On Uski Roti (1969)

Uski Roti (1969) and Gaman (see my previous post) have a vehicle driver and a lonely wife in common and there the comparison ends. But this post is a companion piece to the Gaman post because like Gaman it’s limited number of costumes convey a sense of place and time, in this case rural Punjab in the late 60s. Where Gaman’s costumes signal a faded gentility and melancholia, the costumes of Uski Roti are rugged and utilitarian, with spashes of bold prints in keeping with the time. Add to this hints of ornamentation, a bit of tinsel, an anklet and so on. In this movie the men are a little on the margins, but given the rural setting and the truck driver protagonist, their costumes convey a direct sort of masculinity.

The female protagonist, Balo, and her sister are rural women. Throughout the movie they appear in a salwar kameez, the dupatta draped over the head and often with a shawl indicating a colder season.

The type of salwar suit worn is not dissimilar from say early 20th century photographs of the Punjab, in particular the shorter kurti worn by the sister. Given the otherwise just below the knee kurtas in the film, it did make me wonder if the shorter length indicated the sister’s youth. The prints however are like those of the 60s and 70s – often the kind of fabric and the prints are a more useful indication of the period than the tailoring per se. Where the sister’s kurta has strong sunflower prints that stand out against the stark background (and we can assume that it was brightly coloured too, given the 60s), Balo’s is a little faded. Nevertheless the motifs are large. Balo’s kurta sleeve is also like a buttoned down shirt – kurtas upto the 50s often incorporated western detailing in the collars, sleeves etc and these no doubt percolated into rural areas too.

A full length view of the salwar kurtas of the film above (click for larger view).

The movie has a lot of close ups and frames its actors against stark surroundings, you can therefore see the texture of the fabric as well as embroidery details on shawls and dupattas. I think the embroidery on the first 2 pics is Kashmiri but I am happy to be corrected if this is not the case.

Just a few more screengrabs that show the little details like the bangles and payal (anklet). As well as the protagonist’s bridal dupatta – synthetic with a bit of tinsel. And the winter signallers like the shawl (Kulu?), sweater and the razai/quilt (the block print Rajasthani sort).

The men in the movie have a bit of a mustachioed swagger overriding any ordinariness of clothing. Turbans and scarves tied around the head feature a fair bit. Much of the costumes can I guess be categorised as the tamba and kurta though I couldn’t always see the folds in the front.

As an aside, the lungi in a temperate climate like the Punjab is a bit interesting for me because broadly sarong/lungi garments are more common in tropical areas with divided clothing like trousers being favoured in drier, colder weather (there is the robe of course but that’s a separate story).

Sucha Singh’s mistress appears to live in a small town/city on his route. Though dressed not too dissimilarly from the rural women in the movie, the cosmetics and other things that surround her speak of the influence of cinema as well a greater focus on her appearance than the rural protagonists of the movie.

There are of course plenty of rural scenes in the movie as well as a card playing session filmed at Sucha Singh’s pit stop where the costumes provide a picture of the milieu but I haven’t really used those as they flow out from what I already have here.

I coudn’t ascertain who did the costumes for the film.

This review is part of summarising the costumes of older Indian cinema, you could say the little details that play a part in drawing us into a world long gone by.

PS: Uski Roti is not a movie I would easily recommend, though I quite liked it. I guess I would say read the non-spoiler reviews before giving it a try:)

About Anu M

A potted history of Indian clothing and fashion.
This entry was posted in 1960s, Costumes in Cinema, dupatta, film costumes, Film Costuming, Indian Cinema, Indian Costume, Indian Dress, Indian Textiles, Indian Women, Punjab and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Uski Roti (1969)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Among middle class Punjabis the tamba is nightwear. That is how my father has always used it

    • Anu M says:

      That’s interesting, that is a garment that has shifted to the interior of a home. Its use in this film piqued my interest because a lot of us outside the state usually only see it on bhangra performers.

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