What does it mean for an artist like Zayn Malik to include an Urdu track on his debut album, but confine it to a mere one minute and forty three second interlude?
There’s been a resurgence of South Asian people and culture penetrating mainstream Western media, especially in the past few weeks with Coachella babes touting a dozen bindis per forehead and all the internet backlash about it. It’s unanimous that bindis and mehndi for music festival purposes are not okay; but what’s been more salient to me recently is that Zayn Malik somewhat publicized his cultural heritage and people thought it was cool, Priyanka Chopra showed up on Time’s Top 100, Neelam Gill became the first Indian to walk for Burberry, Deepika Padukone starred opposite Vin Diesel, Kala Chashma got featured on CNN, and Azealia Banks called Zayn Malik’s very Irish mother a curry scented bitch. Speaking of curry, naan is like…the same thing as a pita pocket, right?
Anyway, South Asia seems to be getting more global more quickly now, through a variety of avenues like appropriation/appreciation articles, Bollywood heavyweights doing Hollywood, naan and chicken tikka, cosmetic debates about body hair and lightening creams, Buzzfeed India…On the fashion side, India’s growing economy has probably been the largest force in bringing itself into the conversation about fashion, as H&M gets ready to follow Forever 21 into the country while a handful of models manage to exit for the international runways. Neelam Gill, Bhumika Arora, and Pooja Mor have been celebrated for boosting inclusivity (Neelam’s the new face of L’Oreal!) but hanging over their heads is the truth that everything is a marketing strategy. Their substantial successes feel dwarfed by my own experiences at fashion week. In two seasons and 27 shows, I only met one Indian model. This lone wolf happened to be backstage at Indian designer Bibhu Mohapatra’s show. Of all places, shouldn’t there have at least been two?
All these observations, some positive and some not, are what brought around this shoot with Rennu. It was finally time for me to play with a sari on camera, not that I never did that a hundred times with my mom’s stuff. It shouldn’t have taken so long for this shoot to materialize, but I’ll thank the aforementioned for prodding me to embrace my heritage and make something with it.
PS: Deconstructing a sari ended up being way easier than actually trying to tie and pleat and drape one properly.
Model: Rennu Sandhu