Say it with a smile - Indrani Dasgupta lets t2 inside the mind of a supermodel who’s just... super!

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 17.03.15

She may be a supermodel, but chat with Indrani Dasgupta and she’ll tell you to leave the model bit out. Just being super is what this 5’8.5’’ stunner believes in. And, for Team t2, that’s what she is. From the moment she walked into the t2 office till the time she bid goodbye, it’s a new Indrani we discovered. Cool, collected, friendly, sharp, witty and, yes, super. 

Saionee Chakraborty: How do you look back on your modelling career, growing up in a regular Bengali family? 

Indrani: It’s only when one does these kinds of interviews, one retrospects and thinks about it. Recently, I was a part of a panel for a beauty pageant and most of them were 17, 18, 19 and had parents on the front row cheering them on. So, when you say I am from a conventional, traditional, conservative Bengali family, if it’s about supportive parents… they were supportive till the point that they did not stop me… they were encouraging till the point that you could try most things… but it took me a couple of years for them to root for me…. Academic-oriented family, mostly engineers. 
I look back at modelling with a lot of fondness. Being a 17-18-year-old, it is tough for a girl and I had just moved from Muscat. Delhi was a tough city to crack in that sense. I went to Delhi Public School. Modelling gave me an outlet to do something else by myself, very different from my student life. It kept me on an even keel. So that helped. I have a masters in economics (from JNU). 

Economics of modelling

Saionee: You studied economics at JNU and you are a supermodel. Deadly combination!
Indrani: Most of the time, it takes me by surprise too! Modelling is not as surprising as the JNU part is for most people, especially for my family. Modelling was pretty much my full focus by third-year college at Miranda House. My best friend from college said, ‘You have to fill up some form’. I asked which was the shortest course. She said masters (2001-2003). By stroke of luck, my number came up. My father came with me to check the results. He said it must be some other Indrani Dasgupta!
Saionee: Do most men find it intimidating?
Indrani: Only those who don’t know economics! It has its definite advantages and JNU was a fantastic place to study. It gives you lots of bragging rights.
Saionee: How did you juggle the two?
Indrani: People are doing so much more! I think the only advantage I may have had is that I wasn’t with any agency. So, I was controlling my dates and my work. It’s kind of easier or at least, I was used to doing that. I was four years into modelling when I joined JNU. I’d got the hang of it.

Saionee: Is your profession really as glamorous as it comes across?
Indrani: It is glamorous and alluring. It’s a beauty-based business… aesthetics, proportion, being visually enticing…. It’s a lot of hard work. I think recently there was a global furore about Cindy Crawford’s (‘un-Photoshopped photos’) work. More power to her. She had redefined the beauty standards in the ’80s and ’90s because she was the first sort of fuller figure model. And she owned it. And then she pretty much quit when she was on top of her game. And now to come back after 20 years with this picture… the world is obsessed with Photoshop, about being seen and digitally captured the right way…
Pramita Ghosh: Do you also feel the pressure like all models?
Indrani: I think you get so... sort of... contained in being so touched up all the time and seeing your professional photographs that it is a little bit of a walk from what you look like to what you look like in the picture. There is definitely a bit of exaggeration… it is about creating an idea of what may be. Is it getting you there? By the 100th time you use the product, may be it will….
Pramita: Do you see yourself doing something like what Cindy Crawford did?
Indrani: No, I don’t think I have that kind of guts yet. She is about 50… Models are still compartmentalised. I think it would have created a revolution if it’s an actress.
Riddhima Khanna: Was there anytime that you saw a picture of yours and were taken aback?
Indrani: Oh my god! It has happened so many times, including my first picture, because that was the worst. I think Henri Cartier-Bresson said that, ‘Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst’. It’s also true for a model. A model per se is supposed to be a chameleon. You should be able to carry off what you are wearing… yeah, you wear a blonde wig but cannot recognise yourself! I had done a photo shoot with big Afro hair… I did not look anything like myself! It’s a job that lets you have fun with it.
Saionee: Has it ever got to a point where you felt irritated and angry?
Indrani: That tends to happen more with live pictures… when pictures are used beyond the terms of agreement. Catching somebody off-step… specially when you are up on stage and you are caught off-step… a dress that is too short or caught in a bad angle... those pictures... do they deserve to be printed? I don’t think so.
Saionee: What about pictures being touched up?
Indrani: As long as they are making me taller and thinner, who’s complaining? (Laughs) In fact, you do get used to seeing yourself in a certain way. You think you wake up with no dark circles, but that is not true anymore. There are definitely fine lines how far touching up can go. I remember this toothpaste ad where they had removed the laugh lines of the model! 

Indrani flanked by t2 readers (l-r) Tanvir, Srimoyee, Anisha and Ruchira at the t2 office. Pictures: Rashbehari Das

Being good at what you do

Srimoyee Dey (Max Sananda Tilottama 2014 winner): How do you maintain yourself?
Indrani: It gets harder and harder, I’ll tell you that! You must be 20 or something? Enjoy it! (Laughs out loud) With time and age, your body just takes you to do that much more for you to respect it. The standard gospel is to remove your make-up before you go to sleep. There have been many a night when I have woken up with make-up all over my pillow. With time, when you realise that you have no more lashes left, you’d realise it is not a great idea. I was not really into fitness… I used to be an athlete when I was a kid… I played every sport there was in school. When I was in college, I used to work out two or three days a week. Now, in hindsight, I wish I had started then. Now, it wouldn’t seem like such a struggle. It is something that everyone should do with or without the job, to stay fit. We never had aerated drinks and crisps…. Try and understand what works for you. I cannot do weight training and power training. Not that I am a dancer, but I enjoy dance and music-oriented things more. Even if it’s on the treadmill, I find great music adds that extra motivation.

Ruchira Mookerjee (first-year BCom, Bhawanipur Education Society College): What does it take to be a supermodel?
Indrani: Oh! Who knows? Just work on the ‘super’ part. ‘Model’ is incidental. What keeps you slightly above the rest is if you are good at what you are doing. How do you get good? I think you’ll have to be disciplined. Of course you’ll have off-days, but it is the attitude, how excited or interested you are in your job and then understanding it. At the end of the day, the number of people you want to work with are a handful, and for them to notice you, you have to be doing the right things.

Tanvir Singh Sidhu [third-year BCom (hons), St. Xavier’s College]: What is the only thing on your mind when you are walking the ramp?
Indrani: For me personally, I want to walk from this side of the wing to that side of the wing because it is still that sensation of ‘Why am I doing this?’ The second you turn around and you are on the stage, the lights are on you, you are like, ‘Take 30 steps and come back’. It’s not so bad. When you are on the ramp, things move so fast that you are not thinking. There has been one time when my heels went flying into the audience… I was heart-broken because I had so many more shows to do with those shoes. Another time, I was wearing the smallest heels but the longest pants and I tripped on the pants! You laugh a little. As long as you are not crying, you are okay, I think! The idea is to keep walking. There was this one show in Paris where every girl kept falling. Lakshmi Menon came out and she couldn’t walk and she did the coolest thing… she just took her shoes off.

Srimoyee: You have walked the ramp, hosted a show and done TV ads. Which have you enjoyed the most?
Indrani: I have enjoyed hosting the show because it is so different from modelling. It was a fun show… What’s With Indian Men? I was terrible on my first two days. They were shooting all the moments, but luckily I had a great co-host… Sugandha (Garg) was amazing. She has TV background. So, with time, one builds confidence. It’s not as hard as one imagined. It lets one have a life beyond what one is doing.
Ratnalekha Mazumdar: Would you like to try it again?
Indrani: Travel shows let you be yourself. You have to get comfortable being yourself. I would do a similar genre… lifestyle space.
Saionee: Do you enjoy travelling?
Indrani: I don’t enjoy the packing and unpacking. I have those spells where I am very organised and then it all falls apart. 

Anisha Banerjee (final-year, company secretaryship, ICSI): Since I am not that tall, I focus on print. What are the things I should keep in mind?
Indrani: Shoot with as many photographers… maybe you should ask the photographers. As I said, photographers will see you in a different way. The photographers I felt comfortable with, I asked them how they light me, which light and profile I should favour more. The eyeline is important. My trick is to always look a little above the lens… makes your eyes look bigger.

A fan of natural look

Pramita: Which was the most fashionable era according to you?
Indrani: I think the 1920s were classic, very flattering for the feminine form… I thought the women looked very elegant and beautiful. The ’60s were again sort of a fashion revolution because of colour, hippie movement. It was more about expressing yourself, being free. What was not good, I think, were the ’90s. Fashion now is also in a great place. I think there is enough space to be who you want and wear what you like. You have fun with fashion. I am not a big fan of crazy nail art or body art, for example. I am not very experimental….   

Riddhima: Everyone thinks models are perfect all the time. Is that an added pressure even when you are with friends and family?
Indrani: Friends and family wouldn’t matter… except my mother… she keeps telling me, ‘I cannot believe you aren’t wearing any make-up!’ I am like, ‘Mom, you’ve got to stop judging me because I am not wearing any make-up.’ I have never been that person who would wear a lot of make-up when I am not on the ramp. I am a fan of the natural look.

Saionee: What would be your advice for the young crop of models? Your generation of models probably had to learn everything on the job…
Indrani: To the point where professional make-up artists would have tea while we did our make-up! 

Saionee: Aren’t models today being pushed out by Bollywood stars?
Indrani: When we started modelling, we weren’t competing with Bollywood, cricketers… models had their own unique carved-out space. Now you see the overlaps. Models per se have limited exposure to their fan base. It is hard work for them to find their own space. The fashion universe is growing. There are many more models as opposed to our times and the one that sort of one remembers went on to work for many years for exactly that reason. Also, I guess most of us didn’t want to go into movies. Every other day you are in a different city with a bunch of friends and we didn’t want to change that. Now the big brands are not using models anymore. There is an anti-model movement in that sense.
Saionee: Do you think it is about the celebrity culture?
Indrani: I guess it’s about commerce and the celebrity culture and it is about vision. I guess if I was at the other end of the table, wouldn’t I want to use a movie star because of the access? But sometimes the message is confusing because there is no fit between the product and the ambassador. 
Srimoyee: The opposite is also happening… stars on the ramp...
Indrani: My mom says, ‘You girls walk up and down, rehearsing the whole day, taking early morning flights and this one person comes for three minutes and the media only uses her pictures!’
Saionee: What is the talk in the wings when a show-stopper walks on stage? You all are clapping, but…
Indrani: Now a lot of the actresses have been ex-models. So, they have that presence. Earlier we would see some show-stoppers come and walk on stage and we would be like, ‘Really! What’s going on?!’

Every girl has body image issues

Saionee: In this age of obsession with perfect bodies, how important is it for an aspiring model to aim for a real body?
Indrani: In our generation, we were all models with very real bodies (laughs). Our choreographers used to say: ‘You have to get them a lot of food, otherwise they would not work.’ If you are a model, it just gets more pronounced but teenaged girls get bombarded with the image of what beauty is. Everybody has to take the responsibility to tone it down… about keeping it real.
Saionee: Have you ever had body issues?
Indrani: Like every girl… I still do! I have been fighting this 4kg thing ever since I was 25. The one way Calcutta has been so kind to me… I have put on some pounds… the food is sensational. I am making up for lost time. If you are a girl, you are going to have body issues. It was trial and error… some things worked… some did not. If you are in a show with 20 girls, you are not going to be the thinnest or the tallest. I had a healthy balance…. You have to look at the mirror and say, ‘Great, however I am!’ You have to be smart about it. Everybody has some features that they are going to like. You work on that. As a woman you have to find and identify things that build your confidence because it’s tough being a girl out there (laughs). 

Married to Calcutta

Ratnalekha: You are a new Calcuttan. Are you exploring Calcutta and how is Calcutta treating you?
Indrani: Calcutta has been treating me really well! One feels the warmth, intimacy, connection. I have spent many summer holidays here. My grandparents used to be here. Then I used to cuss this place out because it was all about load-shedding, mosquito bites…. I am more like a tourist in my own city. There are a few places which I completely adore… Kumartuli, the Howrah bridge. It is also a bit of a discovery of myself. 
Saionee: How has this shift changed your life?
Indrani: It has impacted. There is this whole bunch of friends that I have left behind. I am not working as much, but it gives me much more time on my hands… I am still travelling quite a bit… trying to find that rhythm….
Ratnalekha: Have you developed a new passion?
Indrani: I have decided to learn the piano all over again, taking some dance classes…. Life post-marriage is good. It gives you a partner in crime [in Indrani’s case that partner in crime is of course Karan Paul, chairman of the Apeejay Surrendra Group] to do something with all the time.

Saionee: You sure have a sense of humour…
Indrani: In fashion you would have to have a sense of humour… it takes you a long way!
Saionee: Do you take people’s opinion seriously?
Indrani: I am thinking what you all are thinking! To a point… I am mostly occupied thinking what I am thinking about me. I am my own devil’s advocate.
Saionee: So what is Indrani according to Indrani?
Indrani: I am not going to tell you that! Most of the times I am okay… but I wish I tried harder, I was more motivated… it’s not like I am doing that much right now. I wish I was doing more.
Saionee: Why have you cut down on work so much?
Indrani: Because of Calcutta… I have put on nice pretty pounds…. It was a conscious decision to be based out of Calcutta to help to move on and grow and do different things, which would be easier to do being in Calcutta… away from the show action. I would be more tempted to do it if I was in Delhi. I could always go back and do it. The idea is to find different things to do.
Saionee: Do you miss the spotlight?
Indrani: I have lost touch with it. The other day I was at an event for 15 minutes and I was very uncomfortable. I don’t think I miss it. Depression? Not yet! Food’s helping.

Saionee: Finally, welcome on board as a t2 columnist. Your first column [in which she will play buddy guide to our readers] will be coming up soon!
Indrani: I hope it’s going to be a great friendship. t2 is one of the few things which felt like home when I came to Calcutta. Karan reads it cover to cover. I am excited to see what drives a young girl or a boy. Is it the same which drove me when I was in school? I think I am going to hear mostly from school and college kids. 

Karan Paul


Comfort food: Burgers with extra cheese, fries. Also, potato in any form. I have tried to stop eating potato chips and wafers. I make a great omelette, but that’s about it. I enjoy Japanese, Continental and Chinese. If you don’t eat Indian food for a week, there is nothing like biryani… from Arsalan. I like gurer rosogolla.
Style off the ramp: It is pretty much how I am right now. [Indrani breezed into the t2 office in a white shirt teamed with a pair of black palazzos, python-print pumps and a statement necklace]. Very casual. For me, dressing up is wearing high heels. And more and more, I am dressing up lesser and lesser. Mostly, a lot of blacks and blues. I enjoy make-up… the classic eyeliner and red lips. I like accessories. I grew up hating my hair, but now with time I have understood what to do with it. I love it.
The no-acne secret: Luckily puberty has not struck. So that is an advantage!
Trips to the spa: Maybe once in a couple of months.
Home remedies: I am a big kitchen junkie for peels, fruits and veggies on the face. Orange rind, milk and almond paste. I feel much more comfortable with all of those.
Childhood dream: Being part of an all-girl rock band. The ultimate thing was to be up on the stage with a guitar. If I get on to a karaoke stage, I will never get off.
Music faves: Aerosmith, Duran Duran, Heart.
A model’s acid test: If you are committed, you should definitely try… for a year at least. It’s not life-altering in that sense. What worked for me was I knew that I only wanted that much.
Dress code androgyny: I wasn’t a girlie girl. I grew up with two elder brothers. My mom was devastated that I wasn’t a girlie girl. My own personal style is slightly grunge, androgynous, but I love accessories. In college, I would wear oversized jeans, baggy shirts, canvas high tops. I would always wear full sleeves. I used to hate tan lines.
Given a chance: I would wear pyjamas and T-shirt every day.
A classic look: A nice pair of fitted denims, white shirt or a denim shirt.
A bedtime ritual: Drinking tea of late, because Karan loves drinking tea at all times of the day…. I drink mint or camomile tea before going to bed.

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