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Dhavani - complete short story

Updated on August 30, 2012

The Dream of an Actress

If looks can kill, sarees are accessories to murder. In my three years of acting, sarees have helped make me look soft and demure, strict and matronly, pious and orthodox, and frequently mysterious and seductive. Gujarathi housewife, Marathi fisherwoman, Tamilian bride — I have portrayed them all, with the support of five or six metres of eloquent fabric.

My sarees have caressed heroic faces and been pulled by villainous hands. They have been convenient in providing privacy to breast-fed babies or in ending tragic lives. I am a star and my sarees are popular. Shops now sell sarees branded after my film or me.

In my latest, which you have, no doubt, watched at least five times, the director-cameraman has used my saree as a powerful tool of communication. For example, in the airport scene, my character’s conservative upbringing permits her to greet her husband only with joined palms and bowed head. The close-up shows glycerine-induced tears of happiness, but the long shot reveals the end of the saree waving a welcome, freely in the breeze. In the climax of this ‘family drama’, where I am supposed to be a pillar of strength, the vertical pleats of starched cotton make me resemble a Greek column.

You may even state that, to a great degree, I owe my success to my sarees. That could be true but let me tell you a little secret: They bore me stiff. After three years of being seen in these unnecessarily long pieces of cloth, I have grown sick and tired of sarees.


This is how a dhavani or half-saree looks.
This is how a dhavani or half-saree looks.

And I have a dream my fans are not aware of: A dhavani dream. I fancy myself in a dhavani or half-saree. I wished, with all my heart, that an open-minded director would approach me for a dhavani-wearing role. Whenever I see a girl wearing one, a pang of nostalgia brings back memories of my village, my first love, temple bells, early-morning kolams and the smell of sambrani. Can’t put it accurately in words, but I promise you one thing. Give me a village girl’s role; Allow me to wear a green blouse, green skirt and a magenta half-saree; I will give you an award-winning performance. And it is not just sentiment; I have the figure for a dhavani. I have more flesh at the right places than, say, Miss Universe.

Now you will understand why, when an upcoming director-producer whose payment would very well end with a meagre advance, tried to book me for a village girl’s role, I agreed, though I was at the peak of my career. All for the coveted dhavani-role.

“Madam, my budget isn’t big. But my story is strong. I am setting it in a village near Madras and will use the locals for most roles. You have a strong role…”

“Do I wear a dhavani?”

“You will have to wear only half-sarees in the first half of the film. After you get married in the second scene of the second half you can wear sarees. And, you can wear ‘modern-dress’ in the dream-sequences.”

He didn’t get it. He thought he was doing me a favour. Who cares about his dream-sequences? My personal dream-sequences are dhavani dream-sequences.

“And there won’t be bathroom scenes, I promise. Only…er.. if you permit, the fans want it… a waterfall scene… No extreme close-ups, I promise.”

“No problem, sir,” I interrupted him with a kind smile. “I accept. Fix the advance with the manager.” I rose and he departed with his dreams.

I was thrilled. At last! I couldn’t wait for the shoot to start. When I danced around the statutory trees that day, I wasn’t acting. I was really happy!

The next week the director booked me with an advance that didn’t add up to my manager’s expectations. He was upset.

“If you want to wear a dhavani, madam, why can’t you do it in your free time? Why do you have to act in ‘cheap’ films?” He must have intended that pun. He didn’t understand! I am an actress, an exhibitionist. I want to be seen wearing a dhavani! I want dhavanis named after me!

Two days later, the god-sent director called me to invite me for the muhurtham.

“Great news, madam! Finance is arranged! We are shooting in Switzerland! You are studying in Europe! You can wear jeans and only ‘modern-dress!’”

Disappointment! I wouldn’t be needing glycerine for that day’s sob scene.

“But please bear with me, madam, when the hero dreams in the first half, you have to dance in a dhavani.”

Thank God for small mercies.

saree lesson


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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      I love the industry; it's given me lots of pleasure and upliftment. Thanks for the appreciation and comment, Brother Apreciator of Indian movies! :)

    • jeyaramd profile image

      jeyaramd 6 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      I have watched many hindi films and I can attest to the types of sarees worn by heroines. Its funny how women are then shown in modern outfits during dream sequences. You have to love bollywood and the indian cinema industry for being over the top. Its good fun. Thanks for the great hub.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 7 years ago from Chennai

      Difficult to get a good name that hasn't been used by an Indian actress, that's why, lex. :)

    • lex123 profile image

      lex123 7 years ago

      Interesting story. Didn't want to give a name to your heroine?

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 7 years ago from Chennai

      And you made my day, L.T. Thank you! :))

    • ltfawkes profile image

      ltfawkes 7 years ago from NE Ohio

      You opened up a whole new world to me, and did it with nice crisp prose. Thanks.


    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 7 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you Mac! :))

    • McHamlet profile image

      Paul Buckle 7 years ago

      Intriguing, I'll be reading more, thanks')

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 8 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Paramarora :)

    • paramarora profile image

      Param Arora 8 years ago from New Delhi

      Good Work Kenny

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 9 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, Usha. I don't mind, but I can have a link here to your post if you want.

    • profile image

      Usha 9 years ago

      The picture is lovely. Thank you.

      Do you mind my using it?

    • profile image

      Usha vaidyanathan 9 years ago

      I used to hate the dhavani as a teenager when it was all I was allowed to wear. I wanted to wear western clothing like the hep girls from liberal families. Now I can appreciate the beauty of it better although in films they ruin its beauty.

      I borrowed this picture for my post on dhavani.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Oh, thank you, Uma! I feel so good about myself!

    • Uma Shankari profile image

      Uma Shankari 10 years ago from Bangalore

      You are indeed a wordsmith. Impressive, considering how many insights you have been able to provide in the story. Keen observation and a light-hearted presentation. Good

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      You will look a wow in it, G-Ma!

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 10 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Wow cool I want one ha ha G-Ma :O)

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Delighted that you liked it, Meenu!

    • profile image

      Meenu 10 years ago

      Wow ! well a dhaavani and a movie star ..

      It was simple and short and did have the flow .. thanks for sharing ~

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Absolutely right, Zsuzsy! There is a return to innocence motif in her wish, yes.

    • Zsuzsy Bee profile image

      Zsuzsy Bee 10 years ago from Ontario/Canada

      I think your actress has realized that time is passing.It is more than just the dhavani being beautiful, in her mind is she wanting to go back in time to when she would have worn it ? To portray youth by wearing the dhavani she IS youth again.

      Nice HUB Kenny I just love tradition

      regards Zsuzsy

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you Jonathan, for your comment and that extra bit of information for our visitors.

      Yes, the dhavani seems to be trying to get back in fashion in Chennai. A bit. Now and then.



    • profile image

      Jonathan Justus S 10 years ago

      Superb sir, When I am in small age,. my aunty wears and cousin sisters wear the dhavani's even they are big now they are hating to wear sarees too. Thank god I am seeing more sarees in Chennai., But chudidhar culture came the dhavani's are too heavy to ladies.

      Dhavani's are cute, as you say it is symbolism., to a virgin girl.

      Thank you,


      Jonathan Justus S

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      On behalf of the dhavani, thanks, Isabella! It's the traditional south Indian dress for a girl who has 'come of age,' but is unmarried. Our feminists hate the symbolism behind the dress, naturally!

    • Isabella Snow profile image

      Isabella Snow 10 years ago

      Wowwwwww... thats so complicated looking, but very beautiful!

    • profile image

      priya darsi 10 years ago

      Nice story. Not funny actually. Made me sad for her.

    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 10 years ago from Chennai

      Thank you, my friends!

    • perfumer profile image

      perfumer 10 years ago from California

      Great hub Kenny!

      Keep up the good work.

    • SunSeven profile image

      SunSeven 10 years ago from Singapore / India

      Dhavanikkanavukal! Great work Kenny. I really enjoyed this Hub.

      Best Regards


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