This world-famous artistic metallic work Bidri is on the revival path but with a difference. The craftwork which gets its name from Bidar, Karnataka where it originated during the rule of Bahmani Sultans is a very sophisticated craft which consists of inlaying of gold and silver on steel or copper. Usually, it is incorporated as a craft seen on flower vases, jewellery boxes and signature items. It is a dying craft and a few surviving master craftsmen decided to revive this art form. So master craftsmen national awardee Abdul Rauf decided to move away from the old portfolio of designing it on a royal hookah and flower vases. To attract, the craft was incorporated into smaller items which went to corporate houses as USB drives, paper clips, key bunches, lockets, envelope openers, pen stands, lampshades and kajal boxes.
But international fashion designers who were mesmerised by this traditional craft went madly inspired by this craftwork. British fashion designer and couturier, Alexander McQueen who is the most celebrated designers known famously for his controversial collections was inspired by the traditional metal Bidri which he sophisticatedly managed to translate into his collection. This transfer of Bidri art form from metal to clothing soon attracted the fashion world and more and more fashion houses internationally have launched innumerable collections. Historians believed that the craft came to India through Abdullah bin Kaiser, a craftsman from Iran who was invited by the Sultan to work on the decoration of the royal palaces and courts.
Kaiser joined hands with local craftsmen and gave birth to Bidriware.
The craft today is surviving, thanks to the handful Muslim and Lingayat sects who are still practising it. The making of a Bidri product involves four steps: Melting the alloy, casting the article, engraving and inlaying the design and oxidizing. The usual patterns are the Asharfi-ki-booti, stars, vine creepers and stylized poppy plants with flowers, Persian rose and passages from Quran.
Following the trend of international designers, the Indian designers have also taken to this beautiful craft on to their collections. Ace designer Gaurang Shah and his weavers, inspired by the ancient art of Bidri have created a range that found instant love from the Bollywood world. Gaurang’s admiration for Bidri is making waves as a tribute to the world famous artistic metallic work known for its sophistication. His new designs have been incorporated into sarees as an array of yellow and orange huge border, contrasted with a navy blue body, and a coordinated blouse. The ever-stylish actress Taapsee Pannu has preferred the styles that carry the classic Bidri onto the sarees.
The ancient metal work also took to the imagination of the Ankur & Priyanka Modi’s first signature collection. Taking the seductive essence of this rich craft, 20 unique pieces have been created by the designers. Curated into a careful selection of flowing ensembles consisting of long jackets, capes, gowns, skirts, draped sarees, dhotis, anarkalis and lehengas, each piece is replete with luxurious fabrics like organza, velvet, types of silk and weaves laced with threads of silver and gold.
A multitude of techniques has been used on the garments amongst them heritage ones like mukaish and zardozi. Intricate pearls have been sewn into garments in some cases taking weeks as they have all been exquisitely and painstakingly embroidered by hand.
Indian fashion designer Rohit Bal, who won a standing ovation for his designs, during his show at India Couture Week 2016 dedicated the show as an ‘ode to the karigars’ (craftsmen). His entire collection displays his admiration for Bidri.
The ever famous designer Anju Modi who recreated the grandeur in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastaani is also inspired by the craft. She curated her entire ensemble collection based on this metal craft.
French fashion house founded by Pierre Balmain which is known for its ready-to-wear and haute couture and maintains the brand aesthetic in the ever-living world of couture has also been fascinated by the intricacy of Bidri. Balmain has also translated the metal artwork into his high fashion collection.
From metal to fabric, today Bidri has come a long way. It has become a very relevant craft which has a global appeal.
(Gaurav Mandal is a fashion designer and a recipient of two national awards.)