The incredible Indian design journey is full of extraordinary legends. Embroiderer par excellence Jean Francois Lesage is one of these. The son of the founder of the prestigious Paris-based House of Lesage travelled halfway around the world to find the true meaning of his calling, by establishing a renowned atelier in south India.
While his father, François Lesage, created a sensation, working with fashion’s most influential designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel, Lanvin Givenchy, among others, Jean Francois Lesage chose to focus on home furnishings, working alongside design luminaries like Jacques Grange, Alberto Pinto and Peter Marino, adding adornments to shoes by Christian Louboutin, and curating and reviving palace decors across the world.
Lesage’s projects for the Windsor Castle, the throne of Napoleon, an embroidered version of the Nizam era in Hyderabad, the Vaux le Vicomte palace near Paris, brought him closer to researching vintage archives.
In Chennai , where Lesage set up his studio Vastrakala 25 years ago, he finds a resource-bank of embroiderers who are capable, sensitive and “knowledgeable gems when it comes to working on long-term projects”.
But how are the petites mains, broiderers in Chaville, or anywhere else in France, where he hails from, different from those in India? “The craft ladies in France are exposed to trends; they see themselves as a filter able to translate into embroideries the key words and crucial points expressed by clients and designers. The south Indian embroiderers are modest and courageous; their humility pushes them to work discretely,” he says. A craft person, whether French or Indian, shares the same rhythm of life punctuated by similar interrogations when it concerns work. How to perform better, but keep a personal life besides work? How to connect with those who have chosen to modernise tradition? How to get recognition? “I would compare them to sports people and athletes, having dedicated their lives to beauty,” he says.
The royal courts have steered the craft tradition in a big way, in India and in Europe. Craft needs method, concentration, rules, discipline, agility, pride and passion. Much of this was influenced by the royalty, says Lesage.
For instance, he adds, “South India embraced embroidery only 250 years ago, influenced by the rulers who integrated in their customs a few ‘latest musts’ in vogue at the elegant courts of Delhi, Lucknow, Bidar or Hyderabad.”
With the setting up of the East Indian Company, embroidery posed new opportunities for trade. Elegant ornamentation on palampores, kalamkaris and other exotic luxury products were exported from the Coromandel Coast for the British or French markets.
In the past, the Persian tradition of zari and zardozi had an immense success in the Asian royal courts. This work was made using real gold threads. Elegant garments, thrones, canopies, drapes, pelmets, sofas, diwans, cushions, flags, tents — fascinating symbols of joy and abundance, dignity and elegance — were used by the royalty and affluent patrons to dazzle. Even today, zardozi refers to the main idea people have about luxury.
“The beauty of zardozi seen today is re-interpreted more as texture, the metallic shades of bronze, copper, silver and gold help to give abstract or semiabstract designs, all the magical lights essential in contemporary embroidery,” adds the master embroiderer.
When he was 23, Lesage worked on a giant drape, featuring the grand coat of arms of England. It was graphically embroidered using white silk ropes and white wool appliqués on a red wool background. Unfortunately, this work burned during a fire at Windsor Castle. The Prince of Wales asked him a few years ago that they might have to do it again soon.
Another challenging assignment was to recreate the zardozi ornamentation on one of the six thrones of Napoleon. A private collector in Paris had acquired one of the nearly forgotten thrones; the original embroidered upholstery was destroyed, and the only trace of what it used to look like was a portrait of the emperor standing beside his throne.
Lesage and his team enlarged to real size the photograph of the portrait, focusing on the throne; and slowly retraced each detail of the embroidery, rediscovered the imperial symbols, the bees, the laurels, the oak leaves and the decorative borders inspired by the Roman era to finally recreate an authentic empire style embroidery using real zari, gold bullion and gold sequins.
Closer home, The Park’s Priya Paul requested Lesage to reinvent an embroidered version of the Nizam era in Hyderabad at a luxurious suite of her futuristic hotel. “We embroidered a regal bed, mixing modern black vinyl used as canopies for the autorickshaws, treated it as a noble material mixing it with silver zardozi volutes and sculptural embroideries to finally create an incredible bed which would have impressed the Nizam himself,” he says.
They also re-embroidered lifesize portraits of the Nizam and his wife, as it was fashionable to do on the prints of Raja Ravi Varma in the early 20th century. It worked and gave to the suite an incredible ambience sketched successfully, a product verging between dream and reality, between the past and the present.
For the Vaux le Vicomte palace near Paris, they recomposed a royal embroidered décor piece, which had been destroyed over time. “The adaptation was like a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Scrupulously, we recomposed the entire décor, found back the original techniques and materials, discovered hidden embroideries lying under recent ones. At the end, the artisans managed to recompose the large number of missing elements so well that the owner of the castle, the Vicomte de Vogue and his curators, could no more distinguish the new from the old.” POPULAR EMBLEMS
Regarding the kind of patterns chosen by the royal courts, Lesage says, “Royal houses were originally ‘protectors’ against all possible troubles and innovations; they naturally identified themselves and were identified as ‘winners’. They chose strong emblems to show their supremacy and power, which is why the sun and moon, lion and tiger, bison and horse, eagle, cobra, thunder, rain, fire, ocean, crown and the sword were popularly chosen.
The common folk could not read but through these symbols the royal kings conveyed their message of authority. The artists of the time had to reinvent these symbols continuously to stay close to the royal patrons, without drying their creativity.
“The palette of colours, the audacious superposition of techniques have been mastered in India far better than any other region in the world, which is why it is for me and my IndoFrench team a permanent source of inspiration which we use in all our works from New York, Paris, London, Dubai or India,” says Lesage.
Regarding the future, he says it’s fine and necessary to continue to enrich Indian textile with contemporary creations as long as the minute and knowledgeable process is respected. “Modern should not mean easy, technology must remain a servant to the human genius, and the rules of the art must continue to be used as a strong base for contemporary invention,” he says. We agree. Long live craft.
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UNCANNY PAIRING OF HIDDLESTON AND WILSON PROPELS ‘LOKI’ TO A FASCINATING SPACE
The new Disney+ series “Loki” based on the Marvel Comics character Loki Odinson aka God of Mischief is yet another reminder why American television is on a roll. Loki is the latest proof that the small screen is going to be an important avenue for the further expansion of the major superhero franchises as we have already seen with WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Superman & Lois, and Zack Snyder’s Justice League. Loki takes place after the events of the film Avengers: Endgame (2019) with Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the mercurial Prince of Asgard. The six-episode series also stars Owen Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, and Tara Strong in pivotal roles. Now, like always, Marvel isn’t providing the bingeing option and so a new episode would be released every week. Viewers in India can watch the series on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.
The first two episodes made available to the critics globally that form the basis of this analysis do an effective job of introducing the world and setting the things in motion. But most importantly they succeed in establishing the character dynamics really well, particularly between Tom Hiddleston’s cocky and mischievous Loki and Owen Wilson’s cool and zany detective character Mobius M. Mobius. There are few actors around who can claim to be as charismatic as Wilson. But, in the recent years, he hasn’t been as prolific as we have known him to be. And it’s understandable given the state of American cinema which has completely been transformed by the superhero decade with superheroes raining cats and dogs. Before the 2010s, nobody was so sure about the future of the superhero films. But it all changed with the release of Iron Man 2 (2010) following which the Walt Disney Studios agreed to pay Paramount a whopping amount for the worldwide distribution rights to Iron Man 3 and The Avengers. And the rest, as they say, is history. Naturally, the superhero phenomenon didn’t augur too well for maverick actors like Wilson. But now that the makers are willing to experiment with the genre it has finally got the likes of Wilson interested. After all, a character like Mobius ought to be far more interesting for an actor like Wilson to explore than anything he probably would have been offered in the superhero space during the course of the last decade.
Marvel seems seriously committed to expanding the universe via the long form storytelling route. And really as audiences caught in a global pandemic we can’t really complain. Loki is the third consecutive spin-off series from Marvel after WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. And just like the previous two it also takes place after the events of Endgame. Now, we all remember that the God of Mischief had reformed before dying at the hands of Thanos. Fortunately for him, when The Avengers went back in time during Endgame an alternate version of Loki succeeded in escaping which resulted in the creation of a new timeline in 2012. Now, owing to this, this version of Loki bypasses the events of Thor: The Dark World (2013) or Thor: Ragnarok (2017), which had reformed the original character before he was choked to death by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War (2018).
So, obviously, this alternate version of Loki is the unreformed version of the God of Mischief. In other words, we have finally get our old Loki back after a long wait. After all, what’s the God of Mischief without his usual mischievousness and cunning? Who knows the unreformed Loki could have even got the better of Thanos? But, fortunately for Thanos, he never got to encounter this Loki. One wonders if this Loki would succeed in creating his characteristic menace in the new timeline. But, things are not as simple as he finds himself corned by the TVA. Yes, you read it right! No, TVA has nothing to do with Nick Fury or SHIELD (in case you are getting any wrong ideas). TVA basically stands for Time Variance Authority—a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of time and space and closely monitors the timeline. Basically they are the people you don’t want to mess with. But how do you do that? Well, it’s very simple! Just don’t try to mess up with time by being a “time variant”. Oh, Poor Loki! He simply has no idea that even the God of Mischief isn’t allowed to be mess up with time.
So this new Loki must now stand a trial as per the norms of TVA. Will he plead guilty? Or will he succeed in conjuring one of his famous mischiefs on the TVA? What role will Mobius, a TVA agent specializing in time criminals, play? Well, the first couple of episodes give us a fair idea where the series is headed. The uncanny pairing of Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson propels Loki to an unexplored but fascinating space. One hopes that the series will continue to explore the uncharted territories in the upcoming episodes as well. And with Michael Waldron, the Emmy-winning writer-producer of Rick and Morty, at the helm one shouldn’t expect anything less.
DILIP KUMAR DISCHARGED FROM HOSPITAL
MUMBAI: Veteran actor Dilip Kumar has been discharged from Mumbai’s PD Hinduja Hospital after undergoing pleural aspiration procedure.
The evergreen actor was admitted to the PD Hinduja hospital in Khar, Mumbai after complaining of breathlessness on Sunday. The megastar’s spokesperson on Friday took to the evergreen actor’s official Twitter account and thanked everyone for showering Kumar with their love and affection. “With your love and affection, and your prayers, Dilip Saab is going home from the hospital. God’s infinite mercy and kindness through Drs. Gokhale, Parkar, Dr. Arun Shah and the entire team at Hinduja Khar. –Faisal Farooqui #DilipKumar #healthupdate,” the tweet read.
The 98-year-old star went through a pleural aspiration procedure, to get fluid removed from his lungs. The same was informed by Kumar’s spokesperson on Twitter. “Thank you for your prayers. A successful pleural aspiration procedure was performed on Dilip Saab. I personally spoke to Dr Jalil Parkar and Dr Nitin Gokhale. They are optimistic that he will be discharged tomm (Thursday).- FF,” the tweet read.
A few days ago, the veteran star’s wife Saira Banu urged everyone not to believe in fake rumours related to the former’s health.
WHY KRITI CALLS ‘ADIPURUSH’ HER ‘MOST EXCITING PROJECT’
MUMBAI: Kriti Sanon says that the upcoming period drama “Adipurush” is one of her most exciting projects yet. At an interactive session with fans, a user asked her to talk about the film. “One of my most most exciting projects! Totally different experience. Loving every bit of it,” Kriti replied, along with a note for the fim’s director Om Raut: “@omraut can we resume soon.” The film is an adaptation of the “Ramayan”, where Telugu star Prabhas features as Lord Ram while Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan essays Ravan. Kriti Sanon will be seen as Sita. A fan also asked her to describe Telugu star Mahesh Babu in one word. Incidentally, Mahesh Babu was her co-star in her debut film, the 2014 superhit “1: Nenokkadine”. Kriti replied: “Best! My first ever co-star! So humble and so amazing. I hope I get to work with him again”. On handling success and failure, she said: “My Mantra: Never let success go to your head. Never let failure go to your heart.”A fan asked about release of her film “Mimi”, to which the actress said she cannot reveal but it will happen soon.
INCLUSIVENESS IN CLASSICAL MUSIC
I smiled and looked affectionately at the video of a little girl of five, one of the students of my music academy. She was doing some ‘Sargam’ patterns, which are patterns of musical notes taught in the early stages of classical music learning. The video was to be part of a virtual ‘Baithak’ or music congregation. The Baithak otherwise happens every year at a physical venue, but is forced by COVID to be online this year. As I watched the video, I realized that it was such a heart-warming sight to see this little human seated amidst two ‘gaddas’, or cushions, each double her size, to create an authentic Indian setting. She was wearing a ‘ghagra choli’, an Indian traditional outfit, and so endearingly trying her best to hit the notes right sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. As I watched with amusement and pride at her grit, I also saw something profound in her that is representative of each of us.
We all are innately musical even if we cannot understand music or cannot sing. There is something intrinsically divine about music that touches our souls. This is the reason we have so many people, musically learned and lay persons alike, gravitating towards some form of music, almost like sunflowers to the sun.
However, barring viewing imparting musical training and knowledge as only a commercial activity, I do not see any other reason motivating many professional classical musicians to teach and impart to the musically deprived or less talented. I am reminded once of a music teacher in a music school complaining that he ended up with a ‘bad lot’ of students who couldn’t sing and how one of his peers was ‘lucky’ that he had ‘capable’ students. And that it would have been tolerable if the pay was worth it. I wondered then, and do so even now, that if a person can already sing well, what then is the teacher’s role? This brought me to the gaping hole in the approach to imparting musical education.
In my opinion, there needs to be a lot more humility and compassion in the process of imparting classical music training. While one’s own training as a professional may have needed to be extremely tedious and rigorous, and might have been available only for the so called musically ‘abled’, the approach has to be drastically different for the lay person who longs to experience music. It has to be more inclusive and more forgiving.
First and foremost, there is a need to give up the notion that there is only one place of perfection in music. To me, even moving from being completely unable to hit a single key to being able to sing one note correctly is a point of perfection and needs to be celebrated. Perfection is an illusion. And this illusion is one that many of us musicians have ended up chasing mindlessly without noticing when moments of it happen right under our noses. As I have kept revisiting my views around this issue over the years, I have begun to notice beauty in small things within what I sing, hear and teach. And those moments make it all worthwhile.
There was once a student who came to me saying that she just loved music, but considered herself amusical, and described how she yearned to hit at least a single key right. She wasn’t wrong in her assessment. I watched, sometimes helplessly, for months as I tried to get her to hit a basic key correctly. I wondered whether I was chasing a pipe dream, and whether I ought to tell her that it might be wise for her to not waste any more time. But after months of tireless, tedious work, she finally hit the key right. And to me and to her, it was a moment of bliss that cannot be explained. It was an emotional moment for her, a huge turnaround in her self-esteem. She will most likely not go on to sing professionally or do anything significant with music in the outside world. But she has taken away a piece of music that means the world to her, much more than any ‘perfect’ piece of music she may hear.
The pursuit of music itself is the end. And in every moment of that pursuit lies the potential for happiness, for bliss. This is true not just for us classical music professionals, but for humanity as a whole. The sooner we realize this, the more easily will the divine beauty of music will become accessible to everyone.
HASEEN DILLRUBA: TAAPSEE SHINES IN LOVE TRIANGLE MURDER MYSTERY
Netflix has released first trailer of upcoming mystery thriller ‘Haseen Dillruba’, which stars Taapsee Pannu, Vikrant Massey and Harshvardhan Rane. The trailer looks promising, giving viewers a deeper look at the intriguing murder mystery.
The trailer, which gives a glimpse into the movie’s engaging storyline filled with love, lust and murder, is sure to leave fans excited. It was shared by Taapsee on her Instagram account with a caption that read, “Ek tha Raja, ek thi Rani, hui shuru ek khooni prem kahani. #HaseenDillruba.” The trailer of ‘Haseen Dillruba’, which features the actors indulge in a game of love, lust, deceit and murder, introduces the audience to Rani Kashyap (Taapsee Pannu) who is newly married to Rishu (Vikrant Massey).
A few seconds into the trailer, Rishu loses his life in an explosion and Rani becomes the prime suspect in the murder case. How did she end up as a murder suspect? There are also scenes of Rani’s affair with Harshvardhan’s character, her not being the ideal wife, and Rishu being suspicious of her intentions. The police, headed by CID star Aditya Srivastava, is confident of her being the murderer and now she has to prove herself innocent. The trailer, which features a powerful star cast and a gripping storyline along with a brilliant background score, teases a love triangle, dark humour and a twisty whodunit. Directed by Vinil Mathew, ‘Haseen Dillruba’ has been written by Kanika Dhillon. The film, which is set to premiere on July 2 has been produced by Anand L Rai’s Colour Yellow Production and T-Series. Speaking about the film, Vikrant said, “Haseen Dillruba is mix of humour, quirk, revenge and romance. I hope it surprises audience as much as it surprised me when I heard it first. It was an enthralling experience shooting for it. Let us all watch the mysteries unravel itself and learn important life lessons from our beloved Pandit Ji.”
WHAT MOMMIES CAN DO TO KEEP THEIR KIDS ACTIVE AND SAFE IN COVID TIMES
Gone are the days when we used to take our kids to a park or a fun picnic. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are stuck at home waiting for the world to re-open. With even adults often struggling with the prolonged work-from-home, it is understandable that children are finding the changed scenario bewildering. One of the many things children miss during this period of lockdown is the chance to go out and play. Unfortunately, that is a tad bit difficult in the current scenario. But that shouldn’t stop us from devising ways to include physical activity in our child’s routine.
Being active is essential for anyone and everyone to keep their minds engaged. We do not know if the pandemic is going to end anytime soon, so there are certain things we need to incorporate into our kids’ lifestyles to keep them active and healthy.
We should make it a point to engage our kids in fun activities as often as possible. I have a planned weekly schedule for my kids; we listen to new music, sing songs and talk about different music genres for one hour every Monday. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we paint together and I introduce them to different art forms. For my kids painting is a fun activity, but in the long run art helps kids express themselves and gain confidence. It also helps kids come up with positive emotional responses to stressful situations, which is what is needed in the current scenario.
Also, if you live in a safe environment with open spaces, I recommend going cycling with your kids to keep them active and relieve stress. Playing board games with your kids a few times a week also promotes family time and strengthens your bond with your children. It also helps them build their communication skills and, at times, helps them learn to fail. If you let your children win, you deny them the opportunity to learn from failure. Instead, praise the efforts they have put in, and encourage a conversation about what went wrong, and they’ll begin to see that failure is teaching them to succeed.
Further to the above activities, you should also involve your kids in helping you out with community service. I often involve my kids in my community initiatives to sensitise them about what is going on in the world and how they can help make the world a better place.
On a separate note, experts are predicting a third wave sooner or later, and lots of parents have concerns when it comes to the safety of their children. We certainly cannot avoid this wave but what we need to do to deal with this impending third wave is build our kids’ immunity with the help of physical activity and a nutritional diet. We should ensure our kids exercise every day, in any form they like. Further, we must incorporate almonds, fruits, vegetables, protein (egg or paneer) and yoghurt into our child’s diet. I do not recommend over-doing it with kadha. Although it is known to aid the body’s ability to fight infections by boosting immunity, excess of anything can be harmful. According to experts, anything more than the specified quantity can lead to health issues ranging from constipation to an increase in body heat. Further, since no child likes to eat basic food every day, we should try out new recipes to recreate restaurant food at home. Avoid ordering food from outside, and most importantly, cut down on visitors to avoid unnecessary exposure.
To conclude, I strongly feel it is imperative to pique the curiosity of our kids and to encourage a healthy lifestyle. They say it takes 21 days to make or break a habit, so imagine what months of regular learning, activity and a healthy diet can do for your child’s future!
The writer a well-knwon mom blogger and influencer.
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