Indian fashion, like most things Indian, has always been in an identity crisis. It has had trouble figuring where the Indian of the fashion comes from. For a long time it was caught in the past, erstwhile Rajputana, with its grand palaces and a grander heritage of extravagance. Haute couture or high fashion in India started with recreating the royal look—by definition it was for the rich who used their money to buy what was essentially a piece of Raj nostalgia. For decades all that Indian fashion did was find new ways for the moneyed to look like kings and queens, to satisfy the fantasies of old and new money.

Then economic liberalisation happened, the middle and upper classes became richer, global fashion set up shop in India, and designs from the ramps of New York, Milan, Paris, and London found their way in. This changed the fashion industry, the way women dressed, and forced Indian designers to look beyond palaces for inspiration. New, younger designers, global citizens of today, brought in a more contemporary look. Suddenly, village chic became cool. Tarun Tahiliani, one of the country’s first couturiers, has lived through it all. Perhaps more than any of his peers, his is a constant search for an Indian aesthetic. Our cover story (“The master of chic”) this month by staff writer Alia Allana tracks Tahiliani and Indian fashion’s journey since the Eighties.

Malayalam cinema has hit a purple patch at the moment, as a string of small budget films without stars and customary melodrama have been big successes on the back of their storytelling alone. A more realistic, art-imitates-life school of filmmaking has taken root in Kerala and found new audiences elsewhere as well. Films like Angamaly Diaries, Premam, and Take off are the flag bearers of this change, writes Sujatha Narayanan in her essay, “Malayalam’s new auteurs”.

What does a patriotic Indian do in these times of nationalist fervour when the country is being led by a great leader? Consulting editor G. K. Rao provides the answer in his essay, “The reflections of a true patriot”.

Don’t miss Karen Dias’s photo story, (“Let the daughters run”) on the sporting revolution underway in Haryana, where more and more women are taking to the track, field and arena in search of jobs and glory.

Saurav Kumar

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