Anoushka Shankar Shows You 4 Ways to Work the White Shirt

Sitarist and composer talks music, feminism and more...while slaying in a crisp white shirt! 

Being a feminist just means equality. If somebody feels that men and women are equal, then they’re a feminist. I don’t know what the hoo-ha is all about!

“Everyone is, in some way or another, searching for their own Land of Gold; a journey to a place of security, which they call home,” says Anoushka Shankar. She’s referring to her recently launched album, Land of Gold, a non-classical album that’s inspired by the refugee crisis.


“The crisis coincided with the birth of my second child, Mohan,” Anoushka tells us. 


1. Shirt + Bralette 




The easiest route to go from classic to sexy—pair a bralette with a white shirt. It adds edge, plus makes the otherwise daring bralette much easier to work.


Pleated bralette, Jeremy Scott at farfetch.com, Rs 25,780



Leather bralette, Mango Rs 2,290



Appliqué stretch-denim bustier top, Valentino at net-a-porter.com, Rs 86,764



“I was troubled by the intense contrast between my ability to provide for my baby and others who wanted to provide the same security for their children but were unable to. My album is, I suppose, my response to the horrible things happening in the world.” Anoushka believes that music reaches people in a whole different way. “And I’ve got some amazing guest artists to help me achieve that... Like, MIA has sung a song and Vanessa Redgrave has read a poem.” Though she pooh-poohs the idea that all art forms at all times need to be political or humanitarian.

“I think there is a place for pure entertainment as well. But when it feels right, and you’re in a place where you feel you can reach the people, then you should.” Anoushka’s last album, Home, that released just months before Land of Gold, was her solo classical album. Making a classical record after a hiatus of 10 years was something she really looked forward to. “Home, for me, was about rediscovering something that I felt I’ve been journeying away from. I was trying to find my own identity in a creative space, and getting to know who I am. Today, I have a new confidence and expression in my music, and I was able to bring that into my classical playing.”

2. Shirt dress + Corset


Mandarin Collar Shirt, White Champa at Second Floor Studio, Rs 5,350; corset, Rs 4,750 and power pendant necklace, Rs 1,250, both vajor.com; ring, H&M, Rs 1,200

Satin Poplin Wrap Bustier, TIBI at n-duo-concept.com, Rs 7,850




Printed top, Zara, Rs 1,990




Sienna Jacquard Corset, Marissa Webb at intermixonline.com, Rs 26,682



For her, it was really organic to play classical music, “but from a different perspective than I did 10 years ago, with all the growth that I’ve had at this point. It was an interesting process of rediscovery, and it led me to find my roots again.” And it was during this journey that Anoushka had a tête-à-tête with her younger self...which led her to support One Billion Rising, a global campaign to end violence against women. Anoushka spoke about how she was sexually abused as a child by a man implicitly trusted by her parents and had silently suffered “groping, touching, and verbal abuse” while growing up. Talking about what prompted her to open up, she says, “Well it was that time period...in the immediate aftermath of that horrible gang rape (Nirbhaya) and I was deeply affected by that as many people were. And there was something about that story that made me feel like I was part of collusion by keeping silent. I felt responsible, and in turn compelled to lift a veil of secrecy and shame, and declare that it happens everywhere.”

Is Anoushka Shankar a feminist? “Unequivocally, unabashedly. I have been one all my life,” she declares. “To me, feminism just means equality. If somebody feels that men and women are equal, then they are a feminist. I don’t know what the hoo-ha is all about!”  She feels that the term has been grossly misconstrued, but “the feminist movement, from the very beginning, has been about trying to get women to vote, trying to get women the right to speech, trying to get women to wear what they want to wear...”

3. Shirtdress + Gladiator heels 

Pro tip: Raid your boyfriend’s closet for this look. Pick out an oversized white shirt, then throw on a pair of thigh-high gladiator heels—cool meets sassy!



Dior Shades earrings, Dior, price on request; shirt, Zara, Rs 4,999; off-shoulder shirt, Hemant & Nandita, Rs 19,800; Roman Gladiators with Scallops, Rs 14,500, and Crocodile-Finish Leather Egg Bag with Swarovski Crystals, Rs 49,500, both Shivan & Narresh

Lace-Up Gladiator sandals, Alexandre Birman, Rs 1,12,299


Amazoula, Christian Louboutin, Rs 99,933 approx


Malini 65, Jimmy Choo, Rs 76,499 approx



And she strongly urges all women to support the movement. “I just think everyone should be a feminist. If you believe that we’re equal, then you’re a feminist, whether you want to call yourself one or not.”  The seeds of such strong, unapologetic opinions were sowed in Anoushka’s mind when she was a teenager.

“I ran a feminism club in high school called The Third Wave. A bunch of us friends along with our English teacher (who helped us run it), would do things like poetry reading, small concerts, raise money for a local domestic violence shelter. And working with women at this shelter was an eye-opening experience.” Anoushka feels that the current state of feminism is pretty good. “In the last three years, ever since that horrible gang rape, I feel like there’s been a shift in consciousness. People have really taken that anger and sense of injustice, and have moved with it.”  

Speaking about gender bias in the music industry, Anoushka in uncertain. “It’s hard to judge my own experience because I came into a field where my father was at the top, so I didn’t go through the same barriers of sexism that I may have been subjected to otherwise.” She ponders for a minute and adds, “Um, but if you look at the industry, I think there is room for improvement...how many women hold top positions in record label companies or in marketing? It’s not as many as men, is it?” She goes on to talk about feminist icons, and Anoushka tells us how young stars like Emma Watson are creating a great focus on women’s issues.

“I think that’s absolutely wonderful. I don’t think that would have even happened 10 years ago!” And along with her, women across the board are doing tremendous work for the feminist cause. “I think Thandie Newton, Eve Ensler, Vanessa Redgrave— they’re all fabulous. I feel like we’re part of a new cycle; at another point for a very big change...”  

4. Shirt + Long vest 


Pair a long vest in a solid colour or graphic print with the white shirt to get summer layering on-point!

Floral jacket, Hemant & Nandita, Rs 21,800; shirt with tie detail, Rs 4,999 and turtle-neck dress, Rs 2,299, both H&M; textured pumps, New Look at koovs.com, Rs 2,050


Photographs: Anushka Menon; Styling: Samar Rajput