The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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City Lights
New address for lifestyle gear

It was the “first Indian retailer” to set up shop in New York City in 1952. It supplies stuff to the world’s largest retail chain Wal-Mart, besides Marks & Spencer and Ikea. It has 14 outlets in Europe, one in Dubai and 55 in India. Now, the Rs 639 crore-turnover speciality lifestyle chain The Home Store (THS) is all set to open its 56th Indian outlet in Calcutta. THS is coming to Forum, the 200,000-sq. ft lifestyle mall on Elgin Road, that opens in January.

“We are excited about coming to Calcutta and bringing the latest trends in global home fashion,” says Arif Sheikh, president, Home Stores (India) Ltd. From 100 per cent lead-free ceramics to smoke-free and drip-free candles; the trendiest wrought-iron furniture to the most exotic crystalware, THS promises to bring every conceivable lifestyle home piece to the table.

“As a test case, we opened up a small store-in-store format in Emami Landmark and the response has been most encouraging,” says Sheikh. THS is coming in with a Rs 50-crore investment on a revenue-sharing basis, and wants to devote the first few weeks to “test consumer preferences”. The intensive homework that goes into setting up each new THS outlet has enabled the chain to achieve 100 per cent growth every 90 days, feels the president.

“We study hours and hours of videotape tracking customer-behaviour patterns inside the store, which gives us the competitive edge.” Among the many lifestyle “firsts” THS plans to introduce in Calcutta is the Coordinates concept, where one can choose the same motif and colour scheme across product lines for fabric, furniture and ceramics — “a concept hugely popular abroad”.

Gifts will be the core strength of the Forum THS. Corporate gifts to Pujas to Christmas, or birthdays and wedding anniversaries, the store will cater to every occasion. A ‘special offer’ budget range will also be launched here. For instance, a 49-piece bedroom set with bed, side tables, coffee tables, chairs, etc, for Rs 14,999. Or a 54-piece dining set including dining table, chairs, tableware and pots, all for Rs 7,999.

“There will be something for everyone thanks to the sheer width and depth of our products,” says Sheikh. THS will also introduce innovative equipment to gauge customer preferences, like the retina expander. The 2-mm gadget, placed on the shelves at the customer’s eye level, photographs the retina each time it expands. “This helps us know at the end of the day which of the items had drawn customer attention, because if something appeals to you visually, your retina automatically expands,” Sheikh explains.

THS already has over 9,000 Calcutta-based customers who have bought its products from other parts of the country. “For them, there’s little choice than going back to another THS.” The store plans to take a four-fold campaign path to consolidation. “We will first set about creating awareness, followed by trials, retrials and finally ensuring loyalty,” explains the THS boss who describes his group as rule-breaker, not rule-maker.

— Subhro Saha

Bandung baby

She clearly has a nose for films. Model-turned-actress Perizaad Zorabian, who zip, zap, zoomed through the city last weekend, never tires of recounting how she nosed ahead of competition to land the prized role of Indira Gandhi in a Chinese production. “I believe the makers had screen-tested thousands of actress for Bandung Sonata, but could not find the right nose. While I was walking up to the audition room, a liftman, whom I casually asked whether I looked like Indira Gandhi, rejected me. But my Chinese producer jumped on me with a digital camera. ‘Bootiful nose, Bootiful nose’, he would keep saying,” laughs the actress, who insists she hates her “long nose” more than anything else. Later, she was grilled on politics, through which she sailed without a hitch. A three-month schedule followed in Beijing, Hainan and Indonesia and now, Bandung Sonata is ready for release.

On her second visit to Calcutta, Perizaad went straight to Flury’s — her favourite — on Park Street, where she wolfed down a club sandwich and chicken patties. “It is an amazing place. The old-world charm plus waiters hovering around you with pastry trays is something that is not seen elsewhere. I stayed there longer than intended and even packed something for home.”

The MBA from New York was originally supposed to help run her family poultry business. But destiny was getting a different script ready. Perizaad went to Les Strasburg Acting School and got hooked on. Then, Nagesh Kukunoor met her and roped her in for Bollywood Calling. It was to promote the film that she first visited Calcutta. “I fell in love with the city right away. Flury’s, Victoria Memorial and what not. This time, however, I was saddened to see the bad state of the Hooghly. Here I was with a microphone talking about the virtues of the city next to the Hooghly, and I see a dead dog floating by. Then, someone’s brushing his teeth and throwing the muck in the water. Sheesh! How can people destroy such a beautiful river'”

Perizaad’s fledgling career is full of films with an NRI feel. Beside Bollywood Calling and Bandung Sonata, she has done Namaste and Mumbai Matinee (with Rahul Bose, Saurabh Shukla). Her only serial, Hum Pardesi Ho Gaye on Sony, has her playing an NRI and it was shot largely on foreign locale. Being slotted is what she is scared of. “I feel we lose good actresses this way, like Nandita Das, who are great but often get slotted in one particular role. I feel the same is happening to me.” The Bombay University topper, however, feels that Bollywood will soon enter a phase of ‘intelligent actresses and daring directors’. “Maybe then things will change and we might get more offers. As of now, people are still shy to take on an English-speaking actress for pot-boilers,” rues Perizaad.

— Samarjit Guha

Melody in air

This is the season of Hindustani classical music. And what better than the magic of Ustad Vilayat Khan to round off a winter evening. Jalsaghar will present the maestro in his first-ever concert at the Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Gol Park, on December 1. “The programme is dedicated to the memory of Lila Shahani, a Singapore-based businessman’s wife, who was an ardent fan of the legend,” said a spokesperson for the organisation. As a bonus, the maestro’s son Hidayat Khan will accompany him at the recital, which will have Pandit Anindo Chattopadhyay on the tabla. On January 4, Ustadji’s 75th birthday, he will be felicitated at the Town Hall. Following the felicitation, vocalist Ulhas Kashalkar and sarod maestro Ustad Ali Akbar Khan will take the stage with Suresh Talwalkar and Anindo Chattopadhyay, respectively.

Arcadia on cloth

Madhubani paintings, as we all know, is a traditional art form still practised by the Brahmins and Kayasths of a village in Bihar of the same name. Originally, these

paintings were executed on the walls of huts, but with growing commercialisation these are done on paper as well.

Neel Kant Chaudhary still lives in the Mithila region, where this art form originated. He was trained at the University of Punjab and still does Madhubani paintings. But with a difference. Instead of adhering to traditional forms and motifs he has diversified to include scenes and characters commonly seen in the villages of Bihar. Alongside the figure of the lion are typical scenes one associates with Arcadia and the simple folk of villages.

His clean and fluid lines are typical of the art form he practises. The figuration is stylised in keeping with it. His colours are bright and vibrant. The only point of departure is that instead of gods and goddesses he depicts human beings.

However, his masterpiece is a huge wall-hanging executed on white cloth with a fine-tipped pen. It depicts Adi Shakti, the primordial life force from which has evolved the male and female principles and consequently, all creation, both good and evil. Adi Shakti is depicted in all her diversity through a host of human figures and diverse animal life, seemingly in constant motion.

The figure may be traditional but the design is executed with mastery. It is reminiscent of Tibetan tankhas and yantras, although the latter are abstract in form. His works are on display at The Address.

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