Anarkalis, the regal, frock-style kurtas, are almost every woman’s favourite traditional Indian attire. They have been a part of traditional Indian wear for a long time. Mughal emperors, such as Akbar and Shahjahan, wore them with elegance. Actor Madhubala immortalised the anarkali in her portrayal of Anarkali, the royal courtesan in the film Mughal-a-Azam. Kathak and Kathakali dancers also wear long, flowy anarkalis during performances. Anarkali remains a big trend at Indian weddings. From the bride to her friends, moms and sisters, there’s at least one anarkali for everyone.
And now, there’s the anarkali for men, too! Nicknamed ‘manarkalis’ by the fashion-forward folk, these are anarkalis specially designed for men who have enough swag to rock the androgynous look. A recent fashion show by the designer duo Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, held in New Delhi, saw male models donning colourful manarkalis. Even Bollywood stars such as Ranveer Singh, Anupam Kher and Ali Fazal have been seen wearing different versions of the manarkali.
This reinvention of the anarkali came into being because fashion and style knows no boundaries. “Beauty knows no borders, much less stereotypical and artificial constructs like masculinity or femininity. The mananrkali is about celebrating the universal spirit of beauty. It’s about freedom and fabulosity. We wanted men to experience a new form, something our present generation is not used to wearing, and that’s how the man-anarkali was created,” say Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla.
Designer Gaurav Khanijo says that it’s an interesting take on the angrakha. “I’m pro-angrakhas! They are flared at the bottom and structured on the top, a perfect pick for muscular and tall men.”
“This attire has a very royal, Mughal appeal. After Ranveer Singh bought it back in trend, I got a fabulous response. They are quite popular in the wedding season. I have designed angrakhas for grooms during wedding festivities,” says designer Anju Modi, who also designed angrakhas for men for a period drama movie.
When we asked bridegrooms and fashion lovers if they would opt for the trend, they gave a mixed reaction. Entrepreneur Daljit Sean Singh, 49, sees it as a cool trend. “Fashion is all about exploring and going out there.Fashion has no genre. It is always out of the box. I would love to try the manarkali trend,” he says. Agrees model Ravish S. Bashisht, saying, “I’m totally up for trying a manarkali at my wedding or a friend’s wedding. I think it’s a great way to express your personal style and stand out.”
Former Bigg Boss contestant Sushant Divgikar, too, gives the style the thumbs up. “Indian gods and kings have worn robes and absolutely fantastic clothing that didn’t adhere to the gender stereotypes we’ve created in today’s time. Androgyny is something everyone must appreciate because every human being has a masculine and feminine side! I love wearing gender neutral clothes such as anarkalis and angrakhas,” says Divgikar.
However, Abhinav Verma, an HR professional who is getting married in the next few months, says that he is not sure if he would wear it. “I won’t go for a manarkali for my wedding. It may look great on models on the ramp but it doesn’t work for all body types. I don’t think I can pull off the trend,” he says.
Raghav Bindal, 27, businessman, says that a manarkali doesn’t work for him. Another practical problem that seems to be making men wary of wearing manarkalis is there’s no way they can relieve themselves wearing such a flowy, elaborate outfit. Would they have to resort to using diapers? Bindal says, “I think it’s a tad too feminine for me. I would rather stick to well-tailored suits. And what a hassle it will be to pee wearing something like a manarkali.”