For the Love of Makeup!!

If I were to blog about everything I love, it would be totally unfair to leave out my most frequently exhibited form of art, MAKEUP!!

My favorite aspect of going out, shopping, experimenting and reviewing is makeup. I love blending colours and looks together. Colours and tones can instantly fix any kind of mood swing. I absolutely believe that there is nothing that a perfectly winged eyeliner and a bright coloured lipstick can’t fix.

Since i’m not a great artist on paper or canvas, my face has always been my experimental space.

But today i’m going to blog about stage makeup. Its obviously completely different from the regular everyday makeup, but it brings about an equal amount of satisfaction.

Makeup and prep for stage is a long and precise process. It takes hours to build on the layers of makeup that will brighten your face and keep it that way throughout a very demanding stage performance. The top layer of stage makeup usually melts away with the focus of harsh lights on the dancer’s face. Hence its essential for stage makeup to be much thicker and longer lasting than regular makeup.

A lot of artists completely mask their natural features and draw enhanced and exaggerated features for stage. Its always hilarious to see people’s reactions when they come to see me backstage.

Most indian classical dance forms use no props or sets on stage. So most of the expression and communication is done through the face and particularly, through the eyes. Exaggerated eyes are drawn so that the viewer in the last row of an auditorium to be able to connect with the dancer on stage.

For most of my time as a dancer, I’v had other people do my makeup for me. Initially it was my mom’s best friend who spent hours dressing me up and then its been different makeup artists working on me.

While thats been fun, I’m now trying to master the art of stage makeup myself. So here’s a quick look at some of my makeup trials. 🙂

STATUTORY WARNING: The makeup looks are not for the faint hearted and were intended for stage.


A Blend of Reality and Fantasy

A classroom full of Odissi dancers. Each one experienced and determined to make the best of the week long dance workshop at NCPA (National Center for Performing Arts, Mumbai). I was late and so I dropped my bag and quickly joined everyone trying to keep up with their speed and vigor. Right in the front of the class I saw her, clapping, narrating the taal and checking each of our movements. 

Awe-inspiring Sujata Mohapatra

She had big eyes that looked straight into mine while she nodded to acknowledge my presence. That was her! Sujata Mohapatra……the name I have googled, you tubed, researched and dreamt about for years. I was like a teenager with a crush. Every time Sujata aapa looked at me my heart skipped a beat and I felt 400 butterflies fly around simultaneously in my tummy.  

As I danced, I acquainted myself to the place and the people around me. We were 22 dancers from different parts of the world and probably spoke a dozen different languages but each and every one of us knew the steps like we had always been classmates. 

New experiences and new friendship 🙂
Sujata aapa’s voice beamed through the room as I struggled to keep up with her pace. She walked us through the schedule of the workshop. The workshop was a part of the Mudra dance festival that took place simultaneously at the NCPA theaters. NCPA was the brainchild of JRD Tata and Dr Jamshed Bhabha, two visionaries who saw India’s need for an all-encompassing performing arts centre and built NCPA in 1969 on land reclaimed from the sea.  There was something very artistic about this. Art and culture add character to a city and NCPA does that for Mumbai. Even if it had to be on reclaimed land 🙂 We rehearsed in the Sea View room of the TATA theatre. And the view from there was undoubtedly spectacular.

 Sujata aapa taught us an abhinay (theatrical dance) piece called ‘Braja ku chora‘. It is a beautiful enactment of a mother’s effort to put her little one to bed. She tries to frighten, threaten, pamper and sing for him in an attempt to make him sleep. Dance has the power to express thoughts and ideas that sometimes even words fall short of. Specially when the dancer is as effortless and convincing as Sujata Mohapatra. 
This year’s dance festival was themed on motherhood. A beautifully conceived concept that speaks of the relationship a dancer shares with her mother. A relationship built on gratitude and gratefulness from the dancer and support and encouragement from the mother. Yet there comes a point in most dancers lives where she fears the commitment motherhood requires and often decides to live a life solely dedicated to her art.
The Mudra dance festival highlighted this disconnect between dancers and mothers by laying a platform for a fresh genre of performing artists. The mother and child duos. Day one of the festival was marked by a performance by Jhelum Paranjape. She paid homage to her mother, who she recently lost, while she danced to songs sung by her son Bunkim Paranjape. It was heartwarming to see them perform together, support each others art forms and understand each others creative independence.  A mother who danced to her son’s tune….quite literally!

Sujata and Preetisha Mohapatra (top right); Experimental Theater at NCPA (bottom right and top left); Jhelum and Bunkim Paranjape (bottom left)
On the last day of the dance festival we watched Sujata Mohapatra and her daughter Preetish Mohapatra dance together. It was hard at times to identify which one of them was the mother and which was the daughter. A great compliment for both the teacher and her student or in this case for a mother and her daughter.  It was a perfect end to this beautiful festival. 

There is an aura in every dancer that makes you want to believe everything they say and do. Its the ease with which they blend fantasy and reality that makes you want to agree with them. I witnessed this when they spoke about balancing motherhood with a career. ‘Show your audience the pleasure of dancing and not the effort thats behind it’. A motto that every dancer tries to live by. Sujata aapa explained motherhood to us with the same ease. Its a picture only a dancer can paint.

The entire experience was particularly special for me as I watched the show with my mother. She’s the reason I was, am and always will be a dancer. So thank you again Ma for always watching over me like its my 1st time on stage. Love you. Happy belated mother’s day!

Make the outdoors a part of the household

I’v spent most of my life in Oman. My dad moved in 1973 to a very promising Oman full of opportunities. Most of our early life in oman was spent making it feel like home. My parents always kept us very connected to our indian roots. At that time, most expat families living in Oman led a very disconnected life from anything local.  We hardly ever ate arab food, never spoke arabic and rarely interacted with the locals. So everytime I think back, I wonder what was it that made Oman always feel like home?

In 2004, I moved to Bangalore for college. It was a strange yet exciting change from the uber comfortable life we live in Oman. Strange because you feel like an outsider in your own country. When we discussed life in the middle east there was always one thing that stood out. Kids from most other cities of the world did not go on picnics as often as I did.

One my favorite clicks at Quriyat, Oman
I cant believe we managed to line up for a pic 🙂

My best childhood memories usually looped around the camps, picnics, desert safaris and hot water spring visits in Oman. The excitement of waking up on a friday morning to go on a picnic was so unique. Just the thought of it brings a smile on my face.

We never felt the need for water parks since we had Falajes and Wadis. We didn’t have an indoor mountain climbing wall but we had our wadi treks and who ever needed an olympic size swimming pool when we had the beautiful beaches all around us.  Only when I think back do I realise how amazing every one of those experiences were. It never occurred to me before I moved out of Oman.

Building sand castles = Instant fun

Despite the food, language and cultural differences, Oman’s spectacular landscapes have welcomed people of all ethnicities with open arms.

Oman’s natural beauty only seems to get better as the years go by. Sometimes we really need to take a good look at what we see around us. 

Take a Shot at it

2 months since my last blogpost. Its been long and eventful I must say. Since the time I’v begun blogging (or calling myself a blogger), I feel like its important to live a more blog-worthy life. Its like the need to add twists and turns like in a soap opera. But I think I’ll keep away from the amnesia and plastic surgery scenes for a while 😉

2014 started on a great note. I was a part of an Odissi dance team and we travelled and performed in Vizag (Vishakapatnam), India. Needless to say, I had an absolutely fantastic time. The experience was the first of its kind for me in so many ways. To begin with i’v never before had a chance to brag about travelling for a performance. Made me feel like a hoity-toity film star!

The dance festival was organized for indian classical dancers living and performing outside India. We expected to meet lots of indian dancer like ourselves, who connect to their culture through their dances. What we didn’t expect were Russian, Iranian and Kazakh dancers drawn to India by their sheer love for indian classical dance. How madly in love should you be to be able to let go of everything and just live for dance? Their comfort with everything indian left me amazed. Believe me,  it confuses the hell out of you when you see a russian girl sing a Shloka with the same familiarity that she would sing “Jingle Bells”.

 (Clockwise from top) Eleonora Ukhanova  and her daughter from Russia during their Bharatnatyam Performance;  ; Naznin Baygani from Iran performed Odissi ; Kasiet Adilkhanova from Kazakhstan

‘Follow you dream and success will follow you’

Such a cliché. We’ve all heard it too many times. But is it really that easy to let go. The lure of a regular income always lurks in the corner. My respect for performing artist of any kind goes up twofold everytime I think of it. In a world where people are so quick to judge and ridicule, putting yourself out there is one of the hardest things to do. Everyone needs gratification for their work but what assures the appreciation. When I look at art that has transcended the life of its artist, I always wonder if the artist knew this would happen.

Jayadeva is a poet who lived in the 12th century. His lyrical genius, ‘The Gitagovinda‘ has taught me how to imagine, how to understand, how to express and how to exist. Did he as an artist, at anytime, predict that his art carries this power?

I’m glad they made a choice that inspires people like me. And kudos to every artist who has mustered the courage to pave their own path. 

So keep dancing, painting, singing, writing and creating in any way you can. All in all…keep the right brain alive 🙂

Keep it Simple

Yup…Its gonna be 27 years since I set foot on this earth (well not literally).

The past year has had a bunch of great and not so great moments. But I’m filled with optimism and positivity as I stand on the cusp of my 26th and 27th year. 

Times are changing and so are we. Our emotions and expressions were reduced to Facebook statuses a few years back and now, they are trapped in little smiley emojis. 

Happiness is a bountiful emotion. It’s when I laugh so loud that I scare the person sitting next to me. Stories are hilarious when they make me grunt and laugh at the same time. Laughter that hurts my tummy and pushes me to a point where I don’t know if I’m laughing or crying!

Now we’v combined all these emotions and made a ‘LOL’ and an ‘ROFL’ out of it. 

As a dancer, I was groomed to put myself out there.  To let every emotion flow and to not hold back one bit. In exchange my audience applauds my performance. How disheartening would it be to wait for my audience to just click on a ‘Like’ button at the end of a show. 

Your not actually at a place unless you ‘Check In’. Your dressing up is really not worth the effort unless you Instagram a ‘Selfie’. In the battle between real and virtual worlds we are missing out on the tiny things that give us big smiles. 

My blog is my diary of thought that I think are appropriate enough to share with the world. So before my 27th birthday, Im going to list out things that make me happy/ ecstatic/ over excited!! I don’t know what life has in store for us. So I want to make a record in my blog that, back in the day, I did actually feel things.

So here goes….Occurrences that make me wanna sing and whistle. Things that involve all my 6 senses and make me want to LOL and ROFL and be like WTF every time I feel them.

# The sense of achievement when you crack a perfect yolk on a pan. Its an act that determines the quality of my day. Its the feeling that makes the taste so so much better.

# The smell of sweat after a long, hard workout accompanied by a big sip of cold water. Its when adrenaline and endorphin are jumping around hand in hand. Indescribable high! 

# When an old friend calls and reminds you of a crazy time you’ll shared together. The conversation begins with “remember the time when…..” and end with stomach gripping laughter.

# When you find an old notebook and find little notes written on the last page of the book. Its particularly awesome when you find a conversation between you and a friend about the class bitch!

# A smudge-free, blotch-free stroke of my eyeliner on attempt number one. I always take a victory sip after that one. Sipping a drink while dressing up is one of my favorite things to do. 

# I have a series of car situations that I pray happen to me at least once in my life.
a) I turn on the car and have the ultimate dance number playing
b) I get 2 or more green traffic lights in a row
c) Get a parking spot right by the mall entrance. Awesome!!

# Your friend cracks you up and you laugh so hard that your beverage/food comes out of your nose. (thats an undisputed ROFL moment)

# When you feel a raw, unrestricted expression of love. Hugs so tight that you cant breath. When you have a 100000 things to say but all you want to do is just hug and let yourself feel it. 
Its always overwhelming when I see my dogs. I let them push me down and kiss me, lick me, scratch me as much as they want. Its when I hear them cry in happiness.

# Skip a meal and then go bonkers on the next meal. Place an order big enough to feed a village and smile innocently at the server. Such satisfaction!

# When a random stranger compliments you. No number of ‘Facebook likes’ are comparable to that feeling. Its particularly cool when this happens in a foreign land. Feels like acceptance wrapped in appreciation 🙂 

# When you are nearing the end of a book and plan to read it again just so you don’t have to let go.

# You open your fridge to a bottle of Nutella and promise yourself to stop after one spoon.
Note: Make funny noises as you eat it…I promise it tastes better.

# After 10000 attempts of one dance step and you finally get it right. Aaahhhhh!!!….It makes you want to dance all night.

# Watch a chick flick and theres no one watching you. Its the perfect moment to bawl your eyes out with no judgement.

# The fragrance of mustard, curry leaves and red chilly popping in hot oil. Its like south India knocking on my door.

# Reciting every dialogue of Andaz Apna Apna scene by scene, shot by shot. (I even know the pauses.) I secretly judge people who dislike the movie or worse…..have never watched it. (WHAAAAT??)

# Finding an old picture of myself. When my fashion sense was a -2 on a scale of 1 to 10. When facial hair was the least of my worries. And when I waited a month for the film roll to be cleaned.

# Finding money I never knew was lost. What a fantabulous moment!

# Feeling greedy for the last few crumbs of Oman Chips! I’v torn multiple packets while trying to pick up every last bit of it. There is never enough Oman Chips in the world.

# Singing really really loud in your car like no one else exists. Its hilarious when you catch people staring at you at a traffic light. 

Thats my incomplete list of simple pleasures in life. 

The most important thing is to enjoy your life – to be happy – it’s all that matters. – Audrey Hepburn

Earth Connection 2

Well garnished and beautifully presented food at a restaurant hides the irresponsible story of food waste generated everyday. The scale of the problem is pretty huge and home composting is only a tiny step towards a responsible and sustainable life we all ought to live. 

Composting was traditionally done in large pits dug up in the backyard of a house. The day’s wet waste was dumped into it along with dried leaves from the garden. At first, it sounded hectic and tedious. How could a large scale concept like composting be adoptable in our fast paced, space restricted lives? 

After some reading and research, I decided to start with a compost tumbler. Compost tumblers are widely used in western countries to manage organic waste. 

Yard Compost Tumbler

The key to successful composting is to get the right mix of greens and brown. Your kitchen waste makes up the green component and dried leaves, paper, sawdust etc makes up the brown. I tried different ratios of the 2 and finally got to the right mix. 

A plastic drum, aerated on all sides to allow ample oxygen for the compost pile to breath. I applied the logic and with my DIY enthusiasm made my 1st plastic composter. 

Attempt 1 :
I used a plastic bucket and punched holes in it for aeration.

Everyday, I segregated the kitchen and pooja waste in a box and put it into the composter along with dried leaves. 

In a weeks time I saw the bucket heat up quite a bit as the decomposition began. I noticed a lot of brown liquid discharge. Also known as leachate. About 80% of our organic waste is water which is discharged in the form of leachate during decomposition. 
Unlike western homes, we cook alot more. Over the next few weeks, it was difficult to manage the amount of liquid being secreted from the pile.

Our food and waste has a much higher water content than western homes. 
Right now we spend invaluable fuel to haul away nothing but gallons of water from our homes.  

Lesson learnt: Stop aping the west.   

Composter 1 and 2

Attempt 2:
I decided to move to a bigger composter. This time I pierced holes at the base too. This was easier to manage as better aeration made it a more pleasant experience. 

The composter was too big for me to mix the entire pile without assistance. 

Lesson learnt: Short people could tumble into tall composters.

Attempt 3:
 I came across a design for a teracotta (‘baked earth’ in Italian) composter. This product was perfect since Oman has a rich pottery heritage and culture. 
I got the pots made by an Omani potter with Omani clay making it a 100% local product. 
The 3 tiers separate the organic waste into 3 stages of decomposition. The pots are used in rotation making it easy to manage just enough waste in one pot at a time.

 The biggest advantage of this composter is the material it’s made of. Terracotta by nature is a porous material that absorbs any liquid that it is in contact with. 

Excess leachate gets absorbed by the composter walls and the added aeration speeds up the process by 3 weeks.

Lesson learnt: Go back to the basics 🙂

These 2 composters were small and fit snugly in the corner of my backyard.

I got a little braver with my next set of composters and made them a little bigger in size. These composters were bigger, perfectly aerated and had a surprisingly pleasant smell. 
I gave 2 sets to my friends to try out and I painted mine myself. I named him my Green Bin. 
In bright yellow and green he stands proudly in my front porch composting our days organic waste into nutritious, beautiful black gold.

Photo credits: Guru Acharya
Reluctant model: Devang Sampat

So there….I finally brought home the perfect organic waste composter. It feels pretty awesome when I see my mother-in-law casually discard her used tea bags in the wet waste bin.  We are a family of green warriors taking baby steps towards sustainable living. 

I learnt a few tip and tricks along the way. Managing organic waste is now necessary and extremely fulfilling to me. I cant stop talking about how much I’m enjoying the experience and I’d like to share it with everyone I know. 

Composting is like tasting an ice cream for the 1st time in ur life. You can’t explain the rush you feel unless you experience it yourself 🙂 

Bollywood Saga

A part of being indian is the fact that Bollywood forms a big part of my life. I’v grown up watching comedy classics and dancing to Bollywood numbers at weddings. Not one family dinner conversation goes without a reference to Andaaz Apna Apna, Angoor or Golmaal.

For decades now indian movies have followed a thumb rule. Make everything appear larger than life. Bright colors, hunky actors, stunning actresses, dance, music, weddings, love, fights and everything else that makes our hearts race. Budgets of movies have now reached soaring heights resulting in Box office revenues like never before. 

Big budget movies with big returns. Theses movies are collectively called the ‘100 crore movies’. That amounts to $16,264,129 as per todays conversion rate!! Revenues of these movies are calculated in multiples of a 100 crores.

Theres got to be a reason how these movies do so well. A formula thats works time and again. A closer look at these movies and I noticed the similarities they share.

So here goes…10 points to make a 100 crore rupees.

1. An actor who has come to terms with the fact that his acting talent will not be utilized in the movie. He meets the prerequisites of good looks and sports six pack abs. He effortlessly delivers over confident dialogues written for his character.

2. An actress who dislikes the hero at first and then gets swept off her feet by his muscles that can tear his shirt when he flexes. A perfect village belle or a damsel in distress.

3. A script-writer who has mastered the skill of separating logic and intellect from a story. He needs to also have the added talent to add fart jokes to ‘strengthen the script’.

4. A recently imported dancer, preferably from Eastern Europe or Russia, capable of lip syncing meaningless hindi lyrics. She’s obviously more glamorous and provocative than the main actress and has an appropriately picked out name such as Munni, Laila, Chameli, Pinky, Sheila.

5. A song written and sung by the very talented YoYo (first name) Honey-Singh (last name). A song unfit to be sung/heard with kids around.

6. A director who can include gravity defying stunts in fights, songs and comedy. He’s probably south indian, making it easier for him to understand the language of the movie he is replicating.

7.  At least a 100 background dancers, forced to suppress their skills to match the challenging belt movement steps finally mastered by the actor. For the extremely talented actors, choreographers have come up with synchronized cheek movement instead of steps.

8.  One main bafoon-ish villain with at least 10 south indian side kicks. They are brought in just to get beaten up by a hero half their size. As dark complexioned as possible, casted merely based on the size of their bellies.

9. A disclaimer that asks viewers to leave their brains at home. This is done because the director has gone through the effort of using his brains in school and understand the exhaustion it causes.

10. A well connected PR company that will make sure the cast is on the sets of every reality show on TV. The songs will be at clubs, on the radio, as ringtones and at every wedding Sangeet. There will come a point when you will catch yourself humming songs about Sheila’s jawani while driving to work.

PS: If all the above points don’t make enough of an impact, a false scandal ought to do it. So throw one of those in too.

This formula is then applied to an innocent viewer who  has been exposed to so much information about the movie 3 months prior to release. He feels like a social outcast for not watching the movie and then convinces himself that the movie deserves Rs 250 of his hard earned money.

Put them all together and you have a whopping 100 crore collection in the 1st week of the movies release!!

There you go…..10 rules to make a 100 crore rupees. This is what we should be taught at business schools.

My dad reminisces about Bollywood in the 70s. He calls them “my-time-movies”. These movies are masterpieces with flawless direction by Hrishikesh Mukherji and Gulzar. Simple yet powerful acting by Amol Palekar, Uttpal Dutt and Sanjeev Kumar. They did what cinema today has forgotten. 4 actors, a strong script and a familiar background score. Thats all it took to make movies that I am blogging about 30 years after they’s been released.  

Makes me really wonder what would happen if the movies from the 70s released now. Would their simplicity still strike us or are we all attuned to the ’10 points to 100 Crores Formula’ ?