When it comes to sarees, bollywood sarees have always been trendsetters- be it for colours, prints, designer blouses or the style of draping it. There could not be a better platform for learning about the latest styles and trends than our film industry, Bollywood as it is fondly called.
This is so because to the women of India, the saree is not just a piece of attire-it is a symbol, a symbol of buoyancy and endurance, of never-say-die spirit and steely resolve of an ordinary Indian woman. Could a centuries old piece of attire withstand the onslaught of disparate cultures, different ways of life and yet survive? And the saree has not just survived-it is now creating ripples on the fashion circuits across the world.
It is easy for women to get influenced by the sarees worn by the leading ladies, whom they want to emulate. This is partly because of the fact there is a whole team working behind the scenes to create the magic we see on the screen-the fashion designers, the make-up artist, the hairstylist, the cameramen, choreographers, et al. What emerges on screen is a larger-than-life persona whose slightest whim becomes a fashion-dictate for millions of wannabes across the nation. Bollywood sarees, needless to say, play the greatest role in redefining the look of an actress. Each saree is a trendsetter in its own right, each piece crafted meticulously to have a mesmerizing effect on the audience. Fresh colour combinations, prints, embroideries and fabrics tried out by the talented bunch of our directors like Manish Malhotra, Ritu Kumar, Sabyasachi Mukerjee, Wendel Rodricks and Neeta Lulla, etc. never fail to have a hypnotic effect on the women in the audience who notice every little detail.
There was a time, in the late sixties and seventies when traditional Bengali sarees with contrasting borders were the favourites- Sharmila Tagore in Safar Waheeda Rehman in Guide. These sarees slowly got metamorphosed with blouses getting soft, lacy and full-sleeved. And then, all of a sudden, Mumtaz changed the look of the saree completely with her style of draping that unforgettable orange saree in ‘Aajkal tere mere pyaar ke charche…’. That was also the time when Hema Malini, Neetu Singh, Zeenat Aman and Reena roy ruled Bollywood. Their bold fashion statements like blouses with necklines that plunged to give a better view of the cleavage and blouses knotted at the back became nation wide hits. Bollywood sarees of this era were feminine, classy and sensuous without looking cheap or slutty.
Following this era, the look of the archetypal bollywood heroine underwent drastic change and she wore westernized clothes, till Madhuri Dixit in Hum aapke hain kaun Aishwarya Rai in Mohabbatein, Hum dil de chuke sanam and Devdas and Sushmita Sen in Main Hoon Na revived the saree. Who can forget the seductive teacher of Main hoon na whose see-through chiffons and contrasting blouses could make any student forget the syllabus and want to study her!! Not that there were no heroines in sarees in the intervening period-that would be impossible. But most of those Bollywood sarees were on heroines who got drenched in a sudden downpour (Sharmila) or were bathing under a waterfall (Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Mandakini in Ram teri ganga maili), intended to titillate the male audience. Katrina Kaif elegantly draped in a black-red saree in the melodious ‘Teri ore’ from the movie ‘Singh is King’ looked absolutely stunning and classy.
Whatever the era, style or motive, Bollywood sarees have always influenced the way young women in India made their choices pertaining this five yard drape. They have been instrumental in promoting this quintessentially Indian piece of attire at global platforms. Heroines have over the year’s worn sarees to international film festivals and walked the red carpet in them, leaving audiences across the world awe-struck at the grandeur, charm and sensuousness exuded by a lady even when she is fully dressed.
Thanks to Bollywood, the centuries old saree in its new avatar still has takers among the new generation and this piece of ensemble is now creating ripples on the fashion scenes across the world!