So I was forced to think about writing about Lungi coz last night I was watchin my cousin and wondering why there aren’t enough men in lungis these days.Recently, my friend sent the link to a YouTube video called ‘Land of Lungi’ lightly spoofing Kerala culture. I watched it three times before realising a sad fact: the lungi, despite featuring in the title of the song, might be an endangered item in Kerala.
Many years ago, there used to be a Kitex lungi advertisement featuring the Malayalam actor Indrans. It went something like this: A girl is being abused by a group of men. Indrans arrives at the scene and instead of mashing the villains into a pulp, he removes his lungi (in case you were wondering, yes, he was wearing boxers) and traps the men within its roomy interior. The ad is supposed to signify that Kitex lungi is not just about style but about substance too. My point is this: when was the last time you saw a lungi advertisement on television?
Sadly, it’s not just the lungi but its more subdued counterpart, the mundu, that’s facing extinction although at a much slower pace. Take Mollywood, that ever-reliable barometer of Malayali style. Unless the role particularly demands it (read if the hero is a politician, a Gandhian, or a villager), actors seem to prefer to stick to trousers. Grrr and its having an impact on my dad too!! He stopped wearing them at home even.Bermudas is the new lungi he says n I ask, doesn’t the restricted air supply irritate him n he says buzz off!
In the three generations of men in mylife, I’ve personally witnessed the decline of the lungi in popularity. My very elderly uncle(85 years) refuses to wear anything but it in the house and a mundu when he steps out, my dad only wears it during funtions and my brother has never worn one in his life. I asked him why and he gave me two reasons: He thinks that wearing a lungi is akin to sounding fashion’s death knell and he’s afraid it’ll fall off.
I beg to differ. What could be more fashionably elegant than the flowing silhouette of the lungi? Not to mention its power to mutate. A lungi is to Malayali apparel what steamed rice or ‘puttu’ is to Malayali food: it goes with everything, be it a transparent baniyan, a simple cotton shirt, a psychedelic silk one or a multi-coloured jubba. Also, what other item of clothing can ensure proper air supply and let you show off your tanned Malayali legs without reducing the machismo quotient by even a sliver.
But my favourite benefit of the lungi is that it allows you to do The Flick. If you don’t know what The Flick is, watch any South Indian movie scene where the hero is wearing a lungi. It usually occurs right before an action sequence and will most probably be in slow motion (especially if it’s a Mohanlal starrer). The hero bends down slightly, does a mini hop-skip flicking the end of a lungi into an outstretched palm before he ties it round his hips and proceeds to demolish the villains; with every lungi-addict in the audience silently, or sometimes not so silently, cheering him on.
It saddens me that such a versatile piece of clothing might be reduced to a collector’s item in the near future. For all of you out there who are wary of sporting a lungi, I beg you to reconsider. Here’s to the hope that it will weather all storms and soldier on to the next generation and the one after that coz personally speaking if my knight in shining armour ever comes, I’d want him to be wearing a mundu/lungi!!!!
For all those who are still wondering what a lungi/mundu is and how you tie one, here goes….
P.S- I dream of a Kerala with men in Lungi and mundu, wearing it like its new style n makin it a must have in a men’s wardrobe!