The luxury to create is perhaps the ultimate one. To be able to bring an idea to life and share it; to engage with an audience, watch your vision grow. In this series, we speak to our collaborators, the creatives of The Luxe Life 2, whose ideas reflect the now and have longevity and resonance.
As the daughter of India’s most celebrated photographer, Avani Rai was the subject of her father’s lens. Everyday. “I had to get out of the direct shadow of living with another professional who is so close to me,” says the 29-year-old filmmaker about moving to Mumbai to study journalism in 2010. Her directorial debut Raghu Rai: An Unframed Portrait (2017) was a career-defining moment. “Even in Mumbai everyone knew Raghu Rai and would endlessly compare me with him. That’s when I decided to make this documentary about him and break out of that cycle,” she adds. The film first premiered at The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) followed by screenings at over 15 different film festivals globally, including the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF). It later went on to win the Soundrivemotion Award for Best Soundtrack at the Sole Luna Doc Film Festival in 2018. Photography came to Avani “by default, but the medium comes second to the story I want to share”. She finds inspiration in the works of ace photographers such as Sebastião Salgado and William Klein. In 2022, her short for Tata CLiQ Luxury’s film and shopping festival The Luxe Life 2 harnesses light through visuals, sounds, and music told through the journey of a young girl in a small village in Punjab. Avani will also appear on-screen in a Hindi feature film due to release later this year.
To describe Kallol Datta as thoughtful might just be an understatement. From his designs to exhibits, and everything in between, there is a measured deliberateness to what he does, and how he presents and speaks about his work. He says that “certain fundamental shifts in my practice in 2013” were at the root of his being on the shortlist of Jameel Prize: Poetry to Politics show at London's V&A museum; and the Invisible Connections artist-in-residence program at Aomori Contemporary Art Center, which was accompanied by the solo Distortions in Translations — all in 2021. “I did not want to operate against the backdrop of mindless production. I did however want to broaden my creative research methods. I've also wanted to exhibit and work in environments which are not really offered to clothes makers. So there has been a bit of clawing my way through to this stage in my clothes making; I'll work on projects and with people who I am happy to collaborate with. And that will be my approach for the near future,' says Kallol. “The sense of urgency to best capture the meaning of our times, has gotten more intense during the pandemic. That has to be accompanied by hope and optimism to a certain degree, I guess.”
Life. Creativity. Love. Intimacy. Music. Pelva Naik has spent the past two years redefining all of these, and more, for herself. Considered one of India's best Dhrupad vocalists, she speaks thoughtfully about the experiences she has had as an artist, and as an individual, through the Covid-19 pandemic: “Usually, we have routes of escape in our lives — travel, meeting people, running around. But right now, the separation between the inner and the outer experiences has disappeared and both seep into one another.“ Pelva is grateful to have found success in this time, teaching classes online to nearly 100 students; she says it has helped overcome her innate shyness and look beyond the superficial — “I don't think music always has to be joyful, and glamourous. And the pandemic has broken that expectation.“ It is unsurprising, given her introspective journey, that she intends to spend 2022 curating retreats with Dhrupad workshops for all artists, exploring the principles of the gurukul system in a different context. “Hope is a slightly useless word right now unless you generate it for yourself," she says. “This year, I want my life and work to have more clarity, strength, and will. I want to ask the hard questions and change the way I make music.”
He has been recognised for his window displays for Hermès and Christian Louboutin, for his architectural projects and specific design sensibility which now translates into unique pieces of furniture. Yet, when Rooshad Shroff talks about the essence of his work, he describes it as “an ongoing exploration, employment, and evolution of traditional Indian craft across mediums.” An eloquent and precise summary of what the talented architect and designer has come to be celebrated for. A graduate of Cornell University and Harvard University Graduate School of Design, he founded Rooshad Shroff Architecture + Design in Mumbai in 2011. Since then, he has worked for clients across India and the world, weaving his aesthetic expertise with a passion for Indian craft and artisanal techniques. “There is nothing more enriching than being able to contemporise a craft, allowing a time-honoured traditional technique to transform modern design,” he says. With new architectural projects lined up and a collection of furniture in the making, Rooshad is greeting the new year with optimism: “In this profession, we're enriching people's lives, in a way; after all, it's a dream for most, designing the best possible space to inhabit. I'm fortunate to be part of a business that allows me creativity, while simultaneously bringing about a positive change in someone else's existence.”
“I love making things,” says Rukmini Vijayakumar, the Bharatnatyam danseuse, choreographer, and actor. The Bengaluru-based artistic director of the Raadha Kalpa Dance Company and director of Lshva, a space for artists, Rukmini thinks of herself as a creator, as much as a performer. Her work, which breaks down the traditional constructs around Bharatnatyam, has been in the spotlight through the pandemic, bringing her substantial social media attention. And for her part, Rukmini says she has been learning how to communicate in new forms, such as video — “Classical dance is made for a live audience and there is a tangible connection between them and the dancer in real time. But people watch videos when they want and sometimes only for 15 seconds. So, I am really learning how to build meaningful connections through this medium.” In 2022, Rukmini hopes to stage three to four productions, as she usually does. The first is called Abducted and is inspired by the vulnerability of the female body. And she knows she will keep creating — “I now have a bank of ideas accumulated during the pandemic, so the hard part is picking the ones to commit to.”
Art, architecture, history, culture and the alchemy of materials inspire award-winning jewellery designer and the founder of MISHO, Suhani Parekh. It all translates to pieces that are sculptural, streamlined, and an aesthetic that challenges the long-held tropes associated with traditional Indian jewellery. “I love the poetic connection between time and luxury, and I try to bring that into my work by creating pieces that are timeless,” she says. Today, MISHO has acquired a cult status among celebrities — thanks to its many star-studded sightings on Lady Gaga, Adele, Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, and Deepika Padukone, to name just a few. MISHO’s global and local appeal, however, surpasses social media. In 2017, Suhani, a graduate of Goldsmiths, University of London, won the Vogue Paris Design Award. In 2018, she was featured on the Forbes India 30 Under 30 list. Now, her creations can be found at some of the most noteworthy luxury stores in the world such as Selfridges, Luisa Via Roma, and e-retail giants like Farfetch.
Self-taught photographer and cinematographer Chirag Sadhnani’s approach to his craft is deeply experiential. “I enjoy the process of making pictures — interacting with people, the journeys and experiences as whole, much more than the final result,” he says. An aspiring cardiologist, Chirag unexpectedly segued into photography genres like adventure travel, fashion, and lifestyle. Documentary filmmaking and video production were largely propelled by the support and appreciation he received on Instagram. Today, his impressive repertoire of work includes imagery for Condé Nast Traveller, Vogue, and Harper's Bazaar India, OnePlus India, Discover India magazine, Daniel Wellington, Nykaa, Royal Enfield, and more. In his film with Rooshad Shroff for The Luxe Life 2, Chirag focuses his lens on marble, highlighting everything with understated finesse — from the extreme delicateness of the material and tactile crafting experience to the dexterity of the artisans. This palpable knowledge of people and his craft has been fostered over his many travels and experiences across the country. “Exploring untamed places, learning about new cultures, and the sheer love of connecting with people drives me to wander around the globe, capturing its ethereal beauty,” he says. Chirag also appreciates the value in slowing down. He spent almost three years not doing any commercial work to develop his art and better understand his unique style. “When you invest time and effort in what you’re truly passionate about — things tend to bloom.”
Twenty-seven-year-old lensman Gorkey Patwal started his career in client servicing and creative production with an advertising agency called The Glitch. During this time, the marketing graduate from Symbiosis College of Arts & Commerce developed an interest in photography, quit his job after four years, and began working as a photographer and videographer full-time. He says, “There was an old Sony Handycam in the family. I would use it to film things and take photos, which later developed into a way of expression for me.” Today, his natural-light portraits and warm colour grading can be spotted across campaigns for fashion brands like Lune, Badaam, Yavi, Anushree Reddy, and Yam, among many others. He has also shot posters for films like Taish (2020), and Edhiri, from Tamil web anthology Navarasa (2021) for Netflix starring Jim Sarbh. In 2022, his short film with Suhani Parekh, the founder of jewellery brand MISHO, follows the creative’s journey across the two cities that inspire her design language: London and Mumbai. For Gorkey, exceptional art is always rooted in authenticity. “If the thought and intention behind the photograph or film comes from a genuine place, it automatically makes it timeless.”
Mriidu Khosla is the Founder and Director of independent creative agency, Zcyphher Films Private Limited. Over the past decade, she has directed over 450 films that span fashion, beauty, luxury, lifestyle, and architecture. She also produced and directed 32 White — a hard-hitting, award-winning feature documentary that explores why dentists have the highest suicide rate among health care professionals in India. Another one of her noteworthy productions is White Rope — a silent short film that showcases atrocities committed in the name of God through the eyes of a young, innocent, and selfless boy. Both films did independent film festival runs in 2020 and 2021 but have not been officially released on any platform yet. Amazon, GQ and ELLE India, Fabindia, H&M, Reliance, Mahindra, and several other industry leaders feature in her illustrious clientele, but Mriidu believes in people more than the brand name. “After working with countless brands, I’ve realised that I don’t really want to build a strong clientele. I would much rather build strong relationships with the people who make these brands. There is a different sense of passion that comes forward when creating content for companies that have a solid ethos, with people I believe in. This realisation has brought me great peace and a promise for the future.” Mriidu is also an animal welfare activist, co-founder of Cat Café Studio in Mumbai, and a trustee at The Feline Foundation.
Throughout her nine-year career, 31-year-old filmmaker Rusha Bose has assisted cinematographers like Soumik Mukherjee known for films like Thappad (2020) and Batla House (2019), Gairik Sarkar (who worked on Te3n in 2016, among others), and Grzegorz Hartfiel (winner of The Kodak Drum in 2009). She has also worked as an assistant for films like Paanch Adhyay (2012) featuring Dia Mirza, Bob Biswas (2021) headlined by Abhishek Bachchan, and Bansuri (2021) starring Anurag Kashyap and Rituparna Sengupta. Additionally, she has shot Libido — a film she made for Bobo Calcutta, a fashion brand known for its vibrant, art-inspired prints. However, her creative journey started long before she took up filmmaking professionally. “I grew up in a joint Bengali family, and I wasn’t good at expressing myself through words,” she recalls, “When my parents let me use a camera (Kodak KB10), I started clicking photos on holidays, at home, of family members, and scenery.” In 2022, her short with Kallol Datta decodes the politics of clothing for Tata CLiQ Luxury’s film festival, The Luxe Life 2. Rusha now finds inspiration in auteurs like Céline Sciamma, Alfonso Cuarón, Rituporno Ghosh, Roger Deakens, Emmanual Lubezki, Wong Kar-Wai, Noah Baumbach, and Rima Das, to name a few. Her goals for this year are guided by a simple philosophy: “To gather knowledge in every possible way and keep moving forward. Hopefully, life will bring some positive surprises in the meantime.”
Growing up around his photographer father, Vivian Ambrose’s love affair with the camera started young. Early experiments included shooting at-home portraits on analogue film cameras. However, it is filmmaking that captured Vivian’s heart when he started exploring the medium in 2016. “There’s only so much you can do with photography. Motion picture opens so many new possibilities,” says the Bengaluru-based filmmaker. His work includes films for brands such as Levi’s and Puma, among others. A project he remembers fondly includes a powerful photo series shot in 2018, the Trans Project, which captured sex workers and the hard conditions they subsist in. In 2018, the 31-year-old began exploring underwater photography — leading to projects in Lakshadweep for Incredible India. In 2022, Vivian captures Bharatnatyam danseuse Rukmini Vijayakumar’s modern interpretation of Bharatnatyam for Tata CLiQ Luxury’s film and shopping festival The Luxe Life 2.
Editon 2 of The Luxe Life drops this March. It offers an intimate look at the creative process and imagination that drives some of India’s leading creatives—and their visions for the future.