The eccentrics


The eccentrics

Their off-centre style and enormous lives prove that strange really can be beautiful

By Ashdeen Lilaowala & Nidhi Jacob  December 22nd, 2014

JIVI SETHI, 58
Extraordinary host and celebrator of life

“My style is a way to be honest to myself, even get to know myself. I dress by instinct.” 

JULIAN PARR, AGELESS HEDONIST
Man about town and potato grower

Parr is largely known for his outrageous personality, arriving at social gatherings with his (mostly unwanted) dog, Mr Biscuit, and his penchant for hats, which he often accessorises with vintage brooches and quotes printed on satin ribbons.

“Clothes, like human existence, are ephemeral. Therefore, like life, they should be worn with elegance, wit and style to make a statement in a crowded world. Existence isn’t a fitting room for death but a catwalk to celebrate life,” he says, explaining why he loves coming to fashion week in outlandish concoctions that include fishing baskets with ostrich plumes on his head (just to spite his partner) or a vintage harlequin jumpsuit with sunglasses shaped like playing cards. — AL

SUMANT JAYAKRISHNAN, 45
Scenographer and installation artist

Jayakrishnan’s calling card has pretty much always been those kohl-lined eyes, colourful mundus and ornate choker necklaces on his dusky, lean, frame. With a fondness for super-bright, kitschy colours and unusual accents (he picks up chokers and cuffs from his travels to Africa and South East Asia) — his personal style and design aesthetic are often one big melting pot.

The minute aspects of an accessory or a large-scale set are what arrest and define his flamboyant eye. “Style evolves from a series of details, and God is in the detail.” — AL

SURESH RAJANI, 65 
Chairman, ‘captain’ and all-round happy person 

A regular fixture at Juhu beach, ‘Captain’ Rajani (as he likes to be known) is something of a shining beacon of light in the early hours of day with his carefully matched, bespoke clothes (often sparkling whites), dressed up with patriotic and navy-inspired tiepins and the irreplaceable sailor hat.

You might wonder where all that marine symbolism comes from. “Because that is my area of work! If I worked with the army, I’d be wearing miniatures of a battle tank or Bofors gun. I am intelligently abnormal and mad.”

Whether people are laughing with him or at him, he doesn’t mind. “At least I bring a smile to their faces. I’m like this because I am happy and I want to be happy in every moment.” — NJ

PRAVEENA MECKLAI, 62, Gallerist, and JAMAL MECKLAI, 64, Financial wizard

The couple, whose collective persona is synonymous with a jolly good feeling, can be spotted from across the racecourse, a gallery or amphitheatre, thanks to their deeply colourful, tropical printed uniform.

Why do they pick brights and prints to express themselves? They don’t. “It’s not a choice. You buy what you like, right? It’s very hard for me because most men wear boring clothes,” says Jamal as he takes a sip from his pink-tinted martini glass. But for Praveena, it’s more of a practical approach: “Where else in the world do you get every shade of every colour?” — NJ

 

RTA KAPUR CHISHTI, 66
Author-researcher-textile-developer and sari-wearer

Kapur Chishti is super-passionate about saris and handloom textiles. She even has a school where she educates women in the art of wearing one — or two! Her signature style? Two saris, one draped as a dhoti and the other worn over both her shoulders. Come winter, you will find her in a Gandhi topi and warm cape over her favourite uniform.

“Be comfortable being yourself, in what you wear, for clothes, your outermost skin, are the most visible expression of who you are by non-imitative nature.” Her posh accent and that fabulous sense of humour bring a beautiful contradiction to her sari-clad persona. — AL

ASTAD DEBOO, 67
Powerhouse contemporary dancer and choreographer

Deboo’s dedication to his craft reflects not only in his graceful moves but also in his carefully cultivated on-stage persona — swirls of fabric, kohled eyes and intricate haircuts are part and parcel of the drama his performances always promise.

“I started dancing when I was six, and through the years, I have been evolving. It is a very minimal kind of movement that I do; it’s my signature now. On stage, I go from the meek to the strong 
to the fiery — people say that I look larger than life.” — NJ

JITEN THUKRAL, 38, and SUMIR TAGRA, 35
Artists extraordinaire 

Thukral and Tagra not only get a lot of attention for their superbly coordinated looks, but have also often been compared to Dutch designer duo Viktor&Rolf. Their arty think-space is a perfect reflection of their personalities — minimal, contemporary and yet, extremely detailed and colourful. Their wives dress similarly too, in matching pantsuits, often looking like a very stylish K-pop band.

Over the years, they’ve carefully crafted a very precise, metrosexual image for themselves and have been extremely diligent about it. “We don’t want to wear the obvious. Life is too short to wear average stuff. Never wear the same jacket with the same shirt and same tie,” they agree. — AL

ABHIJIT SAIPREM, 26
Kaleidoscopic fashion personality

Regulars at fashion week in Mumbai will instantly recognise Saiprem. His elaborately styled costumes, zany wigs and enthusiasm for sartorial expression are unmatched, especially at a time when normcore is dominating fashion — he stands out (almost too much) with his keenness to play dress-up.

But playing different roles is an elemental part of his personality. “It’s just the way I feel about myself,” he says. “I don’t fit into a particular style category; sometimes I can be hippie, sometimes punk, sometimes preppy. It has nothing to do with my sexuality; it’s just an expression of art.” — NJ

Photographs: Bikramjit Bose and Lakshmi Menon; Make-up and hair: Natasha Nasta/Warren Tricomi; Assisted by: Akanksha Kamath and Gauri Verma

JIVI SETHI, 58
Extraordinary host and celebrator of life

“My style is a way to be honest to myself, even get to know myself. I dress by instinct.” 

JULIAN PARR, AGELESS HEDONIST
Man about town and potato grower

Parr is largely known for his outrageous personality, arriving at social gatherings with his (mostly unwanted) dog, Mr Biscuit, and his penchant for hats, which he often accessorises with vintage brooches and quotes printed on satin ribbons.

“Clothes, like human existence, are ephemeral. Therefore, like life, they should be worn with elegance, wit and style to make a statement in a crowded world. Existence isn’t a fitting room for death but a catwalk to celebrate life,” he says, explaining why he loves coming to fashion week in outlandish concoctions that include fishing baskets with ostrich plumes on his head (just to spite his partner) or a vintage harlequin jumpsuit with sunglasses shaped like playing cards. — AL

SUMANT JAYAKRISHNAN, 45
Scenographer and installation artist

Jayakrishnan’s calling card has pretty much always been those kohl-lined eyes, colourful mundus and ornate choker necklaces on his dusky, lean, frame. With a fondness for super-bright, kitschy colours and unusual accents (he picks up chokers and cuffs from his travels to Africa and South East Asia) — his personal style and design aesthetic are often one big melting pot.

The minute aspects of an accessory or a large-scale set are what arrest and define his flamboyant eye. “Style evolves from a series of details, and God is in the detail.” — AL

SURESH RAJANI, 65 
Chairman, ‘captain’ and all-round happy person 

A regular fixture at Juhu beach, ‘Captain’ Rajani (as he likes to be known) is something of a shining beacon of light in the early hours of day with his carefully matched, bespoke clothes (often sparkling whites), dressed up with patriotic and navy-inspired tiepins and the irreplaceable sailor hat.

You might wonder where all that marine symbolism comes from. “Because that is my area of work! If I worked with the army, I’d be wearing miniatures of a battle tank or Bofors gun. I am intelligently abnormal and mad.”

Whether people are laughing with him or at him, he doesn’t mind. “At least I bring a smile to their faces. I’m like this because I am happy and I want to be happy in every moment.” — NJ

PRAVEENA MECKLAI, 62, Gallerist, and JAMAL MECKLAI, 64, Financial wizard

The couple, whose collective persona is synonymous with a jolly good feeling, can be spotted from across the racecourse, a gallery or amphitheatre, thanks to their deeply colourful, tropical printed uniform.

Why do they pick brights and prints to express themselves? They don’t. “It’s not a choice. You buy what you like, right? It’s very hard for me because most men wear boring clothes,” says Jamal as he takes a sip from his pink-tinted martini glass. But for Praveena, it’s more of a practical approach: “Where else in the world do you get every shade of every colour?” — NJ

 

RTA KAPUR CHISHTI, 66
Author-researcher-textile-developer and sari-wearer

Kapur Chishti is super-passionate about saris and handloom textiles. She even has a school where she educates women in the art of wearing one — or two! Her signature style? Two saris, one draped as a dhoti and the other worn over both her shoulders. Come winter, you will find her in a Gandhi topi and warm cape over her favourite uniform.

“Be comfortable being yourself, in what you wear, for clothes, your outermost skin, are the most visible expression of who you are by non-imitative nature.” Her posh accent and that fabulous sense of humour bring a beautiful contradiction to her sari-clad persona. — AL

ASTAD DEBOO, 67
Powerhouse contemporary dancer and choreographer

Deboo’s dedication to his craft reflects not only in his graceful moves but also in his carefully cultivated on-stage persona — swirls of fabric, kohled eyes and intricate haircuts are part and parcel of the drama his performances always promise.

“I started dancing when I was six, and through the years, I have been evolving. It is a very minimal kind of movement that I do; it’s my signature now. On stage, I go from the meek to the strong 
to the fiery — people say that I look larger than life.” — NJ

JITEN THUKRAL, 38, and SUMIR TAGRA, 35
Artists extraordinaire 

Thukral and Tagra not only get a lot of attention for their superbly coordinated looks, but have also often been compared to Dutch designer duo Viktor&Rolf. Their arty think-space is a perfect reflection of their personalities — minimal, contemporary and yet, extremely detailed and colourful. Their wives dress similarly too, in matching pantsuits, often looking like a very stylish K-pop band.

Over the years, they’ve carefully crafted a very precise, metrosexual image for themselves and have been extremely diligent about it. “We don’t want to wear the obvious. Life is too short to wear average stuff. Never wear the same jacket with the same shirt and same tie,” they agree. — AL

ABHIJIT SAIPREM, 26
Kaleidoscopic fashion personality

Regulars at fashion week in Mumbai will instantly recognise Saiprem. His elaborately styled costumes, zany wigs and enthusiasm for sartorial expression are unmatched, especially at a time when normcore is dominating fashion — he stands out (almost too much) with his keenness to play dress-up.

But playing different roles is an elemental part of his personality. “It’s just the way I feel about myself,” he says. “I don’t fit into a particular style category; sometimes I can be hippie, sometimes punk, sometimes preppy. It has nothing to do with my sexuality; it’s just an expression of art.” — NJ

Photographs: Bikramjit Bose and Lakshmi Menon; Make-up and hair: Natasha Nasta/Warren Tricomi; Assisted by: Akanksha Kamath and Gauri Verma