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Unveiling India’s top ten supermodels

Only eye candy? Uh-huh! It’s the struggles, discipline and hard work that makes a model super. India’s 10 best tell their tales

brunch Updated: Mar 17, 2018 22:15 IST
Prasad Bidapa
Prasad Bidapa
Hindustan Times
Top models,supermodels,Sonalika Sahay
Supermodels Sonalika Sahay and Lakshmi Rana show that age is no bar when it comes to looking good and wearing what makes you feel great. (Photo shot exclusively for HT BRUNCH by Rohit Chawla)

If you hear the word ‘supermodel’ and still have Mehr Jesia, Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman in mind, you clearly haven’t entered the new millennium as completely as you thought. Industry experts, contemporaries and market demands bring their values together to help HT Brunch pick the top five girls and boys whose perfect physiques, brilliant smiles and flawless skin can make (or break) brands…

Bollywood dreams : Anuj Chaudhary

Despite being a successful model, it was difficult for Anuj to land a film role

One of the few male models to have successfully made the crossover to Bollywood, Anuj Chaudhary was born and bred in the UK. He graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University, and then moved to Mumbai, where he has been modelling since 2007. His first film was the critically acclaimed Straight (2009), which was followed byAngry Indian Goddesses (2015), and Mirzya (2016), which is directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. Despite his successful modelling career, Anuj found it difficult to land a role in a film industry that leans heavily on star children for guaranteed box office returns. He’s lost count of the auditions he has attended, he says, but he has persisted. If anything, Anuj’s films so far have made him hungrier for more work with industry greats.

The runway girl: Sonalika Sahay

Both Sonalika Sahay (left) and Lakshmi Rana (right) are not just supermodels but also supermoms ( Rohit Chawla )

Runway models are usually more striking than beautiful, while print models are photogenic. When both talents combine flawlessly, a Sonalika Sahay is created. Marriage happened quite early, and Sonalika is the proud, now single, mother of two beautiful girls. Modelling is not all that she does. A keen business intellect helped Sonalika, 37, formulate and launch one of India’s first fashion dot-coms, making designer clothes accessible to women everywhere. It became successful and Sonalika sold it to an investor. Her business acumen and wide range of interests make her a fascinating conversationalist. Of course, Bollywood came calling, but in an industry dominated by rather short men, the nearly 6’-tall Sonalika decided to concentrate on her modelling and business careers. She travels the world, adept at balancing her personal and professional lives. Her serene beauty ensures her success and her keen intellect, a dominance in business ventures.

Everyone’s cover girl: Lakshmi Rana

The Panther Prowl is the trademark of supermodel Lakshmi Rana. At 16, she was tall and dusky, with a perfect body. Starting her career in New Delhi, she was soon busy, but not too busy to return the attention of a dapper army officer; they married shortly. Lakshmi continued to model and became a supermodel. Her curly hair and striking features create a persona both exotic and international. Motherhood followed, but Lakshmi came back. Soon, leading magazines were falling over each other to feature her on their covers and in important editorials. And after every show, Lakshmi flew home to her husband and daughter, ensuring the least possible disturbance to her family life. Today, Lakshmi is used as an example to teach new models.

The trendsetter: Prateek Jain

Prateek’s fiercely bearded look set a trend that’s yet to diminish ( Jiten Agarwaal )

An accident while on the way to a fashion show came in the way of the modelling career of 6’3” Bengaluru boy Prateek Jain; he was late for work, and was banned by the furious show director. Some bodybuilding years in Mumbai later, he contacted the director, apologised, and was invited to the Mr India audition the same afternoon. Though he made it to the final, the buzz was about another contestant. Eventually, though, film star Arjun Rampal crowned Prateek the winner, and he became Mr India World 2014. Ripped and chiselled, Prateek’s body became the prototype for every wannabe male model in India, and his fiercely bearded look set a trend that is yet to diminish. His 2015 title of Asian Super Model underlined his appeal, and since then, Prateek, now 29, has done everything from editorials to advertisements.

Totally individual: Rachel Bayros

Rachel became the face of Royal Silks of Mysore at the age of 16 ( Jiten Agarwaal )

Rachel Maria Bayros, 33, started modelling in Bengaluru at the age of 16, when she became the face of the Royal Silks of Mysore, promoted by the late Maharaja of Mysore. Soon, she moved to Delhi, where the designers went mad for her and she featured in many editions of the then Wills Lifesyle India Fashion Week. She remains an industry favourite to this day. Rachel lives in Dubai now with husband Pedro.

Face of India:Lakshmi Menon

Lakshmi was the first Indian model to feature in the Pirelli calendar ( Photo courtesy: Italian Marie Claire )

Lakshmi Menon, 36, was not fair and buxom. She did not fit the look the market wanted. But Prabuddha Dasgupta, one of India’s greatest photographers, had the clout to shoot the model of his choice. A Ganjam Nagappa (south Indian jewellery store) calendar first unleashed Lakshmi onto the public. The results were spectacular.

Lakshmi then moved to Europe, where she was an immediate success. She began with Chanel, and worked with Jean Paul Gaultier, Max Mara, Givenchy etc. In 2012, she became the face of Hermès. She was the first Indian model to have been featured in the iconic Pirelli calendar. Lakshmi is recognised as the woman who opened the doors of fashion for India’s dusky beauties.

Careers abounding: Arry Dabas

Arry was discovered by designer Rohit Bal ( Jiten Agarwaal )

Arry studied at a hospitality institute that often sent its students to work at five-star hotels when extra hands were needed. At one such event, he was spotted by designer Rohit Bal who suggested he try modelling. Soon, he began modelling full-time. He was invited to participate in an international modelling contest in Bangkok, where he brought home the title of Mr Photogenic. Having been Mr India 2012, he trains the contestants of Mr India and is now shooting for a Bollywood film.

Against the odds: Prabh Uppal

Prabh’s first few years in Mumbai made him almost give up the plans to become a model

As a young, glamour-struck lad from Ludhiana, Prabh Uppal’s first few years in Mumbai were so hard, that he had to head back home at one point. Fortunately, the lure of glamour was too strong, and Prabh returned to Mumbai, where he became a fixture in the modelling scene. Those early years were tough, he says, because modelling agencies in India tend to push international models to Indian ad agencies. But Anima Models spotted Prabh’s potential, and within months, his chiselled features and superb body gave him an edge over the competition, taking him all the way to fame. Married to model Alicia Kom, Prabh now lives in Australia.

Fighter at heart: Archana Akil Kumar

Archana was the face of Sabyasachi last year ( Rohit Chawla )

Segueing easily between Western haute couture and Indian Bridal (last year, she was the face of Sabyasachi’s bridal collection), Archana is one of the most recognisable faces in the Indian modelling circuit. Her wide-eyed appeal and sharp features created a sensation in the fashion world, and designers were falling over each other to sign her up as the face of their campaigns. In her initial days, Archana lived with her mother in Bengaluru and travelled for work. Soon, she did significantly well in Mumbai and Delhi. Archana could probably choose any fashion capital of the world as a base, for she could be a success anywhere. She’s going to be around for a long time.

Ramp to screen:Tony Luke

Tony was the first Indian model to walk at Milan Fashion Week

Tony Luke, now 32, was 19 when he started modelling, and soon found himself at big ticket events like the Lakme Fashion Week. He became the first Indian model to walk at Milan Fashion Week in 2007 for Krizia Uomo Menswear, and became the go-to model for magazine shoots. Tony appeared in music videos and TV commercials. He acted in an experimental short film called Karma Cartel (2014) before debuting in a Malayalam feature film called Oozham (2016). At present, Tony is in such great form, that he can play characters half his age!

Also at the top: 7 models with potential to make it to our list next year

Top breakout star: Radhika Nair

Radhika was the first Indian woman to walk for luxury giant Balenciaga

With her curls and delicate bone structure, this Bengaluru-based stunner made international headlines by being the first Indian woman to walk for luxury giant Balenciaga. Having moved to Mumbai to pursue modelling full-time, Radhika at one point considered being a journalist.

Top international ramp scorcher: Bhumika Arora

Bhumika was featured on’s Top 10 Models of the Season list.

With those moody eyes and sultry lips, it’s no surprise that Bhumika has gone on to walk for the biggest international designers, like Jean Paul Gaultier, Emilio Pucci and Marc Jacobs. A favourite of Stella McCartney, she was featured on’s Top 10 Models of the Season list.

Top Fitness model: Karan Oberoi

Karan is the face of brands like Royal Enfield, Reebok and Isuzu

The face of brands like Royal Enfield, Reebok and Isuzu, his social media following indicates his popularity – 40k on Instagram and 155k on Facebook. If inspiration sells, Karan Oberoi does too.

Top international face: Pooja Mor

In September 2016, Pooja appeared on the cover of HT Brunch as one of India’s top models

She entered beauty pageants and worked as a model before walking for Louis Vuitton Resort 2015 show. She’s been featured in British Vogue, and made it to the cover of Vogue Italia.

Top unconventional newcomer: Tuhir Brahmbhatt

With his androgynous look and skinny frame, Tuhir is the new guy to watch out for in an age of diversity in fashion. He was featured in Zara India’s online campaign.

Top fashion darling: Ketholeno Kense

Ketholeno burst into the spotlight after winning the Kingfisher Calendar Hunt in 2014

This beauty from Nagaland burst into the spotlight after winning the Kingfisher Calendar Hunt in 2014. Thereafter, she walked the ramp for designers like Atsu Sekhose and Tarun Tahiliani, gracing numerous fashion magazine covers. She was seen in commercials and has become the darling of the fashion world.

Top commercial pick: Rajat Bhasin

Rajat has appeared in commercials for Coca-Cola, PayTM etc

His boy next door looks and easy-going attitude have made this Delhi boy an instant hit in the advertising community. Rajat has appeared in commercials for Coca-Cola, PayTM etc.

(Clockwise from top)Lakshmi Rana, Sonalika Sahay, Rohit Chawla, Shivan Bhatia and Narresh Kukreja at Roseate House New Delhi

The cover shoot

This was a special shoot for Sonalika Sahay and Lakshmi Rana, who got together with the ad man who they had worked with at the start of their careers. Senior photographer Rohit Chawla, who spent two decades at JWT, indulged his protégées early one Monday morning at Roseate House New Delhi, while India’s top resortwear designers Shivan Bhatia and Narresh Kukreja turned up personally to style the stunning fashion icons.

- By Farhad J. Dadyburjor

From HT Brunch, March 18, 2018

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First Published: Mar 17, 2018 21:24 IST