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Massakali Movement strives to empower the Indian Handloom Weaver Shabana Azmi, Bhagyashree and Sharmila Thackeray Grace The Event

Massakali Movement strives to empower the Indian Handloom Weaver
Shabana Azmi, Bhagyashree and Sharmila Thackeray Grace The Event

In order to revive the Indian handloom industry, and to keep the craftsmanship of the Paithani weaver women alive and breathing, Shraddha Sawant and
her brainchild Massakali had brought together more than 500 handloom sarees to an exhibition at Novotel, Juhu. Handloom lovers and actresses
Shabana Azmi and Bhagyashree were present along with Sharmila Thackeray, actress Indira Krishnan, filmmaker Anusha Srinivasan Iyer and Indian ethnic wear influencer Mamta Sharma Das aka The Bohobaalika, among many other celebrities. It was a pleasure to see them mingle with the weavers and their families, showing exactly how special a place handloom has in their hearts, as they all walked in wearing exclusive Massakali creations.

Shraddha Sawant had flown in two of their Paithani weavers along with one of their looms to recreate the entire weaving atmosphere to give the onlookers the opportunity to have a go at the weaving process. Paithani sarees jostled with several other handloom sarees such as Benarasi, Chanderi, Khadi-Jamdani, Ikat, Zari, Kanjivaram, and Garhwal at the well attended exhibition. 

Decoding the name of the brand, Sawant explained, “Massakali means a bird in flight, and stands for freedom, peace and prosperity – all the things I wish for our weaver community this festive season, especially our lady weavers.”

Emphasising how difficult the situation is for the weaving community, she stated, “The weavers are a tremendously talented but impoverished lot, all for lack of connectivity with buyers. They deserve to be valued by the urban audience, and patronised suitably for them to be able to continue to keep alive the age-old traditional process of weaving. That’s where Massakali steps in, and helps them live their lives happily while continuing their chosen vocation.”

Wishing to infuse new economic oxygen into the art of weaving before the tradition becomes extinct, Sawant continued, “The handloom industry is a vehicle to provide rural employment to protect our cultural heritage. Through Massakali, I am trying to revive the tradition-bearers who are in a state of penury, as well as bring back the symbol of India’s glorious cultural legacy – it’s weaving art.” 

Sawant also teaches weavers how to create exclusive designer sarees, besides the traditional weaves. “At least, once in a month, we personally visit small villages and interact with the weavers. We also give them new design ideas. They feel encouraged and motivated,” she smiled.

“When we preserve the dignity of the Indian craftsman, we actually help ourselves. Handloom is not just eco-friendly; it also lessens the carbon footprint as the revival slows down rural migration, besides making us torchbearers of a resurgence of hundreds of marvelous regional Indian weaves and techniques." 

Shabana Azmi, noted as much for her onscreen magnetism as for her penchant for handlooms, admitted, “My love for handlooms stems from my childhood. My mother was also a huge patron of Indian handloom sarees. When I have played the role of a weaver’s wife in Shyam Benegal’s movie “Susman”, I realised that women are allowed only peripheral status in this trade. I commend Shraddha heartily for involving women weavers and empowering them in the process.”

Ageless beauty Bhagyashree shared a sartorial secret, “I have plenty of Paithani sarees which were worn by my mother, which I hope that my daughter would wear and that her daughter would wear some day, for a very simple reason – that they are strikingly gorgeous!” 

She makes an amazing point when she said, “With sarees like these that retain their beauty forever, it is not only ones’ jewellery that one can hand down to our children but also these sartorial gems.” Both the artists heartily endorsed the support of handloom usage in everyday as well as festive wear, and appealed to all to come forward in support of the weavers energetically.

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