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The traditional Indian bra returns

Priyanka Thakran's idea of comfortable yet sexy lingerie is what develops when bras get a make-in-India treatment

Susan Sarandon is an actress I look up to,” says Mumbai-based film director Priyanka Thakran when we bring up the subject of the Hollywood veteran’s generous décolletage that became the talk of the SAG Awards last week.

Film director Priyanka Thakran is bringing India’s traditional bra - the angiya - back into fashion. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Film director Priyanka Thakran is bringing India’s traditional bra - the angiya - back into fashion. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi

That the 69-year-old actress offered more than a little peek-a-boo of her assets (that some gossip papers described as ‘still perky’) couched comfortably in a black bra is a total win in Thakran’s eyes. “If people are not comfortable with the way a woman’s breasts are, thats their problem. Comfort and health win over their opinions,” says Thakran, seated on a turquoise couch at Bandra’s The Yoga House.

Doing away with plastic and metal, and using cloth straps and a series of knots, the angiya prioritises comfort
Doing away with plastic and metal, and using cloth straps and a series of knots, the angiya prioritises comfort

The director has a reason for discussing a woman’s body. She is in the midst of launching a new line of bras that modern women aren’t quite familiar with.

Called the angiya, it’s a short-sleeved or sleeveless bodice ending just below the breast-bone. “It’s a tinier choli worn underneath a garment by some North Indian women. It looks almost like the blouses that Zeenat Aman once made popular,” says Thakran. Gone are the plastic straps, the underwire and puffy cups modern women are now familiar with. “Except for the hooks, this bra is metal-free,” says the designer, Want to do away with the hooks too? Play with the cloth straps and knotting options to secure the angiya in a variety of ways.

A year ago, Thakran, uncomfortable with the lingerie available in stores, asked her mother in Gurgaon if she should move to wearing angiyas. The tailor the women approached was unaware of the style, to which Thakran’s mother offered a prompt suggestion. “Ask your mother about it.” Whether he had that uncomfortable discussion with his mother about innerwear is not known but an angiya was devised.

The angiya is less enhancement, more functional, and currently comes in eight styles which she hopes to up to 15. Thakran’s angiyas revisit traditional Indian fabrics, such as ikat, native techniques such as Rajasthani quilting as well as the use of vegetable dyes. “We have used the basket weave in places to ensure an even look. The point of the angiya is to have a layer covering the breasts instead of bandaging them in some metal-plastic case,” says Thakran, whose last directorial venture was Emraan Hashmi’s Rush in 2012, which she helmed after her filmmaker husband Shamin Desai passed away in cancer.

The Parveen style, for instance, gives a relaxed oomph, while the Classic Bikini style is a basic no-push-up option. There is one named after a mythical man too. “I was inspired by Karna, who was born with armour, and decided to create our own slimmed-down version,” says Thakran of the Maharabharata character.

The single mother is used to the idea of her 12-year-old son pottering around angiya prototypes. Fears of an early introduction into erotica are dismissed, for Thakran says, “Breasts are functional. It’s funny how the world looks at something meant for babies.”

The angiyas will be sold online as well as in a boutique that Thakran plans to launch in Morjim, Goa, a few blocks away from Jade Jagger’s showroom. The vision of bohemian beach-strollers sporting angiyas and sarongs comes to mind, but Thakran says, “Well, angiyas are lingerie but if you are bold enough to wear them as outerwear, go ahead.” What’s the difference between a bra and a bikini? To recall lines from the hit TV series Mad Men — the cut, and the print of the cloth and some sort of gentlemen’s agreement.

With the angiya, these lines may just be blurred.

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