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anuja iyer


We've heard of instant coffee, instant delivery, instant noodles, instant decision but if you're looking at an instant formula for instant grace, instant elegance, instant class, my dear women folks, it comes in the form of a woven material measuring mostly six yards carefully created by a weaver somewhere in a small town and finally reaching us through retailers in what we call as a 'saree'.  When in doubt, wear black but when you're sure, wear a saree.  It is now the season of festivities, weddings, family functions, social gatherings and the one outfit you're unlikely to go wrong, is in a well-draped saree, appropriately matched with accessories and the modishness that accompanies it. If you belong to the opposite gender, then here's something for you too. Surprise the woman in your house (mother, sister, wife or would-be) with a beautiful Kanchivaram silk saree and watch their smiles reach their ears.

Flip to the celluloid space and you'll notice that the saree is a must-wear costume choice to portray the heroine as a matured, suave working woman or to show the stark shift in her clothes from wearing jeans, salwar suits to the more stately sarees once the heroine gets married. Not that a woman of today wears only sarees after marriage in reality. But it transforms a girl into a woman and gives a physically defining characteristic to womanhood and the role that she essays.  The difference between classy and sensuousness is brought about by just the type of fabric and the way the saree is draped on the lady. It can make you look as stylish as a Smitha Patil in Namak Halal, as regal as a Revathi in 'Anjali', as drool-worthy as Sridevi in a nine yards madisaar in 'Meendum Kokila', as smoking hot as Sushmita Sen in 'Mein Hoon Naa' or as magnificent as Madhuri in 'Devdas'.

Beyond just the portrayal of characters and their roles as a corporate woman, mother, homemaker, professor or dancer as per the script, sarees have upped the visual appeal of our much-celebrated songs. I wonder if the 'Dhak Dhak' song would've been as sensational, had Madhuri been clad in a western outfit instead of the hot orange saree teamed up with an even hotter blouse or if Amala had worn a salwar suit in 'Thoongaatha Vizhigal' in Agni Natchathiram instead of the soft flowing yellow chiffon saree that she almost romanced with besides the hero Prabhu himself.  If you want the heroine to look exceedingly glamorous, it is as simple as getting her drenched in the rain a la Katrina Kaif in 'Gale lag Ja' duet with Akshay Kumar in 'De Dana Dhan'. Mandira Bedi, during her stint in anchoring cricket commentaries in her noodle strap blouses and customized sarees brought back the fashion in an otherwise traditionally worn saree trend especially on small screen.

After a spate of criticisms on her fashion sense in films and public appearances especially, Vidya Balan finally found her suitable outfit in a saree that best defines her personality. Her idol Rekha makes an inimitable style statement in her opulent silk sarees and traditional jewellery at every public outing. Besides the gorgeous cotton sarees that she sports in 'English Vinglish', Sridevi stole the show away in her recent promotion of the film on KBC where she looked ravishingly stylish even as she did a Michael Jackson gig in an embellished Indian saree. Taking a cue from the Shabana Azmis and Nanditas of the world, on most important new biz meetings, conferences and business talk shows where I am the speaker, I blindly opt for my set of jute or raw-silk sarees because I have this psychological reassurance that when you walk into a Board room full of clients or address a corporate gathering as the case may be, you are likely to be taken more seriously when you're clad in a classy saree.

The challenges in going for a saree however are to pick the right color palettes to go with your skin tone, the right material that complements your body weight and contour, the right design for the occasion that doesn't take too much of attention away from your pretty face, the right accessories to match it with and the right attitude to carry it off with poise and dignity. An even bigger challenge, which some men reading this may not be able to relate to unless the ladies have shared their tailoring woes, is to find the right tailor or stylist to stitch the saree's blouse with the right fit. And if you've made your purchase in the last minute for a specific occasion of anniversary or Diwali, it's a nightmare getting the blouse stitched in a short notice or you end up paying double the charges for getting your job done in half the time.  Anyway, those are logistical aspects that need to be planned if you decide on a saree for an occasion and if you don't intend to get yourself into a 'saree' state of affairs.

A single weave of six yards can be tied in about 50 different ways and has the power to push your imagination because of its smart draping flexibility to conceal a woman's body and yet reveal a hint of her in the most commonly acceptable way. So go ahead and pick your favorite hue from your preferred store and sashay this season in a designer georgette saree or tussar silk or the more eco-friendly organic silk or the million other collections that have been launched to match the festive spirit. My suggestion to men accompanying the women for shopping is to please be patient or take a book or ipad to engage yourself while we decide on that one saree that speaks to us and is ready to be adorned by us. And when we ask you if the selected saree is nice, at least make an attempt to look up, see the saree and then give your point of view rather than saying 'nice' to every saree while looking at your mobile phone. After all, you do love the look that a saree gives us and we love the look that you give us when in a saree. Happy shopping!

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