Madhu Nambiar has collected more than 60 saris over the course of her life. These saris go back as far as the 1950s and have seen Madhu as she travelled to different continents, fell in love, studied, became a mother, began a career, immigrated to Canada, and took part in many activities. “Madhu’s Saris” is a documentary focusing on Madhu’s life as represented through her saris. The narrative concentrates on the complexities of her life, beginning in India and following her immigration to Canada.

The documentary features six of Madhu’s saris, each representing a specific moment in her life, how it connects to her memory, and how it speaks to larger personal and cultural meaning. The first sari is “The Secret Romance Sari,” the sari Madhu’s husband gave to her while they were secretly together. They had to keep it a secret because they were part of different castes. In discussing this sari we discuss her relationship with her husband and the caste system in India. The second sari, “The Parting Gift Sari,” is the sari her colleagues gave her before she moved to Canada. While focusing on this sari, we discuss her career in India and saris as part of gift-giving in Indian culture. The third sari, “The Canadian Sari,” is the sari she wore on her trip to Brandon, Manitoba. This sari represents her journey to Canada and her subsequent adaptation to Canadian culture and what that meant for Madhu. The fourth sari, “The Bollywood Sari,” is a sari that was made for a Bollywood star who never picked it up, so Madhu and her husband purchased it. We use this sari to discuss Madhu’s first trip back to India following her immigration, as well as the significance of Bollywood in Indian culture. The fifth sari, “The Sister-in-Law Sari,” was a gift from Madhu’s sister-in-law on one of her trips to India. With this sari, Madhu discusses the importance of her family and the importance of family in Indian culture. Finally, the fifth sari, “The Wedding Sari,” is a hot pink sari that Madhu values to this day. While Madhu did not save the sari she wore to her elopement, this sari is one that she would wear to weddings and parties.

In the documentary, Madhu discusses how her saris have always been a part of her identity and even when she moved to New York City and Brandon, Manitoba. At its core, “Madhu’s Saris” is a story of immigration and how Madhu adapted to her new life in Manitoba and what adaptation means to Madhu, in particular how she did not abandon her saris. The documentary also includes a brief history of the sari, as well as alternate uses for saris. We expect the documentary to be approximately 20-30 minutes in length and created for a general audience.

Team Members

Kim Sawchuk

Constance Lafontaine

Madhu Nambiar
Anne Caines
Mariam Esseghaier
Myriam L. Bernier

Past Members
Michelle Macklem

Partners
RECAA

Funding
ACT – SSHRC


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