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As fashion moves away from the crassness of bling and ushers in an era of time-honoured styles, the desi elegance of jhumkas is making a mark once again, observes Surekha Kadapa-Bose

Bollywood has immortalised this modest umbrella-shaped piece of jewellery in its many songs and romance sequences, no bridal trousseau is really complete without this delicate finery, and most women possess at least a pair or two, often handed down several generations. Jhumkas, a pair of jewellery that sports the stamp of Indianness all over it, makes us feel effortlessly stylish and desi at the same time. There are western counterparts in the form of chandelier earrings and danglers, but nothing quite beats the reticent elegance of jhumkas.

Till a couple of years ago, jhumkas were more localised. Only South Indian women and kids — from tiny tots to those in their golden years — adorned their ears with these swingers, made in assorted material like terracotta, brass, silver or gold. Some of them were set with semi-precious or precious gems; some had pearls hanging from the dome; some had either coral or black beads. Decking herself with a silk saree, clusters of mogra flowers and swinging jhumkas, the quintessential South Indian woman, often a voluptuous one, had oomph written all over her.

Today, this piece of ear jewellery has earned itself nationwide popularity. Even Kolkata-based fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee designs jhumkas for his collection. Shops in places as far-flung as Himachal Pradesh in small towns like Manali, Shimla and Naggar have silver jhumkas on sale, as our recent travels made us discover. The credit for popularising this, either directly or indirectly goes to South Indian superstars in the Hindi film industry.

“Several of my clients request me to create a jhumka as worn by actors like Vidya Balan, Rekha or Deepika Padukone in a particular film or an event,” says Mira Gulati of Delhi’s Mirari Jewellery House. “The popularity of these stars seems to have subsequently increased the popularity of jhumkas.”

In fact, in one of her interviews to a newspaper, Vidya Balan has extolled the beauty of jhumkas. She was quoted as: “I never leave a chance of buying jhumkas. From the most expensive jhumkas to the ones I have bought on Mumbai’s local trains for just Rs 5, I just love my collection. At times when I lay out my entire jhumka collection and just look at it, I feel completely like a woman!”

The romanticism associated with the jhumkas extends to the movies of the yesteryears too. In the black and white era or even during the Eastman Colour films, every South Indian films had female actors sport the jhumkas whatever be the occasion. Amitabh Bachchan serenaded Jaya with a ‘Tera.. jhumka re hai, hai tera jhumka’ in Abhiman, while Sadhana danced to the immortal tunes of ‘Jhumka gira re Bareli key bazaar mein’ in the 1966 film Mera Saaya. From Vyajanthimala, Waheeda Rehman, Padmini, Sridevi to Jaya Pradha every other actress have sported them. In the audience, while men were captivated by the singing and dancing actresses, the women were bedazzled by the jhumkas.

But today film and TV actors irrespective of region, especially if there is a marriage or a festival scene jhumkas have become de rigeur. Even during Karva Chauth ceremonies which is predominantly a north Indian festival women are seen wearing the jhumkas instead of the usual north Indian jewellery. In fact TV actors seem to have grown very fond of them. Even TV anchors, be it news or entertainment channel, sport them. Of course they do not prefer large chunky jhumkas but the dainty, delicate and petite ones.

But the revival of jhumkas is not all due to its popularity with South Indian actors. It is also due to the creative brilliance of jewellery designers who have kept in mind the sensibilities of different cultures, and brought innovation to the traditional jhumkas to suit everyone’s taste.

“The typical traditional jhumkas had a lot of metal in the stud clamped on the ear and also on the dome. Even the chain holding these together was heavy, increasing its overall weight. But now, we have made it more contemporary and light,’’ says Chetna Nanda of Chitih Sparkling Gems.

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