections. Its the beauty of indian attire<3

  3. Pingback: On instagram | Vintage Indian Clothing

  4. Anisa says:

    Deconstructing old movies clothing is my love and I am so thrilled to find your post.I love old movies especially with Deepti naval and Farooq Sheikh and chronicle their attires in my own blog

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