Priyadarshini Chatterjee on working with Sabyasachi and finding work-life balance
You will instantly warm up to model Priyadarshini Chatterjee. A jovial spirit with impeccable etiquette. The icing on the cake is the “ekdum Bangali” Priyadarshini being a muse for another famous self-made Bengali, Sabyasachi Mukherjee. We love her intense but serene gaze and she has her eyes firmly set on her dreams. Priyadarshini, who studied sociology at Hindu College (Delhi) and is based out of Mumbai, spoke to us from Bengaluru, on her sterling career so far and why she will fly for Sabyasachi Mukherjee “whenever, wherever”.
So, I have been born and brought up in Guwahati, Assam. Both my parents are Bengali though. Aamar pishi thake aar aamar jethuo thake. Basically my grandfather is from Calcutta and he moved to Assam for work and my mom is from north Bengal.
Yes of course; whenever I used to visit my aunt or jethu, we used to go for phuchkas on the street and the matka chai (laughs). I am a foodie, so the best memories of Calcutta that I have takes me back to food. I haven’t been to Calcutta many times, but the last time I was there was in February for a Sabyasachi (Mukherjee) shoot.
I have been a model since I was 16. As a kid I would see my mom dress up and I loved all that jazz. But eventually you grew up and I got into sports. I used to play basketball. So, that died out, but when I was 16, the interest somehow came back. I was also surrounded by people who were in the industry and I started to shoot. So, modelling happened like that as a hobby. Acting, however, was never an option for me. So, after Miss India, when I was questioned whether the next big step was Bollywood, I was pretty sure that that wasn’t what was going to happen. But I really did want to try my hand at direction and loved to do something behind the cameras instead, but that didn’t work out. I was 19 back then, five years ago.
I made modelling my primary career. I also tried my hand at sports presenting; working with Star Sports for a year. I did the World Cup and IPL.
I had a friend who was into modelling. When I saw him shoot, I was like, maybe I also want to do this. I borrowed money from my father and promised that I will return the money back in a span of six months, which I did by the way. I did my first portfolio shoot and the photographer circulated my pictures to the designers. Guwahati is a very small city and there is not really a lot of work. I was in school, so it was fun and I would do it on weekends or during my holidays or sometimes take a day off from school and do that. My focus was on education anyway.
When I moved to Delhi for my graduation from DU (Delhi University), I realised that I can turn this hobby into a profession, which can help me in monetising things among other things. I developed a passion in those two years. Then the whole Miss India (2016) situation happened in my life, which was very unexpected. That was a stepping stone. Miss India opened many doors for me, including Sabyasachi.
It has been unexpectedly beautiful for me. There were ups and downs. You figure out your journey or question yourself that what are you really doing. It took me some time to actually understand the art of modelling. When I started working with Sabya sir, he really helped me figure out that modelling was all about bringing somebody else’s creation into life and that is just beautiful. It is an art, an art of movement, understanding our own body language and expressions to make something come to life. That process was beautiful for me and that has made me come so far, wherever I am in my profession.
It was in February 2017. I was in Miss World and I did not make it on the finale night and I came back to my hotel room not very happy and then I got a message from my agent that I had been blocked for a Sabyasachi shoot. I jumped out of my bed. Miss India happened shockingly in my life and it was a great experience, but a Sabyasachi (campaign) is something I had dreamt of. I had spoken to my mom about him. I loved everything he did, his work. So, when I got that news, it was a dream come true. It’s been four years and I am still working with him. He has been a great support system and has paved my way in modelling for sure.
Of course it is (laughs). What it means to be his muse is really the representation of a modern-day woman. He represents women in all shapes, sizes and colours. Women are objectified in so many different ways, but he represents us as strong women....
There are different situations and he asks us to play different characters. Sometimes when it is a bridal shot, I am fully decked up as a bride, and he would tell me ‘Priya, you are not a regular bride. You will be a fierce bride who doesn’t care if her husband doesn’t show up’. It really helps you get into the character. Once I was in something rustic and fierce and he told me I was in a war and someone is ‘coming to fight you and you are not going to give your palace to them’. He creates these personalities in his head and has a vision for things and it is about bringing it to life. That is why it is special and different to work with him.
It’s been eight years in the industry now, a long journey. Another brand that I have really enjoyed is Kay by Katrina (Kaif). It was her beauty launch and I was so lucky that she launched the brand with my picture and her’s together. And, I got to work with this amazing photographer from LA and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. She was extremely sweet and nice to all of us. Apart from that one designer I really admire is Payal Khandwala. I love her simplicity. I love her approach to fashion. It’s sustainable.
No one has been in the modelling industry, but my father’s uncle, Anil Chatterjee, was an actor.
(Laughs) Indrani Dasgupta. She is so beautiful and I have always looked up to her. You already mentioned Nayanika Chatterjee. I have worked with Rikee and she has been a lovely friend.
I am a big fan of Adriana Lima. The first time I saw her pictures, I was like who is this angel?! I started following Victoria’s Secret and saw her work and that of Irina Shayk. These are women I really adore.
Anyone can tell I am a Bengali by my food habits. The amount of rice I can eat and the fact that I need rice with every meal every day... I will work out 10 times harder, but I will enjoy my food. So, maachher jhol, aloo bhaja, phuchka, aloo chaat.... We have maachher tel, jhol, shorshe bata regularly.
I’ve always wanted to do modelling internationally. When I was 16, I got an opportunity to be with an agency in Paris and Bombay, but back then I was a kid. So, recently I have been placed with an agency in New York and LA. That’s my next big step. I am a simple person too. Ambitious but I value happiness and want to find that perfect work-life balance. I would love to settle down in the countryside and on a Sunday sit with my family and read books and sip coffee. The day I can do this on weekends and keep working and hustling on the weekdays, that day I’ll call myself successful.
Since the last two years and especially the pandemic, I think we all got time to think and re-evaluate our lives. That’s when I realised I wanted to do several other things. Modelling yes... it is my love, but what after that? I want to have my own lifestyle studio which will be a cafe and a workshop among other things. Along with that I want to work in textiles and work on sustainability, not just creating awareness, but giving people access to sustainable clothes.
A Sabyasachi (campaign) is something I had dreamt of. I had spoken to my mom about him. I loved everything he did, his work. So when I got that news, it was a dream come true. It’s been four years and I am still working with him. He has been a great support system and has paved my way in modelling for sure. What it means to be his muse is really the representation of a modern-day woman. He represents women in all shapes, sizes and colours. Women are objectified in so many different ways, but he represents us as strong women — Priyadarshini Chatterjee