I have worked with the Maharaja on many occasions and the one thing that I can confidently say is that he was passionately involved in the development and revival of Karnataka’s indigenous textile—the Mysore silk. He was quite opposed to the idea of India importing silks from Thailand and China and believed that it was our responsibility to help the Indian silk regain its lost glory. He worked closely with local weavers and quite relentlessly too, in order to give the Mysore silk its deserved recognition. That was the idea behind the establishment of Mysore Royal Silks.
When it came to his fashion shows, the Maharaja knew exactly what he wanted, and he wanted them grand. His shows were a reflection of the royal grandeur he was accustomed to. Before we even got down to planning the shows, he’d call me and show me the sketches and explain each of the designs in detail and then move on to the lights, props and the music. It was all meticulously laid out.
If one ever saw any of his shows (he would have at least one every year), they’d know how dedicated he was towards showcasing the Mysore silk in its most versatile avatar. His shows began with contemporary designs and ended with forgotten, royal costumes. He wanted to tell the world that silk didn’t have to be restricted to only certain styles and can be as flexible as any other fabric.
As expected, he kept tab of the Indian fashion industry. I remember him telling me that he liked the works of Rohit Bal and Tarun Tahiliani and that designers should seriously look at bringing back Indian styles. He always stressed upon research and said designers should constantly dig deeper to unearth the forgotten fashion of the days of the royals.
I am not sure what will happen to the brand, now that he is no more. But the Maharani was equally involved in his work. One can say that she was his muse. In fact, she would wear something from his new collection every time he had a show. Maybe she will take over…
When I think about it, the Maharaja was truly a man for all seasons. A voracious reader and extremely knowledgeable, the Maharaja was a big patron of the arts; it was because of him that I got to know about forgotten Carnatic musicians of yesteryears. He was witty, gentle and a wonderful man.
I don’t know if people of Karnataka will really understand the impact of his passing but I do know this: with him gone, we have lost a strong representative of Karnataka’s culture and heritage.
As told to Priyadarshini Nandy