The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nine yards of party puff
- Cadre happy with CPM campaign sari, but designer begs to disagree

With the wide walls whitewashed, the hammer-and-sickle has made its way to the whole nine yards in red and white.

Draping women in party colours, CPM leaders have found a novel way to beat the Election Commission (EC) ban on poll plastering.

And there's real method behind this poll-message madness. The aanchal of the sari, with silhouettes of men up in arms, is inspired by the cover of 10 Days that Shook the World, John Reed's account of the Russian revolution.

The entire white synthetic body of the sari is dotted with countless party symbols.

And the party loyalists draped in them, while campaigning for Subhas Chakraborty in Salt Lake, couldn't stop preening. 'Doesn't it look nice' It's very comfortable, too,' smiled Mamata Bhattacharya from Duttabad.

But where did the saga of the sari now so visible at CPM rallies and street-corner meetings begin' In the drawing room of FD 144, home to Subhas and Ramola Chakraborty.

'He had once distributed cotton saris during a party congress. They became so popular that women still come to rallies wearing them. So I suggested that we use the sari this time as well,' revealed Ramola.

Graphic artist Shyamal Jana was called in. 'Initially, we thought of putting Jyoti Basu's face on the aanchal. But we realised it would become too personality-centric. Subhasbabu then asked us to use the design on the cover of the book,' said the 47-year-old resident of Baranagar, attached to Pather Panchali, the cultural organisation run by Ramola.

So enter, Russian revolutionaries on Bengal's poll platform. The design was done on a computer screen, keeping the respective proportions of the motifs in mind.

A CD bearing the design at one-third the actual size was handed over to a sari manufacturer in Burrabazar who churned out the required number of CPM saris.

The sight of '500 women in the sari at Central Park' sure gladdened the heart of Ramola Chakraborty, but the drape did not manage to impress hot shot designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee, who would have done it quite differently.

'I find the entire idea of a campaign sari very novel but hilarious at the same time,' said 'Sabya' at the outset, before letting his imagination loose. 'The aanchal is the most prominent part and so, a single enlarged version of the CPM symbol printed boldly all over would ensure instant recall in a more classy manner. And the body should be kept plain for a more elegant look.'

The red-and-white combination is fine, but the fabric should have been pure cotton, not synthetic, he prescribed.

Another effective design device, according to the designer working on his New York Fashion Week collection, would be to splash the 'party's manifesto' on the aanchal in contrasting colours.

Artist Suvaprasanna, a Salt Lake resident, was less critical of the sari in party colours: 'It is yet another example of Bengali creativity, and a great way to bypass the EC curbs.'

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