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Verve’s 50 Power Women 2009
Published: Volume 17, Issue 6, June, 2009

Simran Lal (37)

Simran Lal joined her mother Anita Lal, the founder of Good Earth in 2002. With her mother deeply involved with the creative aspect, she took the lead on the business side and saw the store’s amazing potential. “Original designs, detailing, quality and abundant use of natural fibres and pure materials makes it a unique luxury brand.” Following the success of their flagship store at Raghuvanshi Mills in Mumbai; Good Earth, under Lal, is in a brisk phase of national and international expansion. Last year saw three large stores open at Colaba, Mumbai, UB City, Bangalore and Rutland Gate, Chennai. Another branch launches in Gilman Village, Singapore, next month. Lal is currently excited about the launch of Good Earth apparel and a personal accessories range, as also the launch of their natural skincare range called Absolute Good Earth, both based on sustainable values.

Passionate about “Giving the Indian aesthetic its rightful place in the world today. I love the challenge of coming up with something that hasn’t been done before.”
Familial bonds “I have a year-and-a-half-old baby and am expecting another one soon!
De-stress zone “My husband is a very positive person, always full of life and positive vibes. If I follow his advice I end up de-stressing!”
Power means The opportunity to be a great role model.”
Signature look Saris, chikan kurtas with linen pants or cargos, khadi tunics and woven stoles. “I accessorise with old heirloom jewellery or turquoise and lapis lazuli beads and collect bags from all over the world.”
Action point “To revive and work with Indian crafts, using natural materials and traditional motifs to create a design entity that is uniquely Indian and yet global in its appeal.”
Driving philosophy “Do your best. The rest shall follow.”

Priya Dutt (42)

Saviour of the about-to-be displaced slum dweller, Sunil and Nargis Dutt’s youngest child has come of age. An early win in the 2005 elections, which detractors dismissed as a ‘sympathy vote,’ following as it did soon after her father’s death, has been vindicated with her sweeping victory last month in the North-Central Parliamentary Constituency in Mumbai against prominent city lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani. Her first congratulatory call was from big brother Sanjay.

Full time support Husband Owen Roncon, her most formidable campaigner.
Big challenge To ably shoulder the legacy her father has left behind.
Stress buster Scuba-diving.
Signature style Short kurtas and sneakers.
Driving philosophy Development. In every which way.

Lakshmi Menon (28)

In a country obsessed with fairness creams, it is not easy for a dusky South Indian ‘unconventional’ beauty to become a pin-up goddess. The Bangalore-born supermodel has displayed a marathoner’s patience, focus and determination, with quiet assertion. Since the beginning of her career, Menon consciously avoided walking the mainstream pancaked boulevard to fame, careful of ‘overexposure’, selective almost to the point of being reclusive. But once she set foot on the Paris runways in 2007, she was catapulted to the status of the ‘ideal Indian beauty’, bagging the Hermès campaign and having her face splashed across numerous magazine covers, and in many designer campaigns. She is where she is, for possessing one vital quality — consistency. As firmly heeled in world muse kingdom, as royalty.

Signature look Glowing earthy skin, smouldering eyes, and that pout!
Firm about Minimal use of make-up. Natural is her mantra.
Little known fact Takes a keen interest in photography, and can even hold jargon-heavy technical conversations with professionals.
Admired for Her comfort level with her own body, as opposed to ‘cultured’ inhibitions in the Indian modelling industry.
Driving philosophy Professionalism. Delivery according to requirement.

Shilpa Gupta (32)

Having studied sculpture at the J. J. School of Art, Shilpa Gupta switched gears to explore video and the electronic medium. Her meteoric rise has seen her win the Transmediale Award, Berlin and the Sanskriti Prathishthan Award, New Delhi in 2004. This year she has had solo shows in Galleria Continua, San Gimignano and Le Laboratoire in Paris and opened a show at the Lalit Kala in New Delhi hosted by Vadehra Gallery. 2009 will also see her participating in The Generational: Younger Than Jesus at New Museum, New York; Biennale Cuvee - World Selection of Contemporary Art in Linz, Austria as well as a solo exhibition at the Yvon Lambert Gallery in Paris in September. The Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati will host her first major institutional show, in 2010. Her USP remains the role of art and its relationship with viewers.

Vacation break Bali.
Treasured possession ‘Untitled’, a sculpture by Anant Joshi.
Creative high “Making artworks using interactive video, websites, photographs, objects, sound and public performances to probe and examine subversively such themes as desire, religion, notions of security on the street and on the imagined border.”
Art admiration Anita Dube, Nalini Malani, Dayanita Singh, Hans Haacke, Yoko Ono, Mona Hatoum.
Big inspiration “Everyday life.”
Strong belief “Impossibility of borders – as human beings will always move towards freedom.”
Constant hope “That art reaches out to the public more and more.”
Driving philosophy “The ability to be able to discover the language of art and to use it freely to share what one feels with others.”

Freida Pinto (24)

From Slumdog to riches, no debutante in recent times has scaled a rise as dizzying as Freida Pinto. According to one website, the Buzz Log of the heroine of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire which bagged eight Oscars, seven BAFTAs and four Golden Globes this year, skyrocketed a staggering 65,740 per cent in one day! The power newbie who describes her acting style as ‘raw and instinctive’ has been roped in to star in Oscar winner Julian Schnabel’s new film Miral, an adaptation of Italo-Palestinian Rula Jebreal’s book about Hind Husseini and an untitled Woody Allen project. Speculation about her love life – from her off-screen love interest in Slumdog co-star Dev Patel to her break-up with college sweetheart Rohan Antao – has kept her in the headlines, as has her soaring style quotient. Right now the Mumbai-born Catholic Mangalorean – her lineage traces back to Portuguese ancestors, hence the name Pinto – is too busy being the new international ‘it’ thing. Bollywood can wait.

Awards 2009 Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding performance by a cast. Nominated for the 62nd BAFTA awards (Best Actress in a Supporting Role).
Haute property The former model who once posed for a Wrigley’s gum ad made detractors chew their words by becoming the toast of the international fashion world and the new red-carpet darling. Pinto reportedly signed a six-figure deal with cosmetics giant Estee Lauder joining the likes of Liz Hurley and Gwyneth Paltrow to be the face of the company’s future endorsements. She also caught the attention of New York’s hip fashion commentators, The Fug Girls, and beat the likes of Renee Zellweger and Wendi Murdoch in’s 10 Best Dressed List earlier this year.
Style wise Comfort matters. “Wearing six-inch heels doesn’t necessarily spell style.” Values her purple Puma bag like a Prada.
Driving philosophy Perseverance and flexibility spell success.

Anuja Chauhan (38)

The Delhi-based executive creative director and vice president of J Walter Thompson made waves with her debut novel The Zoya Factor (about Indian cricket’s lucky mascot). The film rights have been picked up by Shah Rukh Khan’s Red Chillies Entertainment. Chauhan is married to Niret Alva, president of TV powerhouse Miditech, making her politician Margaret Alva’s daughter-in-law.

Milestones Received nine promotions in as many years. Handled accounts like Pepsi Foods, Nestlé and Nokia. Think creative one-liners like Nothing Official About It, Jor Ka Jhatka Dheere Se Lage, Yeh Dil Maange More, and Oye Bubbly. “All my kids are major milestones for me. I calculate everything from ‘the year Nika/Tara/Daivik was born....’ Work-wise, Amul hoardings used to be a major milestone for me when I was in, did Amul put up a hoarding about my ad? And now the book of course.”
Creative hours “Writing ads usually happens late at night at home.?When I’m writing a novel I can go 10, 12, 14 hours at a stretch. With breaks for deep-fried, high calorie food.”
Obsesses about Her house and its décor, including painting walls and furniture, working with her hands, knitting socks, playing the piano, colouring her children’s homework.
Inspired by “The idea that, if I wrote commercially successful fiction, I could be my own boss, call all the shots and be home all the time with my kids.”
Favourite reads JK Rowling, Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie. “I’m also a sucker for Georgette Heyer romances.”
Currently working on A new novel, which is a love story set against the backdrop of a Lok Sabha election. It is half-way done.
Hangs out with Her sisters, sisters-in-law and girlfriends. “It’s a very giggly, sassy gang of ?mommies (and a few singletons) and I’m very proud of them.”
Driving philosophy “If you’re really really happy with what you’ve written, that should be good enough. Don’t go around seeking validation.”

Mahie Gill (26)

The sassy modern-day Paro carrying a mattress on her bicycle to the fields for an amorous rendezvous with her lover in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D is one of the most iconic and path-breaking images of female sexuality to come out of Bollywood in recent times. Bold, volatile, sexually assertive, Mahie Gill’s Paro breathed new fire into Sarat Chandra’s coy heroine. One of the most exciting discoveries of 2008, Gill shone again in Kashyap’s political epic Gulaal. Comfortably ensconced in Bollywood now, she describes her Hindi debut as “a huge turning point in my life and career”.

Passionate about Travelling to new and obscure places.
Personal style White tops, blue jeans, Indian and western evening wear. “I’m not brand conscious at all.” Clothes by designer Harpreet Sandhu.
Unwind strategy “Hanging out with friends. Also a good workout and a visit to the spa. I take off from the city for short holidays whenever I feel the need to.”
Power belief “With power come responsibilities. It’s a heady feeling but you should always keep your feet planted firmly on the ground.”
Driving philosophy “Be nice, be generous and don’t hurt anyone intentionally. Be honest about yourself and your work.”

Shahana Goswami (23)

She collected a plethora of awards this year for her sensitive performance as Debbie in Rock On!!, where she managed to garner approbation and critical attention in a largely male-dominated film. Shahana Goswami is now five films down and has four movies lined up for release. She was also recently seen in Nandita Das’ Firaaq as well as in the video of Dido’s song, Let’s Do The Things We Normally Do, playing a female taxi driver.

Milestone “I always thought I would act, but didn’t have a concrete reason for thinking so!” A National School of Drama workshop, where she spent her break-time with her teachers instead of the students, became the first indication and reassurance she needed.
Rocking after Rock On!! “I knew Rock On!! would do well, but I didn’t expect such isolated attention to my character. I am still in shock.”
Self-belief “I have a strange combination of optimism and pessimism – my heart dreams, while my mind poses questions.”
Can’t do without Food – of any kind.
Unwinds by Writing a diary.
Loves to Dance. Trained in Odissi for 10 years, she would love to do a contextual dance role – like that of a choreographer, or an Umrao Jaan.
Hangs out with Boyfriend Milind Soman.
Driving philosophy “Focus on yourself – you are the only person you can change!”

Nandita Das (39)

Nandita Das is the quintessential Bollywood outsider. Famously rejected for the role of Gauri in Lagaan for looking ‘too intelligent’, the intense actor with the flashing eyes has a rich body of work with memorable performances in films like Deepa Mehta’s Fire and 1947: Earth and more recently, Mehreen Jabbar’s Ramchand Pakistani. Her 2009 directorial debut Firaaq, based on the aftermath of the 2002 Godhra carnage, did not disappoint. Set over a 24-hour period and following multiple narratives of various characters grappling with the lingering effects of violence, the emotionally sensitive film went on to win several awards at international film fests. Firaaq was banned in Gujarat multiplexes when it first released, which only served to testify to its power. Das described the experience as ‘cathartic’.

Quote unquote “What compelled me to make this film is best captured in the words of Brecht, ‘Will there be singing in the dark times? Yes, there will be singing, of the dark times. ’”
Trophy clutch Firaaq won several international awards including Asian Festival of First Films 2008 in Singapore (Best Film, Screenplay/Script), the Special Prize Award at the International Thessaloniki Film Festival in Greece, the Special Jury Award at the International Film Festival of Kerala and Best Editor award at the Dubai International Film Festival.
Gets mad about People snooping into her personal life.
Signature style Handloom saris and ethnic silver jewellery.

Zoya Akhtar (39)

Javed Akhtar and Honey Irani’s daughter took seven years to take Luck By Chance from a script written in Goa to a movie with appearances by all the major Bollywood stars. The NYU alumnus was politely turned down by all the stars she approached for the lead role (when her brother Farhan stepped in); but the audiences gave her a thumbs up (for the freshness of the script and performances and the adept direction) and also led to box office success for the first-time director.

First reaction “It is a bit of a dichotomy – I expected the collections to be better; I didn’t expect the film to do so well for me! The reviews and feedback have been amazing.”
Moving ahead Currently co-writing a ‘road movie’ script with friend Reema Kagti due to be shot next year.
Work day Varies from six hours a day when writing, to 18 hours a day when shooting.
Prized possession Friends.
Unwinds by Travelling.
In five years will be Living in Goa.
Can’t turn off The Godfather, Scarface, A Fish Called Wanda.
Inspired by “My parents, who are both incredibly inspirational, super artistic and very liberal – they would have supported anything I wanted to do.”
Hangs out with Cousins Farah Khan and Sajid Khan, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Mira Nair, Arjun Bhasin.
Driving philosophy “I will love what I do and only do what I love.”

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