Dhoti dynamics

“If Shahrukh Khan can do a lungi dance, why can’t we do a dhoti dance,” laughs Karthik Mahesh, a 23-year-old IT executive. “It’s tricky, though, to shake a leg in the standard four-yard dhoti. There’s always the risk of it unravelling. Try the panchakacham instead; you could even do Michael Jackson's moonwalk in it. I have tried it at a veshti party,” he says, adding how his friend and he tied it in a slightly modified way with the help of Karthik’s uncle, who wears it every day for his early morning temple visits. “We had to sneak out of my house before my mother could see us, since you are not supposed to wear a panchakacham before marriage,” he laughs again.

For well-known bass guitarist Paul Jacob, the dhoti is an integral aspect of his musical oeuvre. “It’s like an extension of myself when I am on stage; a way of expression,” says Paul, who began to sport it in bright hues and attractive prints as part of the band Funky Bodhi when it was launched in 1997. “The members wanted to make a statement not just with their sound but outfits too. Thus began my experimental tryst with dhotis. I am very comfortable, whether in a four-yard or a panchakacham. In fact, I try wearing it in different styles according to the performance setting. I remember when travelling across Rajasthan and Gujarat for concerts, I learnt to tie it the way it is done in those parts in bandhani fabric.”

Internationally-acclaimed designers Abraham and Thakore’s dhoti line that was on display at Amethyst recently is proof of the traditional garment’s growing popularity among new-age fashionistas and its versatility in terms of styling. “The vocabulary of today’s youngsters seems to embrace many old-world elements, with the dhoti being part of it,” says Rakesh Thakore. Apart from its ethnic charm and identity, Rakesh feels that the lightness of the fabric makes it suitable for the Indian climate, especially down south. “Also, its unstitched character gives designers enough freedom to play around with the drape. By giving it a contemporary tweak, you can enjoy the best of both worlds.”

And if you thought that the dhoti is only for men, look at fashion runways closely. There are dhoti pants, dhoti saris, dhoti salwars, dhoti maxi dresses, dhoti jumpsuits and more.

You could pair them with crop tops, quirky printed tees, asymmetrical kurtas, kimono tops, and embellished cropped jackets for a fun look or with angarkhas for a classy touch.

“And the inventive range for both men and women don’t come just in white and mul. We experiment extensively with colours and fabrics to come up with new designs and patterns,” explains Rakesh.

It is people’s open-minded approach to style that has inspired designer Sagar Tenali to come up with his Turkey collection this Ramzan season. “Today’s globe-trotting youngsters are equally rooted when it comes to culture. I feel it’s a wonderful time to be a designer when you have so much to draw from around the world, to revive what is your own and cater to contemporary sensibilities. That is the reason I have introduced the Turki achkan with some minor tweaks and I am delighted with the response particularly from youngsters,” says Sagar, about this variety of the dhoti.

Historian Pradeep Chakravarthy discovered the elegance and comfort of panchakacham once he began wearing it more often than just during festivals and ceremonies. “Initially I used to fumble getting the three pleats on the right and four on the left correctly, but not any more. In fact, I feel the panchakacham gives you more freedom of movement than the regular veshti. I team it with half-thigh shirts. Just the other day, I travelled to Thanjavur, spent an entire day there visiting places and returned — all this in a panchakacham,” says Pradeep, who feels that it would be better if the veshtis come in a slightly denser weave than the see-through ones commonly available in the market.

One of the highlights of ace designer Anju Modi’s much-celebrated collection, on and off the ramp, Manikarnika, was the dhoti. Capturing the essence of Indian craft techniques, the couturier revived the dhoti in her signature style. She created enough drama by combining it with full-sleeved jackets, blazers, ties and bandhgalas.

Kolkata-based Sharbari Dutta, who has been specialising in menswear since 1991, is known for her label of dhotis that are a favourite of many celebrities and politicians. “You know, when I first introduced the Bengali varieties of kocha and chunnat dhotis in colour, with zari or embroidered borders, people mocked me. But now I am having the last laugh with so many designers and stores coming up with a similar range,” says Sharbari, who has revived not just the dhoti-tradition, but has also made the garment appealing to modern-day men, with her imagination.

“There are several varieties of dhoti now, including the ready-to-wear,” says Sharbari. “There are those that are quite functional while others that are best-suited for formal occasions. Kirron Kher’s son Sikander wore one of my dhotis for his wedding, and composer Bappi Lahiri, as well, for his son’s marriage. Designers Prasad Bidapa and Wendell Rodricks too love my creations.” Writer Shobhaa De’s husband Dilip is a Sharbari label loyalist. “I remember him telling me how he stood out in his black dhoti among the huge crowd of headbangers when MJ came to perform in Mumbai,” she laughs, adding, “Pop show or puja, dhoti is a timeless Indian drape.”

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Printable version | Jun 17, 2021 3:28:24 AM |

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