Panjavarnam Penn - Janaki Sabesh & Dhwani Sabesh

Panjavarnam Penn - Janaki Sabesh & Dhwani Sabesh

Vijayalakshmi Ganesh
6 minute read

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Panjavarnam Penn has been long overdue. But we have a special duo who have so much to share with us. And yes, we’ve finally taken a break from our Singer spree. Our dynamic Panjavarnam Penn duo are masters of all trades - Theatre & Film Actors, Singers, women who take the corporate world by the storm, they are more than just a Mother-Daughter duo. They are Mom-Daughter Goals.

An excellent film/theatre actor, an amazing storyteller and of course a kick-ass mom, we have Janaki Sabesh and her ever-so-talented baker, chef, theatre actor / corporate go-getter daughter Dhwani Sabesh, as an ode to Mother’s day for May’s issue of Panjavarnam Penn. Be in a room with Janaki & Dhwani and the atmosphere is electric. There are so many stories that they have to share. You also get to see the love and friendship in this beautiful relationship, a classic example is daughter Dhwani mothering her mom Janaki.

Here’s something interesting. When we contacted Janaki & Dhwani for the shoot, they were particular about wearing something totally out of the box, something they wouldn’t normally wear. But of course, the sarees had to go match each others’. And in the words of Janaki, we must say the duo looked Ek Dam Hatke!

It’s Mother’s Day, May 12th. We are all set at the Panjavarnam Studio for the photoshoot. Cue music and in walk the uber cool mom and daughter in slow-motion all set to take us by a storm with their looks set for the shoot and the amazing stories they had to share.

Read on…

What is your first memory of wearing a saree?

Janaki: I tried draping a 9-yard saree as a kid, just like my paati would - and completely got stuck in the mounds of fabric there were.


Dhwani: Mummy got me a green kids’ saree that I used to love wearing until it became the size of a dupatta for me.

What was your first saree?


Janaki: For my School Annual Day in Class 11, I wore a White and Red Bangladeshi silk saree. That was my first saree.
Dhwani: Funnily enough, I also wore my first saree (as an adult) for my 11th class annual day too! It was a stunning Blue Georgette of mum’s (that I still have). But my first ever saree was a Red and Yellow Bengal cotton kids saree that I wore as a 2-year-old!

If there is a saree you would steal off of your grandmother’s and mother’s wardrobe, which one would it be? A saree that is strongly etched in your memory.


Janaki: I’ve already stolen it from my Paati! Its a pure Kanjivaram silk from the 70s (or even earlier) - a Black with Maroon checks without any zari. That saree started my love affair with checks and I still have it. I was 15 when I told her that the saree was mine!

From my mother, I’ve got a stunning Black pure kanjivaram silk saree which has the most intricate tassles I’ve ever seen.


Dhwani: I don’t have to steal anything. They’re all mine anyway! My Athai has a Yellow and Red handloom cotton saree that I have been eyeing though.

Janaki, how did acting happen? How has the Journey been?

I had done an Ad for Rajiv Menon, and when he was making his first film, we met again. It was quite the happy accident - he just asked me to remove my pottu, and immediately said he had found his Sister Agnes for Minasara Kanavu! It has been a very fulfilling journey because I’ve got the chance to work with and learn from the best actors and directors!

Dhwani, you are someone who is as comfortable in a saree as any other clothing. How did you come about becoming a “saree person”? (being totally different from young women who prefer sarees only for special occasions)

I still remember how I would always need Mum’s help to wear a saree, and she decided to send me to a saree draping class. Once I got the hang of it, I realised just how comfortable sarees were and how they didn’t need an occasion. Sarees helped me understand and embrace my body better, I grew more confident and all the body shaming didn’t matter anymore. It started with wearing sarees to work, and then to post office plans... And then to just about everywhere!


Between mom and daughter, who wears a saree more?

Janaki: Dhwani. Hands down. To the extent that my mum-in-law asks me to learn from her! Haha!


Ok, now let's do a Quick 5 with Panjavarnam.

Long border or short border

Both: Short

One colour that you always end up picking

Janaki: Pink and Black

Dhwani: Blue, and I’m currently obsessed with Whites

Go the traditional way with annams, chakrams, elephants and the likes or choose to be contemporary with jacquards, silk threadwork and no zari

Janaki: Traditional

Dhwani: Contemporary

Most favourite silk - Kanjivarams, Silk Cottons, linens, cottons, tussar,etc

Janaki: Tussar, handloom Cotton

Dhwani: Cotton, Mul Cotton, linens

Janaki, if you had the opportunity to redo your wedding wardrobe from the styles available now, what would your choices be?

I would choose the colours a bit better. I wore a Teal for the oonjal and Orange for the engagement - I would have swapped that. I wore a Dark Brown and Maroon for my reception, would have swapped it for a Pink. I think I went with dark colours and no light ones!

Dhwani, if you were to do up your wedding wardrobe with styles from the past (50-70s) what would you choose to wear?

Solid colours with minimal prints, I guess? I’m not a huge gold person and I love that the zari of the time was a muted gold... I also like the ‘party’ sarees from then, which are now back in trend. The georgettes, chiffons, florals - totally love them and I’d definitely use lighter sarees like that for events. I think it makes sense to get sarees for your wedding that you will definitely reuse and wear more - don’t understand the point of grand bridal sarees that are worn once or twice and spend more time in the cupboard!

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