Nov 17, 2014

ladies we love

Contributed by Manju Latha Kalanidhi | 11.16.14 2:19am

Suchitra Karthik Kumar: South Indian Singer

If you have ever been to South India and traveled by road, chances are that any one of the radio stations are playing a peppy "Suchi" song —no matter the hour of the day. And why not? South Indian live and playback singer Suchitra Karthik Kumar—"Simply Suchi" for her fans—manages to impress not just her music directors and fans, but even the irate drivers negotiating peak hour traffic with her repertoire of 500 songs.
Suchi shares her interesting journey into the world of music with us.
You are a popular playback singer and a peppy on-stage performer down south (recently at the Mirchi Music Awards). How would you sum up your journey? Was it smooth sailing? Or very tough with struggles and tears?
Pretty smooth. I’ve been blessed with composers who recognized that I have a specific tone, and "created" songs for it ("Yen Idhayam" from Singam, ‘Tharai Erangiya’ from Eeram and "Kanninima" from Anwar are examples). It also keeps me exclusive, not overworked and therefore no burnout!
You have a hectic life with a playback session on one day, a live performance for an awards function another day and perhaps giving a voice-over for a character another. What is a typical day in the life of Suchi? Do you have a mantra that allows you to balance all these and still be able to give your best to work?
Some days are packed with 17-18 hours of work and some days go by with nothing at all. I love this kind of life. And some small routines of mine, like a shot of apple cider vinegar in the morning, and half an hour of guitar practice, are constant—no matter what the day looks like. These things keep me centered.
You transitioned from an IT job to radio hosting a few years ago. Why did you make this transition?
It happened organically. I always rely on common sense and instinct to make my decisions. So when such opportunities came alone, if it "felt" right, I went for it.
You've had a successful stint as a radio jockey for Radio Mirchi but your primary profession is singing. In such an industry where new talent and new faces often get the attention, how do you maintain your personal brand?
Again, it happened organically. Maybe my personality helped too. Sometimes having a personality to go with a voice makes one more of a media person than just a singer.
How do you keep yourself updated on your skills, your looks, the latest musical equipment etc? What do your read or watch to stay on top?
I learn all the time. All the time! I'm a curious student of everything—music, food, fashion, life.
Any specific hilarious or memorable moments from your time in the limelight?
Yeah! One day, this guy comes up to me and says, "Hey I'm a huge fan of yours. I follow you on Twitter. May I please have a picture with you. . . . . Chinmayee?” Haha, I simply said "thank you." [Chinmayee is another popular singer, a contemporary of Suchitra.]
With late night shoots and rehearsals, how do you stay safe and secure? Is there is a small emergency kit that you often carry in a big, bad city like Chennai, India?
Chennai is absolutely safe! It has the most helpful, respectful people. I have never, ever faced a problem here.
As a playback singer for films, there are times when a movie doesn't do well and your song barely gets heard. How do you handle the disappointment of a song you love—and put a lot of work into—not getting much attention?
By detaching. I don’t associate expectations with any song I sing. I love it for the way it makes me feel when I sing it, and I have it on my iPod for life. It makes me feel blessed and grateful each time I listen to it, and my life is more beautiful as I have that song in it. What more do I need?
Who are your musical role models, and why?
George Michael for the longest time; I love the way his personality shines through his music. Each time he has reinvented himself, his music has reflected it. In India, Amit Trivedi and Rex Vijayan. To me, they come across as musicians who have let their music organically flow through them. Almost like they are a conduit to it, and not really the "inventors." Early Ilayaraja music feels like that to me too.

Nov 4, 2014

ladies we love

Contributed by Manju Latha Kalanidhi | 11.3.14 2:34am

Rujuta Diwekar: Fitness Aficionado, Star Nutritionist

So are you all set to lose those five pounds for New Year’s Eve? And working towards dropping ten inches for your bestie’s wedding? By all means, drop that weight, but be afraid—very, very afraid—of India’s top dietician and weight loss expert Rujuta Diwekar. Rujuta is going to lambast you because she feels that such short-term goals and targets display a gross disrespect for one’s body—and she's about real health.
Rujuta is the Mumbai-based celebrity nutritionist who was voted one of the 50 most powerful people in India by People magazine in 2012 and was recently credited with helping to sculpt India’s top star Kareena Kapoor’s incredible body. Her books such as Don't Lose your Mind, Lose Your Weight and Don’t Lose Out, Work Out! have been bestsellers, helping millions across the globe lose weight and stay fit. Rujuta’s advice for good health is rich in ancestral wisdom and her mantra is "back to basics."
She spoke with us about what it is that makes her famous, her approach to fitness, and how's working to help people unlearn many unhealthy fitness lessons.
What makes you the most successful nutritionist and health advisor in India and among the 50 most powerful women in the country?
One of the reasons I am considered a celebrity and top nutritionist is because celebs are my clients and I live in Mumbai where the Bollywood action happens. It is the city of glamor and there is good mileage for what we do here, especially if it involves the stars.
Tell us about a bit about what you were like before you became the woman behind the beauty of India’s most glamourous actressKareena.
I studied in a local school next to where I lived in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India. At school, I was an outdoorsy girl who was into athletics three hours a day. Even in college, I did aerobics and was a part-time fitness instructor. I’ve always enjoyed exploring the health aspects of food and the body and so it was not out of the way for me to choose to specialize in sports medicine and nutrition. In the late 1990s when I started my career, several new entrants into the movie industry were sporting fit and trim bodies. I started working with them and I am happy that I got to work with some of the most beautiful people in India who also know how to love and respect their bodies. My clients like Kareena or her sister Karisma Kapoor, both stars in their own right, have adopted a healthy lifestyle—and not because they want to lose weight for a specific song, presentation or college reunion.
"Weight loss" is the most Googled term in the world. Do you think people across the world are overdoing it and are obsessed with their weight?
Today people think five times before they eat something. In the olden days, people used to relish their food. What do you think brought in this ugly change? While it is good to work towards staying fit, this new obsession for having ridiculous timelines such as "I want to lose x lbs for Christmas" is a not a healthy strategy. We have to live with our bodies and one cannot afford to have such a casual approach towards to them. We need to respect our bodies, work on them and invest in them. I think people got caught in some wrong fads, which steered them away from real wellness.
What do you think made you the top weight loss experts? Why do you think so many Indians connect with your advice in such a big way?
What I say is not really different from what our moms and grandmoms have said. I am basically taking people back to their roots with my advice. I am lucky to have beautiful brand ambassadors spreading the message of a healthy life and that made it easier to convey my thoughts—that element of glamor was missing from my grandma's advice.
What do you think contributed to your meteoric rise in the fitness industry?
I have been working since 1999 and that was the time when the media in India opened up with lifestyle supplements, health advice columns, weight loss sections and glamor news channels etc. So the focus fell on those like me catering to this segment. I guess the right exposure helped. The biggest contributor to my success is really the generous love I have received from my fans. There is no alternative or measure for it.
Where do you personally derive your knowledge from?
Someone in my family is always giving me advice like "Don’t have a long gap between meals," or "Don’t watch TV and eat," and I wanted to pass this scientifically–backed and commonsense knowledge to my fans and clients. Relaying this relevant knowledge is half the job. I also manage to put ancient wisdom in today’s perspective.
Why do you think there are myths such as "don’t eat rice if you want to lose weight" floating around these days?
I think food corporations need to do some business and telling people what they are eating currently is all wrong and giving them some stylish alternatives is a good marketing strategy. But yes it is a big myth that you put on weight if you eat rice.
When you are out traveling, how do you ensure you eat healthy food? Do you carry your own food, cook, eat locally?
I carry dry fruit or chiwda (an Indian snack made of puffed rice) with me as my emergency food. I also try local fruit or a local speciality, which I combine with my comfort food. It's important to fill your tummy with healthy food so that you dont eat junk.
Tell us a healthy day in the life of Rujuta.
I wake up by 5 AM and after exercise, meditation and reading newspapers, I travel to the office and have a local breakfast. Mumbai has lovely sandwiches and healthy bhels and I love to gorge on that. The day unfolds with work for my clients and I take a break from work for a freshly brewed self-made south Indian coffee. I have an early lunch and keep working. I return home for my dance class and then a walk. After that, I wrap up my day with an early dinner. By around 9 PM, I am fast asleep. While I do love to socialize, I do that for breakfast or lunch and rarely during dinner time.
What are your future projects?
I'm currently working on my next—fourth—book which is about exercising.  
You can follow along with Rujuta's work on Twitter @RujutaDiwekar, onFacebook or on her personal website.
Think you'd be a Lady We'd Love? Or want to recommend a lady you love?Please drop us a line!

ladies we love

Contributed by Manju Latha Kalanidhi | 10.30.14 4:00am

Eve Mayer: CEO, Social Media Delivered

It should come as no surprise that Eve Mayer, CEO of the reputable Social Media Delivered, has mastered her own social media domain. With 94,000 followers and counting on Twitter, she understands the elusive art of a compelling tweet. More than that, she knows how to deliver those insights to thousands of fans and followers—not to mention companies and conference groups including Cisco, Vistage and Microsoft.
The author of Social Media for the CEO and The Social Media Business Equation has been recognized by Forbes as the fifth-most influential woman in social media, and by Webbiquity as one of the top 50 women on Twitter. #Intimidated yet? So were we. But Mayer proved herself a gracious interview subject, discussing the power of LinkedIn, how to balance work with your personal life, and the surprisingly few times she tweets a day. (Twitter addicts, take note.)
You are considered a social media phenomenon and pioneer. Was there any particular incident that made you realize the significant impact social media can have?
I first comprehended the impact of social media on a business or an organization as early as 2008. I was working for a company and we managed to clinch a big business deal worth $100,000 through LinkedIn, a business-oriented social networking service. The ease, speed and interactivity with which we could move and tick off our to-do lists was amazing, giving us a first-hand experience of what it was to leverage social media for one's business.
Have you completed any formal/professional course in social media? If not, how did you learn how to navigate the social media world?
No! I was among the first to use social media. When I started out, no one knew what its future was. But that helped me to learn, unlearn and explore so many angles of social media. I am proud to say that those raw experiences helped me write my books.
You are also termed the LinkedIn Queen. Why do you think LinkedIn is a powerful social tool?
LinkedIn is a professional-oriented social network. While companies use it for recruitment purposes, individuals can use it for networking. It is important to showcase your skills to the world, connect with peers and colleagues, and stay in the loop. Social media is the future of recruitment and networking.
Do you see PR companies getting replaced by in-house social media managers?
Good social media platforms make for good PR. However, big companies with great client interactivity invariably have to hire social media experts. Which is why many PRs are turning into social media managers.
As the CEO of a company, what are the biggest challenges you face on a day to day basis?
I often find that the company is growing beyond my ability. At such junctures, I need to step back, take a fresh stock of things and then hire the right professionals who can handle things for me. I hired Shannon Streater as president of the company and that was one of the best decisions I’ve made.
What is your average work week like?
Firstly, there is no average week. Everyday pans out differently. On some days, I am commuting between London, Rome and Paris. So the day features handling different time zones and jetlags. One day I could be talking to a big group of CEOs in upmarket New York. Another day could be like today, where I do a press interview as I drive to the local farmer’s market to pick up furniture for my home.
What are the management mantras that you want to share with others?
Understand when you need help. Ask for it
Don’t put everyone else first and yourself last. A happy and rested you is better than a tired and cranky you.
Embrace fun in your life. That will keep you alive, young, excited. Put together, it makes you happy.
Enjoy every role of yours—girl/woman, girlfriend/wife, mother, employee. On some days, you may have to temporarily cease being a career woman and briefly switch over to becoming a doting mom. Another time, you may have to abruptly hang up on your family for an impending meeting. Neither is bad. Look at the bigger picture and ensure all roles are justifiably played.
You've written books titled Get It Girl Guide to Online Dating andSextiquette. What are two quick tips to land a great date?
First, always put up a profile picture that is less than six months old and within a six-pound difference of your weight. Any picture older than six months or lighter/heavier than six pounds amounts to cheating your prospective date. So stay honest.
For someone who has 94,000 followers on Twitter, I would think you are constantly tweeting and checking your phone as you drive, brush your teeth . . . How do you balance not getting addicted to tech while leveraging it fully?
You may surprised to hear this, but I check my tweets only twice a day. I typically get 50 to 60 tweets which I see, write back or retweet for follow-up action. I love to exploit technology, not get addicted to it.

ladies we love

Contributed by Manju Latha Kalanidhi | 10.29.14 4:00am

Sanjjanaa: South Indian Movie Star

Articles written about south Indian actress Sanjjanaa with headlines such as "Sensational Sanjjanaa" or "Sweet Sanjjanaa" are more than excellent examples of alliteration—the young, talented actress is truly sensational and sweet. When talking to her, it becomes quickly apparent that this is the rare celebrity who's managed to stay grounded in the cutthroat world of film. She also seems to still be having a good time, without succumbing to the cynicism ever-present in the industry.
We chatted with India's "It Girl" about how she handles film flops, her social media strategy—and why a movie offer after three shots is never a good idea.
You are among the most well-known actresses in south India. How did you land in the movie world?
My original name is Archana Gallrani, and I am a Sindhi girl settled in the south Indian city of Bengaluru. As a teenager I was very outdoorsy and loved sports. My love for athletics kept me fit, a prime requisite for modeling in India. Among my major modeling assignments was a Fastrack ad with Bollywood's John Abraham. Modeling to movies is a natural progression. Frankly, in 2004, when I was offered my first movie, I was looking at buying my own car and the movie offer helped me get closer to my dream. Once I was bitten by the glamour bug, I was totally addicted to movies.
Careers in film are full of highs (read: blockbusters) and abysmal lows (read: flops). How do you cope with these fluctuations? Do you have any unique ways of dealing with both successes and films not doing well?
Each movie is like my baby. Whether it is a flop or a hit, it is mine. What can you do if one baby does well and one does not? I just treat every movie as a labor of love and don't discriminate based on its box-office business.
Like a special child, a flop leaves you drained and feeling sorry for yourself. I have sleepless nights for two weeks when my movies don't do well. I cry myself to sleep. Only my pillow knows how much I cry when a flop hits me hard. I also try to get busy with my workouts, dance practices, yoga and other movie-related activities. I am actually happy to take up any new work that comes at that time, as it takes my mind off the flop and I feel good about the new work.
Before you made it in film, did you have a backup plan for what you wanted to do career-wise? What do you think you would do if you ever decided to stop acting?
I wanted to become a pilot, as you see I've always been a high flier, literally! But soon after the film world beckoned me, I just surrendered and willingly got dragged into the whirlpool of craziness. I have some entrepreneurial dreams, which I will soon realize and will be my back-up if things go south with movies. The movie world is volatile and fluid. Having a plan B is necessary so that one is never pushed to a corner, getting exploited just to earn a film role.
In this day of social media, a public figure's every word, tweet and post are dissected and scrutinized; how do you handle that attention and ensure your fans remain excited about following you and your posts?
I am honest with my fans and never try too hard to impress them. I just say or show it like it is, and they like me for it. So I am never under the pressure to tweet or post on social media. If there is an event I am dressed up for, I post the picture. If there is a thought in my mind, I tweet it. It's almost like I am interacting with my family. No pressure there. I am totally myself on social media.
The schedule for actresses can be downright brutal. From early morning starts to late night parties to occasionally having to shoot in seemingly inhumane conditions (like the freezing climates of Switzerland) to the industry being male-dominated . . . how do you handle it all?
I am currently doing movies in Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam, which means literally juggling three different worlds. I put my work before anything else. So if I have to choose between a late night party or waking up early for a morning shoot, I opt for the latter. Parties are fun, but I go to them only when I have the time. Unlike some film folk, I don't believe too much in the networking that happens at parties. I don't trust people who promise me a role after three shots of alcohol. It is really not a forum where you can make or believe promises. A party appearance, therefore, should be strictly if you want to let your hair down and get some branding done with good pictures. But I would advise against using it as a place to land new offers.
Recently, a Telugu actress admitted to becoming a call girl, stating that the industry did not give her adequate opportunities to survive. As a successful artist, do you have any thoughts on this?
The film industry is not a la-la world, and actors are not Alices in Wonderland, able to marvel at everything and sound innocent. People must be realistic about the success rate. If 100 people are working hard in the industry, only five of them are doing great. Once you get the impression that things are not working out or that you are not able to be gainfully employed, you should explore safer and more conservative avenues. You can always go back to working in corporations or companies.
The actress you speak of claimed she turned into a call girl to make ends meet. She was just unrealistic, and that's not the way to go. One has to stay strong and move in the right direction.
Do you have a wish list for 2014? Things you're looking to accomplish both professionally and personally?
My wish list is that every movie of mine is a blockbuster! Personally, I want to be calm and composed and enjoy my success, and at the same time be enthused about better work.
Think you'd be a Lady We'd Love? Or want to recommend a lady you love?Please drop us a line!