People | VERVE’S 50 POWER WOMEN 2013

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VERVE’S 50 POWER WOMEN 2013
Text by Sitanshi Talati-Parikh
Published: Volume 21, Issue 6, June, 2013

For years, women have been the front-runners in different fields and have, by their own efforts, held positions of significant control or influence over others. In this, Verve’s annual Power List, there is a reiteration of the strengths and qualities that make 50 women inspiring and iconic – role models to both women and men, making waves and moving minds, reminiscent of horological giant Breguet whose timepieces bestow their owners with a rich lineage of quiet power. Power has been defined as ‘the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behaviour of others or the course of events’. Verve’s Power women have made their presence felt beyond their chosen domains. The stories of some women shine like beacons as their Power Rush continues to hold sway over the imaginations of many. Others, by a single act have, in a Power Moment, with one defining achievement shown the way to success. And, some have continued to influence mindsets from across the seas, in an International Impact that breaks barriers of culture, countries and communities. Absolute Power comes naturally to women who have for long been motivational icons to others.

Celebrating their timeless impact, Breguet, the house of elegant classics and rare masterpieces, joins Verve in presenting the 50 women who with their compassion, determination, strength and vision have made it to our roll call of honour this year!

Kareena KAPOOR
32 POWER SIREN

A fiery mix of impeccable genes, experience and natural talent have kept Kareena Kapoor Khan going strong years after contemporaries have lost steam. The zesty Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham has matured into a seasoned actress who can carry films with her massive screen presence, proving that an actress in a serious relationship doesn’t lose out on the popularity scale. From holding the weight of a movie like Heroine that suffered from poor scripting, to adding punch to a light movie like Ekk Main Aur Ekk Tu, from playing a defining character role in Talaash to becoming attached to the male-dominated 100-crore club movie successes, she has proven that nothing can shake her and she can juggle multiple roles. Not to mention, having had what has been pegged by a Wall Street Journal blogger as ‘India’s wedding and social event of the year’ – a power wedding with beau, the Nawab of Pataudi, Saif Ali Khan last year. In association with Globus, she is the first Indian actress to launch her own line of clothing. Voted India’s Hottest Woman by a glossy and recently ranked one of India’s most influential women, she has also co-authored two fitness books and last year, her own memoir, The Style Diary Of A Bollywood Diva.

METHODOLOGY: None. She has been pegged as an ‘instinctive actor with emotional intelligence’ who refuses to rehearse for her roles preferring to rely on spontaneity.

COMING-OF-AGE ROLE: Chameli, a sex worker in Chameli (2004). It defined her as a versatile actress with depth.

TRACES ONLINE: None. Despite buddy Karan Johar’s desire to get Kareena Kapoor on Twitter, she has steered clear of any social media and most media in general.

FRAGRANT CAUSE: Jean Paul Gaultier Classique perfume, her all-time favourite.

Nina LATH GUPTA
48 POWER HEAD

The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) saw a dramatic change after Nina Lath Gupta came on board as managing director. With a slimmer, restructured team that harps on transparency and accountability, the NFDC shies away from government and bureaucratic stereotypes. Determined to ensure that the NFDC produces films that will make cinematic history, but big production houses won’t touch, Gupta has been breaking new ground. Recognising the need for development of good writing, they set up the Screenwriters’ Lab, under the NFDC Labs. Their home video label, Cinemas of India, saw reruns of all the DVDs they have released to date. The Film Bazaar, which runs parallel to the International Film Festival of India in Goa is an incubator of talent, with art-house films (including South-Asia films) regularly getting picked up for the festival circuit from there. In real terms, the NFDC saw a dramatic leap in turnover from Rs 12 crores in 2006 to Rs 255 crores in 2011- 2012 under her leadership, turning a struggling enterprise into a dynamic and profitable one. Last year, The Hollywood Reporter featured Gupta as one of the 12 outstanding international women achievers in the field of entertainment, and she regularly speaks at film festivals across the world, while also being on the jury of the Venice Film Festival (2010).

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “The ability to keep pace with the times, of being able to constantly adapt according to the needs of the time and ensuring that our activities are in tune with the requirements of the talent and creative pool we work with.”

STRONG PERSONALITY TRAIT: “Unrelenting perfectionist.”

ABOUT THE JOB: “It begins with a love for the movies. But gradually that passion grew with an increasing awareness of the immense power that the motion pictures have in influencing individuals and thereby society. This in turn created a consciousness of the immense responsibility that filmmakers carry.”

2012-13 WAS ABOUT...“Initiating Phase II of NFDC’s growth and taking small steps in the direction of setting up platforms that aim at last mile connectivity for good cinema with audiences.”

Pankaja THAKUR
42 POWER FILTER

The chief executive of the Central Board of Film Certification or the Censor Board of India has headed tough decisions on ratings and cuts in Indian cinema, leading to resentment from many and approval from some. She’s in the unique situation of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Movies that go through with stringent censoring give rise to social questions like – ‘are the recent atrocities against women a throwback to violence in cinema?’ Movies that face savage cuts or ‘A’ ratings get a rise out of the filmmakers. While there have been altercations on films like 2011’s blockbuster, The Dirty Picture (which withstood 52 cuts) and Ashwin Kumar’s documentary, Inshallah, Football (2010) which got an ‘A’ rating, she’s taken tough decisions on international films as well, such as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011), which didn’t end up being screened in India. She was one of the panellists to object to Sheila Ki Jawaani (the song from Tees Maar Khan). ‘I would not like my daughter singing, “I am too sexy for you,” as the lyrics of the song go, but we cannot bring in our personal value systems while making decisions.’

ALTERNATIVE CAREER: As a bureaucrat with the Indian customs agency, she has headed assignments like one involving screening baggage at the Mumbai International Airport.

DEFINITION OF POWER: “The freedom to make choices and the ability to take decisions for oneself and for others.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “To keep myself and others working with me motivated. With fixed salaries and time-bound promotions the drive to improve is difficult to generate.”

A WORD OF ADVICE: “My advice to all new civil servants is to begin their day with this prayer: God give me the ability to change things that I can, The serenity to accept things that I cannot change...the wisdom to understand the difference between the two.”

WAYS TO RELAX: “I meditate and listen to music.”

Roshni NADAR MALHOTRA
31 POWER HEIRESS

The only daughter of Shiv Nadar, chairman of the $6 billion-listed HCL Group that includes HCL Technologies and HCL Infosystems, is all set to take over as chairman after her father retires. Currently, she is CEO and executive director of the corporation and is a trustee of the Shiv Nadar Foundation, managing the latter’s philanthropic initiatives. She drives Vidya Gyan – an initiative that provides free education to people from underprivileged backgrounds and is on its way to open a third school. Planning to steer clear of a corporate role despite her impending appointment, the Kellogg School of Management alumnus wants to concentrate on the philanthropic activities.

FAMILY TIES: Married to Babson (US) alumnus, Shikhar Malhotra, who founded an auto retail venture, and is now the chief executive of Shiv Nadar School. They have a son.

CREATIVE PURSUITS: Is a trained classical musician.

ALTERNATE CAREER: Has an undergraduate degree in Communications, majoring in radio, television and film from Northwestern University (USA) and has worked briefly as a news producer for SkyNews (UK) and CNN (America).

LANDING GROUND: She lives in New Delhi.

Mary KOM
30 POWER WINNER

Five-time world boxing champion and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships, Mary Kom belongs to the Kom tribal community in Manipur. She is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, and returned with the bronze medal. The recent Padma Bhushan (Sports) awardee has also been ranked as No 4 AIBA World Women’s Ranking Flyweight category, while locally she has been felicitated with a host of awards like the Padma Shri (Sports) and Arjuna Award (Boxing). Her personal story of rising to great heights in an unconventional sport from a simple beginning has led to a Hindi feature film being made by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, on her life, with Priyanka Chopra essaying her life.

ON REACHING HIGHS: “I am a strong believer in ‘Apna karm karo, fal ki chinta mat karo’ (Do your work without worry about the result). Thank you so much for giving me such an honour; I will keep working harder and harder to take the Indian flag to new highs.”

SUCCESS MANTRA: “You reap what you sow. Work hard, be disciplined, be grounded, be polite to everyone, share your experience with your colleagues and juniors.”

UNWINDS BY: “I hardly get a chance to relax, but whenever I get the time, I listen to music and enjoy quality time with my husband and children.”

A NORMAL DAY: “I get up early and do my daily morning exercise and training; then after breakfast, lunch and a rest, I go in for my evening training.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “To keep myself physically and mentally fit and try to avoid injuries during training sessions and competitions.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “Without any doubt, my Olympic medal. This medal has given me an opportunity to let the whole world know about Mary Kom, what she has done in her long boxing career. I hope my journey will inspire other upcoming talents.”

Shikha SHARMA
54 POWER BANKER

Awards spill out of her hat like rabbits do from a magician’s! And she managed to turn what could have been a windfall – ceding a possible CEO position at ICICI Bank to Chanda Kochhar after 29 years of service there – to a position of strength. The IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus has been the managing director and CEO of Axis Bank since 2009, and India’s third largest bank in the private sector saw a spurt of 30 per cent last year to $55 billion. She is bullish on growth, and if the recent stock price is anything to go by, people believe her story.

Since taking charge, she has more than doubled the bank’s network to 1,500 branches and 8,300-plus ATMs. The Transformational Business Leader of the Year (AIMA’s Managing India Awards), Woman Leader of the Year (Bloomberg-UTV Financial Leadership Awards), and Businessworld’s Banker of the Year’ has somehow also managed to squeeze into the Forbes List of Asia’s 50 Power Business Women, Indian Express’ Most Powerful Indians and India Today’s Power List of 25 Most Influential Women, all in 2012. This is the same woman who during her post-MBA placement wasn’t able to land a job until day 8 or 9. She was rejected by foreign banks which gave her confidence a drubbing.

IDENTIFIABLE PERSONALITY TRAIT: “Self-belief.”

FAMOUS QUOTE: ‘I want to make Axis Bank India’s JPMorgan.’

ADMIRES: Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan (US). Also looks up to Gandhiji and corporate leaders like Ratan Tata.

FAMILY TIES: Her husband, Sanjay Sharma, is the MD of Tata Interactive Systems. Her son is a part of a startup at Silicon Valley. She also has a daughter.

PERSONAL TIME: She has studied Hindustani classical music.

Smriti IRANI
37 POWER POLITICO

Smriti Z Irani, acknowledged as the first lady of television in her avatar as Tulsi, the family matriarch, is now seen often on the idiot box in her real-life role as national vice-president, BJP, eloquently holding forth on several topics. The feisty politico has grown from strength to strength despite losing her debut Lok Sabha elections where she was fielded against the highly experienced Kapil Sibal. Interestingly, her contributions ensured that she finds her name mentioned in the autobiography of veteran political leader L K Advani (My Country My Life). ‘Tulsi’ was the youngest ever woman in the history of Indian politics to be elected to the Rajya Sabha and has served as WHO USAID Ambassador to India for the ORS programme; VP, youth wing BJP Maharashtra; state secretary, Maharashtra BJP, member of the BJP National Executive, BJP National Secretary and BJP National President of Women’s wing.

GROWING PRESENCE IN THE PARTY: “I’ve never ‘planned’ my career in the party. I’ve always been given a responsibility in the organisation, my work has been appreciated and I’ve been brought forward.”

HER SOCIAL SERVICE: “I run an NGO called People for Change through which I have given drinking water to over 45 villages and scholarships to children from the economically weak background.”

ON HER VOICE BEING HEARD: “It is easy to be heard if you have made concrete contributions before and your suggestions make sense.”

Vidya BALAN
34 POWER EMOTER

The moment the supremely talented actress became comfortable in her own skin, the entire world fell at her feet. Her success has not been merely accolades and awards, critics and popular appeal – though she has had those in liberal doses. Hers has been the power of taking a formula-driven industry and turning it on its head to prove that rules can be broken, and to make her choices game-changers. While she bagged several awards for her role as a pregnant woman in search of her missing husband in Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani (2012), post the spate of hugely successful author-backed roles, she has now been considered a ‘female hero’ – toppling the notion of a male lead in a largely male-dominated industry. Last year, not only did she marry beau UTV CEO Siddharth Roy Kapur, she also became the youngest recipient of the Prabha Khaitan Puraskar awarded by the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce for her attempts to empower women. In May, she was part of the jury panel at the 66th Cannes International Film Festival, taking the respect for her acumen and sensibility overseas.

UNWINDS BY: “At the end of every day, I sit on my balcony and watch the waves and think about nothing.”

LESSONS LEARNT: “Firstly, there are no rules. Secondly, anyone who tells you otherwise knows no better. Thirdly, and most importantly, have faith in yourself, if you don’t – no one will.”

IDENTIFIABLE PERSONALITY TRAIT: “Self-belief.”

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I’ve begun to love and accept myself more and more.”

BIGGEST PASSION: “People.”

MOTIVATING FACTOR: “My love for life keeps me going, and my love for love keeps me going!”

Vrinda GROVER
49 POWER ACTIVIST

Self-belief, conviction, and a strong sense of purpose define this human-rights activist and New Delhi-based lawyer. She has done extensive work on rape laws and women’s issues. Seeing harassment of women in public areas and in colleges, she became a part of a street theatre group and one thing led to another and she became a lawyer standing up for the rights of women and human rights in general, particularly for those who have slipped through the cracks of the system, not just the privileged lot. For her tireless efforts to change the system, brought particularly in the limelight with the brutal gang rape in Delhi, she was one of the three Indians who made it to Time’s 100 most influential people in the world.

POWER LISTER: “I don’t attach any significance to these ‘lists’. They view life through the lens of individual achievements. The credit for foregrounding the issue of violence against women and the changes in law and policy must be given to the collective struggle and strength of the women’s movements in India.”

DAY IN THE LIFE: “Each day is different, as I engage with human rights through many forums – the courts, campaigns, meetings, street protests and read, write and ruminate in my office.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “Those tasked with upholding the rights of people, are violating them the most. Anger and despair are driving people to think that violence – à la death penalty – is a solution. The subversion of Indian democracy by corporate power and dominant communal forces. And of course patriarchy!”

Rohini IYER
31 POWER MOVER

You can’t get to most top Indian cinema celebrities without coming into contact with their publicist Rohini Iyer, who named her PR agency Raindrop Media after the song, ‘Raindrops keep falling on my head….’ This may prove that she’s a romantic at heart, but it belies the fact that she’s tough and intractable and manages one of the topmost agencies on her own steam. Her current roster of names includes Kareena Kapoor, Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Vidya Balan, Priyanka Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan, Ekta Kapoor and Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Not surprising then, that Iyer has resounding clout in an industry she understands and navigates well.

POWER LISTER: “I’m constantly trying to push the envelope – and these honours are extremely encouraging.”

SUCCESS MANTRA: “Always listen to your gut instinct. Always stand for something you believe in.”

TIME OFF: “I don’t switch off.... But I make it a point to watch at least one movie a day and am an avid reader.”

FUTURE PLANS: “World cinema is still waiting. All I want is everything!”

BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “I love crises. It’s challenging to not lose your calm in the face of a crisis and that is what Raindrop thrives on.”

CAREER ADVICE: “‘Greed is good’ – to quote Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.”

IDENTIFIABLE PERSONALITY TRAIT: “Killer instinct.”

Saina NEHWAL
23 POWER PLAYER

The lithe Haryana-born girl from Hyderabad made her country proud with a bronze at the London Olympics last year. Valiantly holding her number two ranking by the Badminton World Federation for over two years, she is flying high, having bagged the Thailand and Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold, reclaimed her Indonesia Super Series Premier title and having become the second Indian to win the Denmark Open last year. NDTV editor, T S Sudhir, wrote An Inspirational Biography on the girl who watched badminton even from her pram, not to mention that primary school textbooks in Andhra Pradesh apparently carry a chapter on Nehwal. Last year, she became India’s highest paid non-cricketing sportsperson after reportedly signing an over $7 million three-year contract with a sports management firm.

STARTING OUT: “I would get up at 4 a.m. and catch a bus at 4.30 a.m. for the stadium 25 km away. I would skip the last two periods of school and practise till seven or eight. I often slept in the bus or even on the scooter. I have lost several racquets in autos.”

GETTING THERE: “Even while growing up I would love working hard. My body would hurt after workouts, but I loved the pain. I do not think that I have missed something in my life. I want to make myself so perfect that I will become World No 1. That is my target.”

PROVERBS TO PROVE WRONG: “Many Indians would say, ‘Padhoge likhoge banoge nabab, kheloge kudo ge honge kharrab’ (If you learn to read and write, you can be on top of the world; if you play sport, it will ruin you). I changed the proverb and proved that sports is a neglected field in India, where a lot more is to be done.”

LIKES TO UNWIND BY... “Sleeping and watching a movie.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “I hope the Olympic medal is a big one, but every win is a win for me.”

Purva NARESH
38 POWER TALENT

Trained Kathak danseuse and award-winning short filmmaker, Purva Naresh wears many hats. She juggles between being a writer, director, and producer of Aarambh, a theatre group that produces musicals, plays and short films and holds down a day job as head of production of motion pictures for Reliance Entertainment while also choreographing and designing costumes for stage. She has written Afsaneh: Bai Se Bioscope Tak, and has adapted stories of Ruskin Bond for A Special Bond 1 and 2, while her feature film credits include Hanuman, Kisna: The Warrior Poet and Krrish. She swivels between earning wins and nominations at the Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards (META), and earlier this year she was the recipient of The Laadli National Media Awards (Best Drama) for her play Ok Tata Bye Bye. She was invited to give a reading of the play at The Royal Court Theatre, London.

POWER IS: “The ability to take and execute my own decisions.”

SUCCESS MANTRA: “Keep calm and carry on.”

UNWINDS BY: “Jogging, dancing, reading, watching a movie or a play.”

A NORMAL DAY IS: “Hectic. Impossible. Promising....”

BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “Time management and my impatience.”

BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT: “When my mother finally approved of my play, after I did seven!”

Pernia QURESHI
27 POWER ENTREPRENEUR

Post experience in New York, the fashionista and stylist moved back home and landed her dream job of dressing up beautiful women in couture. Not content with that, she capitalised on the market space and took it a step further by launching her online store, Perniaspopupshop.com. Last year she managed to get top-line designers to give her rotating capsule collections to showcase and purchase directly from her store, and has also launched her own collection online along with the popular names. Aisha (2010) was the first Hindi feature film she styled, which brought couture to the forefront of Indian cinema. And the trained Kuchipudi dancer made it to the cover of Verve’s best-dressed list last year.

POWER IS... “To be able to do exactly what one wants to do.”

SUCCESS MANTRA: “Hard work, conviction, a great attitude and passion.”

UNWINDS BY: “Eating good food and hanging out with friends.”

A NORMAL DAY: “If I’m in Delhi, then I spend the first half dancing (Kuchipudi) and the second half working (office, shoots and meetings).”

BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “Finding sincere people to build a team for work. I think I have done a good job but it was tough.”

CAREER ADVICE: “Be prepared to work 24/7.”

IDENTIFIABLE PERSONALITY TRAIT: “Honesty.”

Priyanka CHOPRA
30 POWER BEAT-MAKER

Fame is a funny thing. It brought India’s Miss World to the top echelons of stardom as a beauty pageant contestant, as a movie star, and now the talented actress has an international music record label to add to her list of credits. In July 2012, Chopra became the first Hindi movie actor to be signed by an LA-based entertainment and sports agency. Her first album is set to release this year and she debuted her first single In My City with rapper Will.i.am, which was launched on NFL’s Thursday Night Football after being unveiled in India. In last year’s Barfi!, she essayed the role of Jhilmil Chatterjee, an autistic woman who falls in love with a deaf-mute man. Here we find a powerful actor: Priyanka’s glamorous screen persona disappears and Jhilmil’s character comes alive. Possibly one of the reasons that Sanjay Leela Bhansali has chosen a mainstream actor like her to portray Mary Kom in the latter’s biopic. And PC’s own peripatetic story forms the first chapter of an Environmental Studies book as part of the curriculum in a reputed Bengaluru CBSE school.

CELEBRITY LIFE: “I am being watched all the time. Even simple things like scratching my nose will get captured in all their glory!”

PERSONAL LIFE: “The only thing I guard very carefully is my personal life. It’s never been a question of hiding any of the relationships, but more about keeping them away from public glare. I’m not comfortable opening the doors of my private world for the world to see....”

ON HER OTHER LOVE: “I can’t think or function without music. My van, my room, my car are always blasting music, so the five minutes I get, become my chill-out zone. And besides my family, that’s the one thing I find time for.”

PERSONAL QUIRK: Her DVDs are all labelled and numbered.

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