Power of 5
They are gamechangers in their fields, and have shot to fame in the past five years. These five women share their success story as Marie Claire celebrates its own. By Sanchita Guha.india Updated: Jun 07, 2012 16:06 IST
Anuja Chauhan, author
she found a new creative channel
‘writing a book is like a honeymoon phase. when i began, everyone said I was glowing’
The brain behind the classic ad line ‘Yeh Dil Mange More’, Anuja debuted as a bestselling author with the cricket-themed The Zoya Factor. Her next, Battle for Bittora, was also a winner. The move from advertising to writing came exactly when she needed a fresh channel for her creativity.
Five years ago, I was feeling spent, having worked on the same ad accounts for years. My fourth cricket World Cup campaign was coming up. In ads, you don’t always have creative control, but at this point, I wanted total control over something. So I began writing – and it was such fun. People said I was glowing. I sat on the finished book for months before showing it to anyone. When it was finally out, the book’s success was a lovely feeling. The reviews were great, Shah Rukh bought the film rights! The second book was also a honeymoon phase, and the reviews were even better than Zoya. Then I could quit my job. I’m still an ad consultant, but I’ve just done a commissioned screenplay, and am getting more such offers. When I quit ads, there was a sense of creative unrest. Now, I’m in a more enriching place. My plans include more quality time with my three kids and developing a personal relationship with God.
Farah Khan Ali, jewellery designer
Went to the U.S to party, returned with a passion
‘Designing is a way of life, so much of me goes into a piece, at times it is hard to sell it’
Born in the creamiest layer of society, the daughter of a movie star, Farah Khan flew over to Los Angeles for its party scene, and came back with a burning desire to make it as a jewellery designer. The launch of her own brand made her arguably the first of her kind in a country where jewellery designers were, till then, faceless entities.
I never dreamed that I’d be a jewellery designer, for I couldn’t tell a ruby and an emerald apart, but knew I’d do something in the arts field. In my student years, my father told me: “I may not leave you a legacy, but if you educate yourself, you’d have inherited more than what I can ever give you.” The words didn’t sink in then. After college, I dabbled at this and that. Then a friend asked me to come with her at the Gemological Institute of America, LA. I signed up since the party scene looked good, and promised dad I’d do well. Gemology took me back to all the hated sciences, but my promise to dad made me study hard. I topped the class, and then did a jewellery design course. Returning to India, I began knocking on doors. As I started off with no financial help from my parents, my resources were meagre. I’d sketch jewellery, colour them painstakingly and take the drawings to clients. They believed in my passion and placed their orders. Nine long years later, in 2004, Farah Khan Fine Jewellery was launched. It was a big, big moment. It took six more years to open my first store in Mumbai, as I wanted things to be perfect. Now, there’s a store in Delhi and plans of opening another one overseas. My creations have been worn on the red carpets of the Oscars and the Emmys.
I feel bad selling a piece, for so much of me has gone into creating it. I dream design, breathe design, live to design.
At first, I could only show clients sketches of my jewellery designs, but they believed in my passion
Pernia Qureshi, fashion stylist made costumes the focal point in a film
‘I want to make great style available to everyone, not just to movie stars’
Anyone who has watched Aisha will know Pernia as the woman who made the eligible young ladies in the film look so delectable. Fashion styling in India has seldom had such a high-profile practitioner, and Pernia now plans to make it a part of people’s life. Styling was not on her radar until she graduated in 2006 from George Washington University, US, with a pre-law major in criminal justice and another one in English literature. Then the genes inherited from her stylish mother Nasreen kicked in, and she joined a top New York magazine as an intern stylist. Returning to India in 2008, she knew what her career would always be.
I learnt quickly that style is inherent, not something that can be taught. I did enrol at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, but realised that my internship would teach me much more. In India, I did shows and campaigns for a while, before Aisha. I put a whole year of my life into the film, and the praise that I got for it made it all worthwhile. People said the costumes were the best part of the movie. I wanted Aisha to be a cult film, wanted all college kids to have it on their DVD rack, to watch it again and again, in the same way that I kept watching Clueless for the costumes.
The second film I did was Thank You, where I styled only one character, that of Sonam Kapoor. You could say she’s my first love. When somebody is so stylish and is on the same wavelength as you are, life is much easier. The girls in Bollywood are so beautiful, but they try to compete for things like, “Who can wear the shortest dress?” To be a style icon, you’ve to find your own space. And great style can be available to everyone. People have asked me to style them for their weddings, and that has given me the idea of starting a personal consultancy. A person will have guidance from A to Z, whether to build a wardrobe or look magnificent for one evening. My dream is to work on a film set in, say, the Mughal era, or the British Raj. I love history, and it’s a challenge to work on a film like this. One shoot I did with JJ Valaya had an old-world charm. That’s the closest I’ve come to it.
I put a whole year of my life into Aisha, and the praise I got for it made it all worthwhile. I want it to become a cult film, to see all the college kids keep it in their DVD collection
Saina Nehwal, badminton champion beat the world’s best before she could vote
‘There is no feeling like holding a trophy. i want to keep on defeating the top 10 players’
She has the kind of killer instinct few Indian athletes ever displayed. A match-winner since her pre-teen years, Saina came within a hair’s breadth of grabbing the world No. 1 spot in 2010. Ankle injury has since hampered her progress, but with years of badminton left in her and a brutally disciplined training regimen, if there is one Indian likely to hold a 2012 Olympic gold medal in her hand, it is she.
When I beat the world No. 3 in 2006, in the Philippines Open, I felt, “Now I can take on the best.” And I have. In the five years since that win, I’ve defeated the top 10 players in the world, and all I want is to keep beating them and make India proud. There was a time in 2007, when I felt low: there were a lot of early knockouts. But my parents and coaches said I had it in me, and I kept my chin up. In 2008, everything changed. I began moving into semifinals and finals and nailed the Chinese Taipei Open.There’s no feeling like lifting up a trophy. The facilities at my academy and the help of my sponsors Deccan Chargers and Yonex have greatly helped me. It’s still very, very hard work – nonstop practice and nonstop travel, but no time for sightseeing. Even my friends are only badminton friends. But it’s all worth it, and my parents would never let me get complacent. “Work hard even more,” they keep saying. My hopes? An Olympic medal, of course. And to see other players taking Indian badminton to the same heights that I have.
There was a low phase in 2007, but my parents and coaches said I had it in me, and I kept my chin up. The next year, everything changed. I began winning again.