The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mandy in six yards of knots

April 29: When Australia’s Adam was taking the pants off Dilhara Fernando last evening, an Indian eve was busy rummaging through the wardrobe to find a replacement for her colour-splashed sari.

Midway through the show, Mandira Bedi reappeared on television screens in a black and white sari, the severe tones matching the grim mood around the controversy-drenched World Cup and a new sense of wariness creeping upon celebrities.

For the Cup final, Mandira had thoughtfully picked a Satya Paul sari featuring the flags of the 16 participating countries. What she did not give much thought to was how to drape it so that the Indian flag was placed above the waist.

Apparently, the tricolour fell below the waist — the lakshmanrekha beneath which lies forbidden territory. According to Indian law, the national flag can be used on apparel, but not below the waist.

If wilful disrespect is proved, the punishment can go up to three years’ imprisonment.

Some hawk-eyed viewers, among them a Calcuttan, did not miss the transgression and the now-familiar drill of rapid response followed: a police complaint was filed and outrage was expressed.

All of which prompted Mandira, who was not in her eyeball-grabbing, spaghetti-strap mood this time, to wriggle out of the “offending” sari and apologise for the oversight.

The offended Calcuttan, who is soldiering on with the complaint and has taken it to the police commissioner, has been told to furnish a video clip to prove that the tricolour was indeed below her knees.

Mandira was not available to comment but a statistical defence could be that the position more or less reflected India’s performance in the Cup.

Such wisecracks, however, were not forthcoming today in the capital of celebs, Mumbai, which seems to have learnt to affect a new air of caution after the heat generated by Richard Gere’s kiss on Shilpa Shetty’s cheeks.

Several dial-a-quote celebrities fought shy of comment on record. Others cited the law, skirting the question whether the citizen whistle-blowers should focus their firepower on graver crimes being committed every day.

“This is about violation of an unambiguously laid-out law. But the obscenity law under which Gere and Shetty have been accused does not clearly state whether a peck on the cheek is considered illegal,” said a “socially-active” actor.

Roasie Ahluwalia, the head of corporate communications at Satya Paul, said the fashion house could not be blamed. “It must be understood that the sari is a draped attire and depending on the way it is worn, there is no guaranteed position where a certain motif will fall. In this case, it fell at an undesired spot.”

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