I have mixed feelings about the colour orange. Our recent political history is to be blamed. Donald Trump was famously memed for his shockingly cantaloupe complexion. Many may argue he shares his makeup with his great pal Narendra Modi, too. Modi’s starchy skin tone has often matched his kurtas. But he seems to have given up his penchant for wearing orange with the rise of Yogi Adityanath. Yogi ji’s orange is so overwhelming, you just don’t want to see it anywhere else.
So fed up are we with the hue that I can hardly blame the BJP’s Narottam Mishra for feeling outraged by Deepika Padukone’s orange swimsuit in the ‘Besharam Rang’ song. Just 15 seconds of the tanned and toned actor gyrating in it has hurt ‘Hindu sentiments’ to such a degree that they want to ban the film altogether. Of course, it is only a matter of coincidence that her dancing partner is Shah Rukh My-Name-Is-Khan, and that Padukone showed up at JNU in 2020 to support student protests. Rest assured the diversion has nothing to do with our recent face-off with Chinese soldiers in Tawang.
In fact, Shah Rukh had also famously mouthed the blockbuster song ‘Rang de tu mohe gehrua’ (colour me saffron) in Dilwale (2015). The BJP’s renowned mouthpiece Amit Malviya poked fun at Mamata Banerjee when Arijit Singh sang the song in front of her in Kolkata recently.
I don’t think I have ever owned a dress or a shirt that was orange. Perhaps the red-yellow combination dulls brown skin even as it cheers white to black skin tones. In the film Legally Blonde (2001), Elle Wood had declared: “Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed.” Orange has a complex relationship with fashion, too.
That said, it does have an all-season appeal. It is a fabulously sunny colour to wear in the summer, it is a homage to autumn leaves in the fall (like the chinar leaves of Kashmir), and it provides a gorgeous pop in the dull greys of winter.
This summer saw Rihanna stepping out in a fuzzy orange coat, Blake Lively in a pantsuit, and Winnie Harlow in a mini. Hermes, of course, has made luxurious orange its signature colour. The shade does have joyous connotations. A mix of red and yellow, orange combines passion with positivity. It is said to inspire creativity and uplift the mood—in fashion-speak, it is called ‘dopamine dressing’.
It is attention-grabbing, too, a pop of it directs the eye where to look. Orange signs, on the other hand, are a symbol of danger and used on safety equipment. Not many right-wingers would know this, but orange is also a symbol of sexuality and reproductivity (even with Deepika Padukone not wearing it). The representational colour of the Svadhisthana, or the sacral chakra, is orange. The sacral chakra, our energy centre below the navel and close to the genitals, is known to stimulate sexuality and creativity.
Often there are oranges that are not orange. Like the fruit that comes from Florida—it is treated with a colouring called ‘Citrus Red2’ to create that bright shade we recognise so easily. In fact, the natural colour of oranges from Florida is green, thanks to the excess chlorophyll they produce. Spain and Italy’s blood oranges, on the other hand, are quite red.
It is ironic that the colour generates such contrasting and polarising emotions. Why blame the poor bhakts then, orange truly is their shade.