Success and belief go hand-in-hand, but life isn’t about the end result. It is about what you learn, and how you become who you are. And no one knows that better than these super-achievers. By Gayatri Moodliar
Photographs by Ashish Chawla
Styling by Krishna Mukhi
Production by Imran Khatri Productions
The distinguished designer and costumer’s journey meant breaking stereotypes and rewriting the rules.
For champions of their craft, finding and recognising their calling comes in one of two ways: the passion was always present, and was seen in every venture they embarked upon; or, it was a fortunate accident. Neeta Lulla falls in the latter category. Her creations have graced runways, regaled as costumes on the screen, and been worn at elegant soirées of world leaders. She’s also famous for adding the touch of authenticity to period dramas, Panipat being the most recent. “I was told that I had to follow something, and I took up tailoring because I thought, ‘What’s better than new clothes?’” From there, the rush of having to tell stories through fabric took over, and there was no turning back.
“From a very early age, I stopped following any norm. Instead, I focussed on doing my own thing, creating a style statement of my own. I use that same formula today, and it’s something that keeps me going.” But when you enter the world of costuming, balancing a statement piece with historical accuracy takes a special kind of process, and the lessons Neeta has learnt during this journey have cemented her place as one of India’s go-to costumers for period films. What started out as a hobby grew into an almost patented process. It’s intensive, to say the least, and there’s also the added responsibility of having to inform audiences about a specific culture.
Neeta, for her part, has grown to integrate exhaustive research in every aspect of her work. But she’s always done it her own way. She was famous for bringing her daughter Nishka—a designer in her own right—to her studio as a young mother, and she does the same with her grand-daughter. Neeta knows better than most that people try to put you in a certain box, and her life has been all about breaking out, about having her own journey.
And she believes that every individual should have their own milestones, their own journey. Her other forte, bridalwear, represents this. She first aims to capture the personality of the wearer. “It’s most important for me to create an outfit that the bride can use later in life,” she says and believes an outfit must have longevity. Because the journey never really ends.
Favourite Work Holiday
“I went to LA for the prosthetic works for Thalaivi, and that was fantastic. I was in the heart of Hollywood, and both business and leisure became the core essence of that trip.”
Cities That Inspire
“Standing in the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, soaking in the street fashion in Santa Monica Bay, observing the architecture of Florence.”
The rise of India’s most multifaceted vocalist and performer meant a unique and powerful journey.
When you realise you have fans in every corner of the world, you begin to realise the importance of being honest to yourself, of recognising the significance of your journey. This, in a nutshell, is what defines Sunidhi Chauhan today.
“How is this possible, I’m only 11 and I’m singing for an 18-year-old?” Recounting this highlight of her first stint as a playback singer, Sunidhi revels in and respects the giddiness of her upward trajectory. She has been singing since the age of four, moving from singing at family gatherings to sold-out concerts. Of course, it took tender, organic nurturing and the will to find the right mentors, but Sunidhi has not looked back.
Yet, after a buzzy debut, Sunidhi did have to face a particular tribulation of adolescence: her changing voice. Over time, however, it evolved into its sensuality and she embraced the husky overtones. Her voice was unlike anything people had heard, and it enabled her to single-handedly shake up the world of playback singing and live performances. In fact, her songs are so deeply embedded in pop culture that she draws a fanbase across ages.
When one’s journey begins at such a young age, one gets a unique vantage point to observe how an industry moulds itself to the times. “I’m glad that I have always been a part of every change, and so much has changed. The music, the lyrics, even the way people hear music changed. I also got to work with so many music directors and got to sing different kinds of songs, and that’s what has made me who I am today; that’s what has made me versatile as a singer.” Sunidhi’s hectic schedule has also made her realise the importance of spending time with family. She feels that one’s family helps one really appreciate the professional journey and the journey within.
As Sunidhi has grown as a performer, her voice has also developed a life outside of itself. Movie songs and albums aside, her sold-out, high-adrenaline concerts across the world are a representation of the power of music and her talent as an artist. What keeps her motivated through it all is “the hunger to sing and just do what I love to do; it’s as simple as that. I know that singing is not a job for me, it is my love.”
Sunidhi is the same—in person or on stage. She is determined yet approachable, and ready to undertake her journey as it unfolds. She believes in always moving ahead and embracing who you are, as no one travels the same road as another.
Most Memorable Concert Venue
“The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.”
Work Travel is…
“Even though I get to go and travel everywhere, I stick to my work. I have to make separate plans with my family when I just want to go on holiday.”
The versatile actor has created his own niche, driven by his personal journey and focus on consistent evolution.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that Sumeet Vyas has been a fixture in the cinematic world for more than his actual share of time. That’s because there is a controlled edge to him. When he speaks, it’s with the calm, old-time sensibility of someone who’s seen it all. In a way, though, he has—his work has seen him play relatable characters on stage and on-screen, including in Permanent Roommates, TVF Tripling, and Veere Di Wedding. He seems to have found his bearings with a silent fluidity, an attribute he also carries in real life.
Sumeet began his journey at the age of 17, much before becoming one of the poster-boys of digital and streaming entertainment. “I went to watch a play and immediately fell in love with the medium, and that’s essentially how it started. Theatre became my schooling, my college. It was how I learnt my art,” he says. With no prior induction, he immersed himself into the craft solely because he wanted to do what he saw. His professional development aside, it also set him on a personal journey to discover what made him different, and what he needed to do to create his own idiom.
But, as everyone knows, any journey requires passion. And, more than that, there has to be something more that fuels one’s drive, especially in the business of entertainment. Sumeet realised that for him, the special extra was a dedication to the storyline and a technical knowledge of the movie-making process.
“I also write, so I know exactly where the writer is coming from. I’m able to understand the basics; like, if the character I’m going to play makes a difference to the plot. That’s essentially what I look for. It took me a few years to understand what kind of performance I’m capable of delivering, and what I bring to the table that no one else does or can. That, I think, will really define me as an actor,” he says.
More than anything, it is Sumeet’s definition of success that has played a role in driving him forward. No matter what the journey, you have to be able to stand on your own to go the distance. And, as he’s proven to himself, be able to look within. “I’m here for the long haul. I don’t want to do anything else, so I’m going to be doing this successfully, or unsuccessfully until I physically can.” And, he’s doing just that.
Explore A City…
“…not the hotspots, but walking through the city and doing the local stuff. That’s when you get to experience what life is like if you were to live there. I like travel to happen to me, rather than me planning it.”
“Rajasthan is my home, so I’ve been there a lot. But, recently, I drove the length of Rajasthan and stopped wherever I liked, just because I wanted to. I also realised that my hometown is beautiful.”