RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE. ART. DESIGN. FASHION

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, Javed Akhtar and Shankar Mahadevan during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
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

Businessman Shom Hinduja’s home in Juhu, Mumbai, is a consummate realisation of art and design by his older sibling, Ambika Hinduja. Her impeccable imagination made the first live cover of Architectural Digest’s India edition this January, with Irishman Joseph Walsh’s Magnus at the heart of her art. Hinduja created the space around the bespoke Magnus‘ universal energies. Nothing screams in the consciously designed space, but the people in it, in sheer wonderment of the art that is congruous to her sustainable design métier. I’ve never met a more self-effacing design virtuoso like Hinduja. Her visual artistry here is a master stroke of her own inherent genius, which understandably, her parents, Ashok and Harsha Hinduja, are very proud of. It’s not only her imagination that’s impeccable, but it’s also the name of her art and entertainment company, with offices in India and the UAE. Impeccable Imagination represents artists from Belgium, Brazil, Iran, Ireland and the United Kingdom and the company’s only just getting ready to launch Blue Beet, a multi-sensory design and culinary space in Dubai in the coming months.

Joseph Walsh and Ambika Hinduja in Architectural Digest. Photo: Andrew Bradley
Joseph Walsh’s Magnus in Shom Hinduja’s living area. Photo: Andrew Bradley

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.

Lakshmi Rana in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Sidharth Malhotra in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort.
Photo: Rubina A Khan
Models in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan

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!

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

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

Rohit Bal Launches His First Home Collection & Apparel Line, Husn-E-Taairaat With Good Earth

Rohit Bal’s fashionable silhouette cuts through his own luminosity of an evolving design métier, with a celestial force that is quintessentially maximalist like him. India’s irrefragable and original master couturier, appositely so, has designed a luxurious home décor and apparel line for Good Earth, an indigenously Indian design house like his own eponymous label, called the Husn-E-Taairaat collection that launched in Mumbai today. Not only can you wear the designer now, but also drink, eat, admire, entertain and sleep in Bal with his exquisitely designed tableware, vases, scarves, espresso and tea service sets and more from this jewel-toned capsule collection.

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The original master couturier Rohit Bal

ROHIT BAL:

How did the Husn-E-Taairat Home and Apparel collaboration come about with Good Earth?
I’ve always known that if I designed a home décor line, it would only be with Good Earth, India’s leading design house, simply because it’s a beautiful and aesthetic match of our sensibilities. It was either this or designing a home line for my own store. Home décor is virgin terrain for me, and a completely new and exciting category that I have stepped into with my design métier with Good Earth. My Husn-E-Taairaat (which means ‘beauty of a bird’ in Persian) collection for Good Earth is a reinterpretation of the themes that inspired my 2015 couture line, that was a tribute to the rich crafts of Persia that drew parallels with renaissance and post-impressionism art movements, in the form of a fine home décor and a capsule fashion line. It’s a juxtaposition of my thoughts, influences, art affiliations and a deep, personal love for Indian textiles and the collection celebrates the beauty of wildlife, birds and flowers. The signature motifs of this collection are inspired by vintage Pichwai paintings, one of the most intricate styles of Indian temple art hailing from Rajasthan. The apparel collection in Habutai silk resonates a contemporary aesthetic, with modern silhouettes and a relaxed style, which is very Good Earth. Together, we have beautifully captured my maximalist style and nature inspired motifs in a gorgeous set of home art collectibles accentuated by Good Earth’s rich design language and technical creation expertise.

How easy or difficult was it re-imagining your couture line into Cushions, Espresso and Tea Sets, Tapas Plates, Glasses, Trinket Trays and Vases?
There are a multitude of common inspirations in my work and that of Good Earth’s – most importantly a common love for nature, wildlife, decorative arts and crafts and the need for reviving and preserving indigenous fabrics and techniques. This enabled us to work with an inspired and synergized design language, without losing our individual design essence that is clearly visible in our capsule collection. It was a joy to create a line of exclusive collectibles and select accent pieces for home décor and dining. We have used detailed hand decoration of artwork decals and placement of motifs on fine bone china, ceramic and glass, accentuated with 24 carat gold and platinum. Vibrant shades of royal blue and jade are offset with creams and natural tones to bring this collection to life. Again, all the products feature my signature motifs – multi-colored lotuses, long-tailed birds like peacocks, fruits, beauty, nature, wildlife, flora and fauna. There is a very limited range of pieces in both, home décor and apparel. The collection features less than ten unique styles and pieces and some of the pieces are very few in number, for example the tall vase which is really special, and we have only made three of the same.

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Husn-E-Taairaat home collectibles

What are price points for the Rohit Bal Husn-E-Taairaat line?
The collection ranges from gifts starting at $85 (AED 310 approximately) to limited pieces that go upwards of $1500 (AED 5500 approximately).

Who will this designer home collection appeal to and why?
This collection will appeal to young, urban, tasteful millennials around the world, including Dubai of course, looking for everyday luxury and a slice of Rohit Bal, presented in Good Earth’s signature style and that too at very attractive price points. This line has been designed with a strong focus on individual, stand-out pieces and not complete product sets, making it highly versatile and immensely appealing to a wide variety of age groups and home settings.

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Rohit Bal & Simran Lal of Good Earth

SIMRAN LAL:

How is it that a 20-year old indigenous Indian brand like yours did not collaborate with Rohit Bal earlier on and now that you have, why him?
Gosh it’s sometimes hard to believe that myself that Good Earth turns 21 in January 2017! I can’t imagine what life was like before Good Earth and where we shopped ourselves. We’ve never gone out strategically seeking or courting collaborations. It’s always been an organic process for us – a natural extension of conversations about shared inspirations and style and that is how the Rohit Bal Husn-E-Taairaat collection came about right after his 2015 couture collection. There’s a natural synergy between Good Earth and Rohit Bal. We share a commitment to craft traditions, a passion for Persian art and culture and love of nature. Being Kashmiri, Rohit has an understanding and deep reverence for flowers and wildlife, all of which are at the heart of our design vocabulary and language. We also share an audience, but for different occasions, and that makes this collaboration particularly exciting. Good Earth is known for everyday luxury and thoughtful gifts while Rohit Bal couture is aspired to for milestone occasions. So we thought it would be fun to make his couture collection relevant in an everyday context. The collaboration with Rohit has been a very enriching experience and I’m sure this association will continue for a very long time.

When will the Husn-E-Taairaat line be available to purchase online, particularly in Dubai and the Middle East?
The collection will be available Nov 21st onwards on http://www.goodearth.in and we ship to over 50 countries, including Dubai and the Middle East. However, for limited edition pieces like the tall vase, which we only have 3 pieces of, one can make the purchase by emailing us directly. Given the Rohit Bal design history and extraordinary demand, we expect the Husn-E-Taairaat collection to go down extremely well in Dubai and the Middle East, which has always shown a penchant for our classic and decorative design aesthetic.

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Husn-E-Taairaat apparel and home collectibles

What is your favorite part of the Rohit Bal Good Earth collection?
We are bringing a quintessentially Rohit Bal ‘look’ to home décor with his maximalist style with our maker expertise with quality, pattern play and gift ideas. There is also a charming high tea service. We’ve never done one in such a crepuscular palette and now I wonder why! It’s so rich and opulent in jewel tones and hand decorated with glimmering 24-carat gold accents. It’s very festive and very Rohit Bal and I love it. My favorite hostess gift for the season would be the jewel glass candles with a heady tuberose fragrance. In the apparel collection, I think my first buy is going to be the jacket. Maybe it’s just the weather, but I love the versatility of this statement apparel piece that can be styled with saris, dresses, pants and farshis alike.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on November 12, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016