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CONTRIBUTORS & ADVISORY BOARD THOTA THARRANI Re-branding is in a sense the rebirth of personality. This year Brew enters a bigger dimension, panning across a wider reader base. And who better to stand by us igniting this big step forward, but the one and only Thota Tharrani. With a logo designed by a legend such as him, it brings to light this indescribable honour to carry this year. This is a heart-warming thank you note to the legend for his interest and contribution to Brew Lifestyle.
ASHOK VERGHESE One of the youngest education entrepreneurs who is making a great difference in this field in the country. He is the Director of the Hindustan group of Institutions, one of the pioneering educational groups in the country. He supports the cause of promoting young talent in art and music
ANIL JAIN Educated as an economist and business manager, she is one of India’s best-known classical dancers. She has taken her work and her company ‘Darpana’ to not only over 90 countries around the world, but also to the most remote parts of India
MALLIKA SARABHAI An Intensive desire to succeed and redefine the parameters of success, Anil Jain was always cut out to be an Entrepreneur, taking active interest in Bussiness right from an early age. Aged 40, he is the promoter of Refex Industires Ltd; Refex Trading(s) Pvt. Ltd, and Anil Jain Investments.
NEERU NANDA A graduate from Delhi University, she’s passionate about writing. She freelanced as a feature writer for ten years before switching to publishing. Author of a collection of short stories titled ‘IF’, she has also worked on novels and short stories for children
VEEJAY SAI An award-winning writer, editor and a culture critic. He has written and published extensively on Indian classical music, fashion, theatre, food and art, and loves traveling, researching literary and cultural history. He is an editorial consultant with over 40 brands and designers in and outside India and is on the jury for several prestigious awards in the arts sector across the country
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Dear Readers, Welcome to February! Open the pages to get a ringside view to a kaleidoscope of events. Follow Mudit Dani’s personal journey to the Table Tennis championship. Learn about the Supportive cities that indulge and encourage Indie artists. Discover the grand revival with its architectural splendour of Grand by GRT. Get wowed by the new section of Photo Gallery featuring some gallantry pictures of Jallikattu. Ponder on the eclectic melting pot of international artists’ works from the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2016. And finally take a break, enter the world of books, food and happiness at the European style Writer’s Café. All this and much more in the following pages. Cheers! G Venket Ram Guest Editor
S T R A T E G Y
PUBLISHER & CEO Sameer Bharat Ram SUB-EDITOR Padma Murughappun FEATURES WRITERS Nanditha Vijayaraghavan Aasha Sriram CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Akila Sridhar Divya Prabha MARKETING MANAGER Reesha N DESIGN Aashbir Kaur CIRCULATION K.Sathish kumar
D E S I G N
Published and Edited by Sameer Bharat Ram, and owned by SM BrandMuni Consulting Pvt. Ltd, Published from New No. 68 / Old No. 63, Cathedral Road, Chennai - 600 086. Tel.: +91 44 4208 9392.
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Published from New No. 68 / Old No. 63, Cathedral Road, Chennai - 600 086. Tel.: +91 44 4208 9392.
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CONTENTS THINK Musings Life â€“ A Story of Miracles, MAGIC and HOPE
Mudit Dani Seeking Greater Heights
Embracing Culture A Photo Story of Jallikattu
Tribute The Master of Ingenuity
Supportive Cities Promoting Artists, Creating Stages
Tribute The Quintessentially Queer Thespian
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Grand by grt Story of the grand Revival
Kochi Biennale An Eclectic Spectacle
EXCLUSIVE Agatha Prada – Adding Colour to Life
What’s Brewing Writer’s Café – Freshly Brewed With Words
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LIFE - A story of Miracles, Magic & hope 'There are nothing called miracles", said no one ever to a Childless woman to a Cancer patient. An extraordinary and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency are often pegged to be miracles. Exploring its subtle charm and how it blew her away is Akila Sridhar as she walks you through miracles and magic with a pinch of hope.
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Hope is necessary. It helps us to believe What is hope? It is simply a feeling of trust. Unlike miracles, hope is a tricky thing to play with. Nobody goes around spreading hope in a Wedding hall (supposedly to be a happy place for many) like reassuring the bride’s family that the wedding would happen. We give hope where there is none. We give hope, where we know for sure that it’ll be appreciated. We, give hope where we know it’d make a difference- for good. That helps us to convince ourselves that we are good people. After all, we make our own realities. Belief is something important, rather mandatory for life. It helps us sleep at night and lets us believe that we’d eventually wake up. It helps us plan for a future, we might never have. It helps us breathe easy. The Accounting Assumption for life We draw on one of the Accounting assumptionsAssumption of Going concern. We shall continue making that assumption as long as no factor makes us believe otherwise. Until no sudden force intervenes our imagined future, we shall continue hoping to make it better. We don't plan our dooms day. It'd be wrong in so many ways and we could also be arrested in several states for that. All of us believe that we'll have a tomorrow and that makes our today. Else, we'd always keep living in yesterday and wouldn't live to see another day. Some call it God, some, science. Some call it an External force beyond comprehension; while some believe it’s an internal strength and it’s deep within. I'd like to call it-destiny. We always find a ray of light, a reason to believe, a rope to hold on to. We dismiss it off by saying that 'it makes our life easy'. But it is true that we all like seeing the sun. We like living and we'd do anything to be genuinely happy. What goes around, comes around Losing hope is worse than dying. It's like a corpse walking around in an amusement park. But misery loves company and being a death-eater has its perks there. We spread fear and darkness instead of the contrary. We end up doing a lot more harm than what others can take. Never underestimate yourself in that matter. So now it all lies in your hands. Want to be a beautiful miracle maker and make the world a better place or want to stay dark and twisty and live in an abandoned basement? Do away with your 'Been there, done that' attitudes and with hope for a better bright tomorrow, let us find our own miracles in our daily life- to stay happy forever. Let's start with eternity. Nobody is ever too old for Magic of miracles. Hope is the magical power we all have in all the situations. Use it. It is power. It is magic. Be a magician. Be your own miracle.
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Seeking greater heights Table Tennis is undoubtedly one of the most elegant but equally difficult sport to master. It has been an Olympic sport since 1988. The game in itself demands one to be agile and quick in response. Acing in this regard and creating records effortlessly is Indiaâ€™s Mudit Dani, who has represented the country nineteen times in the international platform. Following is an account of the young playerâ€™s success.
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“I started playing table tennis at the age of 7. Ever since I have spent many hours of hard and smart training to reach where I am today.”
It all started when Mudit, had gone to visit his grandmother in the summer of 2006. He and his cousins had moved in with her to provide her with company and support after a heart surgery. Little did he know that what had once started as a leisure sport in the recreation room of his grandmother’s building would prove to be a life altering endeavor. On one hot summer afternoon, a friend of his grandmother observed him playing and offered to train him in the sport. This person was none other than the former national table tennis coach, Ratish Chachad. Delighted at the prospect of having the opportunity to learn the nuances of the game, he started training. He sought inspiration from the stories and experiences of the former coach. He was taken aback when he was presented with the Indian team blazer for his birthday and vowed to never wear it until he has earned one on his own.
At the age of nine, he immersed himself in an intensive training schedule that would enable him to better comprehend the finer minute of the game. By the age of ten, he was selected for the Under-12 team for Mumbai City district. When asked about what he loves about the game the most, Mudit explains, “I’m fascinated by the high speed and spin of the game that must be controlled within a small surface of play of 9 by 5 feet. This has allowed tactics and styles of play to be highly variant, making the game extremely interesting.” However, setbacks are inevitable when one pursues a career in sports. In June 2012, he suffered an injury in his shoulder blade. The pain was severe to the extent where he could hardly carry out everyday activities, let alone hold a racket and play. Over a month had passed wherein multiple visits to various physiotherapists were made but resulted in little or no improvement. With all the other options exhausted, he decided to finally try Yoga.
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He visited Shri BKS Iyengar Ji’s Centre in Pune, with the assistance of his paternal grandmother. Tedious and wearing in the beginning, contorting his body into different aasanas only made the pain more intense. The added amount of mental stress and anxiety about the future brought him more agony. However, all the hard work and effort paid off. After a few therapy sessions, he continued practicing with his grandmother. When a couple of weeks passed, his shoulder blades started mending. He returned to the game with strength and vigor. After his surprising recovery, he increased his practice time from twice a week to four times and from that to six. Yoga brought in a new perspective to his routine and fitness. By December of that year, he was announced as the captain for the Maharashtra state U-15 team for DSO Nationals leading the team to a silver. Following this achievement, he went ahead to represent India in the World Junior Circuit Open in El Salvador. He raced through the first two sets of his first international finals. He was only
one set away from conquering his maiden gold for India but lost the lead in the 3rd game and eventually lost the game which made the overall score 2-1 in his favor. He made a remarkable comeback and won the fourth set, and went ahead to win the game by 11-8. This was indeed an important win as it was also the 67th Independence Day. “I fell to the floor with excitement. I could hear chants and screams as the noise level hit the roof. But nothing was more heartening than seeing the coach running towards me with his arms wide open and handing me the Indian flag” says Mudit describing the winning moment. As he expounds more about this historic moment,” I couldn’t resist taking the Indian flag with me onto the podium. My name followed by “India!” was announced as a stepped onto the podium and soon my first international gold was around my neck but the best was yet-to-come - winning my first gold for the country on India’s 67th Independence Day and hearing the national anthem play on foreign
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soil as the entire crowd stood up in attention as the tiranga rose – I couldn’t have asked for anything more.” After clinching the gold, he went on to win other championships and accumulated points on the circuit standings. Today has won 22 medals for the country. This has led to his all-time high where he was number 10 on the ITTF World Junior Circuit Standings. Along with his table tennis, Mudit is currently in the 12th grade at the Dhirubhai Ambani International School pursuing the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program. Being able to cope with academic pressure and table tennis has been possible through email contact with teachers, staying back after school hours or even Skype lessons. Mudit says "This dream run of table tennis has only been possible due to the support provided by my school. I hope other schools around India also value sport as it teaches an individual many things that can't be learned in the four walls of a classroom".
“Relentless pursuit and critical reflection can allow one to seek greater heights”, and this very quote is what I’ve adhered to for the past couple of years. Discipline and commitment towards both table tennis and academics have enabled me to pursue them both to the best of my capabilities.” Along with this self-motivated attitude, Mudit is standing amongst us as the third Indian ever to be the Top third Table Tennis player in the world under the tutelage of eight-time national champion Kamlesh Mehta for the past few years who reckons him to be a very sincere, hardworking and talented sportsperson. Achieving so much at such a young age most certainly makes him an inspiration for all youngsters.
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embracing culture Photographs : Rahul Sadagopan
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What happens when every ray of hope hangs by the thread until its saturation? It is easier to tame a bull than the fervour of a mass with a purpose, especially if the purpose is centred on saving their identity. If you immediately think of the recent Jallikattu protest, then Bulls-Eye! Jallikattu, or Eru Thazhuvudhal (bull embracing) is an ancient traditional spectacle wherein a particular breed of bulls are left into the crowd amongst numerous men participants who compete with each other. Whoever holds onto the hump of the bull the longest is considered the champion of that yearâ€™s game.
Jallikattu became an issue beyond its face value, into an emblem of unrest of the youth arising within the womb of perennial socio-political discontent. It is this single issue that bought over ten lakh Indian youth to assemble at various iconic points, transcending their race, religious beliefs, political opinions, social classes and gender, to create history. This movement saw the nascence of leadership among the millions and the proliferation for a positive societal change- the fight for a greater cause. Hereâ€™s a pictorial representation of what the youth of the state fought for.
By Priyanka Venkataramani
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THE FATHER OF FANTASY WRITING Tolkien was an English writer who was a pioneer of literature from a young age and has acquired the ability to conjure magic with words. Assimilating a devoted fan base of such huge magnitude that he enjoys is no mere feat especially even after his death in 1981. Apart from being an acclaimed writer, he was a renowned scholar and a vivacious academic with a number of publishings to his credit with his study on the ancient heroic epic Beowulf remaining to be a standard of reference of the subject even today.
TRIBUTE TO THE MASTER OF INGENUITY Fantasy fiction has proved itself to be a remarkable genre for readers of all variety. Encompassing all the elements of oneâ€™s imagination and treading on plot lines that are far from our realm of reality is indeed a treat to the reader. Mastering this very art through The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Silmarillion and The Hobbit is J.R.R. Tolkien, celebrating his 125th birth anniversary this year. Hereâ€™s a tribute to the one and only.
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In the heat of the summer of 1916, the acclaimed professor of Old and Middle English Literature at Leeds and the Oxford, departed to serve as a second lieutenant in the war. Having to witness the brutalities of violence left a remarkable impression on the young writer. The impact of engaging in combat contributed to him creating works of fiction where warfare was a central theme. In the trenches of Somme, the groundwork for his epic trilogy was laid. All of his works included splendid scenes of carnages of battle. He owed a great deal to the war, which enabled him to produce a master piece. However, he was intent on expelling the illusion of glory in conflict and sought to write about the same.
He progressed to be a master of constructed languages that drew their elements from all tongues across all periods of time and history. With immaculate details, he created imaginary worlds inhabited by creatures of mythical existence having their own languages, cosmology, geology, ideologies, culture and history. Known to be a writer with immense experience in world building, each facet of his
A CREATOR OF THE FANTASTIC A new dimension of his works is undoubtedly the unparalleled genius of his imagination which is executed to beyond perfection. The words that are magnificently arranged in a writing style unique to him, provide an underlying comfort to the reader. As an avid enthusiast of poetry, he incorporated the verses in all his plots. Extremely accurate and elaborate description of events in a considerably simpler language is what one finds commendable in all his plots. With an aura of historic authenticity and ostentatious, these verses captivate the readers towards the mystic world of elves and fierce dragons. Detailing, being a distinctive peculiarity of his writing resulted in the chapters priding themselves in precise and exhaustive plot developments while refraining from being too monotonous.
fictitious world was crafted to perfection. These realms, which were construed in his mind, were brought to life through words. And in this mythical reality, imbibed are the values of good and evil, carefully woven along the plotlines.
“THE STORIES WERE MADE RATHER TO PROVIDE A WORLD FOR THE LANGUAGES THAN THE REVERSE. TO ME, NAME COMES FIRST AND THE STORY FOLLOWS.”
“I have always been impressed that we are here, surviving, because of the indomitable courage of quite small people against impossible odds,” said he.
Tolkien was an enthusiast of linguistics ever since he started pursuing his higher education. He started exhibiting his affinity towards languages right from the moment he began learning Spanish at a very young age, in the lap of his mother. Later in life, he went ahead to create his own languages which he realised needed a culture of people to engage in, thus ended up devising that too.
Tolkien’s stories delve on the unanticipated valour, courage and heroism of individuals who are seemingly ordinary. To be a writer endowed with prowess enough to incorporate a multitude of elements and make them work in cohesion is no easy task. This is an ode to one such brilliant man, who reshaped the course of modern fantasy fiction.
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Promoting artists, creating stages â€˜Independent musicâ€™ means a lot of different things, especially in a time when almost every work of art is self-produced. While some subscribe to the idea that independent art is original art created for the sake of art itself with no other underlying aim, there is a growing belief that independent music can also be a song writer sitting in their room and composing their melody.
By Aasha Sriram
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While we can celebrate the fact that there has been a sudden increase of these song writers, the wistful ballad behind this truth often stays hidden. Most of these musicians never get to experience the stage, and their music almost never gets recognised. “Independent music, in my opinion isn’t music created by independent people. The music itself is independent. It doesn’t depend on anything else except the creator’s freedom and thought. It’s not restricted by anything,” says Pradeep Kumar, singer and guitarist of Poorvaa. It is not about the struggle to crate original music, but about having an audience that appreciates independent music. The growing advancements in technology have made it evidently easier to produce and share original music globally, but whether the music finds its market in terms of consumers and audiences still remains a question mark. The mainstream music industry sees thousands of new singers and directors, and while the industry flourishes because of the creativity of every artist, the percentage of independent musicians that are not directly related to mainstream music goes unnoticed. Although it seems like most independent musicians find their way into the mainstream industry because of the pressure to earn money and lack of resources to produce their own music, this problem is no more trivialised. Supportive Cities is a testament to the fact that independent music does and will always have an audience. Started in 2014, Supportive Cities as an organisation realised the importance of promoting independent music and giving song writers a stage to perform their art, and ever since then, they have been discovering new talent, which despite its rawness, exudes a sense of realism within the artistic sphere. “I started this initiative because of the realisation that there aren’t too many spaces that support independent music and independent artists. I wanted to do that in a way that would also be financially sustainable. We’re a small team now and with our technical co-founder Sonal, we want to build this in a way that allows independent musicians to perform in multiple locations,” says Siddharth Hande, founder of Supportive Cities. Supportive Cities was not the result of a miraculous revelation but an effort of individuals who wanted to save independent music and avoid its commercialisation. The idea behind the initiative, though inspired, does bring to light the rationality of promoting independent artists in a country that is dominated by mainstream thought and culture. The organisation’s aim is to open up private spaces in the city for good musicians to perform their original music in front of live audiences.
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In the recent years there have been many initiatives set up for promoting independent music, including Sofar Sounds, that has a very structured way of presenting independent artists, but what make Supportive Cities unique is not the lack of a structure, but rather the need for artists to experiment on stage. Their elite taste in independent music is defined by their selection of artists, and while they love discovering new talent, they believe that hosting performing artists is the key. “We want to make sure that we promote performing artists, so we get independent musicians and theatre artists to perform. The idea behind theseperformances isn’t a formal structure with an opening and closing act, but to have a very different kind of performance set up. We provide artists with the space to experiment with their music, and really try different things within their performing space; things they can’t do in conventional performances.” If we were to turn back the clock and take a walk, the changes in the landscape of music would clearly highlight the importance of niche audiences. Back in the day, music was not just a way of self-expression but also connection where there existed an unspoken bond between the performer and audience, and it is through this bond that music has evolved to include more indulgence of the audience in several ways. The concept of
sitting just a few feet away from an artist and observing the subtleties in their mannerisms is a very real experience for the audience, and realising this, Supportive Cities demands to establish a lasting relationship between the artists and their audience. “One of our major aims is to build an audience for these independent artists, which is why after each performance; there is a chat with the artist. We try to keep the audience very intimate, in terms of the performance and the audience and we play around with different formats. We started organizing big events with 200 people consisting of the audience but realised that we wanted to build a relationship between the artists and the audience, which was tough when the shows were bigger. Now, there are about thirty people in the audience who encourage conversations to focus on helping the artists articulate and contextualize their art,” says Siddharth, owner of the company Kabadiwalla Connect. This decade is considered to contain some of the golden years of Independent art, and even though discovering hidden artists is like finding treasure, the journey doesn’t just end there. The process is a bit more complex when it comes to producing independent music and putting it out there. Financial constraints discourage most artists, while after releasing their music; audience response plays a huge role.
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Someone wise once said, “Learn to live your life—there’s no recipe for it. You can’t go to acting school to learn to be a deep person with a lot of experience to draw from; you can only become that person by getting hurt, by feeling incredibly happy, by seeing the world; those are the things that make you richer as a person and give you a much bigger bank to draw from when you bring characters to life.”
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THE RISING OF THE STAR The perfect modern-day paradigm to this maxim was Om Prakash Puri, the face of the common man, of the marginalised. Puri passed away in early January this year after suffering a heart attack, leaving behind the world of global cinema and all its benefactors bereft of his dramaturgical grace and magnanamity. The youngest born of Tek Chand Puri and Tara Devi in Ambala, Puri was raised in poverty amongst eight brothers and sisters, within confined rented quarters and no family celebrations or entertainment of any sort. With barely any proper schooling to his childhood credit, Puri spent most of his younger days playing childish street games and other miserly amusements to keep himself engaged. Khalsa College in Patiala was where Om took up an arts course in 1967. Back then, he merely survived by giving tuitions and working part-time as a local lawyer’s clerical help. But the real defining moment in his life came during the college youth festival in the first year, that proved to be vital and spelt out the direction his career was to take. Harpal Tiwana, the father of modern Punjabi theatre, was instrumental for the turnaround in Puri’s career. During the youth fest, Tiwana first noticed Puri perform in Anhonee, a Punjabi play by Kapoor Singh Ghuman, where he had a parallel lead. Tiwana, who ran the then popular theatre group Punjab Kala Manch, was extremely impressed with Puri’s acting skills and invited the young lad to join his group.
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AS IT BEGAN TO SHINE BRIGHTLY Puri went on to graduate with flying colours from the prestigous Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. To further nurture his acting aspirations, he later enrolled at the National School of Drama in 1973 along with Naseeruddin Shah, his contemporary and dear friend. However, Puri’s professional journey only started in 1976 with Ghashiram Kotwal, a Marathi film, which was inspired by a Marathi drama written by Vijay Tendulkar. His realistic portrayal of urban angst in gritty films like Aakrosh, Ardh Satya, Tamas, Aastha, Mirch Masala, Vinaashak was critically acclaimed for his unconventional roles, and are cult classics in Indian parallel cinema. His work in comedies like Chachi 420, Hera Pheri, Malamaal Weekly also remain some of his finest work. He lent his voice to the cartoon series, Mowgli and recently even for The Jungle Book, for Bagheera, the black panther. Those were the days of the zenith of Indian parallel cinema and Puri rode splendidly on the wave alongside virtuoso talents like Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil, among others, and supported by directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Ketan Mehta, Kundan Shah and Sudhir Mishra. Backed with the thespian training of two rock solid institutes — the National School of Drama in Delhi and the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, Puri was like water, taking the shape of every vessel he was put in. He soaked in the generosity and creative influences in his life. Some of Puri’s most significant performances in this time were all about the deprived and the disadvantaged. Perhaps Puri’s own struggles in childhood and youth in Punjab brought them alive with a rare verity. Take for instance, the control and dignity with which he essayed the trauma of an untouchable shoemaker in Satyajit Ray’s TV film Sadgati (1981). Or the desperation of the poor land tiller in Shyam Bengal’s Arohan (1982).
SHINING ON FOREIGN SKY The strength of good actors lies not just in bringing author backed roles to life but in how they make their presence felt even in smaller roles and cameos. A versatile artist, Puri became a key player in India’s arthouse cinema scene in the 1980s and 1990s but achieved international fame for his roles in Hollywood films such as City of Joy, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Charlie Wilson's War and most recently starred in The Hundred-Foot Journey alongside Dame Helen Mirren. Puri was instrumental in being the ambassador of realistic Indian cinema abroad and ended up being part of a number of reputable and also some smaller foreign films, starting with a small role in Richard Attenborough’s epic Gandhi (1982). In Roland Joffe’s City of Joy (1992), he is the unlikely poor migrant pal of Patrick Swayze’s Max. In Ismail Merchant’s In Custody (1993), he is the Hindi professor who loves Urdu poetry. He acted alongside Jack Nicholson in Mike Nichols’ Wolf (1994). Two smaller but significant turns were in Udayan Prasad’s My Son, The Fanatic (1994) where he is the liberal father of a hardliner son, and Damien O’Donnell’s East Is East (1999), where he is the conservative Pakistani father unable to deal with the generation gap and cultural rift with his half-British kids.
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A TRIBUTE TO THE STALWART THESPIAN In a tweet in December last year, Puri reflected on his four-decade career, writing: “I have no regrets at all. I have done quite well for myself. I didn’t have a conventional face, but I have done well, and I am proud of it.” He received an honorary OBE in 2004 for his contribution to British cinema and in 1990 was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian honours. “You look into his eyes and you read volumes… this is the kind of power he has as an actor” – Patrick Swayze. People who knew the man close enough always spoke about the twinkle in his eyes and his subtle sense of humour, both on-screen and off-screen. As an actor, he was highly spoken of for his passion for the arts, and immense dedication to every script, every part and every story he was ever associated with. Every single time, he gave all of himself, with no fear, no defence, and no justification.
The story of Om Prakash Puri, Padmashree, OBE (to use his full name and honorifics), is in fact every struggling actor’s fantasy; that a thoroughly ordinary guy can get ahead with nothing but good talent as godfather, hard work as insurance and the best of intentions as guide. The gradual metamorphosis of Puri – from the scrawny, pockmarked adolescent underdog with hungry eyes and an iron will, living in a corridor with a stove, a saucepan and a few books into a significant, paunchy and one of the most prosperous players in the international acting cosmos – is really the sort of stuff about which ballads were sung in the earlier times.
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STORY OF THE GRAND REVIVAL Greeted by glass chandeliers custom-made to look like the temple bells of India along with a restaurant filling into the lobby enhancing the feel of a bazaar, Grand by GRT is visually and aesthetically majestic. In an exclusive rendezvous with Vikram Cotah, COO, GRT Hotels and Resorts and Krithika Subramaniam, architect, we take you through a profound tour of the Grand by GRT as we discuss about its exquisite revival.
By Padma Murughappun
JOURNEY OF THE GRAND BY GRT Opened in the year 1998, the GRT Grand was one of its own kind. Mr. Vikram describes it as “a trendsetter focused more towards the mass premium segment.” Primarily a five-star, luxury hotel, the GRT Grand was a success and came about as the flagship hotel for GRT. But 2015 floods proved to be a major pressure point in the history of the hotel. As Mr. Vikram explains the incidence he says, “Two basements of the hotel went down under water and all our back end services got messed up. Of course the backside area along with everything else was in a bad state. So the board sat and said either they can get the hotel up immediately by doing some small repairs or close the hotel and relaunch it. We took the decision of relaunching it.” Architect, dancer and an aesthetic personality, Krithika Subramanian also tells us about how she got on board with the Grand by GRT,” The GRT group is one of my regular but special clients whom I really enjoy working with. They have thrown many a challenging project my way including service apartments , hotel renovations , their new youthful
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hotel brand Vibe , resorts , office and many more. When I received the call the day after the floods it was to take up at short notice a renovation project for the Grand which was planned anyways.” Aiming at a simple and niche setup, the old and the new Grand is a completely different experience. Mr. Vikram says,” So if you had been to GRT Grand and now to Grand by GRT, both are completely different perspectives. Now we have made it very young, urban and a very boutique kind of space. Every nook and corner of the hotel is heavy on design and it also has a lot of local flavour.” THE DESIGNER With a very limited period of time in hand and an entire hotel to revamp and relaunch, the team went through a short rough patch in their process of getting the hotel up and running again. Efficiency, dedication, creativity and quick-thinking had to be utilised to the maximum by the entire team. To lead this, the right type of personality was required. Mr. Vikram elaborates, “We took up the challenge and then we decided that we will have somebody local who is also very artistic in the outlook, who’s done work with us and understands us in terms of how to work together. And who also thinks out of the box which is a very boutique-hotel necessary attribute. This is how we zeroed in on Krithika, who is a dancer also an architect. She did work in some of hotels earlier so we knew her style. Also she was very flexible and was able to manage the time scale.”
overhaul on the critical project schedule of 90 days. What was fantastic were the innovative F and B concepts that Vikram Cotah and his team came up with and hence the bandwidth of creativity we could explore in this non-standard Boutique hotel. Mr Natarajan’s financial prudence also helped create a very value conscious twist to the project.” THE GRAND PROJECT An entire structure to be rebuilt and refurbished with just ninety days in hand and the beauty of the task is nobody has ever done it before. Entirely conceived just in the minds of the two, the team worked day in and day out to get the desired result out in time. “. It was only between Krithika and myself. We had everything in our minds. For three months, we stood on the side, day in and day out. As it was coming up we kept changing things. We made a few trips to Delhi, China, Italy. We got stuff from there too,” says Mr. Vikram reminiscing the start of the project.
Ms. Krithika also shares her experience being on board for the renovation process,” I was terribly upset to see the Grand ravaged by the floods. But their owners are visionaries with tremendous business acumen as are their top management. They saw opportunity in the crisis and decided to go in for an
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The essentials required to make up a five-star hotel are present, but what is grand about the Grand. Ms. Krithika says,” The Grand has been conceived as a free space with an undefinable stylistic temperament in its design detailing, very cool and relaxed modernity -being different without trying too hard. It is much like the psyche of young India, trendy sophistication that is exploratory.” BAZAAR The Grand has very unique food and beverage concepts that are a first to the city. One of them is the Bazaar. “We didn’t have a very concrete idea for it because in three months we had to do everything. We opened this with a bazaar concept which is kind of a global bazaar. We got inspirations from various bazaars around the world like the Istanbul market, the London food hauls and the Paddington markets.” The Bazaar has been designed to look exactly like it’s called with tile designs from Istanbul,
walls with Gani sack designs, the lights above your head are kept inside the crate to create the feel that you’re dining at the market. To make the guests actually live the the experience, Mr. Vikram tells us the most fun and unique thing about this restaurant,” There are some things that we introduced that are generally not part of a five star hotel like a softie machine, a chaat trolley, again giving the bazaar oriented field. Even the buffet’s entire line-up is very market type. You can see all the street snacks from across the world. One more thing we have done is we have extended the Bazaar restaurant into the lobby so that it gives a feel that the entire place is live. It’s like a mall, like a food court. That’s why they have flash mob dancing done by the staff every day for two to three times to entertain the guests!” J.HIND The smell of Indian food with the spices fresh and hot find their way into your nose as you walk through the lobby. The modern Indian restaurant representing the quintessential J.Hind, the modern Indian man, welcomes you
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with a huge black moustache at the entrance. “J.Hind is a person. . The concept of this person is that he is a Jugalbandi Hindustani. He is very traditional at heart, very authentic, but his outlook is very global. The entire personality of that restaurant is that. The food is vert authentic Indian, but the presentations are all international.” Paneer and Aloo, mutter and baingan is flame torched, used in molecular gastronomy and goes through spherification – a modern twist to traditional, authentic Indian food. To add that Indian touch a little more, the centre piece at this restaurant is very interesting. Chandelier lights shaped like the earrings of a village belle with a pillar in the centre which is an amalgamation of both North and South cultures of Indian architecture. THE ART BISTRO A compact space for showcasing local artists along with a pop restaurant, this is definitely something new that the city needed. “The Art Bistro promotes local artists. They come and display their works there. People can come see and buy art. A pop restaurant is essentially a place where the concept of the restaurant changes every six months or quite frequently. So if we get in a Korean chef, then we make it a Korean concept place, an Italian chef then Italian restaurant it is,” explains Mr. Vikram.
THE CITY’S FIRST AND ONLY SPEAKEASY BAR Enlightening about this concept Mr. Vikram says,” The bar here is the first speakeasy bar. Speakeasy bars were there during the 1920s in the USA which were very famous during the Prohibition because of which the mafia was born. A lot of bootlegging used to take place. These bars are underground bars and nobody knew about it. From outside it looks very plain but we have an underground place and stuff. So we have a big door and we have to tell a code and then you get in.”
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AN ECLECTIC SPECTACLE OF LIFE AND DEATH Simply stated, art is not what you see, but what you make others see and artists are those who seldom have a choice but to express their lives. In the hands of the true artist, art is like freedom -being able to bend things that most people see as a straight line.
By Akila Sridhar
Born from the joint initiative between contemporary artists of Kerala origin, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu with combined efforts of the Cultural Minister Mr. M. A .Baby the Kochi Biennale has been accustomed to glory ever since its inception. Not known for their subtlety, the event chooses to devour the minds and souls of the visitors. Conservatism being the last thought in the minds of the artists, it is real pleasure to see the liberty with which they operate. A true artist is one, who sees what others merely catch a glimpse of. And here, we find dime a dozen of the chosen souls to take us on a tour of sheer enlightenment.
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What is the fest entirely about? Imagination? Imagination turns the gap between the seen and the unseen into a space of possibility. The gap between the real and the mythic, the seen and the felt, the hidden and the experienced offers the seductive possibility of truth as filler. Is it possible for objects as multiple occurrences to occupy this space as an inclusive experience? Tradition? Tradition theoretically is a doctrine believed to have divine authority though not in the scriptures, in particular. It is believed to be the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.
What it truly embodies: It is about the art, and the men who imagined it. It is about the souls touched by art and souls waiting to be touched. It purely depends on the individual perspective, similar to a prism, multi-faceted and ever so amusing. It is about the divinity in the sheer simplicity and it is about the methodical occurrence in the complexity of human life. It is about Art itself.
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Legendary photographer G. Venket Ram takes us on a trip to the biennale. Excerpts from his narration: “I visited the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 during the last few days of January 2017. It was truly a mind-boggling experience. Fort Kochi, the small, seaside part of Cochin, where quaint streets lined with colourful shops, sea food restaurants at every turn, huge heritage homes, churches and a synagogue, all set the backdrop to a breath taking experience. The place is also dotted with old and ruined warehouses, abandoned homes and neglected gardens. It is in these long-forgotten spaces that art in every form and colour comes alive through Biennale. Spread over a few kilometres, these buildings explode into a riot of colours and sounds once you step inside. From installations created from the mundane to the extraordinary, video presentations of elements, live installations, fashion shots with corpses, surreal short films- shook his perceptions of creativity. In the 3 days I stayed there, every morning we set out, armed with a map of venues. There was no concrete plan. We just wandered from one venue to another, taking in the quaintness and making impromptu stops to visit the smaller venues in between shops, or to admire a brilliant installation inside someone’s long forgotten garden. Aspinwall house is by far the biggest venue and I spent hours savouring the experience.”
THE SEA OF PAIN Recollecting one of his favourites, Mr. Venket narrates the significance of the master piece. The piece was the priced work of an Argentinian / Chilean poet Raúl Zurita who explores the meaning of meaninglessness through his installation The Sea of Pain (placed in the Aspinwall house). A huge room in Aspin wall filled with water draws on life and the short lived affair we call living. With meaning deeper than the sea, the artist depicts what the pope rightly said, “Migrants and refugees are not pawns on the chessboard of humanity.” The visitors were asked to remove their shoes and immerse their feet in the water and Mr. Venkat realised during the same that the art left a mark no less than a slap which guided him to question the morals, fundamentals and ideologies of the injustice around the world. “As you wade through the black water to the end of the room, you really feel the hopelessness of the displaced,” says Mr. Venkat. DANCE OF DEATH In our day to day lives, we often forget to empathise with the lesser fortune. Today we are taught not to give in to our feelings but to capitalise on the opportunities our way. Sensing that art does not end once life encounters death, an alumna of Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai, Yardena Elhanan Kurulkar creates a point of confrontation between life and death by mixing media with light bulbs called the Dance of death (located in Aspinwall House). This is a mixed media installation where the birth date of the artist is formed by light bulbs hanging from above. Even though for a layman,
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it might seem ordinary, the idea and psychology behind the work itself blew the public away. Common perception being death is certain and life, uncertain. The task in hand for the artist was not just to convey the complex yet saddening idea of death through art but to convince them of its uncertainty comparing the same to the living. The stability in thought about the certainty and uncertainty were to be shattered and beautifully reconstructed with the artistic ideas of death. The concept of life beyond death is common in today’s society. Death is always a favourite concept for the artists in today’s era. However, the beauty associated with the raw idea of death definitely has to be appreciated. As an actor often confesses, ‘It isn’t difficult to deliver major lines but what is difficult is to do nothing on screen. To stand still. To do nothing’. The art succeeded at the point where ultimate uncertainty became the certainty and absolute became nothingness. Mr. Venkat adds, “To me, the fragile, shining light bulbs represented life, glowing and suspended in a dark, uncertain world.”
How death often is personified? Projection of the future isn’t the difficult part, one merely has to imagine the unimaginable and the world would clap. However, projection of the past, though one has a guide, is forever a challenge to outdo the previous depiction and be original at the same time. Such a challenge was what was encountered in the Pyramid of Exiled Poets, by Aleš Šteger (located as Aspinwall house). The artist took the public on a tour to the past, enabling them to sense among us those who weren’t present. It is like a maze that one has to walk through, which is lined with hand-woven mats. As you stumble through the almost dark passages of the pyramid, you hear disembodied voices of various poets like Ovid, Dante Alighieri, Bertolt Brecht, Czesław Miłosz, Mahmoud Darwish, Yang Lian, Joseph Brodsky, Ivan Blatný, and César Vallejo.
“I am from there. I am from here. I am not there and I am not here. I have two names, which meet and part, and I have two languages. I forget which of them I dream in”.
Art is the triumph over chaos.
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LIVE|From The Archives
ADDING COLOUR TO LIFE
“I started in a very crazy set-up.” Where does one start with someone who has accomplished so much? Visiting Asia for the first time in all these decades, she comes with rather strong affirmations for a first-timer. ‘I love Asia. I think in the future of fashion, Asia and India have a strong leading role to play. I am also looking at China as a market but one of the dreams of my life has been to produce and manufacture in India. Let us see. I would love to spend some of my working time in India also’ she says. While we wish she arrived sooner than that, it is important to go back to see how this one woman shaped the entire history of European fashion with her brand. ‘I come from a family which was always into architecture. If I had actually taken to it, I would have been the 9th generation of architects in our family. Our family was one of those families instrumental and closely involved in the making of Spanish history,’ she recollects talking about her earliest exposure to design. Her mother’s side was very close to Antonio Gaudi, (who belonged to the modernist style art nouveau movement and was famous for his unique and highly individualistic designs) and several reputed architects. ‘My father himself was a rather well known architect of his times and was one of the most important collectors of art in the country. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to become a painter. I was always painting. And that lead me to take on to mixing of media of design, art and colour and that I guess lead me to fashion’, she adds talking about her early childhood memories.
The first time you see her, you are left wondering what is this fairly aged woman doing, drenched in a riot of so much colour, unlike anybody around? Is it supposed to be the new trend? Is it a fashion statement? For she has in the past, constantly re-defined the European sense of style and popular perceptions about what fashion is. If the devil wears Prada, what does Agatha Prada wear? Trying to seek answers to a weird set of questions and mixed emotions, an extremely awestruck Veejay Sai interviews Agatha Ruiz de la Prada, the queen of European high fashion in this exclusive chat. FEB 2017 | Brew lifestyle| 45
Like one knows how the earliest influences in one’s life always have a long-lasting effect, it is not impossible to see them in this case with Agatha. Having said that, nothing came easy for Agatha in a highly patriarchal world where women, forget working women, seldom had any say. ‘When I started designing, there were hardly any women designers. There were hardly any good schools to go and train in. It was almost impossible to get any work anywhere for a young woman who wanted to start off on her own. I started in a very crazy set-up. It was those years when Spain was just about beginning to be a democracy after the death of General Franco. It was the freest period in the history of Spain and the likes of Pedro Almadovar were trying their own ways of expressing through their film medium. So I was very lucky because I think it was sheer co-incidence that I was there during those years. I began to do my fashion shows. I became popular overnight with the people there and with the media’, she says recollecting her initial years of toiling and hardship. Being at the right place, at the right time. She grew from fame to fame and there was no looking back for this young girl. ‘Though I was accepted widely, I was seen as a crazy woman. I was still looked down upon as someone who makes dresses for a clown and that nobody was going to buy any of my things. For years I tried to get the right shapes and colours and that got me a lot of recognition with the Spanish population. It was very difficult to sell. I was selling in private circles to friends and family. Most of the sales I did in this period were private. I was almost convinced that I could never sell. I had made my studio which was my own world. But because of places like ‘La Movida Vilena’ and the Olympics, Spain became the focus of the world press for some time. When they came here, they wanted to visit five or six people who were the most important part of Spanish cultural life. I happened to be amongst those five or six people alongside the likes of filmmaker Almadovar, singer Alaska and so on. While I was amidst all this international attention, I was happy, but I was not selling a thing,’
she says remembering how she shot to instant fame without much effort as luck favoured her and she happened to be at the right place in the right time. ‘During that period I was with a journalist who told me that I have an idea but not a product. I never knew much about having a product. Coming from an architectural background I was very fascinated by industrial design. I began to work for a lot of companies. Today you call it ‘co-branding’. For years I worked for Swatch and Absolut vodka’, she adds. One must not forget, many decades later Absolut vodka came out with a special designer collector’s edition bottle as a tribute to Agatha’s design legacy, an honour no living designer ever got from any company. Her associations payed off in the long run and today Prada does co-branding with over 200 important companies worldwide including some big names like Air Europa, Audi, DHL, Absolut. ‘This became my favourite pastime to go and do co-branding with so many more companies. At that time I launched my first perfume in the shape of a heart shaped bottle and I also tied up with El Corte Ingles, which was one of the world’s biggest departmental stores. This was a landmark development in my business’ she adds. Towards a democratic design In no time, Agatha had so many products which all the designers in Europe put together didn’t have as a collective. ‘I have always wanted to become a democratic designer and not just a luxury designer. In a way Swatch represents a lot of what I am. There is a little bit of something for everyone. And in a way that is also my philosophy’ she says. Finding more about her signature designs for her latest collections ‘My signature is my colour’, pats comes the reply. ‘For decades and decades in the fashion industry worldwide it has been the tyranny of black colour. So there was this assumption that if you are in the fashion world, you have to be dressed in black, all your life. It’s very crazy and sad. For me black is a colour that brings in a lot of bad energy and there is a huge spectrum of colours that give you a good energy’, she adds. Today you can look
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at a garment and make out if it’s a Prada product by seeing the bright lively colours it comes in. ‘Initially I tried to be very avant-garde and serious. But that is just not me. For years and years I have always made my collections for the common man in colours. For Europeans I needed to tell them what colours were. But speaking to an Indian is different, for India is a country of colour. You perhaps will not easily understand because across Europe, from Paris and Milan, everyone is dressed in black always! Everyone who sees my colours asks me to go to India and see how different and close to my philosophy it is. Also, the family of my grandmother is from Guatemala so I think a lot of my colour comes from that part of the world’, she says. Going by the veracity of her collections it is impossible to ignore Prada. ‘You can like my work or hate it, but you can recognize it instantly. Initially I had done some women’s wear which didn’t work much. During my
stint with El Corte Ingles, they told me to do a children’s wear collection. At that time I had two thoughts in my mind. I had a daughter who was three years old and so it felt nice to have a children’s wear collection but I was angry because I never wanted to do a children’s collection. Once I was in Madrid as a part of the jury of the carnival, and they kept directing me to somewhere else till I told them I was a jury member. I never liked to do children’s collection because I felt it was like a failure of my women’s wear collection. But I was mistaken. It was one of the biggest successes ever for me, in fact, for any designer I think to come out with a children’s wear collection. I couldn’t believe we were selling as much as we sold’, he says in utter surprise about her work and how it took on a different trajectory. Such high name and fame comes with its own set of disadvantages, but Agatha knew how to deal with them as well, taking everything that came by in her stride with a dash of colour. ‘Now they make Prada fakes in China and other markets but when I go there ,
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I hear stories of how people talk as if Agatha has copied some Chinese company called foo chi Choo or some such name. It makes me want to laugh out loud’, she says with a giggle. So what is her sense of fashion? ‘I think fashion is all about communication. What you wear says a lot about the kind of person you are. Fashion surely can have its political ambitions. Fashion in the future has a lot to do with ethics and ecology. We need less and better. There is a famous shoe brand which says ‘If you don’t need it, don’t buy it’. We need to know conservation’ she says. The post-war Sri Lanka woke up this year to a glitzy Colombo International fashion week arranged at a larger venue attracting the likes of Agatha and in turn she finds Asia as the next big promise, enough to venture here after decades of making a name in European fashion houses. ‘I hope to work with India sometime soon.
It is a large country with such vast superior cultural experiences, history, heritage and traditions. I would like to come there, stay there, learn and understand there and work there’, she says about her future plans with India. Colourful, lively and yes, the diva of style and substance, the ultimate czarina of vibrancy, Agatha Ruiz de la Prada is a name to reckon with in international fashion. For decades to come, one only needs to wait and watch how she might bathe the rest of the world in her colours.
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LIVE| What’s Brewing
Photograph: Danush Bhaskar If you’re looking for a place with great food while you can have a good read of anything that crosses your mind, the newly opened Writer’s Café is the place to be. Set in the style of a café with a Swiss bakery feel to it, this place is every reader’s dream come true. The menu, the menu card, the ambience and the whole set up – these are the key elements that make up the ideal café look for the place. With a predominantly European style menu, the dishes here are extremely modest looking with the ability to have a profound impact on your senses. What makes this place a tad bit more special is the cause with which its creator, Mr. M. Mahadevan of the well-known Oriental Cuisines of Hot Breads fame, has established it. The food here is prepared by victims of fire and acid attacks who were professionally trained by Silke Stadler, a chef from Switzerland. Launched in association with Higginbotham’s, the café has a cosy feel filled with books and very subtle interiors. Writer’s café proves to be the perfect modern food joint not just for the body but for the soul too.
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freshly brewed with words
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