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March 03, 2015

Home with a heart

Text by Tasneem Mohamedbhai. Photographs by Ryan Martis

Furniture and artifacts from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar and Bali make Ashvini Yardi’s home as distinctive as she is, discovers Verve who pays a visit to the young entrepreneur, known particularly for the launch and triumph of the TV channel Colors

Ashvini Yardi’s home, much like the successful, beautiful and wonderfully down-to-earth lady herself, is warm and inviting. Her duplex apartment sits in a modern-day building on the edge of the eclectic Pali Village in Bandra.

Yardi’s success quotient far outruns that of many of her contemporaries – 15-odd years at Zee, the launch and triumph of Colors and the brand new victory of Grazing Goat Pictures are achievements not to be worn lightly. Yet, as Yardi opens the door to her apartment, with Rocko her beloved dog by her side, there is no degree of celebrity status in the air.

Unfazed by the team of make-up artists, stylist, writer and photographers in her home, Yardi casually ushers us to her balcony, which runs along the entire perimeter of the lower floor of her home. The view from the balcony is a sweep of green foliage, interspersed with tall swaying palms and glitzy new construction…an ample slice of Mumbai’s contemporary urban cityscape. You can’t help but be drawn to it and see quite easily how the balcony actually is the heart of the apartment.

It certainly is Yardi’s favourite spot. “I used to put on sun glasses and sit outside,” she reminisces. The wooden floor gives it a patio feel, and cane furniture, bamboo screens and champa plants lend to it a touch of a tropical retreat. The glass-top coffee table laid out with mid-day treats and the low seating, make sitting outside, in the soft winter sun, most desirable. The east side of the balcony, sheltered from the sunlight by an awning, has a cozy little sit-out of its own, and the enormous swing is perfect for a snooze in the shade.

Cool and comfortable in her pre-shoot garb, Yardi saunters through her apartment, showing me her favourite things. Rocko follows eagerly. She starts with proudly pointing out a gift made by Walt Disney to her grandfather, Baburao Pai – an original drawing from Disney’s animated film Bambi. It is obviously one of her most prized possessions.

As I look around, I realise that most paintings, sculptures, and pieces of furniture, are not without meaning; some have been collected over many years, and moved from home to home, or, gifted by someone special. The Yardi home is a tribute to many people and things they love most.

“I don’t really like custom-made furniture,” she honestly declares. “I pick up stuff I like, and then I am not sure about where to fit it.” Yardi, sole decorator of her home, has collected furniture equally from Chor Bazaar and Bali, amongst other near and far-away places. Her strip wood dining table and unique charkha both come from a North Mumbai store, belonging to a close friend. Her TV room has a pair of old Bauhaus chairs which were in the family, and have been re-upholstered with pop fabric she ‘picked up’ somewhere around the corner.

Similarly, a seemingly ‘trite’ acquisition hangs in the living room — a life-size Tanjore painting which Yardi bought from a temple next to her office. “I saw it from my office window,” she casually comments, “and made an offer to the temple.” The beautiful gold and red painting of the coronation of Lord Ram is quite a masterpiece.

Equally impressive and more recent additions to the home are two sculptures she bought in Ubud. An impressive bronze statue of Lord Vishnu stands against a golden wall in the corner. Both fierce and calm at the same time, the statue lends a touch of drama to the living room. Adjacent to the Lord Vishnu statue, is a stone sculpture of Lord Shiva. Red lips, a red tikka and a calmer gaze, make this sculpture seem the less dominant of the two. In keeping with the theme and dotting one wall of the dining area are beautiful porcelain plates depicting pictures of some more gods and goddesses. As I go to have a closer look, Yardi exclaims, “I have a lot of religious stuff, don’t I?”

The only contemporary art in the house are two paintings on the wall of the dining area. One of them depicts a nude lady and an ensemble of scissor, thread, and jacket. When I ask why she liked the painting, she says, “Though she is naked, it seems like things are within her reach; she is getting there.” Much like her own mantra in life…. After having re-written history in TV with Colors, Ashvini felt like she had done all she could with the channel, and believed more was within her reach. Though she never thought she would join Bollywood, her friendship with Akshay Kumar gave birth to Grazing Goat Pictures and Oh My God came her way. A Marathi and Punjabi film followed and now a new film is underway. “But I missed TV,” she said, and this resulted in her uber successful TV show Jamai Raja, which is also setting records in TV history.

Little hints of Yardi’s travels are scattered around the apartment. A carousel wheel from Barcelona, a cow from the cow parade in Amsterdam and a candlestick from Portabello Road market, are all treasures collected during trips abroad. “My favourite city is New York and I love Barcelona,” she fondly says.

But while in the city, her home is her sanctuary. “I don’t want to leave home. It feels like our space.” Yardi, her husband and son spend the weekends at home or going out to watch movies. “I fell asleep last weekend in the Penguin film (Penguins of Madagascar),” she chides. Though she works hard, the weekends are her free time and she uses much of that to enjoy her beautiful home. “We used to entertain a lot, but now it’s less,” she said. “With Colors I had to socialise, my job required it.”  Close friends are always welcome over and later that evening, she was expecting a close Kashmiri friend who wanted simple Maharastiran food. The beautiful downstairs area of the Yardi home is shared with guests, and, as can be expected, the upper floor of the duplex is her family’s quarters, privy to just the three of them.

Many beautiful presents are also displayed in her home. A Good Earth hanging lamp was a gift from when she left Zee; a small Tanjore painting by the entrance was a gift; and a beautiful painting by her uncle, Upendra Naik, was a gift from her mother. Art creations by friends add variety to the home’s decor as well — a piece of art created from the bark of a tree was made by her ‘son’s friend’s mother’ and another wonderful watercolour was bought at a dear friend’s first exhibition in 1997. Gopika, the artist, is the daughter of the late Prafulla Dhanukar, who was also very special to Yardi.

Inside the apartment, the wooden floor, the modern stairs, the bronze screen, and the greenery on the beautiful patio, deceive you into believing you are inside a ground floor house.  Even the corridor outside the main door sports art and antique furniture that Yardi has collected, making the space seem like a private foyer. “Although we live in an apartment, it has a bungalow feel,” she says, as she slips upstairs to get ready for the shoot.

When asked to describe the brief she gave her designer for her home, she candidly said she didn’t have a designer. “I’ve done it myself. I quite like the South East Asian style.” She smiled and continued, “I just picked up a lovely lot of things from Ubud in Bali. I recently moved them in and that’s why some things are out of place.” Though nothing looked out of place; every work of art on the walls, every statue, sculpture and piece of furniture fit right in.

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