This cute zine on saris highlights the various associations we have with the garment
“In popular culture, a sari-clad woman is considered modest, but in Bollywood movies, it is equated with sex appeal. Similarly, a sari is a uniform in certain schools in South India; it is considered demure, but the garment also exposes the midriff. So, it encompasses both extremes.”
Design house Studio Kohl’s creative director, Mira Malhotra’s earliest memories are of watching her mother wear a sari. “She was Catholic, and had to learn to wear a sari later in life. She even married in a white sari,” says Malhotra, a post-graduate from the National Institute of Design (NID). Malhotra herself has developed a fondness for the garment after struggling to drape it.
Studio Kohl recently launched a zine titled Unfolding the Saree. Draped on a tiny metal hanger, the 24-fold zine showcases sari prints on one side, and a brochure on the many aspects of a sari on the other.
The zine highlights the associations we have with the sari. So it has images of actors Raveena Tandon and Mandakini (for the iconic sari-clad performances in Tip Tip Barsa Paani and Barsa Re Barsa, respectively), along with personalities like Mother Teresa and Indira Gandhi. “In popular culture, a sari-clad woman is considered modest, but in Bollywood movies, it is equated with sex appeal. Similarly, a sari is a uniform in certain schools in South India; it is considered demure, but the garment also exposes the midriff. So, it encompasses both extremes,” adds Malhotra.
The zine expresses Malhotra’s thoughts on saris, and mentions the mythological incident of Draupadi’s vastraharan (disrobing) as well the traditional association with the ghunghat (veil). “It is also interactive: it encourages the reader to open the folds and view both sides,” she says.
At a time when the debate about the burkini and hijab is making headlines, Malhotra is curious about where the sari figures in the debate. “Men are rarely judged by whether they wear a particular garment, or shamed for the unravelling of their clothes, though women often are,” she says.
Unfolding the Saree was Malhotra’s entry to the ELCAF 2016 (East London Comic Arts Festival) in June this year. She is part of the Kadak Collective, a group of South Asian women artists focused on graphic storytelling.
Next up, Malhotra is planning to take Unfolding the Saree to the Gender Bender exhibition in Bengaluru.
Where to buy
Unfolding the Saree is available at kultureshop.in; it will soon be available at Paper Planes and Filter, Kala Ghoda. Price: Rs 275