Surprisingly it wasn’t the gold swimsuit in Dostana but six yards of metallic beige fabric with silvery sequins that made Priyanka Chopra the “hottest girl in the world”. As she shook her hips to Desi Girl in a Manish Malhotra sari and a bikini blouse with jewelled shoulder straps, the slim pallu went past her waist, between her bosom and over her shoulder, breaking away from the traditional drape of a pallu which buries the bust under fabric. Her low-cut blouse didn’t just play a supporting role, it made an appearance throughout the song.
Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit made the sari sexy, but now it has become hip and risqué. While the leading ladies of the last decade relied on flowing chiffons, sprinklers,and a well-directed gust of wind to up the sexiness quotient, Bollywood actors now know the trick lies in showing off the blouse, not smothering it in the pallu.
Spotted: (from left) Raima Sen in a Manav Gangwani sari at IIFA(Bobby Yip / Reuters); Priyanka Chopra in a Manish Malhotra sari at IIFA (Tyrone Siu / Reuters); Katrina Kaif at Amrita Arora’s party (Yogen Shah)
And it doesn’t just stop at wearing sheer saris to show off the blouse. Katrina Kaif, Preity Zinta, Kareena Kapoor, Lara Dutta and Shilpa Shetty have all been seen at off-screen events in chiffon and embroidered saris with jewelled cholis that are short, backless, dipping at the cleavage and left uncovered by the pallu on one side.
Chopra’s look in Dostana was such a runaway success that Malhotra went on to do a collection of saris at the fashion week in March, one of which was also worn by the actor at the International Indian Film Academy awards (IIFA) in Macau last week.
Lara Dutta in gold, Sophie Chowdhry in pink, Raveena Tandon in red and Raima Sen in white, all wore saris designed by Manav Gangwani at IIFA. The label wasn’t the only thing they had in common —they all wore the pallu the way Gangwani likes it. The designer says he creates beautiful blouses and likes it when they are showcased as much as the sari. According to him, the only way to do justice to his blouses is by pulling the pallu tight over the middle of the bust and pinning it on the shoulder. “That drape of the sari instantly makes you look more glamorous,” he says.
For Nikhil Mehra of the Shantanu-Nikhil designer duo, this trend is about contemporarizing the oldest Indian ensemble. This trend is “cool” and works well with most body sizes. “It’s best when the sari is understated. The sari and the blouse must not compete. Be careful about doing this if you have a large bust size. The pallu shouldn’t be too slim then,” he adds.
Nikhil says this look is easy to achieve with his readymade two-piece saris that come with a pleated skirt (made with about 3.25m of fabric) and a separate pallu (about 2m) that has to be tucked in the skirt and then pinned at the shoulder. “You can bunch up the pallu to a width of about 3 inches, and that will give it a slim drape,” he says.
And if you want a sexier twist to your sari, wear it dangerously low, on the hip, and make sure to drape it tight so there’s no volume around the waist.
Gangwani suggests refraining from draping the pallu too slim if wearing a bikini blouse—or you might end up revealing too much. Revealing just the right amount is the key, according to designer Raakesh Agarvwal: “Play peek-a-boo, don’t reveal all.” He also suggests accessorizing the sari with a brooch and the blouse with jewel bells if you want to use the slim pallu drape. “There’s no need to buy an expensive designer blouse. Instead, get a cap-sleeved backless blouse stitched or wear a halter blouse and let the pallu go up in the middle instead of completely covering the bust,” he says.
But if you believe you have a beautiful blouse to show off, just let your pallu slip.