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A FRENCHWOMAN WITH AN INDIAN SOUL

Luxury consultant Veronique Poles’ love for India and French instinct for design is leading the way to remarkable cross-cultural collaborations between the two countries.

Anshu Khanna

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A love for India emerges in the heart of many Europeans who are otherwise uninitiated into its culture by birth or geographical orientation. However, their heart is helplessly in love, possessed by a pressing desire to belong, to feel the Indian sun on their skin, live amongst the heat and dust and, if possible, never go back. It is this ‘Indophile romance’ that brings many design professionals to India, especially from the fashion capital of the world, France.  Beader Jean Francois Lesage, his father, the late Francois Lesage, chandelier restorer Regis Mathier, textile expert Peter Ascoli and luxury consultant Veronique Poles lead this list.

I met Veronique at my own platform, Royal Fables, along with a dear mutual friend, Jasmine, who had actually brought her there. To begin with, she passed off as yet another European soaking in the most romantic of the Indian bastion: princely India. But after one conversation with her, I realized this was an Indian soul who was also blessed with French instincts towards art and design, an evolved design addict who has ‘been there, done that, only in the end to realise that God is in the small things.’

Veronique Poles, the brain behind Poles Luxury Consultant, is also the voice of the Paris-based Federation of French Custom Couture Creations in India. To her credit goes the initiation of many cross-cultural promotions between India and France, the collaboration with Ekaya being the latest one, in which French couture creators worked with the master weaves of Benaras, each inch of the silk and brocade custom-crafted for these couturiers in various shades of gold and ivory.

She laughs as she recalls, “I’ve always been enamoured with India since I was a young lady in Toulouse. Looking back I wonder if in my past life I was actually an Indian. Well, in those days I could have passed off as a Kashmiri belle, given the outfit that had become my fashion statement by default. Except at that time I did not have the faintest idea that what I wore looked like a French version of the kurta and shalwar.”

The best part is that it was all put together by her. “My grandmother got me a vintage sewing machine that also had a foot paddle. She gifted me two metres of very fine black silk to stitch. What I created from my subconscious was almost the silhouette of a shalwar. With that I would add a gilet kind of a slip in soft white textile which women wore those days more as inners. From the curio shop I would pick up silver anklets and earrings which I wore with chappals to the university!” And there she would be, Veronique Poles, a stunningly beautiful Frenchwoman born in Toulouse, looking like she had just returned from Srinagar.

Veronique started her career working with Louis Vuitton in the training department. “While I was in Paris, I got the chance to work very closely with Michael Burke (now the CEO of Louis Vuitton) and Patrick Vuitton, the great great grandson of Louis Vuitton. I was asked to work on a project, to create a document that traced all the discontinued products of the brand for better aftersales services.” And it is here that she discovered the many commissions by the Maharajas of India and, as her awe for India got cemented further, her need to go to India grew. “I knew that I would reach these shores for sure at some point,” she shares.

After Paris, she went to work in the US, with not a word of spoken English in her vocabulary. “That was a terrifying experience that I lived to share.” To make it easier for herself, she created a catalogue with prices for each product, “that helped me make sales quickly, leading to the best turnover on the east coast that year.” “I also worked at Hermès for a few months,” she adds. She then returned to Paris and started working with a design agent. “That was the year 2000, when India was still regarded as an IT destination or a country which was ready to consume European luxury much like China.”

Veronique came to the country thinking that Indians would want to consume luxury made in France.  However, once here, she was in for a surprise. India had so much to offer! It was a reversal of her theory. “India and its people are totally consumed by their own indigenous treasure trove of luxury. They in reverse have so much to offer to the world with their handmade creations.”

However, her first experience working here was not the most charming. In fact, it was disheartening and an experience “that hurt but was also a big learning for me.” For the first few years all she did was pick up design consultations, but she also travelled to the most indigenous of Indian destinations: From regal Udaipur to earthy Mahabalipuram, from enchanting Jaisalmer to breathtaking Coorg. “The country also holds a great history of rich and refined princely design from which emerges a unique luxury that is handmade, steeped in culture, and linked to the roots in the most subliminal manner,” she says.

“Many luxury brands go to India for inspiration, particularly for embroidery. India has as much potential as the French do, if not more. India needs more support and needs to provide greater value to its own brands instead of looking towards the West. My role then was to convince French designers and buyers to turn their attention to India, telling them about the Indian luxury market. I was among the first to start this conversation back then. I spent three years as a speaker at conferences trying to ready them for India.”

And now when so many platforms of exchange have opened up, the Poles Luxe Consulting is not just busy pursuing design assignments but also pottering with craft, creating collectibles like spectacular masks that Veronique crafted during the pandemic. The first set was designed for her own use. “I feel blessed to be in a country like India where I think we have handled the pandemic quite responsibly. And then I started designing for friends and associates. I wanted to de-dramatise the situation, and stay classy and elegant while wearing a mask. I started the process with elaborating three hand-embroidered masks with my own personal style and French touch!”

Her jewel-masks are an absolute must-have fashion accessory. It uses the know-how of skilled karigars, revisits some techniques of embroidery and focuses on the high quality of the components used. “Each mask is an art which touches the soul,” she says.

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ADITYA TREATS FANS WITH AN IMPROMPTU MUSIC PERFORMANCE

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NEW DELHI: Aditya Roy Kapur made impressed his fans with his solo guitar performance.

Well, there’s not an ounce of doubt that Aditya happens to be one of the most loved stars. Now that the actor is shooting for his upcoming actioner ‘Thadam’ remake in Delhi, fans are thronging to catch a glimpse of him. Much to their excitement, the handsome and endearing actor decided to treat them with his magical voice.

Aditya’s impromptu show has elevated the excitement for his upcoming music album. For the unversed, just recently, the speculation around his music venture did rounds on social media. Meanwhile, the action hero is making noise for headlining the much anticipated ‘Thadam’ remake and essaying a double role for the first time. Aditya will also star in another out-and-out action drama ‘OM’.

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TAMANNAAHA MONG TOP 10 INFLUENTIAL SOCIAL MEDIA STARS IN SOUTH

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MUMBAI: The lines between regional cinema and mainstream films are blurring day by day. With the influx of more regional content pan-India, South Indian actors boast a massive fan following across the nation. Calculating their Instagram Influence using various metrics, Forbes India has released the Top 30 Most Influential South Actors on social media.

Touted as the rare combination of a superstar and a fine artist, Tamannaah has bagged the 10th spot on the list. With more than nine million followers on Instagram, the superstar is easily the most influential celebrity on the internet.

While talking about the same, Tamannaah said, “social media has become an integral part of all our lives, and it is a great platform to have an interaction with all my fans who have supported me in my journey. It is a special feeling to be listed as the Most Influential Social Media Star because it is a space that I share with my fans and followers.”

The top ten list also features Rashmika Mandanna, Vijay Deverakonda, Yash, Samantha, Allu Arjun, Dulquer Salmaan, Pooja Hegde, Prabhas, and Suriya.

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AYUSHMANN’SSOCIO-POLITICAL THRILLER ‘ANEK’S’ RELEASE DATE ANNOUNCED

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MUMBAI: 31 March 2022 has been locked as the release date for Ayushmann Khurrana’s film ‘Anek’.

Directed by Anubhav Sinha, ‘Anek’ is set against the geopolitical backdrop of Northeast India. It’s the second collaboration of Ayushmann with Sinha after ‘Article 15’. Giving a few details about his movie, Ayushmann said, “It’s only once in a while that an actor comes across a story that makes him jump out of his comfort zone. While I have always backed novel stories, Anek pushed me to perform with a renewed zest.”

He added, “It’s the kind of script that drives a person to give it your all. I am so proud that we’ve made a film like this and even more fortunate that I got the chance to headline it. It’s the kind of new-age cinema that I believe in and I am thankful to Anubhav Sir for choosing me to tell this special story.”

According to Sinha, it’s quite a challenge to make ‘Anek’. “It was a challenging film to write and a difficult one to make. We shot it in rough terrain but what makes it special is that the takeaway was so gratifying. It was a delight to work with Ayushmann again who with his depiction of Joshua breathed life into the story,” he said.

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NEW FILTER UNVEILED ON PRABHAS’ BIRTHDAY

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MUMBAI: Prabhas’ fandom knows no boundaries. The star is a global icon and enjoys a massive fan base. It’s that time of the year when the craze and love for him exceed any and every parameter, it’s Prabhas’ birthday. His fans do all sorts of surprising stuff to celebrate him and this year is no different. Ahead of his birthday, a new filter on Instagram has been unveiled. The filter has the words, ‘Global Prabhas Day’ written and plays a piece of soft and mellow music which is from the teaser of ‘Radhe Shyam’, as a portrait design comes on the screen and a little snowfall accompanies the same.

From Baahubali thalis to gigantic posters, to getting tattoos of Prabhas and more, his fans have always shown their love for the star. His Vikram Aditya from ‘Radhe Shyam’ got a new poster unveiled recently and a teaser of his character intro is all set to be released on his birthday. He will star in ‘AdiPurush’, ‘Salaar’, and Deepika Padukone starrer ‘K’.

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A CURTAIN RAISER TO ITALIAN EMBASSY CULTURAL CENTRE’S FELLINI RETROSPECTIVE

Murtaza Ali Khan

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Italian Embassy Cultural Centre is hosting a week-long Federico Fellini retrospective in collaboration with the India Habitat Centre. As part of the retrospective, eight of Fellini’s best-known films will be screened starting with his 1973 Academy Award-winning masterpiece ‘Amarcord’ on 23 October 2021. Along with introducing each of the eight films ahead of their respective screenings at the India Habitat Centre, I will also be introducing Fellini to the audiences while touching upon the importance of his films in India.

The legendary master Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini is not just recognised as one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of all time but also as a great humanist whose lifelong work stands as a testament to his love for telling universally relevant stories about common people and life in Italy. Despite his origins in Italian Neorealism as a screenwriter for the luminary Italian director Roberto Rossellini, Fellini gradually emerged out of his shadows to carve a niche for herself with films like ‘The White Sheik’ (1952), ‘I Vitelloni’ (1953), ‘La Strada’ (1954), ‘Il Bidone’ (1955), and ‘Nights of Cabiria’ (1957). And then he took a huge leap with ‘La Dolce Vita’ (1960). Not many filmmakers in the world have succeeded in taking such a gigantic leap between films like the one Fellini took with ‘La Dolce Vita’.

But what did he do after it? He made ‘8½’ which is another major leap (it’s something that is unheard of except when maybe Ingmar Bergman made Persona). With ‘8½’, Fellini catapulted himself to an entirely different level of stardom altogether. The film in many ways also perpetuated the wide usage of the term ‘Felliniesque’ which would become synonymous with any kind of extravagant, fanciful, even baroque imagery in cinema—a sort of a superimposed dreamlike or hallucinatory imagery upon ordinary situations. Contemporary filmmakers like Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, Emir Kusturica, and David Lynch have cited Fellini’s influence on their work. Fellini’s influence on Indian cinema is most evident in the works of Indian filmmakers like Mani Kaul (director of films like ‘Duvidha’, ‘Uski Roti’, ‘Nazar’, ‘The Cloud Door’, etc) and Kumar Shahani (the director of films like ‘Maya Darpan’, ‘Tarang’, and other movies)

‘Amarcord’, the first film to be screened as part of the retrospective, tells the story about Titta, an adolescent boy growing up among an eccentric cast of characters in a village near the ancient walls of Rimini in 1930s Fascist Italy (Rimini was where Fellini was born and the political turmoil during the rule of the Fascist regime in Italy also had a profound influence on Fellini’s life and work). The title basically translates to “I Remember” and aptly so. For, like many films of Fellini’s, ‘Amarcord’ is autobiographical in nature at so many levels. In fact, the character of Titta is based on Fellini’s childhood friend from Rimini who went on to become a lawyer. The two remained good friends all their lives. It is perhaps the last of Fellini’s undisputed masterworks. Even though Fellini would continue to make important films but ‘Amarcord’ in many ways is the last of his films to receive universal acclaim. It is also the last Fellini film to win the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film. The film is particularly noted for its criticism of Fascism as well as the Catholic Church but its comical tone cuts Fellini the slack to unleash a strong critique.

The romantic comedy ‘The White Sheik’, which will be screened on 24 October, follows Ivan and Wanda who visit Rome for their honeymoon. However, when Wanda suddenly disappears to find the White Sheik, the hero of a soap opera, Ivan struggles to hide it from his family who wants to meet his missing bride.

The third film to be screened as part of the retrospective on 27 October is ‘I Vitelloni’ which presents a character study of five young men at crucial turning points in their lives in a small town in Italy. One of the Italian maestro’s most imitated films, ‘I Vitelloni’ is said to have inspired directors like Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, Phillip Kaufman, Barry Levinson, Joel Schumacher, Juan Antonio Bardem, Marco Ferreri, and Lina Wertmüller, among others.

The next film on the lineup is ‘Il Bidone’ which follows a group of swindlers who dress up as clerics and con poor farmers out of their savings. It will be screened on the 28 October followed by ‘Nights of Cabiria’ on 29 October and ‘La Dolce Vita’ on 30 October. On the final day of Retrospective, not one but two films will be screened: ‘8½’ and ‘Fellini Satyricon’.

The Federico Fellini retrospective was originally scheduled to take place last year, marking the centenary celebrations of the master filmmaker, who was born in Rimini, Italy in 1920. But, the retrospective had to be delayed by a year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The Coronavirus pandemic has created a new normal which has merged work with the living space. In these times, adding that extra ‘oomph’ can provide that change of environment you were looking for within your walls! Kshitij Mirania of Mirania Luxury Living shares those eye-catching strategies to amp up your interior game:

KINDLE WITH KITCHEN

Kitchen interiors are full of possibilities from hardwood to those modern cabinets. Replace or refinish those worn-out ones for a simply a new look and if modernising is the goal, bring in those glass doors and show off the shelving your nicest pieces!

CHANGE OF CURTAINS

Curtains has been named the underdog by many designers and for all the right reasons! It has the power to change the tone of the room, from stopping that extra heat to enter the room while lighting it up with colour to providing it the quick and colour it was missing. Finding the right curtains which match with the aesthetics of the room will surely be the easiest way to create a new environment without changing much.

ASTOUND WITH CARPETING

Room seems bigger with added warmth and texture? Well, the secret ingredient is that new carpet. Warm ones for the winter while lightweight is summer, carpet is an all-year accessory which will lift up your area. Since it is easy to store, think of it as an investment while purchasing as it will be something which can last you for many years to come.

STYLE-UP SURFACES

Flat, vertical and organic: the unbeatable arrangement for your coffee table. Add a stack of books with those gorgeous vases or sculptures and give it the finishing touches with flowers and plants and the work is done! All you have to do now is simply watch as those three ingredients come together to give your table that extra zing!

LIVEN UP THOSE WALLS

It is time to take out those old family photos and introduce them to the empty spaces on your walls! It will take you down the memory lane of those good-old-days while also providing a new look for the entire space with much ease. A two for one deal!

REPAINT-RENEW

Sometimes all you need is a small bottle white lacquer paint to change the colour palette of your living space. It will do miracles for those shabby, chipped out furniture you don’t know what to do with. Add that with PU paint for metals and watch your interiors come to life!

OLD COUCH, NEW LOOK

Why buy a new sofa when you can give the old one a makeover! The intention to change the colour can simply be satisfied with a slipcover and if the desire is to give it that extra colour then look no further from pillows and some knit throws. These small things will give you the effect you have wanted without cutting a hole in your pocket.

Kshitij Mirania is Partner and Head of Mirania Luxury Living (MLL).

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