Hindujas Repurpose Winston Churchill’s OWO With £1.2 Billion Into Raffles London Hotel

The Indian industrialist brothers – Srichand, Gopichand, Prakash and Ashok Hinduja, of the Hinduja Group, a multinational conglomerate with interests in oil, automobiles, banking and real estate, are making acquiring historic and heritage properties in London a game of Monopoly, buying not where the die rolls, but where their eye goes. In 2006, they bought 13-16 Carlton House Terrace, built in 1831, spread over 67,000 square feet in the City of Westminster, with Buckingham Palace close by, for £58 million from the Crown Estate and spent another £50 million in renovations before they could move in and call it home in 2011.

The brothers have since gone on to purchase Britain’s Old War Office (OWO) at Whitehall, for £1.2 billion in 2014. Designed by British architect William Young and originally completed in 1906, the OWO is a Grade II* listed building that has witnessed innumerable world-shaping events. The OWO’s 1,100 rooms and four kilometres of corridors, were used by Winston Churchill during World War II, leading Britain to wartime victory. Grand in size and stature both, with classic Edwardian baroque interiors, the OWO has since been renovated for over five years, in keeping with the rich legacy and the historical architectural elements of the building by the Hinduja Group at the helm of the 5,80,000 square feet redevelopment that cost a Gross Development Value of £1.2 billion. Interestingly, James Bond, the fictional MI6 icon of espionage, was conceived at the OWO when writer Ian Fleming worked in Britain’s Naval Intelligence Service, acting as key liaison with the department, overseeing Operation Goldeneye. As a result, the OWO has made starring appearances in 007 films like Skyfall, Spectre, License to Kill, A View to a Kill, Octopussy and No Time To Die over the years. 

Once the planning approvals came from the Westminster City Council in July 2017, Britain’s former Old War Office went from being a government building, to a mixed-use building with a 250 year lease from the date of acquisition. After being closed to the public for more than a century, the OWO, now repurposed into a luxury hotel called Raffles London at The OWO, is all set to open in the spring of 2023.

“The OWO is my greatest legacy to London for future generations to enjoy,” says Gopichand Parmanand Hinduja, co-chairman of the Hinduja Group. 

The 120 rooms and suites that comprise the OWO hotel, including a Winston Churchill Suite, have been designed by French architect and interior designer, Thierry Despont, known for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty in New York as an associate architect in the 80s and transforming landmark buildings like The Getty Centre and Maison Cartier. The 85 branded residences, a first for Raffles in Europe, come with a heady mix of history, mystery and royal glamour set in an enviable location, making them the most expensive in London to date. They are priced upwards of £7.1million for a two-bedroom residence, £10million for a two-bedroom residence designed by Albion Nord and £14.25million for a three-bedroom residence designed by Angel O’Donnell, with prices including fixtures and fittings, but not the artwork. A four-bedroom residence 5.02, on the fifth floor, is an ode to the espionage history of the building. It is accessed through the Spies Entrance, a door used by MI6 staff after covert missions, and the name has been retained from 1909 when the British Secret Service Bureau was established as a department of the War Office. It still makes for discreet arrivals and departures, but not without the 24/7 monitoring by on-site security. 

The OWO residences seem to have outperformed the Prime Central London market, with a new record for values achieved on a price per square foot basis, within months of their launch. A new benchmark of over £11,000 price per square foot was achieved on one of the unique turret residences, a four bedroom duplex. It is safe to say that the OWO residences, located in an unparalleled and iconic part of London, serviced by the Raffles team, are a coveted buy. 

Not only is the OWO the Hinduja Group’s first foray into the hospitality business, but it is also the first Raffles hotel in London, and the first Guerlain Spa in London, exclusive to the Raffles London at The OWO too.

Philippe Leboeuf, Managing Director at Raffles London at The OWO confirms the opening of the hotel, “This staggering piece of British history will be open to the public for the very first time from Spring 2023, thanks to the Hinduja’s tireless work in sensitively conserving this significant address, partnering with experts including English Heritage, MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and EPR Architects. This beacon of British heritage and modern craftsmanship will also be home to Raffles first hotel in the city, Raffles London at The OWO and it’s a once in a lifetime project for the Hinduja family which will become a new icon of global hospitality. Since acquiring the OWO, the Hinduja family have overseen the meticulous restoration of Britain’s former Old War Office with a vision and commitment to preserve its heritage, all the while breathing new life into the landmark.”

The acclaimed Italian-Argentine Chef Mauro Colagreco of Mirazur (three Michelin stars) a modernist cuisine restaurant that he opened in 2006 in Menton, France, will be creating unique dining experiences set within the OWO’s most storied rooms, driven by a commitment to seasonality, local procurement, and sustainability. Chef Mauro was awarded the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in the 2022 honours list by the French government. 

“Chef Mauro is undoubtedly one of the world’s most recognised chefs, with a phenomenal  reputation and we’re excited to see him bring his experience to Raffles London at The OWO with concepts that are tailor-made for our well-travelled guests,” says Stephen Alden, CEO of Raffles & Orient Express. 

Out of the nine restaurants and bars (including a rooftop restaurant and bar with expansive views across Whitehall, The Mall and Buckingham Palace) slated to open at the OWO, Paper Moon, a family-run Italian restaurant founded by Pio Galligani and his wife Enrica Del  Rosso in Milan’s fashion district in 1977, is the first independent restaurant to have been announced so far. Paper Moon is located in a space overlooking Horse Guards Avenue. There are plans to open restaurants serving Indian, Japanese and French cuisines which are still under negotiation.

“These vibrant new restaurants will be part of the dynamic dining offer which will place The OWO as a new epicentre for London’s culinary scene, and sets the stage for an entirely new hospitality experience for visitors and Londoners,” says Madani Sow of Westminster Development Services. 

This hospitality venture is the first of its kind in scale, spend and historical relevance, with an Indian business family restoring the history of a British landmark. It remains to be seen if the billions that The OWO has been bought, acquired and repurposed for, tempts the Hinduja family enough to make hospitality another key business for their group. 

This feature first appeared in Hindustan Times on November 27th, 2022

©Rubina A Khan 2022

India’s Real Estate Adjusts To COVID19 Reality | Gulf News

The COVID-19 pandemic has irreversibly changed the world order as we know it, and the economy, forever. We thought we lived in an adamantine world controlled by humans, until a contagion microbe – that’s killing harder and faster than any missile – showed us we obviously don’t. Every human and business is hurting, held hostage in quarantine in the absence of a vaccine or cure, at least not yet. Real estate too, is an altered reality.

Indian realty witnessed an unequivocal shift in perspective, long before the virus struck. The enforcement of the Citizen Amendment Act beleaguered India, leaving a trail of bloodbaths and mayhem in New Delhi in its wake, with non-violent protests across the country since December 2019 being the norm. Unsure of the future of their inherent national identities and citizenship, the unrest and uncertainty propelled some Indians and NRI’s to re-evaluate their assets in the country, in particular real estate. Sale listings went up in Mumbai, in many cases because the of very concerns related to the CAA enforcement. These listings didn’t strictly adhere to the market’s competitive and demanding numbers, but veered more towards liquidating the assets at flexible, albeit profitable prices.

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Gateway of India Mumbai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Virtual tours, an unheard of thing in Mumbai, have slowly started via FaceTime and WhatsApp, but it’s hard to say if that will become the norm. Virtual show-arounds will suffice for a preliminary showing, but to make a final decision, a physical tour is a must, particularly as the amenities are a big part of the tours. The innumerable fake listings for Mumbai properties that lure in susceptible renters and buyers, will cease to exist soon enough as the health clearance of a broker will become as vital as that of a prospective ROB (renter-owner-buyer).

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Bandra-Worli Sea Link Mumbai | Photo: Rubina A Khan / Getty Images

Brokers will by default have to become photographers and videographers, health screeners and learn how to disinfect their listed properties themselves. It will become standard practice for them to call a prospective buyer or a renter before a showing to make sure that he or she is feeling fine and has no cough or sore throat, and has not been out of the country recently – even after COVID-19 is contained. A short-term effect is that buyers will be less inclined to purchase or rent if they have no idea when they will actually get to visit the properties. The long-term effects are yet to unfold, but the virus will cripple sales despite lowered prices. There is no guarantee of buyers if self-isolation, travel bans and border closures continue indefinitely or intermittently.

I don’t see a likely upswing for the next two years at least. The economic uncertainty has sparked off a growing sense of unease and doomsday panic, and is likely to cost the global economy $1 trillion in 2020, according to the UN’s Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD).

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on March 27, 2020

©Rubina A Khan 2020

RUBINA’S REVIEW | MANDARIN ORIENTAL DOHA IS A CULTURALLY COHERENT REGNANT OF QATARI HERITAGE

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DOHA, QATAR: The main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha in Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha opened in March 2019 in Msheireb Downtown Doha, a planned, smart-city district in Qatar, and the world’s first sustainable downtown regeneration project. The sand-hued hotel overlooks the enchanting Barahat Msheireb Town Square, the largest open-air covered town square in the Middle East, encompassing 7000 sqm with the biggest retractable, climate-controlled cooling roof in the region. The design concept of the golden square references the welcoming and luxurious sitting rooms of traditional Qatari homes, and the backlit onyx cladding at night in translucent honey tones, echoes the inherent spirit of the desert. Msheireb Downtown Doha, developed by Msheireb Properties, whose Chairwoman is HRH Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, adheres to the highest standards in green building in re-creating a way of indigenous Qatari living and culture, in the centre of the capital city. Qatar is not just kicking ball by hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, it’s venerating its history and heritage through artistic avant-garde advancement in every sphere. This 11,000 km desert kingdom is on its way to becoming a nonpareil cultural capital of the world.

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DOHA, QATAR: The Mandarin Oriental, Doha overlooks the Barahat Msheireb Town Square in Msheireb Downtown Doha, Qatar.

The Mandarin Oriental, Doha is not a glass and glimmer skyscraper tearing into the blue skies, as one is wont to think of luxury hotels in the Middle East, blazoning the apodictic wealth of the country. It confutes the very notion the second your car rolls up the narrow, stone-cobbled alleyways, especially designed thus to give you a feel of old Qatari residential neighbourhoods, but not without a distinct, contemporary finesse befitting of a luxury hotel. Brick, mortar, wood, metal and a whole lot of soul make up the architectural and design language of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha that is culturally coherent with Qatari living and the heritage of the desert nation. The ferej, an intrinsic part of Qatari homes, built to provide shade from the desert sun and for air circulation (a natural air-conditioner so to speak) for respite from the heat, makes its modern-day presence felt in the hotel’s corridors and landings.

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DOHA, QATAR: A street view of the main entrance of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, Qatar.

The shifting shapes of sand dunes inspired the key design element for the interiors of the property. Right from the imposing entrance pillars to the walls, marble floors and ceiling reliefs, an artistic representation of sand dunes runs through the hotel consummately. The design is as conspicuous and as unobtrusive as you want it to be. If you want to see it, you can see it everywhere and if you don’t, well, then you don’t. But the sand dunes of Qatar are there, hearkening the travelling bedouin origins of Qatar to the current day on your calendar.

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DOHA, QATAR: A general view from the Mandarin Oriental, Doha of the ferej or narrow alleyway sstreets in Doha, Qatar

The fretwork sand dune panels, with a painted eggshell finish on the ceiling, with a brass veil, influenced by the awnings and canopies of Arab dhows and ocean waves, designed by the David Collins Studio and Alexander Lamont’s straw marquetry adorn the lobby of the hotel. The brass veil, alongside the straw marquetry, is a breathtaking design genius.  Lamont used dried straw stems, spliced open and flattened, inlaying them individually on wood, creating a sustainable quintessence of his own. The straw fibres reflect light, changing with the time of day in the lobby and the Baraha Lounge, lending a natural sheen to each panel.

Apart from the fretwork sand dune panels that run through the entire hotel, the rooms and bathrooms resonate with elements from the rich seafaring, maritime history of Qatar, albeit subtly. The metal studs on the walls are a contemporary interpretation of the old wooden beams that extended horizontally from the walls of Qatari homes called danshal, procured with great difficulty by the bedouins due to the lack of natural vegetation in the region, to build sturdy roofs for their clay homes. The beautiful lamp shades are asymmetrically shaped, inspired by Arab dhows and the mirrors in the bathroom hang from ropes that were used at sea for fishing and pearl-diving. The black and white tile work wall behind the bathtub and jacuzzi honours the weaving traditions of Qatari women. I love the heady fragrance the Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme bath line, a Rose Oud, that’s congruous to the landscape’s Desert Rose crystal formations, used by Qataris as talismans for protection and spirit guidance.

A serene sense of calm envelops you, once you’re inside the pristine and quiet (I loved that!) of your room, and the plush bed is meant for sleeping, especially after an exquisite Oriental Essence treatment at the Spa with its very own indoor swimming pool. Flight fatigue what? Though I worked through most nights on my bed, and that was snug and restful too. Imagine discovering a yoga mat, a jaanamaz and a hair straightener (not just a hairdryer) in your room, not to mention the mini-bar snacks packaged in exclusively designed tin boxes bearing palm trees – this is artistic design commingling with human desires and essentials in a manner most natural and decorous.

The location of the Mandarin Oriental, Doha is enviable, given it’s a short 20-minute drive from Hamad International Airport and is adjacent to the Amiri Diwan, Qatar’s seat of government and the Emir of Qatar, HRH Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s palace. It is a five-minute walk to the Msheireb Museum and the redeveloped and very lively (not noisy) and alive Souk Waqif, with its Falcon Souks, a Camel Pen and of course, the Gold Souk. The Museum of Islamic Art, designed by the late I.M. Pei and the National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel to look like the natural Desert Rose crystal formations that are found in Qatar, with inward-curving disks, intersections and cantilevered elements, with 1.5 kilometers of gallery space, giving voice to the unique story of Qatar and its people in an immersive and experiential manner in three chapters — Beginnings, Life in Qatar and The Modern History of Qatar are a short drive away and stand testament to the invested vision of the country’s love and liberal furtherance of the arts. The recherché National Museum of Qatar is a must visit. To give you perspective, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York’s annual budget for new acquisitions is USD 30 million and the Qatar Museums’ is USD 1 billion, chaired by HRH Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.
gettyimages-1188450522-2048x2048The food is exemplary at all the four restaurants in the hotel, and at the Mandarin and Baraha Lounges. My first meal was an Angus Beef Burger at Aqua, the alfresco rooftop restaurant and bar that serves up easy-sharing dishes like Arabic mezze, sliders and pide.  Mosaic, the specialty nine-kitchen restaurant on the eighth floor is where the vibe is relaxed and the sun filters in through the metal grills inspired by traditional windows with intricate lattice panels called mashrabiya. Even the lifts bear a prominent pearl motif on the metal grills in honour of the pearling history of the country. Volcanic Torched Tuna Sushi, the Thai Beef Salad with a Lucha Libre cocktail here are to live for! I had a Turkish Pide (flat bread made of wheat flour) with Beef Pepperoni and Olive with Oregano and Parmesan for the fist time, and it was great. Mosaic is also where the elegant Qatari ladies breakfast and that says a lot about the food. I loved the Malika Honey, a delicious Qatari honey that’s harvested from the Busaif Apiary, of which 15 beehives are owned by the Mandarin Oriental, Doha as part of their sustainability program. It’s something that should really be sold to the guests at the hotel, it’s that good. The cream-filled Pistachio and Red Velvet Croissants, the Apple Detox Water, the Beef Cecina and all things beef honestly made me extremely happy to breakfast at Mosaic everyday.

Izu, the Mediterranean cuisine restaurant facing the Barahat Msheireb town square, with three seating areas – an indoor ground and mezzanine level and the popular outdoor terrace is where the culinary artistry is at, led by Nigerian chef, Izu Ani. Chef Izu is beyond gifted – Fried Organic Eggs with Foie Gras and Truffle Sauce, the Wagyu burger, Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs with Padron Peppers, the Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil, Watermelon and Feta Salad, the Mandarin Gelato, the Le Verger drink made with fresh basil leaves, lemon and apple juice – there’s a discernible Izu addition to the simple classics, that takes his creations to a whole new level of delectable, and memorable flavours. He’d Izu’d everything I ate and drank, and loved, from the very first bite and swill to the very last! You have to be Izu’d at Izu people.

The English afternoon tea service at the Baraha Lounge, overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square, and at the Mandarin Lounge from 2-6PM everyday, is immensely popular with the Qataris and locals. Gilded cakes, pink rose madelines and savouries with bespoke blends anyone? Gelato, the frozen dessert and gelato restaurant, also overlooking the Barahat Msheireb town square hits everyone’s sweet spot with its vast array of flavours, from vegan chocolate to Arabic coffee to anything your heart desires. If The Secret Bar at Izu is rather rad whilst Ambar is its sophisticated equal to quaff in at the hotel.

Newer luxury hotels, unlike the Mandarin Oriental, Doha, aim to make you feel like you could be anywhere in the world once you’re inside, and that just does not cut it for me. I have my own bed at home where I can imagine such inanities in my pyjamas on my own time, thanks, but no thanks! I don’t need to take a flight to Doha to imagine that I am in the Seychelles! Every morning, when I woke up and had my morning Nespresso, I knew I was in Doha and not in a ‘home away from home’. I so despise that sell! Everything in the room, and outside my window overlooking the modern ferej, told me so and this is what I loved the most about staying at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha. I felt like I was invited into the luxe confines of a Qatari home that’s most certainly not mine, or like mine, and I am a treasured guest of theirs for the weekend. And that’s how you feel like you ‘belong’ innately to a new place. The Mandarin Doha team is ebullient and professional, led ably by their General Manager, Martin Schnider.

No evening at the Mandarin Oriental, Doha felt complete without looking out at the molten glow of the Barahat Msheireb town square or a ‘cool’ walk around it, literally. Doha will always be ManDOHArin for me!

Rubina’s Rating: 9/10

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@Rubina A Khan 2019

India’s Property Market Rides Election Wave | Gulf News

The triumphant win of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of the Indian subcontinent for a second term, in the world’s largest election, has lent maximal credence to the country’s realty business in a manner most exceptional. The ruling government’s first term, contentiously driven by infrastructural development and financial realignments like Demonetization, RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development Act) and GST (Goods & Service Tax) hit the cash-rich realty business particularly hard. Predictably, it was met with uproarious dissent. But, luxury realty seems to have taken a real turn since the legalized reorientations in the business, with antagonism giving way to smarts.

The luxe life is an addiction like no other. As long as there is human desire to live like royalty and be an in-your-face show-off, luxury real estate in India is headed forward. It stands at a profitable vantage point today, espousing all three acts, advantageous to both, builders and buyers. Indian realty expects investments to double to $10 billion in 2019. The paper trail and financial transparency accorded to the business is dominant, making it a streamlined, and somewhat trustworthy experience today. But there’s no denying that the business is devoid of the robustness and speed it once basked in, languishing ever so often in protracted sales.
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RERA seems to have had the most impact so far, not so much on newer developers as it has on the bigger players with large, unsold inventories, given it is now mandatory for 70 percent of the money to be deposited in bank accounts through cheques, restricting unaccounted money being flushed into the realty business. Aside from its financial transparency, a RERA requisite that’s very conducive to prospective buyers, is that builders are obliged to quote prices based on carpet area (inclusive of usable spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms) and not super built-up area. Having said that, RERA needs to hasten the pace, and frequency, in providing aggrieved buyers who need long overdue compensations from unscrupulous developers across India. The clean-up in the business has only just begun. It is anything but cleaned up, as far as realty racketeers are concerned, despite the new regulations and progressive revamps of archaic Indian property laws like Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code and the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act being in place. For the business to regain the implicit trust of consumers and hit immediate sale highs, compensating buyers for their losses is vital, and it should become a regular occurrence as compared to the rarity it is today.

Luxury residences and serviced luxury residences make for accelerated buys and sells in India, and rightly so, as time is a luxury the wealthy can’t afford to indulge in. Newer developers in Mumbai like Aditya Kilachand, Partner at Innovation Estates LLP, seem to be on the right beach of luxury realty, building villas by the sea in Alibag, a mere three-hour drive from Mumbai. Tapping into Alibag’s infrastructure, the improved connectivity and proximity to Mumbai, its existing community and fairly undervalued land prices is just realty forethought and judiciousness. Seven luxury serviced villas called L’Hermitage, custom-designed by Sussanne Khan of The Charcoal Project, will be ready for some serious selling upwards of 10CR by Sotheby’s International Realty India, come July 2019.
villWith all the luxury constructions and developments, there is a new shift in the market of late, that of “aspirational luxury” residences that aren’t remotely luxurious, barring their price points. Priced at 7CR upwards for a 3BHK in the business suburb of the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, these residences allude to a luxurious lifestyle with cleverly scripted and assertive marketing hype. The insides of these residential towers are at most basic, with a garden path, a swimming pool and some semblance of a gym thrown in, with views of the city’s under-construction skyline off a balcony, masquerading as luxury amenities. Needless to add, it’s a “white elephant” investment for owners as resale inventory is at its lowest and unrealistic rentals dictated by the builder’s team, with few takers, stand testimony to the “mimic luxe” gimmick it’s established on. These kind of constructions need to be reined in, as these will lead to a catastrophically high, over-priced, unsold inventory in the country that will affect consumers far more than the builders.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on June 9, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE & FASHION ROYALE

India’s finest talent, Shabana Azmi is celebrating her late father, Kaifi Azmi’s birth centenary with an ongoing series of events across India, from mushairas to plays to live musical evenings at Janki Kutir. Raag Shayari is an artistic, theatrical collaboration between Azmi, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan and lyricist Javed Akhtar, interpreting the works of the accomplished late poet in a contemporary, musical manner. “Raag Shayari’s an evening of archival value because Shankar Mahadevan sings a selection of Kaifi Azmi’s poems, Javed Akhtar recites them in Urdu and I recite the English translations with Ustad Zakir Hussain interpreting the same on the tabla,” says Azmi. The debut show of Raag Shayari was on January 13 at NCPA, Nariman Point. The second show was held the following evening at the St. Andrew’s auditorium in Bandra, Mumbai with Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Divya Dutta and Madhu Chopra in attendance.

Shabana Azmi during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Zakir Hussain during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan

Forts are Indian fashion’s new runways du jour in 2019. Earlier this month, the Red Fort in New Delhi made for an enchanting setting for a fashion show held on its heritage grounds, organised by the Ministry of Textiles. It was a historic first for Indian fashion and a commendable one at that. After showing at the Red Fort, master couturier Rohit Bal enthralled Mumbai with Guldastah, a collection inspired by Renaissance artists and botanical paintings, at the Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour held at the Bandra Fort on Wednesday evening. 

Models walked down the bedecked steps of the fort in luxurious Bal raiments in hues of ivory, black, gold and red to the dulcet sounds of Shubha Mudgal’s live classical performance. This was the best fashion show I have ever seen in Mumbai. Guldastah was an immersive experience and you could almost smell the roses of forgotten romances with the ethereal floral dominance in Bal’s impassioned collection.

Actor Sidharth Malhotra was Bal’s showstopper, but a resident dog of Bandra Fort beat him to it, wagging its tail happily on to the runway, ahead of him, much to the delight of everyone present. Malhotra seemed to have studied Amitabh Bachchan’s walk and stance thoroughly and mirrored the same quite well on the runway. But then again, mirroring is not quite like owning it! Anju Bhavnani, now more popular as Deepika Padukone’s mother-in-law versus Ranveer Singh’s mother, was all praises for her beautiful bahu when I spoke to her for a lightning Mumbai minute. “We are very happy and blessed, hashtag blessed,” she said. A family that hashtags together stays together? Insta guess so!

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | MAKING FASHION HISTORY IN OLD DELHI AND CALCUTTA IN THE NEW YEAR 2019

The first week of 2019 kicked off with Indian fashion making historical moves on, and off, the runway on heritage sites. The formidable collaboration of the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India, the Archaeological Survey Of India, the Ministry Of Culture and the Fashion Design Council Of India, created fashion history with Artisan Speak, a show that celebrated India’s majestic textile legacy at the Red Fort in New Delhi on January 5. The Red Fort grounds as a fashion runway was unimaginable, till it was the past Saturday. And, what a progressive first it was!

Headlined by designers Anita Dongre, Rohit Bal, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Gaurang Shah, Rahul Mishra and Anju Modi, the ivory Sawan and Bhadon Pavilions, and the red sandstone Zafar Mahal made for a dramatic backdrop for the show. Artisan Speak turned a page in India’s history, transcendentally juxtaposing the regal era of yore with the immediate now. The show honoured six Padma Shri and seven Sant Kabir award winning master craftsmen, wherein the Union Minister Of Textiles, Smriti Irani, gave away Special Recognition Awards to the indomitable contributors to India’s textile sector. 

On January 7, Anamika Khanna showed her collection at the Artisan Speak show organised by the Fashion Design Council Of India for the Ministry Of Textiles Government Of India at the legendary Currency Building founded in 1833 in Kolkata. It was a felicitous venue for Khanna’s show. Whilst most heritage buildings in Kolkata, the first seat of power of the British Empire, reflect Gothic styles of architecture, the Currency Building stood out in the city with its Italian style, particularly its Venetian windows. The building went through many hands and years of neglect and demolishment till the Archaeological Survey Of India took over and restored it to its distinct Italian architectural style recently. Archaeologists have found evidence of an underground canal from the building to the river Hooghly to cool freshly minted coins in its original avatar as a currency house.

Artisan Speak in Kolkata was yet another historical step forward for Indian fashion by showing in a protected building, creating awareness for India’s textile industry, the second largest employment sector in the country, after the agricultural industry. After the momentous fashion show, the Currency Building turned into an exhibition space, open to the public, for jute, silk and handloom crafts the following day. “India has seen a growth of 24 percent in the export of jute products in the last five years,” said Smriti Irani, Union Minister Of Textiles, a pivotal voice of Artisan Speak.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2019

 

Chivas Regal India Launches Limited Edition | Mumbai

Chivas Regal India launched a Limited Edition festive pack designed by Ashiesh Shah at the Architectural Digest Design Show on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai. The metallic, steel grey packaging of Chivas Regal 12 draws inspiration from one of India’s greatest glories – architecture, with stepwells and arches in congruence with the inherent blending expertise and definitive taste of the world’s first luxury whisky.

Balkrishna Doshi or BV Doshi as he’s more commonly known, the first Indian laureate of the most august award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize 2018, kicked off the design show with a conversation as poetic and mellifluous as his works. Having worked with Swiss architect Le Corbusier in the 50s in his atelier in Paris and with Louis Kahn subsequently, the celebrated Indian architect is an international proponent of low-cost housing. Doshi’s Aranya project in Indore accommodates 80,000 people with houses and courtyards connected together by a maze of pathways. “As architects we’re supposed to be social, economic and cultural designers. But really we are exclusive, when we need to be inclusive,” is what Doshi thinks of the essence of architectural world. Watching Doshi celebrate life infinite size at age 91 was enchanting for me, and speaking to him was even more momentous than shooting his photographs in the Chivas Lounge.

In pictures:

Chivas Regal 12

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal 12 at the launch of Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Balkrishna Doshi

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Celebrated Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, the first Indian to win the Pritzker Prize in 2018 at the Chivas Regal India lounge on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Chivas Regal

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack, made from metal, an ode to Indian stepwells and arches, designed by Ashiesh Shah launched at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sabyasachi

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Indian couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee at the Chivas Regal India lounge on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Chivas Regal 12

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack, made from metal, an ode to Indian stepwells and arches, designed by Ashiesh Shah, launched at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sabyasachi

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Pulkith Modi, Chivas Regal India Head and his wife Teena Modi at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Amrita Arora

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Ashiesh Shah and Amrita Arora at the launch of Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack designed by him at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sussanne Khan

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Sussanne Khan at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Homi Adajania

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Filmmaker Homi Adajania at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Gauri Khan

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Gauri Khan at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Chivas Regal 12

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack, made from metal, an ode to Indian stepwells and arches, designed by Ashiesh Shah launched at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2018

Shah Rukh Loves My Work The Most, Says Design Virtuoso Gauri Khan

Whilst her husband Shah Rukh Khan is the uncrowned king of Bollywood, Gauri Khan seems to have come into her own as a design virtuoso, befitting her status royale as the celluloid sovereign’s wife. Gauri Khan Designs, her eponymous design studio, is headquartered in Mumbai, but her visual representational percipience is swiftly traversing worldwide.

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Gauri Khan at Chivas 18 Alchemy in New Delhi

The modernist designer couldn’t resist turning into an alchemist of sight at the second edition of the quintuple sensory Chivas 18 Alchemy experience in New Delhi, transforming the space with her definitive luxe aesthetic. As much as her husband is the alchemist of sound with his unequivocal eloquence, she seems to speak (the reluctant conversationalist that she is) through her alluring and arresting visual artistry. Khan makes for relaxed, affable company when she’s talking business, but turns a deep, love blush when SRK Face Times her during our conversation. “It’s Shah Rukh,” she says, tossing her hair into place and arching her frame into a flattering angle to talk to him.

Rubina A Khan caught up with Gauri Khan in New Delhi for Gulf News tabloid!

You entered the world of design in 2011 and have been making enviable headway since designing homes, restaurants and pop-up events…
It wasn’t a planned effort to get into interior design. I’ve been an artist all my life, in school and college, and even after I got married to Shah Rukh, I used to do a lot of charcoal paintings at home. There’s a lot of connection to art in my life – I bought a lot of art and was intrigued by artists and read up on them extensively. Then I started designing my own home, Mannat, with my architect. A lot of people walked into the house and asked me to design for them. My friends, Yash and Avanti Birla opened Yantra about 15 years ago and they asked me at the time to join them and so did my friend, Kajal (Anand), as she knew I was passionate about art and design. But I wasn’t ready for it. Then Sussanne (Khan) asked me to do a collection for her store launch. So, it’s been a slow and steady pace for me into the world of design with friends.

What draws you to design – the creative pursuit of it or the final outcome?
Creating a first impression is what I set out to achieve when I start designing a space. Being creative and imaginative in my everyday life is tremendously exciting. All aspects of design, right from my drawing board to the actualization of it all enthralls me. When the thoughts in my headspace integrate seamlessly and are realized into tangible and tactile reality, from the inception stages to the final outcome, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment and it’s the most wonderful feeling.

How did you turn into an alchemist of sight for Chivas 18 Alchemy?
Fashion designer Ashish Soni approached me with the idea to participate in the second edition of Chivas 18 Alchemy as the alchemist of the sense of sight as the concept is based on the five human senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Given that I love the creative space that Alchemy mounts their campaigns and the way they format and execute them with immense style and finesse, I was immediately attracted to it and now I’m an alchemist too! I added the touch of blue velvet drapes to turn the outdoor garden space of Alchemy into an indoor one, akin to a palatial living room. It was challenging, but it turned out rather fluid as the velvet lent an indoor vibe to the space and the artisanal glass bottle chandeliers, custom made especially for Alchemy, added the molten hue of inviting warmth. Lighting is the key to all my spaces. It’s been a fantastic experience with Ashish, Pulkith and the Alchemy team and it was a joy to work with them. This is one of the best events I have attended and now, participated in, right from the venue to the scale and the exceptional invites… everything about it is extraordinarily stunning.

What is the key component to the alchemy of sight?
The key component for me is when I design a space on paper. When the eye visualizes what can be, which then manifests into a real space – that’s a visual delight for me. Subsequently, for it to then come to life exactly the way I envision it, to becoming the heart and soul of the design endeavor – that’s the key to my alchemy of sight. What I did for Alchemy on paper, and to now see it come to life in this luxurious and seductive a manner, makes me extremely happy.

What is your signature design move?
It depends on the project really – if I’m doing a restaurant, a young boy’s room, a nursery, a middle-aged couple’s home – each space is different. But I make sure every space I design is warm, easy, inviting and comfortable. That’s the quintessential design move that I adhere to in all my GKD work. I absolutely abhor cold, model homes.

How many hours do you work everyday?
I don’t work all the time. It is an artistic pursuit wherein I can create anytime and anywhere, whether it’s at home or at a site visit or a set. I spend a lot of time at home and I don’t have any fixed hours or schedule per se. That’s the beauty of my job.

Some Gauri Khan Designs’ tips for homes?
When I am doing up a residence, I try to make the elements come together in such a way that the owners feel comfortable and at peace in their home. My design aesthetic is luxurious and glam as I love these aspects of good living, but that doesn’t mean the home loses its warmth and comfort or that I’d put chandeliers in a baby’s nursery.

a) Make any space your own, where you belong, with your own distinct individualism. It could be anything from lights to an art piece, something that tells the story of your personality.

b) Don’t try to make a touch-me-not home where it becomes more like a museum and less of a warm, inviting home. When a home has super fancy elements with a trying-too-hard feel, the fear of disturbing the elements keeps you from enjoying the space and creates an uncomfortable aura in the home for you as well as your guests.

c) Luxurious and glamorous homes should be designed such that the owners should not find the comforts of their own homes even in luxury hotels. Despite all the luxe elements, the comfort of a home should never be compromised.

Who loves your work the most?
Shah Rukh loves my work the most. I have been attending award functions with him for 30 years and now, I’ve won my very first Excellence in Design Award this month; we both couldn’t be happier.

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Shah Rukh Khan

What’s the biggest love of your life?
Design is my biggest love! It consumes me.

What’s your dream project?
My most exciting dream project is Karan Johar’s new home. I’ve done the nursery for his kids and the terrace in his current home. Karan’s always been my inspiration and he’s been my support, in my personal and professional life, so I’m super excited to start this project. He’s a creative being himself and when I create something for him, and he appreciates it, it makes me feel like I’ve got an ‘A’ in a school report card. It makes me very happy when Karan “approves” of my work.

Any plans of opening a store in Dubai?
Dubai is home to us and I love coming to our home in Dubai. I’m looking forward to bringing Gauri Khan Designs to Dubai very soon. It’s already in the works.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 18 March, 2018

©Rubina A Khan 2018

Dilip De’s Smartphone School Of Art Exhibit, Celebration Of The Unexpected, In Mumbai

Dilip De is an adventitious artist, but with no less an ardour and depth in his paintings than any creative being in the world, with his Picasso-esque digital imagery on smartphones revolutionising the art world globally. Transcending his love for art from collecting art to creating art today has been the most serendipitous turn De’s life could have taken. And all it took was an innate desire to paint an orchid on his smartphone for the love of his wife, author and columnist extraordinaire, Shobhaa De. His first solo show as a digital artist, Celebration Of Love, was held at the Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai in 2016 and his second show, Celebration Of The Unexpected, opens on January 26, 2018 at the same gallery.

Rubina A Khan in conversation with Indian shipping magnate and digital art trailblazer, Dilip De:

How did you chance upon an alternative creative stream of a smartphone artist, not to mention being recognised as the first person in the world to ever do so?
It is indeed wonderful to be accorded the honour of being the first smartphone artist in the world. In 2015, as I was standing in my orchid gardens in Alibag, I felt the urge to draw the beautiful flowers on my smartphone for my wife, Shobhaa. It took me a while to learn how to use a phone stylus as a ‘brush’ and ‘dip’ it in the colour box, my purported palette, which is an integral part of the smartphone. Soon, much to my delight, I started drawing the outlines of an orchid flower on the tiny screen – 5.2 x 4 inches which came to be my ‘canvas’! Regrettably, in my initial enthusiasm, a few of my paintings disappeared from the screen forever as I had unknowingly put extra pressure on the screen whilst drawing on it. Gradually, I mastered the required skill and surprised Shobhaa with a painting of a Japanese sakura! I discovered, through my accidental foray into digital artistry, that art is omnipresent; an artistic expression can be realised at any place and at any time. Art is no longer just confined to a studio, but is truly the product of spontaneity and creativity achieved at one’s leisure.

What kind of smartphone did you use for your first art creation and what do you use today?
My initiation into digital art was with a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and then I graduated to the Note 5 and I am using the Samsung Note 8 nowadays.

What do you enjoy most about this medium?
I have been an art connoisseur and collector for a while but I was humbled when I realised I’d inadvertently pioneered a new school of art, aptly called the Smartphone School Of Painting, with the orchid flower painting I’d created on my smartphone for Shobhaa. This is a painstaking process and requires extreme concentration and control over the stylus, which I seem to have mastered and enjoy tremendously. The largest global platform launched by Intel and VICE Media, www.creatorsproject.com to celebrate creativity featured my paintings. I have secured Copyright registrations of my paintings in this “new school of art” from the Union Commerce and Industry Ministry of India. My point was, and remains simple today – an artist cannot produce art on an empty stomach. My new dream is to make every budding artist in our country realize how easy it can be to follow a dream and turn a hobby into a joyous reality. Smartphone art is yet another frontier in technology that has made things more accessible and affordable to those who love art. I want my fellow Indians to start loving and collecting artworks easily in their lives. This will also teach them to respect and cherish beauty.

What do you do with the money generated from this “new job” of yours as a smartphone artist?
As you know, I gave away the proceeds from my first exhibition, Celebration Of Love, which was held in Mumbai on August 16, 2016 to the Cancer Patients Aid Association (CPAA). I respect the devotion of YK and Rekha Sapru and their dedicated CPAA team. My wife Shobhaa is also associated with them. This time around, I have decided to contribute the proceeds to the Jehangir Art Gallery – the iconic art establishment in Mumbai – for the promotion of art and the modernisation of their galleries.

Your second exhibit, Celebration Of The Unexpected, alongwith a charity auction of your work, opens on 26th January 2018, at Jehangir Art Gallery, with Amitabh Bachchan as your chief guest in attendance again. Why him?
Amitabh and I met in the 60s in Kolkata as young mercantile executives engaged in the business of international shipping. I suppose we have an old “Calcutta” connection and bond that formed many years ago. At that time, I found him to be an immensely gifted stage actor who went on to scale dizzying heights in his career, and continues to create new frontiers in his field. We also share a warm Bong vibe as his wife, Jaya, is a Bengali. I’ve known him for 51 years now. For me, and the multitude of his fans across the world, Amitabh is undoubtedly the ‘Ultimate Superstar of Bollywood’! His achievements make me proud. There’s a surprise pertaining to Amitabh in this exhibit of mine which he has, in his own words, described as “outstanding”.

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Amitabh Bachchan

Your wife is of the written word and you seem to be visually inclined…
Shobhaa creates and tells stories through the magic of her words and I express my emotions and inspirations through my images. We express ourselves in different disciplines, but we are both storytellers nevertheless. One day, I must attempt to reproduce the essence of one of her stories in the form of images. That’s a colossal ambition, but I will definitely give it a try.

Celebration Of The Unexpected is on view from January 27 to February 3, 2018 at
Jehangir Art Gallery, 161 Kala Ghoda, Mumbai 400001 from 11AM to 7PM.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

 

Maharashtrian Food Festival At Tiqri, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Maharashtrian Food Festival at Tiqri, Mumbai: “a sweet and spicy culinary experience of Indian coastal cuisine.”

Maharashtrian food is delicious! And it’s not just about Vada Pavs and Kothimbir Wadis! From Nagpur Pudacha Vadya (Fried Gram Flour Snack) to Sungte (Fried Spicy Prawns) to Jowar Bhakri (Sorghum Bread) and Techa (Green Chilly and Garlic Chutney) to Tamatoche Saar (Spiced Tomato Broth), it is an expansive food realm that should traverse across India with its flavorous coastal cuisine as I found out at the ongoing Maharashtrian Food Festival at Tiqri, the all-day restaurant at Taj Santacruz, Mumbai.
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Chef De Cuisine, Dinesh Joshi, has curated a well-rounded menu to exhibit some of the many delectable dishes of Maharashtra, Vada Pav included. Joshi loves traditional Indian recipes and he’s most inspired by Maharashtra’s culinary history in the kitchen. “Maharashtrian food is very light, and it consists of fresh produce, from dry coconuts to fresh coconuts, procured from the coastal regions as well as the ghats (mountain passes). The cuisine is an amalgamation of the varied influences of the early settlements in Maharashtra from the Portuguese to the Mughals to the Koli fishermen,” says Joshi of the cuisine.

This festival was a great introduction into a whole new world of Indian food, and I even managed to pick up some words of the Marathi language of which I’m the least proficient in. The succulent and fiery Kolhapuri Muttonacha Rassa (Mutton Curry) with Bajra Bhakri was flavourful, as was the Tamatoche Saar (Spicy Tomato Broth), Masale Bhaat (Spiced Flavoured Rice) Kothimbir Wadi Canape (Coriander Fritters), Chicken Sukka Bhakri Roll and my quintessential favourite, Vada Pav. The Vada Pav was better than any “famous” street stall in Mumbai – the Vada (potato patty) was spiced just right, the crust was golden and made the right crunch on first bite, with the accompanying burnt red and green chutneys. The imaginative new dessert on the menu is Joshi’s version of a Maharashtrian festival favourite, Puran Poli (Sweet Indian Flatbread) where he’s taken the Puran made with jaggery and swirled it into an icecream wonder! My new favourite is the coastal sweet, Naralachi Karanji, also made of jaggery and fresh coconut shavings. It’s an addiction in itself wherein you just can’t stop at one. As is amply clear, I enjoyed every dish I tried on the festival menu.

If you’d like a cocktail to go with the spicy Maharashtrian culinary delights on your plate, then the sprightly Preeti at the Tiqri bar will shake up a neat Pometini for you made with fresh pomegranates, elderflower and bitters or an Espresso Martini or whatever you’d like. And, a cheerful bartender is always the best bartender. An afternoon like this, taking in a novel culinary experience, made for an indulgent, lazy weekend in Mumbai.

The Maharashtrian Food Festival is on from January 11-30, 2018.

Tiqri is open 24 hours, except Monday when it is closed from 11.30PM – 6AM
Taj Santacruz Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Domestic Terminal)
Off Western Express Highway, Santacruz (East) Mumbai 400099 India
+91 22 62115211  Tiqri 

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

@Rubina A Khan 2018