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The Power List
Published: Volume 14, Issue 1, January-February, 2006

20 THE NEW POWER WOMEN In the 21st century, power women are not difficult to come by. They are everywhere, pioneering, leading, ruling - some with a quietness of purpose, others basking in the afterglow of attention. MALA VAISHNAV profiles a hand-picked, currently most visible lot who have captured the Indian imagination with their power to effect change. Women on top. All under 40 years of age...

SANIA MIRZA (19) Tennis Champ, Power Grip Currently ranked World no 34, the chubby teenager is a national treasure who deserves every citizen's unconditional vote, even from obtuse fundamentals, who cannot see the talent for the length of her skirt. The first Indian since Ramesh Krishnan to break into the top 50 in world rankings and the first Indian woman to win a Grand Slam event (Junior Wimbledon) the tennis ace, included in Time magazine's 2005 list of Asia's heroes, was the only player outside the top ten at the US Open who was allowed to play her matches on the showcase courts because of the huge viewership interest!

RANI MUKERJI (27) Screen Queen, Power Star Bunty's Babli has slowly ascended the career graph from forgettable B-grade films to top A-bracket ventures; from an embarrassingly garish wardrobe to a Manish Malhotra makeover; from solid supporting roles to award-winning solo performances. The scene-stealer with genetically-tinted caramel eyes, has never let her less than perfect figure, lack of height and husky tenor come in the way of seducing the camera as evidenced in her recent mesmerising acts in Yuva, Hum Tum, Mangal Pandey and the much feted Black. Sporadic Odissi practice reins in the bulges and moisturiser, her preferred cosmetic, keeps the complexion glowing.

ANAMIKA KHANNA (34) Fashion Designer, Power Chic Ana-Mika - her international label - selling at Harrods for over a year and her participation at London Fashion Week and Bridal Asia in Pakistan, have given a whole new sheen to her signature collections - prêt and couture - inspired by familiar Indian elements and bestowed with a quirky international twist. Colour and texture are her forte, be it tie-dye tunics or printed trench coats. The petite designer's own personal style borders on the imaginatively edgy and the first garment she ever designed was for herself. "Total time pass," she laughs, adding, "Professionally, it was for a collection called Shoowa, in beige and black, based on African tribes."

HEMA UPADHYAY (33) Avant-garde Artist, Power Strokes Her early installation, 'The Nymph and the Adult' drew horrified gasps, fascinated revulsion and won her an award. In an exhibition that later travelled to Australia for her first showing abroad, the experimental artist had sculpted 2000 lifelike cockroaches, infesting the gallery with them. Was there a purpose to this display? At a politically and militarily tense time in the South Asian subcontinent, it raised the pertinent question that in the event of a war, would cockroaches be the only survivors? "Some people even imagined that they saw one moving and refused to go close to the installation!" laughs the artist from Baroda, now living in Mumbai with painter husband, Chintan.

SHAHEEN MISTRI (34) Founder, Akanksha Foundation, Power Mission Is there benevolence at 18? For that was the age when the young collegian discovered her calling - to better the lot of underprivileged children. "It breaks my heart when I see children who could be in an Akanksha (meaning aspiration) school but aren't," she says. 'Top didi' of an organisation that has expanded from 15 children in one centre to over 2500 children in 49 centres in Mumbai and Pune, with an additional 2000 children in 10 schools, the Akanksha Centres, as they are called, provide engaging supplemental education for poor children living in slums in a bid to improve their job prospects and combat high levels of illiteracy among the urban poor. The ex- St Xavierite, who spent more hours studying the slums than theoretical socio-economic reforms, recalls, "It amazed me then, that young people had so much time on their hands while there were huge social problems that needed to be addressed."

SHWETA BACHCHAN NANDA (31) The Namesake, Power Connections Amitabh Bachchan's beti. Nikhil Nanda's wife. Ritu (née Raj Kapoor) Nanda's daughter-in-law. Surely, that must open doors. The best table at Mumbai's Taj; the most coveted seats at the opening night of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Bombay Dreams in London; definitely the front row, at a Delhi designer's premiere showing. Though slightly uncomfortable with the limelight, she has lent her famous surname to causes she cares about - saving the dolphins for one and agreeing to walk the ramp for a fund-raiser. Not just for any designer but for past matchmakers and chaperones, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, long-time buddies of the Bachchans.



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