Bespoke dinners, sea-themed spa treatments a�� the InterContinental Chennai seems well worth the wait
YouA�know your resort means business when, instead of rose petals or chocolate on your pillow, the nightly turndown ritual involves a note from the weatherman. Fortunately for us (my first-grader is with me and she has her sights on the lounge pool), we are promised clear skies the next day, with nary a cloud in sight. The layout of the hotel a�� 14 acres of which only half is built-up and the rest landscaped a�� is designed for star-gazing a�� at the Gatsby lounge with its Mediterranean-style performance space, dinner outdoors in the hotela��s quadrangle, midnight chocolate on the beach, the spa that comes with open-air showers and, when we turn in for the night, at our suite with its own little courtyard. No wonder then, that we sleep right through the yoga hour the next morning. But the InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort, which officially launches today, has other shorcuts to bliss. The freestanding wooden bathtub at the far end of the suite reimagines a coracle and with delicious La��Occitane toiletries from the Mer line (discreet nods to the sea continue across the property), wea��re good to go exploring.
Take the tour
There are references to the UNESCO World Heritage sitea��s temples and carvings from the reception onwards a�� expansive, with a seven metre long stone counter, timber ceiling and a bas-relief of an Indian city settlement, Nandyavarta. Athangudi tiles go on for miles, and therea��s delightful restraint when it comes to the furniture a�� just enough seating to be functional without sacrificing the impact of large, open spaces. The long walkway that overlooks the lotus pond on one side and the pool on the other is a great setting for celebratory events a�� tonighta��s launch party, for instance. And the path to the beach, seemingly a hop and a skip away, includes a sculpture of the sun god. It appears the citya��s favourite art expert, Sharan Apparao, has been busy here as well. When not making food or spa appointments, guests can plan a quick trip to Pondicherry, two hours way. Vijay Kumar Singh, the well-travelled general manager of the hotel and resident expert on the Maldives a�� therefore an authority on luxe, tranquil, sandy refuges as well a�� points out that the advantages of a resort over a city hotel is that guests are mentally prepared to unwind. a�?I have guests who spend all their days here following the pool-meals-pool routine and ita��s great,a�? he says. But if you want more, the hotela��s director of marketing, Karuna Amarnath, has already set up a network of activities that range from surfing and temple walks to, soon, brunch with theatre. All thata��s required are sunny days ahead. And that is why, given how meteorological norms were turned upside down last month, the weather update on your pillow is a nice touch, indeed.
Therapists here admit that there have had days packed with 30 or more guests waiting to try out the Amritam spa by Escenza at the hotel. And this is even before the launch date. While other luxury properties along the East Coast have their share of spas, this centre has treatments by international brands like Aroma Associates and Thalion. Sign up for Swedish, Deep tissue, Thai and Ayurveda therapies. The rooms are well-appointed, with couple suites and private steam rooms. Treatments begin at Rs 4,000 ++ for a full body massage, and there are options for little divas as well. I tried a foot massage that was quick, thorough and well-scented. But then again, at a beach resort like this, digging your toes into the sand as the reef lights twinkle, is just as therapeutic.
As you like it
The hotela��s best kept secret is executive chef Ashis Kumar, who used to be at the wellness retreat, Ananda In The Himalayas. Kumar promises handcrafted food and bespoke experiences across the property. We dined on fresh sea bass with crispy skin, linguine and scallops, and different textures of chocolate for dessert. But he insists we return to try his signatures a�� the Tasting of Lamb, featuring pistachio-crusted lamb chops and an 8-hour lamb confit; and the NH203 Highway Mutton Curry, a recipe borrowed from dhabas near Puri, his hometown. The latter, a rustic gravy of chilli and mustard oil, is cooked in an earthen pot on charcoal and the vessel is destroyed the next day (as its earthy flavour would have disappeared).A� Besides Melting pot, the all-day diner, Tao of Peng, the Hunan and Cantonese restaurant, is opening soon, followed by a grills restaurant by the bay. Breakfast buffet at Rs 899++, lunch at Rs 1,499 ++, dinner Rs 1,799++
Need to know The Madras Crocodile Bank is right next door, with a popular night safari on weekends. At 7 pm, but book a day earlier with Vineet at 8489514463.
InterContinental Chennaia��s tariff is from Rs 12,000 ++ onwards for standard rooms and Rs 20,000 ++ for the suites. Details: 71720101
In Andala��s Garden studies both the architecture and texts at the temple in Srivilliputhur
I must admit. A lot of the fine details that Archana Venkatesan is telling me about are a little beyond my comprehension. She is after all an is associate professor of comparative literature and religious studies at the University of California, and an expert on early medieval poetry and the texts in South Indian temples. Also an author, she has been researching the Srivilliputhur Andal Temple since 1995. She is talking to me about her next book, In Andala��s Garden, published by the Intach Chennai Chapter and Marg, and set to release at Amethyst tomorrow evening, after which it heads to the Jaipur Literature Festival. a�?The book is about the temple, the crafts that survive because of it and the city and its fabric being intertwined with it,a�? explains Sujatha Shankar, convenor, Intach Chennai Chapter, adding that the book has been coauthored by Venkatesan and Crispin Branfoot, a senior lecturer in South Asian art and archaeology at SOAS, University of London, and expert on the architecture of South India from the 14th to the 20th century, who has also been researching the temple independently since 1995.
The two authors met in Oxford in 2013 and started exchanging notes on their expertise. This is when they realised that looking at just the architecture of a temple does not reveal its dynamic nature. a�?Understanding the space and how the people and the deity move in it, will help people re-imagine temples,a�? says Venkatesan, citing a small example. a�?If you look at just the architecture, you will think it borrows from the Madurai temple. But examine the texts and you will see that the inscriptional evidence predates the Madurai temple.a�? In a nutshell, this book is a first of its kind case study that looks at the temple from a kaleidoscopic point of view. Featuring the story of the poet Andal to the how the temple is designed around her, this book is also illustrated with 166 photographs by Clare Arni.
The book is priced at Rs.A�2,800 (Rs. 1,700 at the launch, tomorrow, at Amethyst). Details: 45991600 a�� Ryan Peppin
An ace photographer and Michelin star chef team up to teach you how to style and capture food like a pro
If you cannot resist the urge to whip out your camera and start clicking before you tuck into your perfectly-plated dessert, do we have news for you. Award-winning photographer Sharad Haksar and London-based Michelin star chef Alfred Prasad (who is in the city on vacation) are organising a workshop on how to make food look good. And if you sign up for it, you will be supporting a cause, as proceeds from the workshop go towards the flood relief work carried out by Bhoomika Trust. a�?Facebook is flooded with food pictures and of late, we have noticed that there is some correlation between people who like food also liking photography,a�? says Haksar, adding that this workshop stemmed from the idea of doing a shoot of a landscape combined with a market visit, cooking and the final product. a�?We were thinking of a coffee table book,a�? says Haksar, who is convinced that his next exhibition needs to have a story behind every picture. a�?Lots of behind the scenes with travel experiences and all. This is the way to go. People want to know how a picture was taken. What the weather was like, etc,a�? he adds.
Dilemma of megapixelsA� While Haksar shoots with a professional Phase One camera, he insists that therea��s really no need to spend on expensive equipment, if you know how to take good pictures. a�?Any camera thata��s 10 megapixels or above can give you large images,a�? he says, adding, a�?I have even used a Gionee camera phone to take professional pictures during my shoot in Japan.a�? Any DSLR or an iPhone are more than sufficient for food photography, Haksar assures.
The coffee table book will materialise soon enough wea��re sure, for now we quiz Haksar about the workshop and this is what he says. a�?Prasad will make about three to four dishes and show you how to plate and style them to make them interesting. Some dishes have a lot of texture and some dona��t. Wea��ll talk about different textures and the suitable lighting for each,a�? he says. So does this mean that participants will be learning the nitty-gritties of working with flashes and setting up lights? a�?I dona��t use a flash. Ia��ve never bought one in my life,a�? is Haksara��s reply. a�?We will tech participants to work with available light at home and in restaurants,a�? he says, adding that a few techniques like using tracing paper will also be taught. Post the workshop, participants will be given an exercise to evaluate what they have learnt, and the good news is that you dona��t have to bring a camera along. a�?We will provide the equipment for the exercise,a�? he says.
Tomorrow, from 10 am to 3 pm at GRT Convention Centre. Rs.A�4,580 per person (inclusive of lunch). Details: firstname.lastname@example.org, 9841141311
Pandiraj is stepping out of his comfort zone in Kathakali. The director, who has a penchant for children-centric themes, is tackling a murder mystery. The Pongal releasea��touted as an edge-of-the-seat thrillera��has the fresh teaming of Vishal and Catherine Tresa. Chronicling the mysterious happenings of a day, the story begins with a phone call that changes a persona��s life. Wea��ll soon know if the director is skilful with the suspense-thriller genre, too.
Vikranth is elated. The actor has been getting positive feedback for his portrayal of Marcos in Gethu, the Pongal release. a�?When Udhayanidhi called me to ask if I was interested in playing the antagonist in his film, I had no hesitation, as he is a friend. It was when I was told that it was a a�?stylisha�� character that I doubted whether I could carry it off,a�? he recalls. But his doubts are assuaged now. a�?Every actor likes to look stylish and good on screen and this has been my best look so far,a�?A� he adds.
a�?It cannot be encapsulated in words, it is an experience,a�? says Sashikumar, when asked how it was working with his mentor, director Bala, in Thaarai Thappattai. He adds that it was a rare privilege when Bala chose him to play the lead. In the filma��centered on the lives of folk artistesa��Sashikumar essays a character a�?who knows to play a variety of musical instrumentsa�?. The Pongal release has Varalakshmy essaying the female lead. With Balaa��s penchant for character-detailing, the film should be an interesting watch.
Promising chills and thrills, Stray Factory gets ready to debut its new web fiction series
The gang at Stray Factory is never satisfied. In their six-year journey, the theatre group has ventured into comedy, spoof videos and creating performance spaces (Stray Studio). Now, founder Mathivanan Rajendran is taking them a new way, with a web series. a�?Our videos were going viral (remember South of India?), but we realised the story-telling wasna��t working for us. We wanted to tell longer stories, but didna��t know what,a�? shares Rajendran. A conversation with aspiring city-based director Hariharan, gave him the idea to look at horror. a�?After comedy, scary videos are what we share the most digitally. But instead of plain horror, we thought wea��d give it a spina��build the series around urban legends,a�? adds the fan of The Twilight Zone.
In a collaboration with Culture Machine, their first eight-episode seriesa��based on real storiesa��is set to go live on the Rascalsa�� YouTube channel in the first week of February. a�?Wea��ve roped in fresh faces for the cast and wea��ve got a great team of technicians, too. Sync Sound, who did the sound for the film Maya, is on board, as is publicist Amudhan Priyan, who is doing Siddhartha��s next film, Jil Jung Juk,a�? says the 31-year-old. However, the going has been tough, with the biggest challenge being identity. As a channel based in the South, they had to figure out how to give the stories a pan-India appeal. a�?Language is an issue, too. We want to follow the format of a film like Ahalya, where you really dona��t understand the language, but it makes sense. We are looking at something with Tamil, Hindi and English in it,a�? says Rajendran, who is also scripting it. The first episode, set in south Chennai, promises to explore the most basic urban myth.
With Rajit Kapur, Shernaz Patel and others from Mumbai, Rage Productionsa�� latest promises comedy with a healthy dose of satire
In the words of the redoubtable Rajit Kapur, the second part of One on Onea��which loops together several short playsa��is a collage of modern India. And for actor-director Puja Sarup, the production a�?is a dosa platter, of many dosas, different chutneys and sambhar.a�?
Like its previous edition, the Rage Productionsa�� play will see a bunch of artistic talent come together in the form of playlets, lasting 12 to 15 minutes, in one evening. Even as veterans like Rajit Kapur andA� Akarsh Khurana return with newer directorial pieces, new additions like Sarup are a part of the ensemble.
Short & sweet
In its Chennai debut, the play will include seven playlets in Hindi and English, says Kapur. Are they an attempt to lure in audiences with brief attention spans? a�?That is likely the last reason,a�? says the actor, who immortalised detective Byomkesh Bakshi on television. a�?Sometimes, there are wonderful pieces of writing that are not a full play. And still, they say so much. This is primarily an effort to bring them on stage,a�? explains Kapur, who has acted and directed a monologue, Nobody, in this medley. a�?This collage is a great idea which allows more peoplea��be it writers, directors or actorsa��to be on one platform,a�? he adds.
Khurana, who has directed two plays in the second edition, says the production will make for an interesting evening of variety. Majnu, his Hindi and Urdu play, is a soulful piece on the futility of wara��shown through the story of two soldiers in Kashmir. The second, a more fun, contemporary piece, Lights, Camera, Action, is a day in the life of a harried producer in Bollywood, who finds himself a victim of the system.
Sarup has directed a piece for this production on the final moments of a bride before she enters matrimony. Speaking of her monologue Dulhaniya, played by Shikha Talsania, she says it is festive on the surface, but therea��s more to it. On a personal level, the play was exciting because she worked on it when she was a bride-to-be. Speaking of the production, she says it carries a medley of different moods with an amazing ensemble of actors. a�?As an audience, there will be at least one piece that will draw you,a�? she says.
Theatre artist Anu Menon is also part of the production, with a monologue Ia��m every woman. a�?Ita��s on motherhood, womanhood, her good days and bad days and everything in between,a�? says the actor, popular in her TV avatar as Lolakutty, adding that she is excited to have worked with Faezeh Jalali, a director with a different style. a�?She is known for movement-oriented plays. There was so much moving about on stage that, during rehearsals, I didna��t work out at all,a�? she says. The event, brought down by Cherry Pick Ventures, is in aid of flood relief and stars Neil Bhoopalam, Hussain Dalal, Vrijesh Hirji and Gopal Datt, among others.
Rs 300 onwards. On January 23, at Sir Mutha Hall, at 7 pm. Details: eventjini.com a��Sharadha Narayanan
Hindustani music meets Creole beats in the latest concert to come to town
It was 2001. Debashish Bhatta-charya was playing his slide guitar at a world music festival in Quebec, Canada, when he met RenA� Lacaille, a musician from the RA�union Island. a�?His music was pure, just simple melodies that were a mix of African and Malagasy folk,a�? says Bhattacharya, recalling how, as they were living in the same hotel, the musicians bonded over music and fooda��with jam sessions and Lacaillea��s Creole curry.
Since then, theya��ve played at several concerts around the globe. a�?Indian rhythm goes well with Creole music and Ia��ve always wanted to bring RenA� down. Finally, I got a chance this year,a�? he says.
After performing at the annual India International Guitar Festival, which Bhattacharya curates in Kolkata, the quinteta��including son Marco Lacaille (singer, bass) and Subashish Bhattacharya (tabla)a��are touring the country, and will perform in the city on Monday. a�?I love coming to Chennai. It’s a very welcoming city and a lot of my music friends live here,a�? says the guitarist, adding audiences can look forward to both solo and fusion sets. a�?We will present Hindustani music, with classics like Koyaliya kook sunave, while Rene and Marco will present Creole songs, like Andio, a favourite of mine. Besides Renea��s accordion and our instruments, you can also expect to listen to the ukulele, djembe and the Creole shaker,a�? he adds. With every song introduced in Englisha��the Creole lyrics are simple, talking about living a good life or a farmer selling fruits in the marketa��Bhattacharya says that the music a�?with a rhythmic group that is neither three or four, but has a special swing to it, will set the stage on firea�?.
January 18, at 7 pm, at the Alliance FranA�aise. Free passes on eventjini.com a��Surya Praphulla Kumar
Keeping the wedding season in mind, SS Homme Couture has come out with a new collection of sherwanis, bandhgalas, bandis and tuxedos in mohair, silk and linen. Featuring colours like gold, forest green and cranberry, the line starts at Rs 30,000. Available at the store in Mumbai.
Details: 022 26511738
All that bling
Delhi-based designers, Mehak and Ashish, have teamed up with womena��s wear brand, Platinoir. Expect dresses, jackets and gowns in tulle, heavy georgette and washed satin. The new line is embellished with stones and sequins to add to the drama. From Rs 5,000. Details: perniapopupshop.com
Italian brand Corneliani’s new line of travel and office accessories will be a great addition to your collection. With fluid lines and beautifully grained leather bags, wallets and holders, the range starts at Rs 6,500. Available at their store in DLF Emporio, New Delhi. Details: 011 46040711
DRVV celebrates individualism and follows a postmodernist philosophy that is functional
Delhi-based Dhruv Kapura��s label DRVV arrived with its androgynous and minimalistic fashion ideas at Evoluzione last week. Showcasing his latest Summer 16 collection, expect womena��s wear with a colour palette of monochrome and hints of peach, pink and pale yellow. The 28-year-old designer talks about his latest collection, fashion sensibility and his definition of luxury.
Conventional fashion involves youthfulness, which is brought out by a lot of intricate embellishments. Minimalistic design is all about the sensibility in making it simple, subtle, relaxed, utilitarian and comfortable.
On your new collection.
It was unveiled at the Amazon India Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2016. It is an extension of my label and features different kinds of easy-to-wear garments such as wraps. Designed to provide enhanced comfort, they are made of organic cotton, denim, silk satin and wool.
What sets your collections apart?
My designs convey the essence of liberty that a section of society believes in and practice.
Your definition of luxury?
Luxury is something that makes you not only feel pampered but also special.
Future of fashion in India?
We see a lot of designers and artists coming up with innovations. The designs are more revolutionary now.
Gant comes to Chennai and brings suits, trousers and sweatpants with an easy fit and a state of cool
Menswear pioneer Gant brings classic American cool to Chennai with the launch of their first store in the city. Located in Phoenix Market City, the renowned apparel brand opened in late November last year, courtesy the Arvind (Mills) Lifestyle Brands group. “The classic button-down shirt was invented by us,a�? begins Zia Khan, the area manager for the brand. The master shirt makers entered Indian retail market in 2006, in Mumbai, and since have 28 exclusive stores across the country.
With stores across North America, Europe and Asia, the brand offers a mix of preppy chic shirts and rugged cool jackets and khakis (trousers). The 1,100 sq ft store also stocks mena��s accessories such as wallets, ties and shoes, with fragrances soon to be included. Khan adds, a�?We do have some great clothes for women and for kids, and expect to start retailing them later (after April) this year in Chennai.a�? The eponymous label, which can trace its inception back to Ukrainian-born Bernard Gantmachera��s first venture in post World War I New York, is most famous for its impeccable shirts and is presently owned by a Swiss company (M Freres) that also owns Lacoste. Founder Gantmacher who started a�?Gant Shirtmakersa�� in 1949 (the main logo remains the same) ensured infallible quality and distinct craftsmanship in his merchandise. A discreet a�?Ga�� stamped on the tail of the shirt, the back collar button and the button tab are all Gant signatures, which were introduced early on by the brand.
Blast from the past
a�?We make clothes for the worldly man-about-town,a�? Khan continues, delighted with the response from customers. a�?Successful men and women who travel the world and respect our superb craftsmanship are who we would expect at our store.a�? The branda��s popular line a�?Yale Co-Opa�� shirtsa��a line of cotton Oxford-cloth shirts which was first introduced on the Yale campus in the 1960sa��are must-haves. In bold masculine stripes and checks, these classic designs, which defined the man of the 60s, continue to makes sartorial waves today. a�?Our timeless white button-down is our bestseller, with light blue and green being amongst the most popular colours,a�? concludes Khan.