Speaking the belly button lingo

New Delhi:

Bollywood’s hottest dance number Kajra re has as the camera focusing on Aishwarya Rai’s belly button, signalling the arrival of a new body part in fashion.

Waistline lingo is here to stay as ads and TV shows zoom in on the slimness, flatness and well-toned terrain of the stomach. The newfound quest for the perfect midriff has turned the navel into a searing centerpiece of the female anatomy.

MF Husain’s 1977 portrait of his friend Rasheda Siddiqui showed a tiny belly button in a manner most casual and endearing. “The belly button has always been in,” says Husain. “It has been an intrinsic part of the Indian woman... The West is highlighting it now, but to us it came down our history.”

In streamlined suits or sophisticated lehengas (skirts) or even jeans and tees, a belle’s belly button manages to peep out with touching regularity.

“In the olden days, heroines hid their belly buttons because they were too shy to show it,” says David Lee, a fashion consultant. “I think designers now keep that extra inch in mind,” he adds.

The midriff has become the much-aligned modern memento of fitness and fashion. In the figures of many a woman who stands before the camera, it is indeed the essence of distilled sensuality.

Years ago one thought that cropped tops and bikinis emerged from cold storage only in summer. But nowadays the weather seems always right. In a song sequence in Main Hoon Na, Sushmita Sen’s belly boogies the night away.

The bare midriff is all about the language of Art Nouveau. And yet if one does have to look critically at the culture of Indian couture, the midriff is very much a part of history thanks to the sari. “The sari can be both concealing and revealing,” former US president Bill Clinton had commented. With its subtle movements, the belly button seems to offer solace, succour and even an enticing flavour of excitement. To see it become the language of chic is indeed a somewhat gyrating piece of evolution.