‘Not everyone gets to be Sir Viv’s daughter’ — Masaba

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By ‘I’LL NEVER STEP OUT OF MY FATHER OR MY MOTHER’S SHADOW,’ MASABA GUPTA TELLS T2 IN A NO-HOLDS-BARRED CHAT
  • Published 1.11.12
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Hot pink nails, gold cuffs and statement rings paired with a very simple kurti, clean face and hair tied into a knot. Masaba Gupta knows how to pack a punch, especially where you least expect it. No wonder she’s on a “career high” at just 24! Watching her clothes fast disappear off the shelves at Nouveaau, the lifestyle exhibition held in association with t2 at Taj Bengal on Tuesday, Sir Viv Richards and Neena Gupta’s “love child” tells t2 about being her parents’ daughter, her design dreams and more...

Masaba Gupta chats with t2 at Taj Bengal. Pictures by Pabitra Das

Half your collection was sold out in a couple of hours!

Last time also we did well, but this is phenomenal! I did not expect to be sold out so soon because I haven’t got as specific pieces as everybody else. It’s kurtas which you can wear to a cards party or Diwali, but it’s good…

Calcutta really loves Masaba Gupta...

Yeah! It looks like it. There were people who had especially come for me. That is a big deal.

So when will you open a store here?

Soon! Now that I have seen the response, soon. I’d probably have to get a franchise. For me, Bombay and Delhi are where I have my own people and my workshop. Calcutta is totally new. There are people interested in collaborating with me and opening a store.

How is Calcutta different from other cities?

In fact the funny thing is when I started to design, everyone thought that I was Bengali because if you see the prints that I do… the eyes that resemble Durga Ma’s eyes, the colour combinations.... I love white, red and gold. Obviously, everyone thought that I was probably on the lines of a Sabya (Sabyasachi Mukherjee) or Anamika (Khanna)… all those who are Calcutta-born and brought-up. I think Bengali women have the most eclectic sense of dressing... the way they wear their saris, the drape and the colours. The red-bordered sari… I think it is beautiful. Every bride should wear that. I also like the way they do their make-up or the way they carry themselves... it is something very surreal. And no other city has it. Bombay is not up there when it comes to dressing up. It is very brand-conscious. Delhi has a certain pocket which dresses very classy. Calcutta has its signature. They understand Indian textiles and weaves. I noticed a lot about Bengali culture when I worked on a Bengali film, my first film as a stylist, Bhorer Alo (directed by Prabhat Roy). We did the traditional Bengali saris and dhotis.

Calcutta does seep into your collection then…

At a subconscious level… I was probably Bong in my last birth! (Laughs) If you’ve noticed, even my mother (Neena Gupta) has that. The way she wears her clothes, there is a strong influence… maybe it’s the hair. I haven’t had the chance to go around Calcutta, but I will go to Anamika’s store because I love her work. I also want to see Kallol’s (Datta) workshop.

Only four years in the industry and you’ve made a mark. How does it feel?

I honestly don’t feel that. I know that I have made my mark in the sense that people are really copying my work all over the country and it is making me sick! Today somebody walked in wearing my fake! In that sense, I have arrived. But there is so much more to achieve in terms of versatility. Right now, it is all about the prints, the colour and the ikat. It needs to move forward, of course keeping the signature.

Fashion was your third career choice…

10th! (Laughs) I wanted to be anything but a designer. I was not willing to enrol into fashion school. It is just because that was the last resort and there was nothing else, I had to do it! There was music, there was dance, tennis and even acting at one point. And then there was a point when I just wanted to study.

Never cricket?

No! But I love the game and I love playing it generally. I watch too much cricket actually! Full day I’ll be sitting and watching cricket.

Your mother made some very bold choices. Growing up, did it have any impact on the way you saw the world?

Not at all! I get asked this often… was your upbringing different or was your childhood different. It was so, so normal because I know it could have been weird and strange if my mother had made it weird and strange. If she would have kept talking about how bold her choices were maybe then, I would have felt that oh my god, she did this! It was just so casual. I literally grew up reading the papers about my existence… that I was a love child. To a kid, it doesn’t make any difference. I always thought that if somebody can have an extramarital affair, someone can have a child out of wedlock. It is the same thing. My father (Sir Viv Richards) was very strong. They never really sat me down. I was giving interviews at 14 and never did my mother sit me down and say, ‘Don’t say this.’ But I knew what I had to say. And I never even spoke about their relationship and I still don’t because I think it is not of any importance.

Was your childhood spent between West Indies and Bombay?

Primarily Bombay, but a lot of my younger years was spent with my father. We were always away holidaying. At that time he was still very active in cricket. He was doing a lot of commentary. It was great fun as I got to travel so much. I’d be asleep in commentary boxes for hours when dad would be doing commentary....

There were so many influences. My grandfather was from old Delhi. I used to come back tanned, black and he used to rub haldi on me! So there was old Delhi, and then my mother who was very modern and my dad… he did not understand Indian culture obviously. Three very different upbringing and I have all three in me. I am very orthodox when it comes to most things. I had lovely friends growing up. I think a lot of it had to do with the school I went to in Bombay… Jamnabai (Narsee School) where most are celebrity kids. So, you are growing up in an atmosphere where everything is okay.

You really never felt conscious?

Never… my mom says that because I have a sense of humour, I can laugh at myself. If someone would tease me about my hair, I would laugh… if someone called me black, I would laugh. I just took things in my stride. I was never made a victim.

What of your dad do you have and what from your mother have you imbibed?

I am short-tempered like my dad. I am a lot like my father, personality-wise. When I am doing my thing, it is all about me. There is focus. My dad had that. He could shut out everything and focus on one thing. He is a toughie outside, but he is actually mellow inside. That I have. When I was a kid, my dad told me that if you come out of life with one true friend, you are lucky. I strongly believe that and who we hold close, we really hold close. When tragedy strikes or something bad happens, we become like stone. Nothing can move us. I am also very guarded as a person, which both my parents are.

Your dad’s swagger is legendary. Have you ever spoken to him about it?

You know, when I played my first football match someone told me that I walked like my father. Oh my god! That’s not a good thing for a girl! (Laughs) I played tennis for a long time and I wanted to become a pro. But I was throwing rackets and breaking things! I was very young and there was so much expectation. When I was on the field, I could see that… ‘Oh my god, she is Viv Richards’s daughter and she is probably going to kill everybody!’ And I was so bad. I had a lot of aggression which worked for me as well as against me.

Do you think you have stepped out of your father’s shadow?

I’ll never step out… either of my father or my mother’s. And I don’t even care about it. Not everyone gets to be Sir Viv’s daughter!

There is a huge aura about him...

That aura you are talking about is something that I can never understand. Had I seen him play, it would have been different. I have seen lots of archives but it is a different thing to be sitting in a stadium… all that frenzy. So, I feel glad for someone like Sachin Tendulkar’s kids because they have seen it. To me, he is chilled-out and laid-back… he loves eating rajma-chawal. He always left his aggression on the field. At home, he was a basic dad… ‘Where are you going and why are you wearing this?’ But he always left me to make my own decisions.

Your mom has been a rock-solid support…

She is like an everyday mom. She handles a large part of the accounts of my company. She is very casual and basic. I think she forgets sometimes that she has been a star. And that quality you will find both in my father and my mother. They just don’t care. For my father, playing golf and being on his own is the most important thing in the world. Even for mom… coming back home and watching TV serials….

How did she guide you during the period of indecisiveness that you were going through with your career?

She was always like, ‘Ok. Do it!’ The only time she said something was when I wanted to act. She said, ‘Do it, but be prepared because the Indian film industry will not accept somebody as unconventional-looking as you are.’ Also, she said that it is something that is very futile… you’ll spend six years training hard and at the end of the day you won’t even get what you want. She said she was only content that she made Saans.

What’s your equation like with your half-sisters Matara and Mali?

Superb! I have become very close to Mali and Matara. Mali came to Bombay a few years back for a cricket camp. I haven’t met Matara in a long while. She is in Canada.

And your step-dad Vivek Mehra?

He is very sweet. He handles a lot of my accounts. He is a CA himself. It is one big happy family. No awkwardness. Tomorrow if my dad met my step-dad, it would be so cordial.

Is Masaba Gupta single?

I am single and I will have an arranged marriage! If I ever get into a relationship, I would not be able to work the way I do and I know that! I turn 24 (on November 2) and I told my mom that all my friends are getting married. She was like, they are working as much as you do. I don’t think I’ll be able to handle somebody who cannot handle that I work. People in India still ask about your educational qualifications and your height!

I am on a career high. At the moment, I am going a little crazy because I want to do everything because I feel that I am getting old! Today there is a certain level of popularity… tomorrow there won’t be. There will be somebody new and better. There would be a lot more competition. Luckily, I am in that space where I have no competition, to be honest. Nobody is doing the genre that I am doing and nobody has my price points. This birthday I want lots of work! I am working on my festive line. It is called Postcards from Benaras. It is going to be out in March. It would be signature Masaba, but the colours are different and the prints are different.

You wanted to design a bridal line too…

I have come to the conclusion that I cannot do bridal line because I cannot stand what half the brides in India wear. They cannot even walk in it! So, I want to do trousseau and if I ever do bridal, it will be my style. Obviously, if it is a Sabyasachi lehnga, then it is worth even 10kg! I don’t understand intricate embroidery. I have grown up seeing prints, Kanjeevarams and kantha saris.

Her signature prints

Nandi bull: It was inspired by how bulls are decorated. I thought that would be interesting.

Palm: They are actually my palms! My mom used to take prints and frame them in the house when I was younger.

Foot: It is my mother’s!

Camera: I saw a vintage camera and worked on it.

Saionee Chakraborty

What’s your impression of Masaba after reading this interview? Tell t2@abp.in