Film historian Mukund Joshi says this classic look, with a skin-toned full-sleeved blouse, was worn even by the likes of well-known yesteryears actress Jayshri Gadkar, who almost always played the mother. “Perhaps, rather than accentuate the actresses’ curves, it was thought wise to tone down their more-than-ample hips. So the dhoti got replaced with a lungi-like garment that had pleats down the centre.”
This look was to be shaken up like little else with the arrival of cabaret costumes. The huge following of these songs for ‘visual’ appeal meant the two piece bikini collision with the Amrapali outfit, a collision that Bollywood has not quite recovered from. One of the best examples of this is Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), where Athaiya again donned the designer’s hat. “Zeenat Aman’s character wears skimpy cholis and ghaghras but there are scenes in which we can see the bikini-Amrapali outfit too,” says Joshi.
Today, there are a number of references of the Amrapali for costume designers. But in 1984, while filming Utsav, a film based on the sixth century Sanskrit play ‘Mrichakatika
’, the biggest production challenge was designing costumes for the era. “Once the film began garnering rave reviews for its look, many — including Rekha who played the lead character Vasantsena — tried to hog credit for it,” says senior playwright, actor, and director of this classic, Girish Karnad. “All the credit should go to designers Jayoo and Nachiket Patwardhan who worked hard on the look.”