Bengaluru's well-known families recall memories of old Bangalore and how the pandemic has changed the city
If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s the importance of family. With restaurants shuttered, concerts cancelled and cinema halls locked up, one was forced to stay at home. Professionals, who were otherwise constantly flying in and out of the city multiple times a month, suddenly found themselves with plenty of time and nowhere to go. For many of them, this was the perfect time to bond with family. Aviva Bidapa recalls that her parents Prasad and Judith Bidapa would share stories about how they met and the early days of their courtship, while Bengaluru-based designer Sayesha Sachdev would cook up family recipes her mother the noted designer Jyoti Sachdev Iyer, who is based in Delhi, shared with her over the phone. One way or another, this year gave everyone time to bond with the people closest to their hearts. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we talk to city-based parent-child duos who have pursued similar fields about the influence they have had on each other and what lies ahead on the professional front.
Aviva and Prasad Bidapa
Fashion stylist, consultant and icon Prasad Bidapa’s model management agency may have been the stepping stone for names like Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma, but his daughter Aviva, who launched her own swimwear label a few years ago, confesses that she was clueless about what her dad did for a living until she was about 18. “I used to follow my mom everywhere. I had no idea what my father did or even that he was famous. Fashion was not really my thing, growing up. I was an athlete and that was what I focussed on,” she shares.
It was only when Aviva started helping out at his office, that she began understanding his profession and couldn’t help but gravitate towards it. “She was passionate about equestrian sports, and she was a very gifted rider too. We even hoped that she would represent India at the Olympics. But I think as she grew older, she realised it was not really what she wanted to do,” reveals Prasad who along with his wife Judith, made a conscious decision to bring up their kids in Bengaluru. “Bengaluru gives you a sense of reality, unlike the ‘larger than life’ quality of cities like Mumbai and Delhi. This grounding is very important for young people, and that was one of the reasons we decided to bring up both Aviva and Adam here,” says Prasad, who got into fashion himself, because of his mother. “I got into fashion, purely because of my mother, who was always impeccably dressed. As a kid, I would read the fashion magazines she subscribed to from cover to cover,” he recalls.
Over the past few years, Prasad has been involved in numerous handloom revival projects, such as Rajasthan Heritage Week which seeks to champion the heritage crafts of Rajasthan — something he is very passionate about. “I started wearing a dhoti when I was 17. Then came my interest in handlooms and handwoven fabric,” he says. While he is currently working on a similar project with the government of Maharashtra, Aviva, on the other hand, opened her very own store for her brand Aviva Swim, in Indiranagar a few weeks ago.
Talking about the influence her dad has had on her, she says, “He is very particular about allowing me to make my own mistakes. He was never a helicopter parent and never stopped me from doing what I wanted to. So I had the freedom to make my own choices and that has taught me a lot of valuable lessons. A few things I’ve learnt from him are creativity, patience and the ability to be bold. There have been many instances when I was worried about how something will look or what people would think of me, and he would sit me down and tell me to just be myself and to be honest. This has taught me to do my best, no matter what,” shares Aviva, signing off.
Samyuktha Hornad and Sudha Belwadi
Actress Sudha Belawadi fondly remembers the Bengaluru that was. One of her favourite memories is visiting the top of Ragigudda Temple to enjoy the view with her daughter, actress Samyukta Hornad, when she was just a little baby. “When she was young, Samyukta used to love seeing the brightly lit up East End Circle so we used to take her for a walk there. Her dad used to carry her on his shoulders and she used to fall asleep on the way back,” says Sudha, who has starred in movies such as Mathadana, Moggina Manasu and Kaadu. Samyukta has grown up to be a true-blue South Bengaluru girl. “I know exactly where to get the best congress kadlekai or the best dose in the area. Through my college and school days, and even today, I have stayed loyal to the Anand Bhavan in South Bengaluru and their dahi puri. It doesn’t matter if I’ve travelled the world when I come back I have to eat the dish there,” she says. Initially, Samyukta had not planned on getting in front of the camera and actually wanted to become a vet. “I was in school when my mom starred in Mungaru Male, and I remember the boys in school singing songs from the movie! It was everywhere. But at that point, going into the cinema was not on my mind at all,” she shares. However, once she read the script for her debut movie Lifeu Ishtene, there was no going back. When talking about Kannada cinema, Sudha says, “Starting with technology, everything has changed in the past decade. Earlier, it was a good mix of commercial and parallel cinema. The movies were artsy but also did well at the box office. Now that is not the case.” Sudha feels, going forward, Kannada cinema has a lot to compete with as OTT platforms take over, and audiences have world cinema at their fingertips. “Audiences will not compromise on quality. We need to know that you can spend as much as you want and have the best cast, but unless the content is good it’s pointless,” she sums up.
Bindu, Ambi and L Subramaniam
Subramaniam Gharana, as they are sometimes known, consists of renowned violinist L Subramaniam and his children Ambi and Bindu. The trio has performed many concerts together as well individually, and are legends in the field of Carnatic music. Growing up in South Bengaluru, both Bindu and Ambi have lasting memories of the area. “I was obsessed with cakes from VB Bakery,” Bindu shares with a laugh, adding, “And of course Corner House.” Ambi, meanwhile, was a big fan of softy ice creams you’d find near the Bull Temple in Basavanagudi, with the apple flavour being his favourite. While Bindu initially studied to be a lawyer, Ambi started learning music from and touring with his father when he was 13. “As a teacher, he’s very strict, but as a person, he’s really easy going. He kind of has these two sides,” Ambi shares. He also remembers that after every concert, his father would start analysing what happened. Surprisingly, the maestro says that this was the most active period for the family in recent years. With his wife, the renowned playback singer Kavita Krishnamurthy, he is always on the road for tours and concerts, and barely at home for more than 10 days at a time. But the lockdown had the family spending time together. “When the lockdown started, we thought everything would come to a standstill. But all of a sudden, people reached out for more projects and there was a lot of work,” he says. The musician has just re-leased a new album, titled Beyond Borders, an Indo-jazz blues-pop collaboration. Talking about the future of music in Bengaluru, Bindu says, “I think it’s still very soon to say how things will change. I think an answer will come. I feel the spirit of Bengaluru is unstoppable,” she says.
Sayesha and Jyoti Sachdev Iyer
Known for her skillfully draped silhouettes, minimal embellishments and an elegant, understated aesthetic, celebrated couturier, Jyoti Sachdev Iyer and her daughter Sayesha Sachdev have a strong bond defined by the early years of Jyoti’s career. “My mom was a single mom and she would take me with her everywhere she went. So I would spend hours in her studio, where I’d see her working with tailors and pattern makers, and that’s where my love for fashion stems from. I remember learning how to sew at a very young age. We shared a passion for the same thing from very early on,” says Sayesha, who is the co-founder of sustainable label CORE by JSI (which specialises in creating clothes out of the natural fibres of eucalyptus, bamboo, aloe vera and rose petals) along with her mother. Jyoti reveals that Sayesha always had a keen eye for fashion and there was no question of her following a different path, though she has varied interests. “She has grown to be a very talented designer. We have so much fun working together. We did one show in London together and another in Pakistan, which was a great experience, especially crossing the Wagah border,” shares Jyoti. However, it’s not only in her profession that Sayesha has followed in her mother’s footsteps. She has also imbibed Jyoti’s work ethic and her respect for people. “What I admire most about my mother is the way she treats everyone she works with as equals. Over the years, her team members have become family. It is from her that I have learnt the importance of treating people right,” she reveals. In the last few months, Sayesha launched a line of sustainable masks which have taken off quite well, while Jyoti and her team are busy with their Spring /Summer 2021 collection. And now that people are staying indoors more than they ever did before, Sayesha is also working on a line of loungewear.
Mikhail and Ashish Sen
Earlier this year, a Bengaluru-boy, quietly made his mark in the international OTT space with his performance in Mira Nair’s A Suitable Boy. Mikhail Sen who played Amit Chatterji, the poet and one of the suitors for Lata, the heroine, impressed audiences across the globe with his nuanced performance. Natives of Bengaluru, particularly in theatre circles will know where Mikhail gets his acting streak from. Both his parents Munira and Ashish Sen are theatre veterans who have worked in and produced some memorable productions. Reminiscing his childhood, Mikhail says, “They took me along with them to rehearsals, parties, plays and I would even spend some time in their offices so I really got a sense of their world which definitely influenced my world. It was fantastic to grow up with theatre being a part of everyday life. There was always something happening, whether it was a play reading or rehearsal or even going to watch theatre.”
Ashish and Munira both agree that the city was the best place to raise their son. Both of them were working, and since their parents lived close to their home, bringing up Mikhail wasn’t tough. “Mikhail had three sets of parents, and he never lacked company,” says Munira, while Ashish adds, “Bengaluru in the ‘90s was a fascinating city and a lovely place for a child to grow up. Traffic was less, there were so many green spaces, and his grandparents were around. This sense of family played a seminal role in Mikhail’s upbringing.” While rehearsals at Lumbini Play Home (which was pulled down a few years ago) on Museum Road were part of their routine, the family fondly remembers the outings at Airlines and Koshy’s. “My childhood was synonymous with Airlines ( where I would play on the little moving car rides ) and Koshy's (where I'd eat Lamb burgers and make friends with the waiters.) Funnily enough, it's pretty much the same story today. When I'm in Bangalore there's nothing like a good filter coffee from Airlines and a visit to Koshy's would definitely make my day,” says Mikhail who currently lives in London. His father Ashish shares another anecdote about how his son was fascinated with two statues in the vicinity of Cubbon Park. “He always wondered why Gandhi ji was standing and if he had a mother or not. There is another statue of a Maharaja, and the sculpture had a broken toe. For a long time, Mikhail wondered why couldn’t the Maharaja get his toe fixed,” remembers the father.
Perhaps this concern for people and things around him is just one of Mikhail’s biggest learning from his parents who continue to work actively in the development space in Bengaluru. Munira has been associated with several programmes in the women and child sector, while Ashish has played a key role in the development of community radio. Ashish is writing his second book, a docu-fiction. “It’s about making an opportunity out of adversity,” he reveals. While Munira works with CommonPurpose India, where she is spearheading a new leadership programme that aims to bring together the government, the corporate sector and NGOs. Mikhail who is constantly in touch with his parents says, “I feel very blessed to have parents like my parents. I wouldn't be who I am without them. My biggest learning from them is to change the world. I realised that even impacting one person's life is enough. And that's what I'd like to do through my work.”
While the proud parents say, “He has taught us the power of belief. When you work for something nobody can take that away from you,” says Ashish. Although the lockdown meant neither Mikhail, nor his parents could travel to meet each other, yet the family bonded over their love for theatre. “Mikhail alerted us about all the shows that were streaming online, and we managed to watch some good plays,” says Ashish. Now the parents are hoping to meet their son in December when Mikhail flies down for a short break but before that, he has some interesting projects lined up. “I've just finished recording an audiobook of the Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie,” concludes Mikhail.
(With inputs by Ayesha Tabassum)