Be it graphic art, Latino moves or avant garde films, our city artistes have blazed their way across the globe
From Cannes to Sweden, Hong-Kong to NYC, our artsy Bangaloreans have taken the experimental, bold , road less travelled routes to success. From setting world records, to winning international awards, evolving dance education and trending bestseller lists.
1. Samhita Arni
Samhita Arni isn’t your ordinary 32-year-old. Known first as a child sensation who authored and illustrated The Mahabharatha: A Child’s view when she was eight, and then more recently as the first Indian to be on the New York Time’s bestselling list of graphic novels with Sita’s Ramayana, she is now jet setting across the country, hosting international writers and holding talks at literature festivals. But it all began with illustrations and mythology for her. “My latest, The Missing Queen, is a speculative fiction mythological thriller with a (large) dash of feminism. I started working on this before Sita’s Ramayana, in fact. I returned from America in 2006 to find that the nation is still obsessed with the Ramayana – in politics, women-related issues, court judgements, advertising. I started reading all the versions of the Ramayana I could lay my hands on – and the differences intrigued me,” she begins. Telling us about the thrill of being on the New York Times best-seller list, Arni’s eyes light up, “It was a big, big deal for me. It was a complete surprise, but it’s huge for my career and getting recognition as a writer here in India as well as abroad,” she says, adding, “It did change my life. A lot more pressure, but more exposure.” Arni is currently working on two or three things at the same time. You would possibly spot her at Bliss at UB City observing people walk in to Jimmy Choo and then making up stories about them.
2. Lourd Vijay
Whether he is setting Guinness world records, judging championships across the world, or turning ambassador of the Hong Kong Salsa Festival, Lourd Vijay has placed Bangalore firmly on the international salsa map through his 10 schools across the city, Chennai and Mumbai. “Bangalore was the best place to start. We have a refined and evolved taste in music. From the music naturally comes the dance,” he explains, referring to the trait that developed from the days of the Raj in pockets like the Catholic Club, Bangalore Club, Army and Air Force messes. In addition to training world champions above 18, Vijay also trains a crack junior team, who aced the world championships since 2013, beating the Latin nations themselves. “For me, winning a medal in the Dance World Cup is as good as winning a gold in the Olympics,” he tells us. Currently, he is focusing on serious dance education and has set up a dance education company in Singapore with a potential tie-up with the National Dance Education Organisation based in the USA. “We have introduced dancED in over 30 schools this year and are looking to expand to over 100 schools over the next 12 months. We emphasise standardised training procedures by setting up certified courses offered by the ISPTD (India Society for Performers and Teachers of Dance) and the Trinity College, London.
3. Atul Kattukaran
IN THE advertising world, winning a Cannes Lion is like winning an Oscar for an actor. And with seven Lions in their kitty, 1st December (a production house based in Bangalore and Mumbai , helmed by Atul Kattukaran) is on a roll. “We won a number of awards for our last major commercial film – a Nike Cricket film called Make Every Yard Count,” begins the filmmaker, who also simultaneously runs The Wedding Flicks — a production dedicated to making wedding videos a quirky memory. Their Nike film won at the Kyroorius Advertising and Digital Awards, and bagged seven Lions at the Cannes Lions Festival. The film was also nominated in the CLIO awards in New York in seven categories. Crediting JWT Bangalore for the great idea and for ‘trusting 1st December to pull it off,’ Kattukarn says the team comprises Bangaloreans, “So yes, the city does play a major part in the way we think and ideate.” He elaborates, “We even made a film called little BANGALORE that says it all. It’s where we started — whether we head to New York, Cannes, London or Mumbai, the city will always be home. If I made another film about it, I’d call it HOME.”
4. Ricky Kej
Having only recently scaled the number 1 spot on the Billboard Chart for his album Winds of Samsara, musician Ricky Kej is on a high. A collaboration with South African musician Wouter Kellerman, the album features over 100 artistes from across five continents. “It was great to know that so many people were buying our album. And what made it even better was that when we were on top, Yanni was at number 3,” beams the composer. Kej started music as a hobby. “Mainly to be cool and popular in school,” he laughs. But when he heard Night Song, a qawwali by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, accompanied with Western guitars, he was inspired to take music more seriously. “At that time, it was quite radical to mix two genres like that. And it was so beautiful,” explains the world and fusion music expert.
His big break came when Rod Linnum, the head of Universal Music, bought his first album, Communicative Art from a store in the USA. “My album was retailing at small Indian stores. And Linnum happened to buy it. He liked it so much, he tracked down my contact number and called me. And that’s how it all started,” reveals Kej. Since then, he has launched several albums including Kamasutra Lounge 1 and 2, Shanti Orchestra, Ballad of Maya, Global Journey and Fiery Drums all with international labels.This, apart from his Bollywood gigs and the music for the ICC Cricket World Cup at Dhaka in 2011.
From climbing trees in front of his house, and day dreaming, Bangalore boy Praveen Mayakar moved to Sweden for his education, and is really making Indian waves across the seas. Both a musician and producer, Mayakar is already seven albums old and has the eighth in the pipeline as part of his production company MayaSwara, based in Västerås. “It all began with one word – curiosity,” he shares. “How each swara (note) in a time domain turns into a beautiful melody. I keep asking questions. How can one make it sound good? How can layers of swara create a magical melody. And so MayaSwara was born,” the intrepid traveller tells us. Mayakar is also a professional photographer and dabbles in wedding photography, portraiture and anything he finds quirky, usually working on several projects at once. “I have many in the loop, however, currently I am working with an urban bike trial artist and some models for photoshoots in Västerås. I am also finishing one of the projects I started in early summer with Klipper hotel. So apart from my eighth album, my short story collection called God and I is also on the way,” he says, adding that initially the book will be a translation from the already published Kannada version before he continues to write in English. And then translates into other languages.
Always eager to reach out to fellow travellers and volunteer musicians, Mayakar is happy to get off his couch, which he says is the most comfortable in the world, and take you to Jakneberget, a little Hill in Västerås for a beautiful view of the city. Then to Nobel museum and Drottningholm Slott (Queen’s palace) in Stockholm, for a taste of Sweden. And when he isn’t busy trying to satiate his need to ‘do everything, learn everything and in the process learn more about the world and myself, thus improving my own limits,’ you’ll find him perhaps travelling —without flying, hiking in the Himalayas. “I hope to inspire people and sustainably support under- privileged children,” he signs off.