Panjavarnam Penn - Darshana KT

Vijayalakshmi Ganesh
9 minute read

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We are going to address one of the most sensitive issues in India. So if at any point in this article we come off as being as offensive, we apologise in advance. 

This month’s Panjavranam Penn addresses a very important issue that makes most women insecure - Skin Colour. We are judged by our colour, we judge ourselves for our colour, we judge others by their colour. It hasn’t been an easy ride. We say it is a sensitive issue because we end up making most of our decisions based on our skin colour - I am darker than her, I look so pale, this colour will never suit me because of my skin colour! The judging never stops.

It is a lot to overcome and be confident in your own skin (no pun intended)! Having said that it really helps when people around you help you shed your inhibitions. We at Panjavarnam always meet women who wonder “Will this saree look good on me? It doesn’t suit me because….” We love encouraging our customers to go beyond and try colours that they thought would never look good on them. And we admire women who do take the leap. It shows how much you love yourself. 

The Panjavarnam Penn for this month is one such woman - who used to beat herself too much about her colour. She never explored colours, she never had the confidence because she thought she was dark. But as life happened to her, she was lucky to meet people and be in places where she learned to love herself more and drop her insecurities (about her colour) like a hot plate!

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Meet Darshana KT (DKT), a super talented 34-year-old and a mother of two gorgeous girls (we couldn’t believe it too!). Don’t be fooled by her demeanour. When she sings, believe us when we tell you we were flabbergasted. You have definitely heard DKT. Oh yes, you have! Pappu Can’t Dance Sala, Madurai ku pogaadhey di, Theera Ulaa, Kaara Aatakkara, Karuppu Perazhaga are some of the hit songs…. We know you are rushing to your phones to look her up! We did too. A talented singer who has sung one too many songs for AR Rahman and many other musicians, Darshana doesn’t believe in PR! She lives in the US but travels to India for work. This time she came to our Experience Studio in Mylapore, Chennai and when we heard her story. It was definitely one we wanted to talk about and she agreed, so graciously might we add!

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So Darshana, tell us. What was your first saree?

My first saree was one that I borrowed from my mother for a school function. Terribly uncomfortable. I was tiny and felt like I was wrapped up in something so huge. I was in Class 8 and I had to wear it for my school annual day and dance in it. But I completely loved that saree - It was an Off White saree with a Red border and pallu and I had matching jewellery and felt like a princess wearing. I loved everything about it. But I was so uncomfortable.

The first time I wore a saree and really enjoyed it was at College. It was a beautiful lavender georgette saree and my mother had given it to someone from Haryana to do some embroidery work on it. It had gorgeous pearl embroidery on it. It was also the first time I was so excited about wearing a saree that I did everything to make myself look beautiful -  I got my hair done, my eyebrows done, and dressed up well. I love that saree and I still have it with me.

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My first memory of a saree

I don’t know about a first memory but my most favourite was the first time I wore a Madisar (9Yard Saree). I did not want to invest in a Silk 9 yard even though everyone told me I had to wear one for my wedding. I decided I was going to wear a Silk Cotton 9 yard saree. It was the first time I went saree shopping for myself. I saw this beautiful Red saree with thin kattams on the body. I did not know what I was signing up for though. You cannot pee easily in a saree. But it got me thinking about how my grandmothers and great grandmothers have only been in a madisar since their wedding day. Yes, that is my most important memory of a saree. That is also Karthik's favourite memory of me in a saree. He says I look the most beautiful in a Madisar. I have worn a madisar only on 3 occasions - For my wedding and for the one-year birthday ceremony of both my daughters. So yeah, this is my most favourite memory of a saree. 

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What does a saree mean to you?

Colour was one factor that always hindered my choice of wearing a saree. I always thought when you wear a saree you need to look gorgeous, you need to have great skin, the saree you choose must be appropriate for your skin colour. It was never like picking our a pair of jeans and a Tee-Shirt, I never found a saree that comfortable. I would always think wearing light colours or off-white would make me look dark and bad. So I always chose earthy colours. I also believed that with my skin type you couldn’t make did not have too many choices. But it was the way Karthik looked at me at the wedding when I was wearing all those sarees - colours I would never have picked by myself - that actually made the difference in my choice. I always believed that you wear a saree only for special occasions and look extra pretty, but I don't anymore and I owe that to Karthik (partially).

Funny story, I met Karthik only a week before we got married. Ours was an arranged marriage. Our wedding was when we actually got talking and getting to know each other. Karthik loved the sarees I wore for the wedding. He asked me if I wore sarees a lot and I told him how uncomfortable I was. He kept saying how I looked very pretty in a saree and he took me saree shopping. He picked this Biscuit Colour - Off-White- Saree with a lot of zari. I was thinking I was going to look so bad in the saree but I was just being kind and accepted it. He then asked me to wear the saree for our post-marriage temple visits. Today when I look at the pictures I cannot help but think how I look pretty in that colour and I see what he meant. I think Karthik played a huge part in me getting over my colour inhibitions.

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Is there a colour you would love to wear but cannot? 

Like I said I used to think Whites were never something I could never wear. Whites and Bright Blues or Pinks. I never thought I would wear colours so bright. For example, the Lemon Yellow and Black saree that I am wearing for the shoot - That is something that I would never wear. Even when you matched this teal saree with an orange blouse - Until I wore it I never thought I would match or look good on me. But look at me now, I am at a place now where I am willing to try things out to see how they look on me.

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How did you overcome your fear over colours matching your skin tone and get comfortable in your skin

You know everyone who would come home would say something like “Ponnu maa-niram, kavalapadaathengo, payyan kedaikkum” (Don’t worry if the girl is a little dark, we’ll definitely find a boy for her). Moving to the US was the best thing that happened to me. I met people to whom skin colour was never a big deal. I have had so many people come and tell me that they love my skin colour and they wish they had my colour. It was one of the biggest reasons for me to shed my insecurities. Also, Karthik. He makes me feel like I am the most gorgeous woman he has ever seen. That was one of the biggest positive influences in my life.

Take 5 with Panjavaram

Long Border, Short Border or No Borders

I love mubbagams. I have a thing for mubbagams

Colours you most naturally pick

Grey Rust, black eggplant, mustard, off-white, dark blue, violet

Traditional design Kanjivarams or Modern design Kanjivarams


Favourite type of saree - Silk, Tussar, Banarasi silk, kalamkari etc

Kanjivarams, jute silk. I love Kantha Work Sarees and Kalamkaris in Beige undertones. I would never pick Banarasi silks - there is just too much gold everywhere

What do you love about panjavarnam or what attracts you to panjavarnam, do we make you want to wear sarees more?

I love the colour combinations you have. They are so contemporary but they look so traditional. You have the best of the best here. I love the online shopping experience for silk sarees. When I came to the store, I loved the Personal Shopping Experience at the Studio. I love that I don't have a person constantly following me. Shopping here makes me feel like I have a personal stylist who helps me make the right choice. I love that there the sarees here somehow bring out who you are and at the same time make you look like one with tradition!

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