18 extraordinary Indian men – and one spectacular woman – like you've never seen them before.
He’s dated some of the hottest women in India, and has rare appeal that cuts through class and age. Yet, after a decade spent in the film industry, cynics argue that this superstar-in-waiting has failed to live up to the hype – criticism he’s aware of and working hard to correct. As a result he’s moved beyond the impetuousness of his early days, is more grounded and ready for the big time. Whatever your view, one thing about Kapoor is undeniable: his electric, raw, unbridled talent
"My first memory of Shahid is of a lanky boy who came to my classes to learn how to dance. Extremely gifted, he was part of my institute for over four years – first as a dancer and then as a teacher. Students were very fond of him, but he also had a reputation as an unrelenting taskmaster.
When he made his Bollywood debut with a small dancing role in Taal, I knew he had what it takes to make it big. Even today, his versatility as a dancer makes him stand out, whether he’s doing Western jazz, hiphop, contemporary dance or bhangra. It’s always a treat to watch him perform.vIt hasn’t been easy for Shahid, but he’s driven, and a firm believer in discipline and giving every project his all. You can be sure we’re going to see a lot more of him." - Shiamak Davar
When you’re a young writer whose first novel draws comparisons to VS Naipaul, people sit up and take notice. One of India’s most incisive journalists, Bhattacharya’s foray into fiction with The Sly Company Of People Who Care has earned him the 2012 Ondaatje Prize, last year’s Hindu Literary Prize for fiction, and has seen him shortlisted for the Man Asia Literary Prize as well as the Commonwealth Book Prize. We call that getting off the mark with a wristy flourish.
"An account of a year in Guyana by an Indian cricket writer who was so taken by that country, on an initial sportsreporting visit, that he could not stay away. The book is not packed with incident: one of the admirable things about it is that the author is not afraid to embrace the truth of travel – which is that it is for the most part very boring. It’s the style that seizes you by the throat – alternately lyrical, abrupt, whimsical, sexy, informative, seductive and always full of surprises, most of them couched in ‘creolese’. The language works a hypnotic magic and you soon feel you’re in Guyana yourself. This is the best travel writing I’ve read in years." - Amitav Ghosh
As finance czar at Infosys, Pai championed transparent accounting norms that had never before been seen in India. Those processes helped India’s IT behemoth gain the confidence of big-ticket overseas investors, who would have otherwise shied away from the often-murky Indian market. These days, Pai is making an even greater impact with his work for the Akshaya Patra Foundation, which runs the biggest mid-day meal programme for schoolchildren in the world.
"Mohan believes in big challenges. For him, the highest mountain exists to be scaled, the widest river to be crossed, and the most distant planet to be landed on. He believes as much in generating big ideas as in their execution, and is a rare individual who sees opportunities for social change in every challenge. This mindset has enabled him to leverage the engineering ideas of Madhu Pandit Dasa to create the world’s largest secular mid-day meal programme, bringing hope, nourishment and confidence to more than 1.3 million poor children in 9,000 government schools in nine states in India. Congratulations, Mohan, on this wonderful recognition." - Narayana Murthy
For years all he was offered were roles of beggars, waiters and thieves. But this year saw Siddiqui explode on to our screens with a string of impressive performances – as the slippery police informant in Paan Singh Tomar, the foulmouthed cop in Kahaani and a guntoting gangster in Gangs of Wasseypur. He imbued each of his characters with a gravitas that made them memorable long after the credits had rolled, cementing his reputation as the face of an exciting, new kind of independent Indian cinema.
"I first met Nawaz a little over three years ago when I was casting for Miss Lovely. I tested him for the lead role of Sonu Duggal, a timid chap who works with his brother making C-grade films while secretly harbouring dreams of greatness. Nawaz’s screen test was incredible – the way he brought his own pain and suffering to those five minutes was enough to convince me that he had to play the part. In many ways, the character mirrored his own life: Nawaz was someone who was disappointed by the film industry, who felt he really wasn’t being given the opportunities he should have had. I was lucky to be one of the first directors to work with Nawaz and to be able to tap into that raw intensity. He became one with the character in a way that was sometimes quite frightening. I can’t think of anyone else who would’ve been better for that role. I’m fairly cynical when it comes to the industry, believing that it often rewards mediocre talent, but I’ve been proved wrong with Nawaz’s success. In my mind, he’s probably one of the most talented actors we have." - Ashim Ahluwalia
Ignore the muscle tees, money shots and bulk. That’s for the camera. At the end of the day, what emerges from the shadows is a grown-up gentleman, impeccably dressed – pure movie-star material.
"The most stylish thing about a man is how he wears his jeans – and, boy, does John wear his well. But he can carry off pretty much anything, whether it’s casual attire or a well-fitted suit, with a natural elegance that not many other actors have. His style transcends his clothes; it’s also about his charm, his casual swagger, the intensity he brings to his characters on screen. He’s the complete package." - Sonam Kapoor
Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra
In seven short years, this youthful Delhi duo has shot to prominence creating work that’s urban, seductive and witty while remaining distinctly Indian – appealing to a swelling fan base of hipsters across the globe. What’s more, they’ve managed to succeed where few others have: making art fun.
"I recall stumbling upon Thukral and Tagra’s debut solo exhibition back in 2005. It was one of those rare ‘wow’ moments. Till then, there was very little overlap between design and art in India – indeed the two worlds regarded each other with mutual suspicion. Overnight, the artist duo had made obsolete these artificial barriers. Their first show, Iconography: Bosedk Designs, at Delhi’s Nature Morte gallery, comprised a plethora of vinyl cut-outs forming a readymade lexicon of symbols and signs which drew liberally from contemporary culture. The show was a riot, and was quickly followed by a second that translated the artists’ ideas on to canvas. These artworks placed Thukral and Tagra as the pioneers of a new visual vocabulary that, over the years, has been much copied but never bettered."
"Having established a style that allowed them an immediacy of communication, Jiten and Sumir then put this power to work by leveraging their art as a means of speaking about the world in which they live. In particular, they did much to articulate publicly the male Punjabi experience in post-liberalized India. They have dealt with taboo issues such as HIV and illegal immigration in a direct manner, but always framed within an atmosphere of play that engages an audience far wider than most of their peers. The boys themselves are unchanged by success: they are the same workobsessed hipsters that we got to know seven years ago. The only difference is, perhaps, that they dream larger now. Today, their work incorporates not only canvases, but also sculptures, installations, videos, clothing, even porcelain. The art of Thukral and Tagra continues to be loud, boisterous, seductive and utterly brilliant. It is art that celebrates being alive." - Mortimer Chatterjee
Photo Credit: Atul Kasbekar, Bikramjit Bose, Tarun Vishwa, Tarun Khiwal, R Burman, Rohan Shreshtha
Stylists: Antara Motiwala and Tanya Vohra
- GQ staff
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