In the Spotlight – Suchi Vora

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week we have Suchi Vora, an architect, interior designer and the force behind SVAC- a young design studio with a unique aesthetic. Suchi shares with us her perspective on blending creativity and pragmatism through her design practice to build spaces responsibility. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey – what inspired you to become an architect? 

Interestingly, I’ve always known I wanted to be an architect. I grew up thinking I wanted to work in a profession with a positive impact. Having a creative push growing up, I also needed a strong practical aspect. At that time, I thought architecture was the most interesting and sensible combination. 

How would you describe your venture, SVAC? 

We are a young design workshop. We are young, we are experimental, we are a design practice that operates at the intersection of architecture, landscape, urbanism and art. We think of design as a research vehicle to pose and respond to complex, urgent questions in the built environment, engaging in the wider context and also the climate of a project– social, ecological, or political. What you build needs to be relevant for a long time, and I cannot escape responsibility for what I design.

What do you love the most about your job? 

I love that each project is completely different. Every client is unique and with personalities and ideas that define a project in the most unique way. Design is all about people. I love that I can see the world with a new set of eyes with each client and to be able to tell their story with my perspective of design.  

What is the biggest challenge of running your own architectural firm and how do you try to overcome it? 

I was quite worried about being able to have the right design culture for my firm, but I think I have been able to build a space for our workshop where the culture we are looking for automatically thrives.

What’s your dream project? (It could be one you’ve already worked on, or something that you would love to get the opportunity to design)

Hopefully, a new solution in materiality or planning that can be applicable to more than just one project; something that has a positive. climatic impact.

Which city, would you say, has the best architecture in the world? 

I am certain that there are several. Picking one would be unfair since this is like picking out a city for the best food in the world. Having said that, Barcelona is close to my heart. 

In the last few years, what are some of the most exciting trends or changes that you’ve experienced in your industry? 

I think, live architecture. Live facade essentially is one of the coolest trends that is here to stay.

How do you like to spend your free time? 

I try to spend a lot of time learning new adventure sports every chance we get to be out of town. I’m learning paragliding at the moment, and let’s not forget sleeping. I love sleeping.

What’s the first thing you want to do once this pandemic is over?

Throw a party. I think I will host a gig at our studio, I’ve been wanting to do it for a while.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Check us out on Instagram or Facebook, or just drop by our office for chai. We are always looking for interesting conversations on our katta. [email protected] 

The Creators’ Den with Viraj Pradhan

Viraj is a screenwriter, stand-up comedian social media consultant and content creator. He is the founder of Generic Tall Guy, a meme page that has garnered over 35K fans on Facebook. From writing comedy scripts to creating content for some of the biggest brands, Viraj has done it all. Read on as he talks about everything from writing for animated shows to finding his true calling— stand-up comedy.

Tell us about your journey – how did you decide to pursue a career in comedy?

I did my first stand up gig when I was 11 years old. Not really, it was a building function all the other kids were dancing & singing Kal Ho Na Ho songs. I didn’t possesses any such talents, so I mugged a few jokes from Champak and nervously recited them on stage. When I received a writing pad and a Camlin Geometry box as a prize for my jokes, I knew that I wanted to pursue stand-up a career.

No. Not really. Whether it’s an embarrassing drunk story from the last weekend or a story from the time I bought a replica of the Shaka Laka Boom Boom pencil and was heart-broken when I realized it wasn’t a magic pencil after all, I have always enjoyed telling stories. My colleagues and friends would find a lot of these funny. I loved seeing them react and I loved the attention. So I’d try to make them funnier by adding impressions & character act-outs. There were pauses, set-ups & punchlines. I would almost treat it like a comedy set.  And I didn’t even know it was called a comedy set back. I’d even have a whacky-quirky take on almost everything that happened in the world and people enjoyed them. This is when I realized that maybe ‘body fat’ is not the only thing I possess. Maybe I am funny.

So long story short I decided to give comedy a shot in 2015. And by shot I mean saying “Next month pakka” to all the “So kab hai tera pehla show?” questions.

I never wrote a set. I kept running away. Why? Because this was the only thing that I thought I’d be good at . And if I found out that I actually suck at it, it’d have broken me.

So I did the only sane thing I could do. I procrastinated. FOR 5 YEARS STRAIGHT.

I even joined East India Comedy with hopes of finally being motivated enough to try stand-up.

But no. All the jokes & ideas I had continued to nap in my small joke book.

But in 2020, I quit my full-time job & decided to take some time off. I signed up for a stand-up comedy workshop impulsively. I ended writing my first ever set. It was a surreal feeling as jokes flew through my mind onto the book. I performed it for the first time. I loved the thrill. The claps & the laughter made me happy. Genuinely. And I was nervous for only 90% of the time.

I was so freaking good during my shows that the government decided to stop them immediately by announcing a nationwide lockdown. I miss the stage. I hope I can get back there soon. In the few months that I did stand-up I did feel like this is what I meant for. I am still not sure about how good I am but I made a few people laugh and that makes me happy.

As far as content creation goes, I have always felt like I was a little camera conscious so I never tried video content creation. If I ever had an idea, I’d try to execute it with a meme. But in 2020, when I saw a lot of creators explode with their reels, I decided to finally take the plunge. I am so glad I did because the satisfaction I get after seeing shares and comments on a reel is priceless. I have been very impulsive with them though. There are days when I post 2 reels a day and days when I don’t post anything for a week. A lot of it depends on my stock-market-like mental health.

I try to put my own unique twist on every trending format and I love it when people notice that and say “Best video on this format”. Why do I love reels? Because I am a lazy person. Now I can take the creative liberty and do things like using an air-freshener as a mic or an AC remote as a phone and it completely works. People start tripping on that. I love the fact that I can come up with an idea at 7 PM, shoot it at 7:15PM and post it by 7:30PM and get a response by 7:45 PM. As a man with ADHD this quick reward mechanism works well for me. Sometimes, it works against me, because I also get put off when a video I was excited about doesn’t do well. In my mind every idea I come up with deserves 1 Mn views. But unfortunately only 1 in 10 apples will let you discover gravity, the remaining 9 will only keep the doctor away. I am not sure if it made sense but it sounded cool na? Thanks. I also love the fact that reels / tiktok have made content creation an equal ground for everyone. All you need is a good idea and a phone.  But yes, I want to do more. Create more formats. Create more characters. Experiment a lot. And do this regularly because I love it.

So please go support me ya and share my content. What the hell? GO NOW.

What’s the most challenging project you’ve worked on so far?

I wrote the first tele-feature film of my career recently. It was a crossover film featuring Chhota Bheem & Krishna which is as big as Avengers: Infinity War for fans of the laddoo-eating-superhero.

It was challenging because I underestimated the sheer persistence one needs to write a 60-page screenplay. I am used to writing 11-minute episodes so I went in with the same approach. There, you can sprint through the day and finish the script in a day sometimes. But trying to do that on a film is like trying to climb Mt. Everest in a day and I suck at climbing stairs, so this was way out of question. Everyday proved to be a new challenge because with a film there too many moving puzzles. Every small change, be it in a scene or a dialogue, affects the overall continuity of the whole film. So it was lot of writing and re-writing even before I sent my draft out because I’m toxically self-critical of work.

But it was also exciting because I had a lot of liberty on this project. All the hours I spent nerding-out on every superhero film ever came in handy as I wrote down my own action sequences. I learnt a lot of lessons about my own abilities & writing process. It took double the estimated time but I was happy with what I had created and so were clients. So good day at the office I guess. I hope I get to say “I wrote my first Netflix show” or “I wrote my first feature film” very soon. In the words of Inzamam Ul Haq, “Inshallah! Boys played well”.

Who’s the one artist or creator you’d love to collaborate with and why?

Too many.

Kusha Kapila. I love her screen presence & comic timing.

I think we can create some fun content together.

Rahul Dravid. He is technically an artist with the bat & also a great indiranagar ka gunda. He’s been my idol since I was a kid and I’d love to work with him on something someday. Issi bahane I’ll get to have a conversation with him which will last longer than 30 secs and hopefully I am not a nervous-shaky-mess this time.

Zoya Akhtar, Vikram Aditya Motwane & Anurag Kashyap are film-makers I absolutely adore and I’d love a chance to work with them.

Ranveer Singh & Shah Rukh Khan. Two actors who’d kill at stand-up comedy if they ever tried. Working with them on literally anything would be a dream.

MAKE IT HAPPEN UNIVERSE.

What’s the best compliment you’ve received for your work so far (and from who)?

Since a couple of my reels have exploded on Instagram I’ve been getting a lot of these.

I am not used to receiving compliments so it’s very overwhelming. Most times I get so excited that my responses are longer than the person who’s just complimented me.

But one such comment was done by fellow creator on a video that I thought wouldn’t perform that well. He said ‘I love the fact that you have maintained a good balance of massy content and intelligent jokes in your content’. This made me feel like a lovechild of Anurag Kashyap & Rohit Shetty but it felt great that somebody noticed what I was trying to do.

A lot of people DM me with things like “I have just discovered your content and it’s made me laugh on a day I was feeling off”. There can’t be a better compliment than this. And people keep saying how I deserve more views, more followers and that I am underrated.

Yaar! Fir bana do over-rated. Content share karo. Kara do mere 10K Followers so even I can ask people to swipe up. 

As far as my stand-up goes, I received one of the best compliments from a fellow-writer, who I respect a lot because she is brilliant at what she does. She has always pushed me to try stand-up. One fine day, she happened to be at one of my shows. She saw me perform for the first time. After the show, she hugged me and said “See, I told you, YOU WERE MEANT FOR THIS. Please keep doing this, you are going to kill it”. I was at a loss of words and I usually have like way too many words to say so that was fun.

My late Nani was my best friend and my biggest supporter. I get my talking skills from her. It’ll always be a big regret that she never got a chance to see me perform live. But I did record one of my zoom sets to show her. Seeing her reaction while watching me perform was one of the best feelings ever. She didn’t get all of the jokes, but she did repeat the ones she got & told me she loved them. However, my mom just said “Wear a better shirt & shave next time”.

Describe your experience of writing (screenplay or dialogues) for animated shows.

In one word ‘Fascinating’. I especially love the fact that now all the cartoons I grew up watching are proving to be research material for me. It’s been challenging and fun at the same time. Challenging because the content I consume is very different from the content I am creating right now. When it comes to kid’s shows you have work to within a lot of restrictions but at the same time you can let your imagination run wild. For example, I write Simmba, a cop show in which we never show a gun or a knife. There’s another famous cop who wears a holster which has everything but a gun. So I have to get really imaginative and creative with my fight sequences. Laughing at slapstick gags is easy but choreographing them can be tough sometimes. I try to push the boundaries when it comes to funny dialogues and comedy tropes in the scripts that I write though. My limited knowledge of comedy comes in handy here. I love wordplay and puns. Dialogues with wordplay fly in such cartoons.

According to me Swat Kats cracked one of the best puns ever. As a kid, I thought the names of those cats were ‘Bade Miyan & Chhote Miyan’. It took me 20 years to realize that their names were ‘Bade Meow’ & Chhote Meow’ because they were cats. My mind was blown.

I was a kid who was obsessed with Pogo TV Cartoons. Bob: The Builder, Noddy, Oswald, Pingu, I saw it all. I am writing for a show called ‘Simmba’ which airs on Pogo TV.

Life has come a full sweet circle and I’m diabetic so not sure if that’s a good thing.

My generation grew up watching some of the best animated shows ever made, I’d like this generation to have the same experience at least with the few shows I write. One such show is Simmba. It’s based on the Rohit ShettyRanveer Singh film. I feel iIt’s a show that an 8 year old and a 28 year old can enjoy at the same time because it is that entertaining. I love writing for Simmba the most because I practically become him when I write the dialogues.

What are the top 3 things on your bucket list? 

My list is too big ya. But to name a few.

Doing a Netflix stand-up special.

Writing a show or a film and seeing it release on a screen whether big or small. 

Also acting in a show / film / Ads.

Becoming a full-time content creator who does vlogs, reels & comedy  sketches.

To start off, I’d like AT LEAST 5 of my reels to cross 1 Million views, so please go share.

I’m a Sukhbir Song when my video performs and an Arijit Song when it doesn’t.

HOSTING A SHOW. Whether it’s a podcast, a travel show, a food show, not a fitness show. I love talking and being in front of the camera. I think it’ll be fun. I feel like I am on-screen talent just waiting to be discovered. Seriously. Where is my contract?

If your life were a web series, what would it be called?

Scam 1992: The Viraj Pradhan Story. Mainly because he was born in 1992.

But that’s too big a title na? Let’s just call it ‘A Generic Show’ for now.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Mostly doom-scrolling on Instagram & then feeling guilty about how I didn’t do any work.But this also helps me in coming up with my own reel ideas, so it’s okay.

Obsessively watch a new show and then getting sad that it’s over.   

Re-watching the Office, Schitts Creek, Kim’s Convenience, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara or Wake Up Sid.

Reading a book. But, like Aamir Khan. Only once a year.

I love cooking but I hate the prep & the cleaning.

I make awesome Butter Chicken & Chicken Ghee Roast. ALSO POHA. UFF!

Taking care of my plant buddies.

Re-arranging, re-organizing & Marie-Kondo-ing my house is actually one of my favorite activities.

Which are your favorited accounts to follow on Social Media and why?

To me, Akshar Pathak & Jose Covaco will always be the OG Content Kings.

I think Danish Sait, Kusha Kapila & Sristi Dixit are a riot in their videos.

Kenny Sebastian, Chaavay, Md Anas, Pulkit Kochar, Karan Sareen make extremely funny reels.

Just Neel Things, Focused Indian & Saurabh Ghadge are the holy trinity of marathi comedy.

I love Awwnchal & Kullubaazi for their killer delivery.

I love ThatIndianChick for her brilliant joke writing & delivery.

I love Avanti Nagral & SingWithVani for their magical singing.

Shade Zahrai & AwkwardGoat3 for content on mental health. AapKaJuggs for parodies.

Satshyaa is her own genre of informative, sweet & funny content.

Faye D’Souza, Andre Borges & Andheri West Shitposting to keep myself upto date.

I love memes by Poop Culture India, Huncho Nacho & Just here to ruin you day.

I love pop-culture edits by Tea Rex Edits, Binge Factory & Sukoon Ghar.

Notwhyral for rare bollywood footage, 90Overs for interesting cricket stories & FinCocktails for content on personal finance.

I ALSO LOVE KING ULHAS KAMTE FOR HIS WHOLESOME CHICKEN LEG PIECE EATING. 

Some of the smaller creators who are still bigger than me but their content deserves so much more: TheYashHegde, Raghav_Sharmaaaaa, Brewkenstein, TeaWithTiwari, BigMaauth Laughing Buddhi just to name a few.

I am sure I have missed out on a few. I am sorry. This is so hard. That’s what she said J

Internationally, I love JayPlusSharon, JoeZvonar & Lukas Arnold for their reels.

On YouTube I follow Matt D’avella for self-growth, Emergency Awesome for film breakdowns, The Take for video essays, Breakfast With Champions for the best cricket interviews & film Companion for film interviews.

Where can people get in touch with you?

You all should follow me @GenericTallGuy & share my content *angry emoji*

I’m always looking for freelance work. I can help you with script-writing & social media.

You can email me at [email protected]  

Some of my work links:

Unfortunately all shows I write only play on TV.

Simmba plays on Pogo TV. Golmaal Jr plays on Nickelodeon.

Taarak Mehta ka Chhota Chashmah will start on Sony YAY.

Some of my personal favorite reels that you guys should SHARE & SAVE:

Brand Films:

An exciting project I’ve worked on was a comedy sketch for Disney Plus Hotstar. I cracked the idea as a joke in our meeting when I said “ What if we do a video where Yuvraj Singh is looking for a job now that he’s retired?” My team asked me to script the video and within two weeks we were shooting with Yuvi. It was crazy.

I also wrote a Better Call Saul parody style promo featuring Pankaj Tripathi. Seeing him act in a video I wrote was just surreal. The man is a king of his craft. I didn’t get a chance to click a photo with him though. So I don’t have an option but to write a show / film & hope that he agrees to star in it.

For stand up, I don’t have any recorded videos yet. But you can come for one of my shows.

In the Spotlight – Saksham Kulkarni

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Saksham Kulkarni, a young Marathi actor best recognised for his roles in Pak Pak Pakaak and De Dhakka, among others. Read on to know his story.

Tell us about your journey— what inspired you to get into acting? 

My family has always been an art lover. So while growing up, I was exposed to many good films, listened to eminent singers, and watched good plays. And I was totally fascinated. Since childhood, my family always encouraged me to take part in various extracurricular activities such as elocution competitions, fancy dress competitions, and I used to love it on stage. There was no stage fright. So we figured if I feel confident on stage, how about giving auditions for the camera. I gave a couple of auditions and got my first acting part when I was in 4th grade. My family always supported and encouraged me to improve my acting techniques. I attended many theatre and film workshops which helped me a lot. 

 Describe the experience of working on your debut film, Pak Pak Pakaak. 

It was truly amazing. I was 12 years old back then. More than 300 kids had auditioned for the part. The makers liked my audition so much that I was finalised instantly. The director, Gautam Joglekar, encouraged me to give my best in every scene. He gave me good insights while we were developing the character of Chikhloo which helped me a lot. Working with Nana Patekar taught me a lot of things. Many scenes were improvised on the set. It helped me to improve my improvisation skill. Also, since we were shooting on film, I got to know the production side as well. We used to rehearse a shot many times until we thought it was ready to be captured. I still remember Nana kaka and Gautam dada telling me, ‘Keep on rehearsing until you think it is good enough.’ Everyone on set truly believed that we were making something unique and which will be cherished many years down the line. 

Share your most memorable ‘Behind the scenes’ story from a film/series you were a part of. 

The scene in Shikshanachya Aaicha Gho where Bharat Jadhav accidentally hits me with a bat; was pretty late in the night when we started shooting that scene. Everyone was really tired and sleepy but we knew that this scene was the most important part of the film. Mahesh Manjrekar called Bharat kaka and me and told us that this is the room where we will be filming the scene. He told us that he wanted the scene in one shot to maintain the intensity. He told us to improvise the whole scene, and the camera was to be placed according to our improvisation. It was an amazing experience for me to improvise with Bharat kaka and Mahesh kaka. I feel blessed that I could work with such experienced directors and actors at a very young age. It has always kept me motivated to improve my craft. 

If you had to choose between films or theatre, which one would it be and why?

This is a tough one. But I would say theatre. I love the adrenaline rush when the 3rd bell rings. The reaction of the audience is instant. You get so much energy. Overall the process of setting a play has always fascinated me. You can explore so many things. I did a play Mirad- A Boy From Bosnia, in which I had to play 11 characters. We started rehearsing 2-3 months before we performed for an audience. We worked on every character minutely. How a character would walk, talk, sit, etc. And when I finally performed on stage the feeling of satisfaction was just great. 

Who’s the one director you want to work with and why? 

There are so many I look up to, who really inspire me. To pick one of them, I would say Christopher Nolan. I am really in awe of his storytelling. All of his films are unique in their own way. He is so passionate about his work that I remember in an interview, he had mentioned that many producers had rejected his debut film Following, so he paid from his salary and made the film anyway. It took him a year to complete it. But he never gave up. 

Which actor (male or female) would you consider as your ultimate inspiration?

Daniel Day-Lewis. He is a legend. The detail he brings to each character he plays is amazing. He manages to reach the depth of the character flawlessly. In the film Gangs of New York, it was his idea to have an eagle in the eye. He is truly an ultimate inspiration. 

If your life were to be made into a web series/biopic, what would it be called?

I feel I have to work a lot, learn a lot, explore a lot and achieve a lot. After that people can decide whether my life could be an inspiration for others to be made into a biopic. But for fun, let’s say ‘Saksham- The Capable.’

What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

  • Direct a film
  • Do a film in any language other than Hindi and Marathi
  • Learn to dance properly😂😂

What’s that one piece of advice you would like to give to people who are looking to get into acting professionally? 

Glamour is just the tip of the iceberg. A lot of hard work needs to be put in. It’s not as easy as it looks. 

Where can people get in touch with you?

I am not that social a person, but you can get in touch with me on Instagram.

In the Spotlight – Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Rajasi Kulkarni Diwakar, the founder of Bleed Red Go Green and a core team member of Green the red, talking about her journey as a menstrual health educator. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey. What inspired you to start your venture Bleed Red Go Green?

BRGG is a collective of like-minded people who want to work in remote areas of India as well as urban areas. Both areas need education when it comes to menstrual and reproductive health. I have been a Menstrual and Reproductive Health educator for 7+ years. I am already a core group member of PAN India collective Green the Red. My journey into this started when I moved to Chhattisgarh for a fellowship in 2013. I was designated to work with the residential school of Dantewada, and that changed me a lot in good ways. My journey towards minimalism and menstrual health education began there. Since no one picks our garbage in rural areas, it is either in our backyard or buried or burnt. This moved me. And the lack of awareness about my own body led me to become what I am today.

How does your initiative help create menstrual health awareness in rural areas? 

We turned 2 in April and we are growing. So far we got to work with some volunteers, NGOs, adolescents from tribal areas, especially of Chhattisgarh and some parts of Odisha. We got to interact with teachers and understand their perspective. Before the pandemic, we used to visit schools, villages, and slums for awareness sessions and since the pandemic, we started doing this online and people all around India started joining our webinars. We have also done sessions to empower people to make their own reusable cloth pads. Recently, we helped set up a cloth pad making unit in the slums of Mumbai.

What are some environment-friendly menstrual hygiene habits that people should practise?

We have been using cloth as a menstrual hygiene product for decades. It’s the most sustainable option since it’s available at home, you don’t have to go to the market or purchase anything.  It’s made of cotton, it will decompose in soil when buried/composted. However, not everyone is comfortable with that since cloth is being marketed as dirty and discomforting by multinational companies to sell their disposable products. Today, modern options like cloth pads, menstrual cups, period panties, etc. are available. They are not only eco-friendly but comfortable and convenient, too. They are reusable for many years, thus saving money, the environment and your body from rashes and harmful chemicals.

What are some of the misconceptions about menstrual health that should end?

There are plenty, but I will talk about the basic ones – the foundation. Firstly, we should stop telling children to hide their naked bodies soon after the bath. Body-shaming starts there. We keep everything under wraps and don’t let logical, scientific information about our own bodies flow. We shun the questions or discussions about our bodies as private and something ridiculous. This needs to stop from a young age. This is the reason why menstruators don’t know that they have 3 different openings down there and they don’t pee and menstruate from the same place. There are really illogical, unscientific beliefs and unrealistic expectations about the structure and composition of the body which leads to unnecessary fears about using internal menstrual products and even sexual intercourse.

What are the challenges you face running this collective, and how do you try and overcome them?

Right now, most of the team is based in different parts of Chhattisgarh and some of us are in other places. So that is one challenge. Meeting digitally has its own pros and cons. We all have different energy levels and skill sets, yet everyone brings diversity and richness to it.

The practice of menstrual segregation is still prevalent across many Indian households, with menstruators being made to follow customs that may be completely unscientific. What are some of the strangest social taboos you’ve come across in this regard, and how do you counter them?

We have heard that women can’t bathe, touch water or plants, because they are ‘impure’. Segregation is something that some people actually look forward to while some people don’t like to be held. Menstrual segregation is a ‘leave policy’ that everyone is raving about currently, but it’s dipped in misogyny, patriarchy and unscientific beliefs and lack of choice.

In our approach, we do not criticise these practices, instead, we enable participants to think critically about the taboos. Scientific information is the biggest tool to empower people with correct information about their own bodies and how they work. It slowly but certainly changes their perspectives and provides them with the means to decide what is best for them. We consistently speak about this and include other family members; not just menstruators to change the scenario.

You are a strong proponent of menstrual cups. In your experience, what are the most common concerns women face in switching to menstrual cups (or most common reasons for women wanting to, but being hesitant to switch to menstrual cups)? How do you address these?

I promote all reusable options and give people a choice to decide what works best for them. Women have fears about using menstrual cups. They think it may get lost or stuck inside. Some of them have hygiene concerns. We suggest simple, correct techniques to use these products solve also answer the concerns they have. It has a learning curve.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media accounts and why?

Ecofemme, Thebloodyfeminist, EmbodyworkLA, Frangipanji and Rangeen Khidki.

How has Social Media helped you in building your brand and connecting with people?

Social Media has helped me meet many like-minded people. We have so many supporters.  It also helped people know what we do and approach us for awareness sessions and small projects. It has also led to many great collaborations and a chance to speak for a second time at a TEDx event (feeling shy to share this).

Where can people get in touch with you?

[email protected] is an email address to contact BRGG. We also have our Instagram handle and Facebook page.

In the Spotlight – Yashvi Dhal

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week is Yashvi Dhal, the founder of Mad Batter, spilling the beans on her tryst with baking and the triumphs and travails of running a business. Read on to know her story.

Tell us about your journey – what inspired you to start your own baking business?

I’ve baked my entire life and it wasn’t something I was always spectacular at, but I loved it. I love the idea that the same staple ingredients can turn into drastically different flavours and textures.  Turning it into the business that it is today happened by accident. I love to bake what I love to eat. And I love Cheesecake! I found myself drawing a blank one night when I was looking to get a slice of a classic New York Style cheesecake, so I took it upon myself to make my age-old family recipe. The leftovers were then sent across to friends and family. That’s how Mad Batter started.

How has Social Media helped you in building your brand and connecting with your audience?

The way I look at it is, the ability to create content, communicate and engage with your audience is the most personal through social media. I have built Mad Batter and connected with its core audience almost entirely through Instagram and Facebook. These platforms have essentially allowed me to reach the right people, and cater to them with the right content and communication. It has allowed me to build a long-term customer base and some great friends as well.

What is the biggest challenge your business has faced during the pandemic? How have you tried to deal with it?

Challenges came at us in 2 forms: logistical and a change in customer preferences.

  • Logistical challenges in times like this were bound to happen, but just thinking about the number of cakes that I almost thought won’t be delivered in one piece makes me shudder. However, third party services are stepping up their game and with a few minor changes in my packaging and advancements with delivery logistics, we’ve been able to handle most of these concerns.
  • The bigger shift for me was the change in customer preferences. Parties were now smaller, birthdays were not as grand and people wanted to order everything on the menu, but smaller. For a brand that only does big cheesecakes and abstract cakes, this was a challenge. After months of trial, we officially launched petite cheesecakes. These addressed all the preferential changes that our customers were looking for. Currently, we send out more petite cheesecakes than any other cake.

If there’s one bake that best describes your journey, what would it be and why?

It would have to be a Burnt Basque Cheesecake. I had to put in the hours and things didn’t always look good, but it’s just like the inside of a burnt basque right now– smooth.

How do you like to spend your free time?

Makeup! I am a makeup artist and I feel like one passion drives the other. A lot of my planning with my abstract cakes takes learnings from my time as a makeup artist – colour theory, textures, everything!

If you could binge on one dessert for the rest of your life, what would it be?

A classic NY Style Cheesecake or a Traditional Tiramisu!

If the Mad Batter were to host a ‘Mad Tea Party’ (once this pandemic is in the past, of course!) what would be on the menu and who would be invited?

We’ll have a large spread of our Petites (all 14 flavours, so there’s something for everyone) and definitely some Banana Bread and Cinnamon Streusel! I’d like to have my first ‘Mad Tea Party’ with my loyal customers. For someone to trust me for their special occasions has always been an honour to me. For the second party, I’d call my friends and family from across the globe so they can finally taste what they’ve had to hear about for years.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why?

I like to find accounts that truly inspire me to work on my technique and think differently. I also love following accounts that teach me a thing or two about business and how to do it right.

Since people are in lockdown now, could you share one easy-to-bake recipe for everyone to try at home?

The easiest recipe for a quick cheesecake – no crust, intentionally burnt.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Instagram – to see what’s on the menu, enquire and also find out what we’re up to in the kitchen daily.

Whatsapp to place orders or book a consultation for our abstract cakes.

In the Spotlight- Virali Parekh

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week we have Virali Parekh, an ace choreographer, dance educator and performing artist. She speaks about the nuances of the art, her experience of working with leading choreographers and reinventing ways to connect with the audience during these challenging times. Read to know her story.

Tell us about your journey; how did you get introduced to dance? 

I think I was born into dancing. It was as natural as taking the first steps as a baby for me, so I can’t truly say how I got introduced to it. However, professional dance training came to me very late at the age of 20. As a child, I trained in Bharatnatyam, but after 10th grade, I was discouraged from dancing entirely. Studies took over and only after graduation did, I find my way into professional training at The Danceworx Performing Arts Company, and later I moved to Broadway Dance Center, New York, for further training. I got back in 2016, and since then I have been a part of the choreography teams for several reality shows, music videos, Bollywood songs, etc. along with setting up an online/offline training module with my team.

How would you describe your venture, Dance With Vira

In 2020, our industry took a massive hit and while we locked ourselves up, I knew something had to be done to lift each other’s spirits. I danced in my little room and wondered if I could somehow connect to people to share this energy with. Online platforms did exactly that for us. “Dance with Vira” is an online program that was aimed to motivate people to keep dancing and training at home. When you visit our website, you’d notice that it says, “Move to nurture yourself.” This was a very specific goal-driven program aimed to help people get themselves up during these tough times, using dance/movement as a medium. Initially, it was very tough for me to help or teach through a screen and not be there to correct the body form or structure of the student, but in time, we adapted, and it has been a blessing for me in every way after that. My team and I have bonded with people across cities and countries and managed to share our smiles and anxiety through screens. It has been a beautiful experience so far. I aim to continue this program in the coming months, making it bigger and better in every way possible. For more information, please visit www.dancewithvira.com 

What inspires you as an artiste? 

Inspiration for me ranges from day to day activities like cooking, cleaning, etc. to travelling and sitting on a beach alone listening to the ocean waves. It can come from a life experience, a pet, a stranger, someone’s artwork, a friend’s success story, but majorly inspiration to move specifically comes from music for me. 

Share a story behind your most memorable performance. 

It’s definitely going to be the Global citizen festival, 2015, held at Central Park, New York City. Backstage was not like any regular show backstage. We were in celebrity tents as we watched people like Beyonce, Ed Sheeran, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michelle Obama, Usher, Malala, etc. in action on stage and prepping backstage too. It was once in a lifetime kind of a stage for me to perform on as I witnessed more than 20,000 people in front of me and I’ll always cherish that moment of rush and excitement. It was overwhelming to dance to an Indian song and watch the crowd go mad about it there. I’ll truly never forget it and I hope I get to travel and dance more and more.

If you could pursue only one dance form for the rest of your life, which one would it be and why? 

Jazz funk for life! It requires the discipline of Jazz training but also has this space to incorporate elements of street styles which makes it super fun, unique and relatable to me.

Who’s the one artiste you can’t wait to collaborate with? 

Ummm…. Beyonce! (always aim high :p)

As a choreographer, what’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?

Last year, I got an opportunity to be a part of the choreography teams of one of the leading choreographers of the Bollywood Industry, Vaibhavi Merchant. So far, that has been the most exciting project for me to learn from and work on. It’s a Holi song for an upcoming movie with Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar. The sheer grandeur of the set, the amount of hard work of every member there, 3 continuous shoot days in extreme heat with colours flying all over and more than 600 people in the song, it was truly the most exciting and challenging shoot for me so far. Most of my excitement, of course, comes from the fact that I got to observe how she thinks and works on movement. It opened my mind up back then.

Name the top 3 things on your bucket list. 

Travel to the Maldives before it sinks, lol

Play lead in a HUGE commercial music video at least once in my life

To have my own space for artists to meet, jam and create all kinds of art, music, dance, drama, etc

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why? 

I am not a hardcore follower of one particular account, but for dance, I follow Erica Klein, Jojo Gomez and Rukmini Vijayakumar. They have some brilliant work showcased out there and in some ways, it becomes a learning tool for me.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Instagram handle: @virali_parekh

Or 

www.dancewithvira.com 

[email protected]

The Creators’ Den with Amrita Mahale

Amrita Mahale is the author of the acclaimed novel, Milk Teeth, shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award and longlisted for the JCB Prize for Literature and the Tata LitLive! First Book Award in 2019. She was part of the Sangam writing residency 2017-18 and her writing has appeared in a number of renowned publications such as Hindustan Times, Indian Express, Scroll, Himal Southasian and Brown Paper Bag. She currently works at an applied research lab focused on AI for social good.

Read on to find out how this rocket scientist from IIT and Stanford became a fiction writer.

Tell us about your journey – how did an aerospace engineer find her way into literary fiction? 

I have dreamed of writing novels since I was very young. It was always clear to me that no matter what I studied or where I worked, I would work towards being a writer. The path was a zigzag one. After two degrees in aerospace engineering, I pursued a career in strategy & product design in consumer technology companies. Writing literary fiction has little to do with either of those. I started with baby steps, taking a writing class one day a week and working on short stories on weekends. One of those short stories eventually became Milk Teeth. My journey illustrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer, some longer than others, but if you have something to say and are disciplined and persistent, you will get there. 

What sparked the thought behind your debut novel, Milk Teeth? What inspired you to write this story? 

Milk Teeth took a little over four years to write and edit, but the characters had been living in my head for over a decade as parts of different, shifting stories. The starting point for the novel was the idea of a prophecy that comes true for the most unexpected reasons: a prophecy that these two childhood friends would grow up and get married, even though one is gay and the other is in love with another man. I was thinking a lot at that point about the kinds of social pressures that compel people to make certain decisions. This evolved into the idea that sometimes prophecies are redundant because people live the same lives over and over again, that their lives are scripted by social pressures more than by fate. And slowly that became a look at middle-class society and what happens when its sense of self-worth is thwarted by modern urban life.

“My journey illustrates that there are many paths to becoming a writer, some longer than others, but if you have something to say and are disciplined and persistent, you will get there.”

The city of Mumbai (or Bombay, as we still like to call it!) plays a vivid role in this book. What has been your personal experience with this city? 

I was born in Bombay but spent most of my childhood in Gujarat, till I moved back to the city as a teenager. My entire extended family – grandparents, aunts and uncles and aunts, cousins – was in Bombay / Mumbai, so my summer and winter vacations were spent there. And my own family moved every two years, so the sense of continuity in my childhood came from spending all my vacations in the city. It is the place I have always thought of as home, and also the city I know best. I wrote ‘Milk Teeth’ when I was living in Delhi, but a week after the novel was published, I moved back to Mumbai after eleven years away.

The characters in your story are layered, nuanced and wonderfully real. Were they completely fleshed out right at the outset or did they gradually acquire their personalities along the way? 

Writing a good character is a feat of observation and imagination both, and good characters come from a place of deep feeling. There was a rough starting point for what each character’s journey was about, and the rest came along the way. Each of the characters struggles with something that I have also struggled with: Kartik’s self-doubt and professional dissatisfactions, Ira’s anxiety about her lack of cultural capital, Kaiz’s longing to prove that Mumbai is his home. And each of these is linked to the novel’s central theme: finding your place in a changing world while trying to remain true to an idea you have of yourself. The complexity in the characters came slowly, accruing over several drafts.

“Milk Teeth took a little over four years to write and edit, but the characters had been living in my head for over a decade as parts of different, shifting stories.”

As a writer, do you ever experience a block or slowdown in your creative energy? If so, how do you tackle it?   

It happens all the time. Sometimes, the only way to overcome it is to power through it. Set yourself a word target and don’t step away from your writing spot till you have met your goal. The words you write in the beginning will be terrible, but will help you get into the flow. This approach does not work all the time. Brute force will not help if you haven’t worked out what you want to say, or if you are genuinely beginning to realise that what you are working on has major flaws, or if you are anxious because the world is in the middle of a long, savage pandemic. Sometimes all you can do is be kind to yourself and wait for the creative energy to return.

Follow Amrita on Instagram and Twitter.

Read our review of Milk Teeth.     

In the Spotlight- Mansi Shah

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the spotlight this week we have Mansi Shah, a nature lover by heart who chose to make a difference. With her venture GiftGreen, Mansi turned her passion into a career, creating eco-friendly, low waste products to encourage a greener way of living. Read to know her story.

Tell us about yourself— what inspired you to start your own business? 

I am a person who loves being outdoors. Having spent a lot of time in a boarding school, I have stayed amidst nature for some years. While finishing my master’s and then working for a short period of time, I started realising that I can’t just love nature and admire it, I have to do something for it by working on it full time. My mother was a great inspiration. The way she grew plants at home with so much love and would gift them on special occasions to friends and family and live a low-waste lifestyle was what inspired me to do this seriously. That’s when GiftGreen came into action.

What’s the story behind your venture, GiftGreen?

GiftGreen was started to make alternatives for festivals. We don’t realise the damage we do to nature while we enjoy our festivals. We first started with selling plants in terracotta pots with personalised messages on birthdays and anniversaries. I started making soil and seed modaks for Ganpati at home. During Independence day, I worked on plantable paper to make the Indian flag which had a motto “Don’t throw me, Grow me.” We then slowly had a team of 3-4 people making rangolis for Diwali which can be grown into plants. After 4.5 years, we have a range of personal care items, low waste lifestyle items for anyone looking for alternatives.

What role does Social Media play in helping you build your brand and reach your audience? 

Social Media has played an important role. Before making our Instagram and Facebook page, it was only through word of mouth that GiftGreen was known.  But social media helped us reach a wider range of audience and age groups.

What is your favourite eco-friendly product? 

Okay, That’s a tough one! My favourite would be soil and seed modaks as it holds a very sentimental value and works as a great gift. Any eco-friendly item which is reusable (steel straws, cutlery, tote bags, bamboo brushes) and doesn’t harm nature is my favourite. 

Tell us about your most memorable DIY project/workshop.

My first workshop was the most memorable one. It was on the basics of gardening, I thought nobody would attend such a workshop, but I ended up teaching 5 children and a few adults who were so enthusiastic and the youngest participant was only 4 years old.

If your life was a book or a movie, what would it be called? 

Life Lessons from a Plant 😉 

How do you like to spend your free time?

I am usually gardening in my free time. I make sure I learn new things like embroidery, DIY crafts, new recipes, etc. Dying clothes with natural colours is my new free time hobby.

What are the top three things on your bucket list? 

1. I wish to grow as many plants and trees as I can, wherever I can.

2. Travel to all the national parks, sanctuaries, and forests.

3. Spend more time with people around the country trying to spread awareness about our environment.

Which are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media and why? 

The zero waste farmer (Manju Kumar) and worm rani (Vaani Murthy) are 2 accounts I really get inspired by.

Where can people get in touch with you?

Email Address: [email protected]

In the Spotlight- Ashish Limaye

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the Spotlight this week we have Ashish Limaye, a professional equestrian who talks about his passion for the sport and his love for coaching. Read to know his story.

Tell us about your journey— how did you get into horse riding? 

I started riding at a small restaurant that had one horse kept in the backyard. A few months after riding there, Pune hosted junior Nationals. I went there to watch and met Col Khan after which I started riding with him. 

Horse rider, trainer, instructor- you don many hats. How best would you describe yourself? 

I enjoy each role that I play in the sport. I would say I am a rider who got the opportunity to work with great horses and good kids to help them bring out the best in them. 

What are some of the most challenging aspects of horsemanship and how do you tackle them?

The most challenging is the fact that there is no one method or step-wise process to work with horses. Each horse is different and you have to understand them individually and find a way to work best with every single one of them. 

What does it take to be an equestrian athlete? What advice would you give to aspiring riders? 

It takes a lot of patience and perseverance. I would advise aspiring riders that when you want to compete and want to beat others, don’t forget that you are not the only one performing. You have a team member who doesn’t talk. So take time to learn to communicate with your team member because only then will you both be able to perform your best.

Share the story of your most memorable victory as an athlete. 

My first international show where I placed third. 

Name the top 3 things on your bucket list. 

Asian Games, Olympics and Retirement.

How do you like to spend your free time? 

I love watching movies. 

What are your favourite accounts to follow on Social Media? 

I follow most top riders, Scott Brash, Kent Farrington, Harrie Smolders and so on. 

Where can people get in touch with you?  

I have a Facebook and Instagram account by my name. My email id is [email protected]


In the Spotlight- Shounak Amonkar

Postcard Spotlight is an interview series showcasing young leaders and creative minds who are making their mark with their unique talent and drive.

In the Spotlight this week, we have Shounak Amonkar, a celebrity stylist and the co-founder of Who Wore What When. Shounak takes us through his illustrious journey in fashion. Read to know his story.

Tell us about your journey — how did you get into Fashion? 

I did my graduation as a product designer and moved to Milan to do my master’s in fashion accessories. That was honestly my first taste of what it was to be a part of the Fashion industry. That was my first step and from then on I created a shoe collection for my masters’ final graduation project. We had to style the shoot, I mean I had to get it photographed and the shoot looked great and I realised I’d like putting things together and creating a look. That’s how I originally got into styling.

Share the story behind your venture, Who Wore What When.

So, I met Pranay in Milan. Pranay is my partner. We run Who Wore What When together. He was doing his under-graduation in fashion design and I was doing my master’s in accessories. The thing is Milan Fashion Week used to be insane, it used to be an intense week. People used to dress up and there used to be crazy Street Style paparazzi. The whole city turned into a runway and we used to go around clicking these wackily dressed people. We started this blog; it was actually like a street style blog called Who Wore What When which eventually turned into all these interesting people we used to shoot. We started interacting with them, collaborating with them and we started styling them for these street style shoots. Hence, the name Who Wore What When, which was about a blogger or an editor of a magazine or an influencer, what they were wearing and where you can wear these outfits. So basically, it was just a fashion blog and that is how it started. 

What’s your definition of style?

 My definition of style is comfort. If you are uncomfortable, you don’t look stylish, you look puffy and weird. So, if you are comfortable in what you are wearing, I think that inherently starts looking stylish. I primarily wear only black, so my approach is kind of minimalistic when it comes to colour and my general inspiration in terms of style is Yohji Yamamoto. He is a Japanese designer, who does interesting silhouettes and does great all-black clothing.

What’s the most challenging aspect of being a celebrity stylist? 

Being a celebrity stylist, I feel the most challenging part is it’s a lot of work. It’s not fun, it’s not glamorous, it’s not all parties and all of that. It’s extremely exhausting and primarily you need to understand the celebrity, you have to understand their personality because the clothes are an extension of who they are and not what you think works on them. So, we do a lot of research in terms of what they wear, what they look great in, what they wore in the past that did work so there is a lot of research that goes into it and there are endless conversations and hours and hours of fitting and sourcing of clothes. It’s a long, tedious and painful job where our days start from the minute, we get up to the minute we sleep. The thing is, celebrity styling is a very small part that we do but it is very very challenging, everything about it is very challenging.

Where do you draw inspiration from?  

 Honestly, I think anything can inspire us. We like watching period films, we like watching old runways from the 90s, we also love old Italian movies and that is our general sort of aesthetic. We are sort of maximalist, we like vintage hair, big hair, big accessories, and the general vintage Italian vibe is our inspiration most of the time.

Who’s the one celebrity you would love to style and why? 

Ans- Pranay and I are going to have different opinions. Pranay is dying to style Rekha, that’s his ultimate style icon, diva and he is obsessed with her and everything that she stands for, so he would style her. On the other hand, I would love to style Beyoncé, because I think she was quite an inspiration growing up. I think in the early 2000s when I was a teenager, I was quite smitten. She is such a powerhouse, and she is such a diva. I would love, love to work with her! 

What is your favourite item in your closet? 

Ans- Actually as of now, right after the lockdown opened, I travelled to Dubai for my birthday and I found this perfect laptop bag. It’s like this amazing black quilted leather Balmain bag. It’s a super oversized tote with a black tassel. It was love at first sight so that’s currently my favourite item.

How has Social Media impacted your work? 

Ans- The thing is, work for us started in the age of social media. As a company, we are just four years old. So social media has always been very very important. Instagram especially for us is like a portfolio. Nobody checks a website anymore. They just go through your Instagram to have a look at your work. A lot of business queries come through social media. I am not saying all, but almost 80% of business coming our way is because of Instagram and people in our DMs. So yeah, social media is probably a very important reason for where we are now.

What are the top things on your bucket list? 

My top things on the bucket list are:

  • Trying to take a day off in a week and not touch my phone at all! Just do things that I want and not work for just one day a week. We thought we would try to do that as the year began, but it did not happen. So that’s the one very important thing.
  • I am hoping international travel opens up and I have been wanting to go to Istanbul for a very very long time. We were supposed to go in 2020 but that was an epic failure, so hopefully this year.

Where can people get in touch with you?

People can get in touch with us on social media. Instagram is the best because we are super active in our DMs. Somebody from my team is always checking messages and responding to messages. Emails get lost, DMs stay. So, yeah Instagram is good.