Birds and Blooms | Verve Magazine
India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
May 22, 2011

Birds and Blooms

Text by Mita Kapur

Parrot green, sunshine yellow, raspberry pink. A variety of hues infuse the furniture line and accessories of Raseel Gujral and Naveen Ansal – whose India-inspired range, Indophile, is all set to go global. Verve is floored by the collection of colour

The Indophile collection by Raseel Gujral and Naveen Ansal brims over with eclectic energy, a burst of joyous, vibrant colours nuanced with textures that come forth with a message – that this furniture line and accessories need to be experienced, touched and made use of. They include patterns and graphics that subliminally spell out a kaleidoscopic garden of paradise, with birds and blooms embracing and jostling with colour and lyrical imagery.

Choosing to call it Indophile, Raseel explains, “It’s deeply India-inspired and basically conveys a sense of being in love with the country. There is a variety of inlay. The form of the table comes from a ring – the big thumb ring. The screens are all taken from old doors and windows. The embroidery is all Mughal bootas. The birds – the parrots and bulbuls – are from our miniatures so even if it’s not traditional Indian in a purist manner, it does have its roots in India.”

As my eyes run over the riot of raspberry pink, lime green, sunshine yellow, ultra-marine cushions sitting plump on sofas accented by straight-lined tables with the traditional jaali work attached to their legs, there is a sense that design here has been given a playful spin. Naveen, speaking like a proud partner says, “Fortunately for us, Raseel has a free flow of design coming out of her all the time. I have complete faith in her ability to do what she does on her own. I am part of the process just as a sounding board. Both of us love colour; we love doing something which is different but I think this is all hers – she keeps changing. I remember this from the time we lived together in Garden Estate – those days there was really no colour in Indian interiors and she was doing so much of it that people used to say, ‘Isn’t it too wild?’”

Raseel picks up the thread, “My take on Indian design and design per se is multiple. They can’t always be said at the same time, in the same breath or in the same story, so I need to tell different stories. This is the luscious diva story. I am working on a collection inspired by Naveen – I’ve used him as my model and created a very retro, of the ’70s, an Octopussy kind of line – that’s the next story. I am working on an India Palace collection – which is another story.”

Everything except for the pillars (whose flowers are of Japanese origin and are linked with the butterflies) harks back to our traditional past. Raseel says, “I have no professional training. I have been working in design since I was 21 years old.” Naveen adds in the same vein, “She was working with her father and Mohit (Gujral) when I met her. Likewise, I have no training in design or even business; I am actually a land owner and have picked up the threads on the job.”

Interestingly, Raseel, who has been a painter, got married when she was 18. “I was very keen on architecture and my father said it’s better to work straight at the studio and learn,” she states. “I started from scratch and was made to learn the basics right from drafting, air conditioning and electricals. I didn’t go to any professional institute, but my institute was a lot more gruelling. I worked there till 1994 when Naveen and I met and we set up our company.”

Casa Paradox was a platform for their design ambitions. But there has been an evolution, for as Raseel says, “Everything changes, yet remains the same. When we started Casa Paradox, I was already practising as an interior designer. I was producing furniture for my projects with other furniture manufacturers. When the two of us met, I told Naveen that we can set up a business in the same field as this was what I knew well.” Naveen adds, “I wanted to come to Delhi. We went around to all the kaarigars together when she thought that making furniture through other people was tedious.”

Raseel has been hands on with inlay for the last 15 years, giving the jaali work a modern take. She points out, “I have workers from Agra with me and I cannot really pinpoint where I’ve been experimental and where I’ve not. It’s not just working with craftsmen but working with a craft.”

The new collection which is ‘Naveen inspired’ will have, Raseel says, “a lot of forest, hunter green, navy blue, acid green, Indian yellow in a spectrum of neutrals but with a lot of punch and a far more fashion relevant accessorisation with different kinds of leather, metals. I need to work on this with Naveen since it has to be male-sensitive.” Naveen goes back into the past, “Any collection we’d do together, she’d take all her files when we were travelling so that we could dwell on what needs to be done.”

On their “fun at work” Raseel says, “We love what we do though it’s a big challenge and can get stressful to produce the quality we want. I don’t compare myself with the Italians – I think we are better than them but to get work done measuring up to our standards and get it done on time is a challenge.”

Naveen adds, “What we do is contemporary furniture but it is in a language that has continuity. It’s not something that’s been taken from here and placed there. It’s an expression of our experiences, a genuine look and what Raseel does the best is that our contemporary forms have a little bit of old-fashioned charm peeping in by way of more shine or more inlay work; or the forms are tweaked a bit to give it that special look – a leg may be shaved off a little more to give it a curve, to give it a more interesting silhouette. We develop our own polishes.”

In a philosophic vein, he continues,  “I feel our strength is that we both don’t think we’ve reached anywhere, we are moving along. Internationally Europe, which is the furniture capital, is not moving anywhere – we should be presenting ourselves there with our strengths. We need to create our own identity. Indian design is very ready provided it can deliver the quality and stick to timelines. And, ultimately, internationally, we have to be true to our Indianness.”

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