In the spring of 1991, a year before her death, Marisa Mell made a trip to India sponsored by some female friends because she was without means at that time. The land, its culture, religion and traditions made an enormous impression on her. She fell immediately in love with the whole spiritual atmosphere of the country. Once back in Austria, her native country, where she was living again, after having left Italy as a poor women, she wanted to keep the uplifting energy of India in her life. She started to wear in public the traditional Indian garnment for women: the Sari.
A Sari (also called Saree or Shari) is a female garment as a strip of unstitched cloth, ranging from four to nine metres in length that is draped over the female body in various styles. The most common style is for the Sari to be wrapped around the waist, with one end then draped over the shoulder baring the midriff. The Sari is usually worn over a petticoat (called pavada/pavadai in the south, and shaya in eastern India), with a blouse (called a choli or ravika) forming the upper garment. The choli has short sleeves and a low neck and is usually cropped, and as such is particularly well-suited for wear in the sultry South Asian summers. Cholis may be "backless" or of a halter neck style. The Sari is now an important symbol of india. In her book "Marisa", written by her long time friend Erika Pluhar, this phase in Marisa Mell's life is mentioned as follows: "...Wieder sahen wir gemeinsam einen Theaterauftritt von Marlies, das Zweipersonenstück "Love Letters". Marlies, nochmals um einiges schlanker geworden, trägt ein indisches Gewand, einen Sari, und darunter ein eng anliechendes Leibchen. Dazwichen ist ein weinig Haut zu sehen, ein weinig zu weisse, zu weiche Haut. "Warum kommt sie uns jetzt auf indisch?" fragt E. erstaunt. "Auf der Bühne sah sie ganz normal aus". "Sie liebt Indien", antworte ich, und meine Tochter is sofort zur Stelle, Marlies ritterlich zu verteidigen. "Ausserdem schaut sie schön aus in so was", sagt sie und wirft E. einen strengen Blick zu, "warum soll sie keinen Sari anhaben-". Wir nähern uns jetzt Marlies. Als sie mich begrüsste, fühle ich, dass sie befangen ist. "Bin ich blöd angezogen?" fragt sie mich leise. "Ich habe nicht bedacht, wie Phantasielos fade hier alle Leute sind - in Rom würde ich nicht auffallen." "Aber was", sage ich "dieses Goldgelb und Rot sieht prächtig aus." (Free translation: ... Again we are together in a theater for a performance by Marlies (= civil name of Marisa Mell), the play is a two person play called "Love Letters". Marlies has again become a lot leaner, wears an Indian outfit, a Sari, with underneath a narrow shirt. In between is some skin to see, a skin a little to white and to soft. "Why does she do India now?", asks E. surprised (= boy friend of author Erika Pluhar at that time) . On the stage she looked quite normal". "She loves India", I reply, and my daughter is now on the spot chivalrously defending Marlies. "And she looks beautiful in it, so what?", she says, and looks stern at E., "why should she not wear a Sari?". We are now approaching Marlies. When she greets me, I feel that she is worried: "Am I stupid dressed?", she asks me quietly. "I did not realize how bland and unimaginative people all are here - in Rome, I would not draw attention." "Don"t worry", I say "this golden yellow and red looks beautiful on you.") The above picture of Marisa Mell was taken by a journalist during an evening meal after a performance of her play "Love Letters". To my knowledge, this is the only existing picture of Marisa Mell in a Sari during that period of her life!