Musicians Nikhita Gandhi and EPR channel winter vibes in Abhishek Dutta's creations

The singers look fabulous in exclusive ensembles created by couturier Abhishek Dutta
In Frame: Nikhita Gandhi and EPR
In Frame: Nikhita Gandhi and EPR

They both are fabulous artistes who have created their own niche in the indie as well as Bollywood commercial music spaces. Complete livewires on stage, Nikhita Gandhi and hip-hop artist EPR aka Santhanam Srinivasan Iyer do not need any introduction to the new-age audience.

The firebrand multilingual rapper, known for his relevant and edgy lyrics, departed from his 13-year-old band Underground Authority last year to concentrate on his journey as a solo artist. A gifted writer known for his complex bars and inventive flow on stage, EPR’s latest album, Uncertainty Principle, too, has introspective versus exploring life’s unpredictable charms.

The eight-song album takes one through a gamut of emotional experiences, right from uncertainty to love, hope and existentialism. One of Bollywood's young emerging voices, Nikhita too tasted success last year with a few superhit film tracks and a couple of singles.

<em>Nikhita Gandhi and EPR</em>
Nikhita Gandhi and EPR

As they visit their hometown this winter, Nikhita and EPR decide to channel their fashion vibes through some equally grungy and eclectic creations put together by none other than the very quirky couturier Abhishek Dutta. Shot in the backdrop of ruins from the long-lost colonial era, nothing could have been a more sonorous start to 2024. On the sidelines of this exclusive shoot, we speak to artists about their music, and what they are looking forward to this year.

Excerpts from the chat:

<em>Nikhita Gandhi</em>
Nikhita Gandhi

How has the year 2023 been for you?

Nikhita: It was a fabulous year and the funny thing is the year started with a show in Kolkata and interestingly, I am again starting 2024 with a shoot in Kolkata for Indulge. Coming back to the question, I never track my trajectory and I don’t consider downs to be downs everything is just ups for me and I think that’s the best approach in a career like music where everything is so unpredictable. I am very grateful because I had some huge hits like Chedkhaniya and Munda Sona Hoon Main from the film Shehzada followed by the biggest drop Tere Pyar Mein (Tu Jhoothi Main Makkar) – all composed by Pritam. Tere Pyar Mein is still charting. I had a few drops around Diwali including Pyar Mein Pagal, and now, closed the year with my single Hai Huku in collaboration with King. We just dropped the video and the reactions are amazing.

EPR: I released my sophomore album Uncertainty Principle in October and I completed yet another season of Hustle 3. I also started touring with my primary team and there were a few Bollywood collaborations including Aja Baija Tu with Arijit Singh and Salim-Sulaiman for the documentary film Brand Bollywood Downunder.

It was after watching Oppenheimer that I came up with the idea of the Uncertainty Principle, which is based on quantum mechanics theory that the position and momentum of a particle can’t be determined simultaneously. I related it to my life metaphorically — we all are running after something which we might achieve, but in the process, might also lose something else. It relates to different situations and also touches upon Albert Camous’ philosophy that life is meaningless but you have to accept it positively. The 8 songs take you through thematically different philosophies.


How unavoidable or important are videos for music?

Nikhita: Interestingly, this current season we have been getting mixed feedback with lots of labels and artists only releasing audio. Frankly speaking, you don’t recover anything out of making music videos, they are just an expenditure to give a visual companion to your music. Also, I feel music is very subjective and visual representation tends to bias the audience. At the end of the day, it’s everybody’s music and you want everybody to find themselves in your songs. So, it’s better not to spoil it with any particular video. But at times there’s this creative urge in me to do something quirky and wild, like I did for Pyar Mein Pagal. So, it’s a subjective process.

EPR: Videos were important 6-7 years back, but now, musicians are focusing more on streaming.

<em>Nikhita Gandhi</em>
Nikhita Gandhi

You both are livewires on stage. Does that come naturally?

Nikhita: When I sing live, I don’t like lip sync since as an artist, I am egotistical and I have never felt stage fright or pressure because in reality as well I am like this -- I am loud about my emotions and always vocal about my wants, and I think that sort of amplifies on stage. I enjoy being over the top and dressing up for performances. It’s a part of who I am as an artiste.

EPR: I have never had any stage fright, I guess I was born for the stage. I have been performing on stage ever since I took up music and I feel it’s my responsibility to entertain the crowd on stage. The energy on stage is infectious and I feed on the crowd’s energy and they feed on mine, it’s a cyclical process.

Any memorable stage acts from 2023?

Nikhita: I shared the podium with Farhan Akhtar and I sang with him – it was incredible, he was so spontaneous about the whole thing. Another collaboration worth mentioning was my small feature with Euphoria at NH7. It was nostalgic to sing Mehfooz with them.

EPR: I recently met Samantha Prabhu at the third season of Hustle and I performed a song in my mother tongue Tamil for the first time. She was in awe of it and posted the same on social media too. I cherish that. Also, hearing the song, Badshah, who was also present there, offered me a collab on the spot. That’s something I will remember for long.


As an artist, what do you enjoy more – live performances or recording?

Nikhita: It’s very hard to choose. They are opposing experiences that feed both my energies. At recording studios, I love being a perfectionist who is always aspiring for a better take and the wildness and unpredictability of the stage is just something else altogether. I think I love both.

EPR: They are two different things. When I am composing it’s something completely different. On stage, it’s more about energy than perfection, and if I had to pick one, it would be a live performance because when I started, there was no scope or resource for recording; we had only stages to perform and I still enjoy that.

How is 2024 going to be musically?

Nikhita: There are going to be more singles and music videos including an indie pop collab with Raghav Kaushik called Jia Jaise, which will be the first drop of the year. It would be followed by a fun summer drop – a retake of a hit international track by a UK-based Grammy-winning artist. It will be out by end-February or the beginning of March.

<em>Nikhita Gandhi</em>
Nikhita Gandhi

EPR: There will be a collaboration with Badshah and Anurag Saikia — we will record it first thing now. There are loads of tours and promotions of the Uncertainty Principle. Besides, I am working on two albums. One will see me capturing the sounds of country folk music by collaborating with regional folk artistes and blending it with hip-hop. I plan to cover regions including Northeast, Punjab, Kerala, Bengal and Goa. My fourth one will be a concept album.

Your fashion choices?

Nikhita: I love being edgy and quirky ensembles that are stylish and comfortable. Boots sneakers, and oversized anti-fit outfits bring out the best of my slightly feminine yet Tom-boyish personality. Winters are all about bicycle shorts with oversized coats and boots.

EPR: I am all for flowy comfort clothing with oversized tees, cargo and shoes ruling my wardrobe. I have over 80 pairs of sneakers and I also have my merch. I want my fashion to represent what I do and hence I keep it very simple.

<em>Nikhita Gandhi </em>
Nikhita Gandhi 

Decoding winter fashion: Couturier Abhishek Dutta on his fall-winter collection

Tell us about your fall-winter collection

Our winter collection comprising Fall-Winter and Winter-festive is a visual ode to our planet's precious resources, and addresses the urgency of global warming, focusing on the disappearing beauty of snow-capped mountains and glaciers. Our Fall-Winter collection is inspired by the beauty of snow-capped mountains and glaciers, featuring hand-woven fabrics like Merino wools, heavy linens, and soft satins. Structured jackets and fluid draping take centre stage, adorned with 3D embroidery, aari work, and French knot techniques. Silhouettes span pantsuits, corsets, jumpsuits, capes, and bandhgalas inspired by uncut mountain peaks and snow.

<em>Nikhita Gandhi and EPR</em>
Nikhita Gandhi and EPR

Our Winter Festive collection draws inspiration from the symbolic hibiscus flower, representing passion and strength in Hinduism. The colour palette, featuring enchanting red shades, is seamlessly melded with hand embroidery. There are leather quilted corsets, lehengas, unconventional jackets and more.

Winter party wardrobe essentials? For men and women

Jackets are indispensable whether it's classic leather staples or trendy bombers. For women, you can never go wrong with a little black dress, especially with unique embroidery or sequins.

What will be your spring Summer 2024 edit like?

It will be all about craftsmanship — a couture resort wear collection with signature detailing.

CREDITS: PICS: Somnath Roy / Makeup: Bhaskar Biswas / Hair: Shontai Shaw / Food partner: Chowman

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