ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Travails of a Handloom Weaver

Mallesham and Technological Innovation

Telugu biopic Mallesham presents a refreshing and holistic take on the importance of dialogue between stakeholders and research in the textile industry.

India’s cultural diversity is perhaps best represented by the distinct and unique range of handwoven and handmade textiles from each region. This, along with being one of the largest employers, led the handloom industry to emerge as an important tool in the swadeshi movement in the freedom struggle as well. The handloom and textile industry has been at the forefront of government policy since independence. Cooperative movements among handloom weavers across India are an important institutional mechanism aimed at strengthening the operational framework to ensure better remunerative wages and pricing. These efforts, however, have not translated into fair wages or improved the standard of living for weavers who continue to struggle to make a living.

The Telugu film Mallesham (2019, directed by Raj Rachakonda), based on the life of weaver Chintakindi Mallesham, highlights the struggles of weavers given the lack of institutional mechanisms to ensure loan/credit for both capital and personal needs as well as bottlenecks in technological upgradation. It follow’s Mallesham’s struggles as he builds a machine to reduce the drudgery of women who are engaged in pre-loom work. The story is set in Pochampalli village (Nalgonda district, Telangana), famed for its rich tapestry of tie and dye ikat textiles. The movie begins with the suicide of Mallesham’s uncle in the mid-1980s, which leaves a lasting impression in his mind. He grows up watching his mother, Lakshmi, winding the yarn manually on the asu—a four-foot V-shaped machine—up and down around 9,000 times for one sari. This leads to tremendous pain in her shoulders due to decreasing bone density, common among women in weaver households. Mallesham’s childhood, the impact of his parents’ everyday struggles on his determination, his quest and struggles to build and operationalise an asu machine are at the heart of the narrative.

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Updated On : 20th Oct, 2022
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