The Fresh List | Verve Magazine
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Verve People
March 12, 2009

The Fresh List

Interviews by Sona Bahadur, Eva Pavithran, Supriya Nair, Mamta Badkar. Styling by Apsara Oswal, Realisation By Lamya Bhatri

Verve celebrates bright young talent

Youth is in the air. The blossoming spring. The Oscar-winning love story of Jamal and Latika. The curious case of Benjamin Button who ages in reverse. The buttoned-down attitude of a youthful American Prez (he actually said ‘I screwed up’ on national television). The gorgeous new fragrance of Bvlgari’s Omnia Green Jade.

At Verve we love the whiff of young spirit. A sense of discovery is integral to our very raison d’etre. Be it the new wave of art curators or GenNext singers, we have constantly zoomed in on bright young talent. It’s no coincidence that rocker-actor Shruti Haasan posed for her first cover for us last year. Or that Freida Pinto was on our fashion pages way back in July-August 2006 before she became SAG and BAFTA nominated for Slumdog Millionaire and inspired a page on Wikipedia. We introduced many to Mekhala Bahl’s quirky abstract art and Aditi Singh’s striking brushstrokes. The list goes on.

Carrying forth the tradition, our ’09 Fresh List toasts budding talent from the arts, entertainment and fashion. It’s an eclectic bunch. Musicians and performing artistes, actors and filmmakers, fashion folks, even an RJ. Some are just starting; others have a body of work behind them. Some have inherited their creative DNA; others are gifted young achievers. You’ll find exciting new finds here — Shatrughan Sinha’s beauteous model daughter Sonakshi Sinha and Sabyasachi’s younger sis, designer Sinjini Mukherjee.

Those who make it to our roster embody fresh promise and a driving vision that reflects in their initial work. Fashion designer Rahul Reddy made an impression with his simply stylish Evelyn’s Tomorrow collection at last year’s fashion weeks. Artist T. Venkanna’s overtly sexual artistic style is infamously famous. Third-gen Sarabhai, Revanta, who performs with his mother Mallika Sarabhai’s Darpana Academy of Performing Arts all over the place, is fast gaining repute as a modern dancer with an edge.  Even the debutantes stand apart with a certain je ne sais quoi and sense of anticipation.

Together they’re the new interpreters of culture. Taste makers in their individual niches, they embody new visions, capture the zeitgeist and signal brave new ways of dreaming, doing and being. Boundaries dissolve wherever they turn their beautiful heads. A musician on the cutting edge of sound, Loy Mendonsa’s son Shane bridges the gap between technology and music and uses the term ‘energetech’ to describe his house music. Model Sonakshi is equally at ease being the designer and the muse; she says she belongs to both worlds. Anand Tiwari switches effortlessly between films and theatre; he acts, directs and screenwrites.

Several of those featured, like saxophonist Rhys D’Souza, singer Alisha Batth and filmmaker Ayan Mukerji are working on their debut projects. Though they’re still finding their creative idiom, the passion is undeniable. Rhys dreams of performing at the Carnegie Hall after he graduates. Sonakshi wants to walk the runway to the silver screen and Ayan wants to make more films about 20-something people. Whatever their craft, they set the rules. Ani Difranco disciple Alisha puts it best, ‘Have no music philosophy. Do what you want!’

Style is organic to their beings.

The young set seems to have abandoned the calculus of what’s cool and embraced its own definitions. Freida flaunts her purple Puma sports bag like a Prada. A comfort freak, she genuinely believes wearing six-inch heels doesn’t necessarily spell style. Alisha’s wildly coiffed hair is uniquely her. Revanta, who believes style is about personality, personifies the adage perfectly.

At the Verve outdoor group photo shoot at ITC Parel, the complexions and energy of the six young debutantes — Alisha, Rhys, Rohini, Shane, Sonakshi and Revanta — reflect the flush of spring bliss. Styled in cool, chic neutral hues, the lush green grass and foliage are the perfect backdrop for their natural vitality. Bonding over each shot, striking the perfect pose, they’re chillaxed, positive, gung-go.

Getting the bunch together has been fun. Quite a few surprises there. We learned connecting with Freida on the phone at her Four Seasons hotel room at LA pre-BAFTAs, that she almost always bumps her head while getting into her car. And that motormouth radio jock Rohini dreads doing interviews. (She confessed this on her Facebook status update after we sent her our questions!)

Enough said. We let the smart crowd do the talking.

Discover them. Enjoy them.

Alisha Batth
20, Folk-Rock Singer


So far
Live performances at venues like Hard Rock Cafe and Blue Frog. Recently performed at the Gaaja Baaja music event in Mumbai.

Performing solo
Is the best feeling. Nothing like being a one-woman-army!

Pub performance or big concert

Best compliment you ever got
When I was told I sound like Linda Perry.

Music icons
Melissa Etheridge and Ani DiFranco.

Shaa’ir + Func or Thermal and a Quarter
Shaa’ir + Func.

Amy Winehouse’s style or Bjork’s:
Neither. I’d like to believe I have my own style, which is majorly inspired by the ’80s and ’90s.

What’s next
Working on my debut album. No gigs lined as such but something or the other keeps popping up.

Music philosophy
Have none! Do what you want!

Would you sing a Bollywood item song
If the song appeals, why not?

Revanta Sarabhai
24, Dancer

Ahmedabad. Currently in Mumbai.

Dance beginnings
Crawled on to the dance floor during mother Mallika Sarabhai’s dance rehearsals, weaving in and out between her feet. Began formal training in Kuchipudi at five, and Bharatanatyam at eight. Started contemporary dance at 12, and choreographing shows at 15.

So far
Choreographer, actor and lead dancer at Darpana (where he also lends a hand in running the business side of things). Interested in contemporary dance inspired by classical dance, as well as martial arts like Kalaripayettu.

What does Revanta mean
It’s the name of the son of Surya, the sun god, and Saranya, goddess of dawn.

On mum Mallika Sarabhai
One of the most amazing things she does is ‘package’ her work to make it relevant by reinterpreting traditional classical work for a young or foreign audience or reinventing for a seasoned audience. That’s something I always strive to do.

Fave dance movie
Shall We Dance? It’s a film about getting rid of inhibitions as well as preconceptions about what sort of people can and should dance.

Saturday Night Fever or Disco Dancer

Davar or Deboo?
Oh gosh, both.

Style is
A lot about personality, much less so about brands or trends.

Converse or Kenneth Cole
Kenneth Cole.

Words to live by
Stick to what you believe in and pursue it; conventional success will cease to matter.

What’s next
A dance installation piece in early 2009 in Mumbai.

Bollywood calling
Done a lot of theatre in the last few years which has developed my interest in acting. Bollywood in particular, given how strong an element dance it has.

What makes you laugh
The peculiarities of random people on the street, lost in their own worlds.

What makes you cry
Dysfunctional systems in civil society.

Sinjini Mukherjee
27, Fashion Designer


So far
Graduated from NIFT Kolkata, where I got the best creative collection and overall presentation awards. Now managing my brother Sabyasachi’s business in Kolkata. Also assisting him on a few movies.

Sabyasachi’s influence
My brother has always been studying, achieving things whereas I was a total tomboy playing football, breaking limbs. We’re two totally different people but the woman we design for is the same.

Fashion is
Functional, practical, emotional, commercial and aesthetic.

Style icon
Kate Moss. You get to read the quirks of her mind by the way she dresses.

Kenzo Takada or Dries van Noten
Dries van Noten. Ah well, he is God.

I love the way his mind works.
Kantha or kalamkari Kantha. It can make any fabric look like a million bucks.

Patiala salwar or clingy churidar
Patiala salwar. It’s roomy so it can be played around with to look both girly and grungy.

Future thoughts
Prêt presents immense opportunity to influence the way we dress. Handling that would be hugely satisfying.

Words to live by
Make the act of choosing what you wear a mark of self esteem.

Freida Pinto
24, Actor


What made you bag Slumdog Millionaire

Oscar thoughts

The Slumdog controversy
It was expected. In a country of 1.3 billion people, it’s impossible to please every kind of mindset. Slumdog became so big that a backlash was not that surprising.

The Freida style of acting
Raw and instinctive.

Indie films or blockbusters
Both. As long as they have style and substance.

Danny Boyle or James Bond

Shah Rukh Khan or Daniel Craig
Daniel Craig, though SRK would make the best desi Bond!

Style means
Comfort. Wearing six-inch heels doesn’t necessarily spell style.

Louboutins or Choos
Louboutins. I haven’t found Choos to fit my size-41-feet!

Can’t-live-without accessory
My purple Puma bag. I value it like a Prada.

You in three words
Flexible, unpredictable and goofy.

Why goofy
I do stuff like bump my head when I get into my car.

Sakshi Gupta
29, Sculptor


So far
Showcased The Power of the Ornament at the Belvedere Museum, Vienna in 2009; and Indian Highway at Serpentine Art Gallery, London in 2008.

Earliest art memory
As a child I’d nibble off the wall. I had almost carved out a neat line into the wall with my fingernails. My mother resorted to filling it in with chilli powder. The sensorial and visual memory of it has stayed with me ever since.”

Tradition or innovation
A foundation in the ‘classic’ gives one ample scope to improvise, diversify and flourish.

Life mantra
Simplicity is stability.

Art picks
Etchings by Nasreen Mohamadi; pulp prints of Somnath Hore; site specific works by Ramkinkar Baij, more recently Blood Wedding by Anita Dube, Consanguinity and Love series by Sudarshan Shetty, works made of evaporating compound by A. Balasubramaniam and many more.

International picks
Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti, Rebecca Horn, Maurizio Cattelan, Bill Viola, John Bock.

Art with purpose
Quoting John Sloan: ‘Though a living cannot be made at art, art makes life worth living. It makes living, living. It makes starving, living. It makes worry, it makes trouble, it makes a life that would be barren of everything – living. It brings life to life.’

Picasso or Van Gogh
Van Gogh.

Frida Kahlo or Georgia O’ Keeffe
Frida Kahlo. Achieved a fine balance between emotional outpouring and intelligently executed compositions.

Uniquely you
Been told by family and friends that I was born old. Think I’m ageing backwards!

Traditional painting or mixed media

Dressing style
Still evolving and changes according to mood. I like good fabrics and a nice, comfy fit.

Tegulla Venkanna
29, Mixed Media Artist


Inspired by
Nature, human sexuality, culture, and art itself.

Your art
I try to confront the stereotypical way sexuality is understood and defined through my work. I want to show that in reality it’s the norms and conditions of society that make life violating and unhappy.

My visual language is often misunderstood as vulgar and profane but it’s never my intention to shock or sensationalise.

Artistic quest
I explore problems in politics and society. It’s my belief and hope that art will make life happier and more peaceful.

Personal style
Comfort. I love bright colours.

Modern or postmodern

Local art picks
F.N. Souza, Bhupen Khakhar, Atul Dodiya. They have redefined reality, questioned contemporary society and sexuality in their own way.

International picks
David Hockney’s drawings, Paul Gauguin’s painterly quality and Damien Hirst’s philosophical thoughts and postmodern themes.

Reality or fantasy
Fantasy, because it has nothing to do with false reality. Imagination makes us happy, gives pleasure and allows for a new reality.

M.F. Hussain or F.N. Souza
F.N. Souza.

Coming Up
Just finished my first solo show at Gallery Maskara. Next one’s end of this year.

Personal Mantra
Allow for all possibilities. No matter what happens on the outside, be happy on the inside.

Rohini Ramnathan
27, Radio Jockey


So far
I was hired as a producer at my first radio station, and within a month of being a part of the team, I was told to go on-air on a prime-time evening band. Currently with 93.4 Red FM.

First radio memory
Fiddling around with my dad’s radio set at age three, wearing his over-sized headphones and mock-talking into a Senheiser mike.

State of radio in 2009
It’s pay-back time – Radio WILL kill the V Star in 2009! NOW is the time. I think this recession thing is great for radio – it will propel radio to another level. One thing you want to change about the radio industry? Let’s not all sound the same, please!

Ameen Sayani or Jeeturaj
Rohini (cheeky grin).

Manish Arora or Rajesh Pratap Singh
Both co-exist in my wardrobe.

Dressing to work
I like to dress up. As a jock, it’s really important to feel good from within to sound it on-air.

Style icon
A mix between Madonna and Madhuri.

Uniquely Rohini
On-air, my mad, mad laugh! Off-air – checking myself out in every reflective surface I set eyes on (glossy mag covers included!).

Coming up
Tune in, every day is a fresh start!

Shane Mendonsa
24, Music Producer


So far
Began DJing at 19, spinning house music. Eventually started making my own music and launched my record label Brutal By Birth with Tuhin Mehta. Bollywood remixes for movies like Janeman, Salaam-e-Ishq, Johnny Gaddar and others. Most recently, worked with Hard Kaur on a remix for her new album.

Brutal By Birth
Is open to anyone who has what it takes to put India on the EDM (electronic dance music) production map. We wanted to say, hey, the guys from India too can drop some crazy choons!

Being a musician in 2009
Bollywood is still very much the mainstream, but less popular forms are now being recognised. That makes it really interesting right now.

One thing you’d change about the Indian music scene
The darn royalty system!  People in India need to wake up and get acquainted with their music rights and understand how IPRS and PPL and copyrights work!

DJ or music director
Right now being a music director is more fulfilling for creative expression.

Electro, rock or dub step
All Three!!

DJ superstars
Sasha, Filterheads, Paul Van Dyk, Dave Seamen, Phil K and Tuhin Mehta.

Music philosophy
Nature is the greatest musician. Any sound good to the ear is music.

Talvin Singh or Nitin Sawhney
Tough One. Nitin Sawhney has the edge for me.

Fave female musician
Sarah Mclachlan.

AR Rahman or SEL
Shall be a supportive son and say SEL all the way! But Love AR’s music, too!

Style is
Nothing fancy. Basic jeans, tees or shirts worn with my Converse shoes or Osho chappals. Among brands it’s Gas, Levis, Giordano and Abercrombie.

Rahul Reddy
30, Fashion Designer

Hyderabad, but live and work in Delhi.

So far
Debuted at Wills India Fashion Week 2008. Showcased at Delhi Fashion Week last year.

First thing you created
Designed a mock magazine cover for my design school entrance exam.

Style is
Anything that’s comfortable.

Indian fashion in 2009
Tough times for all of us right now but the future looks very promising.

Does India need so many fashion weeks’?
Probably not.

One thing you’d change about the fashion industry
Its complicatedness!

Fashion muse
Rei Kawakubo.

Twenties glamour or ’60s geometry
Definitely ’60s geometry.

Issey Miyake or Hussein Chalayan
Issey Miyake.

Ethnic or Western

Words you live by
Happiness and laughter.

Coming up
Looking forward to working closely with a fashion store in Japan.

Sonakshi Sinha
21, Model


So far
Showstopper for Dev R Nil at Lakme Fashion Week 2008, and for Anmol Jewellers.

Your flab-to-fab secret

On style
You either have it or you don’t; if you do, it’s there to stay.

Hotbod: Kate Moss or Kate Winslet
Kate Winslet.

Botox or natural
Natural forever!

Brands or street chic
Street chic.

Runway scorcher or screen goddess
Want to work through the runway to the silver screen.

What’s the new ‘khamosh’
‘Khamosh’ is irreplaceable!

Fashion designer or muse
I belong to both worlds.

Coming up
Some big ad campaigns and fashion shows.

Rhys D’Souza
20, Saxophonist


So far
Playing the sax since I was 17. Do everything from blues to bebop to pop to bluegrass. Live performances at venues like Blue Frog, Hard Rock Café and college fests. Leading role in Etienne Coutinho’s play Jazz, which got a standing ovation at the recent Amsterdam India fest.

Jazz in India
Is a tiny niche. Don’t know what’s the right thing to say – jazz can’t keep up with people or people can’t keep up with jazz. Fusion is gaining ground world over. India’s no exception.

Music credo
To be an entertainer, you have to listen to what people want. Be open-minded.

Musical blues
People are missing out of the acoustics of music; there’s too much of electric around.

Biggest musical influence
My mum Merlin, an accomplished composer herself.

Best compliment you got so far
‘You’re 20. You look 15. But you play like a 40-year-old.’

Fave Indian jazz artiste
Louis Banks. I can already see myself playing the kind of music he does. He also plays the piano, which I love.

Stage or studio
Both. You can’t have too much of either.

Louis Armstrong or Michael Brecker
I like trumpeters, so Armstrong it is.

Bebop or funk
Funk, because it’s very groovy. I love movement on stage.

What’s next
My debut album. Also want to be an accomplished pianist.

Bollywood calling
Open to it but first want to take up my music education a notch.

If not music
It’s football. Been dying to catch a game at Old Trafford in Manchester.

Ayan Mukerji
25, Filmmaker


Alma Mater
Jamnabai Narsee School. Left a little piece of my heart there forever. Random trysts with science and engineering courses. Eventually dropped out. Ah well!

So far
Assistant director with Ashutosh Gowariker on Swades followed by Kabhie Alvida Na Kehna. Eventually managed to write a script, and currently making it into a movie.

Coming up
My first directorial feature, Wake Up, Sid! produced by Karan Johar and starring Ranbir Kapoor and Konkona Sen Sharma.

The Ayan Mukerji oeuvre
I mean… come on! I’m on my first film….Ok, ‘young, urban, idealistic, conversational, whimsical, simple, happy!’ Makes sense?

Bollywood or Hindi film industry
Hindi film industry!

BlackBerry or iPhone

A film you wished you had made
Lost in Translation, Dil Chahta Hai.

Fave female character in film
Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.

Hrishikesh Mukerjee or Manmohan Desai
Imtiaz Ali.

Style is
Being comfortable. Feeling sexy.

What makes you laugh
Karan Johar talking about… well, anything!

What makes you cry
Listening to songs I used to love but haven’t heard in a while. Old photos. End of a shooting schedule.

Anand Tiwari
25, Theatre and Film Actor


So far
Spotted on the boards in Karla Singh’s Punch-a-tantra, the Shilpa Shetty musical Miss Bollywood and City of Dreams; actor, assistant producer/director on The President Is Coming (he also acted in the stage play); principled everyman of Tata’s Jaago Re campaign; scriptwriting for Sai Paranjpye.

Coming up
In film: Kites (2009). In theatre: A stint in Akvarious’ award-winning production of David Auburn’s Proof.

The acting bug
On a conscious level I started out thinking I’d be a doctor, like my father and brother, but I secretly always wanted to be an actor, and eventually a filmmaker.

English or Hindi

Artaud or Stanislavsky
Impossible to choose.

Converse or Kenneth Cole

Style is
Me! (Or you).

What makes you laugh
People taking life seriously.

What makes you cry
Bad cinema.

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