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Sorry, not sari: Why are gowns the official red carpet attire but saris are boring?

Nandita Das asks the fundamental question about celebrity fashion

Nairita Mukherjee Noir_Memoir 18 June 2018, 2:55 PM
Nandita presenting her film, Manto, at Cannes

Nandita presenting her film, Manto, at Cannes Image: Getty

What does Cannes stand for — excellence in cinema of course, but what else? Fashion. Think Aishwarya Rai Bachchan walking out in that Cinderella gown (from last year) or this year's butterfly gown that took 3,000 manhours to complete. So, yeah, it's a big deal for celebrities to make an impression and an even bigger one for designers.

Which is why, as soon as the Cannes guestlist is out, designers get in touch with actors coaxing them to let them design for them. Nandita Das, who was at this year's Cannes to launch the trailer of her film, the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-Rasika Dugal-starrer Manto, will vouch for that. She's, after all, pretty much a Cannes regular, you know. What? Didn't you know that? Perhaps because she's only ever seen in a sari.

“So many designers were calling me up... People say, ‘Again you’re going to wear a sari, how boring!’ I say, ‘People are wearing gowns again and again. Is that not boring?’" Nandita said in an interview with the Hindustan Times, forcing us to wonder at what point did gowns become synonymous to modernity? 

For starters, most actors don't even dare wear a sari on the red carpet, and in an attempt to stand out, they simply end up toeing the line. And then when someone does take that brave step, she is trolled to no end. Case in point: Vidya Balan in Sabyasachi, circa 2013. Her bold saris with statement neckpieces were equalled to a big fat Indian wedding outfit. Here's an actor who's truly only ever seen in a sari back home, and here's a designer who's truly resurrected the sari and made it cool. So, what went wrong? Too much gold, too much maroon, too rich? 

And how is that any different from Priyanka Chopra's MET Gala appearance this year, you know, colour and gold-wise? Can't both be bold and beautiful at the same time? Apparently not. Which is why Kangana Ranaut's Western retro outfit was praised more than her Indian retro outfit: The shimmery silver jumpsuit with the afro vs the black chiffon sari and a bouffant bun. At least she dared, that too on her Cannes debut, right? 

Cannes or the MET Gala, or any other international film festival, "is not only about clothes, but the films, interesting people you meet and conversations you have," believes Nandita. I say it is about diversity. And if that can be depicted in their movie selection, why not in the outfits? 

Read more: 

Productive things to do in 3k man-hours instead of making Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's butterfly gown at Cannes 2018

Priyanka Chopra's Met Gala dress hood took 250 hours to hand-bead

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