March 15, 2019 FDCI

Imaginative Realism

On Einstein’s birthday, it is best to quote him: “Life is like riding a cycle, to find balance, you must keep moving”. Prashant Varma encapsulates this agony and ecstasy of what we all ‘indulge’ in everyday—- Life!

By Asmita Aggarwal

His brother Siddhant, supported Prashant Verma’s dream by becoming “the soldier on the catwalk”, at the showcasing of his LMIFW’19 line. A show, where the designer sang for a good 11 minutes, in perfect rhythm, opera style, about the hopes and aspirations of the young and the weight of it, once it has been lived. With dancers from Danceworx, Prashant says, “If I am singing alone vs. when I am singing with so many other performers with me, we are not only are we feeding off of each other’s energies, but there is also a sense of security.”

He got a melange of theatre actors and real people to translate his concept onto the runway breaking the monotony of predictability. “It was organic. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I started a conversation which naturally led to this. I met Niharika, then met Aishwarya who was my first director for a play I did in Delhi in 2013, and I started discussing the idea with them. I told Aishwarya I was looking for serious actors, and she connected me to Ms. Haider, and from there I got connected to Sabina, Radhika, Mr. Sunit Tandon — everyone and everything just came together,” he says.

The NIFT (Delhi) 2005 graduate, last he showed in 2010, and he was producing work till 2013, after which he showcased in 2015. In 2016, he was doing external freelance projects. In 2017, he shifted to Bombay and in 2018 he did a show. He admits he didn’t have to struggle with finding people. “It’s not like I wanted to do the show, it was a show that had to be done,” he smiles, giving credit to serendipity. Verma, moved to full-time acting and confesses there is this phase when you’re trying to find your identity through labels. People in theatre are always inquisitive about what else you’re doing, whereas in fashion, it’s “are you an actor or a designer”.

The style world wants things in certain formats; the cycle of fashion is so fast that it affects the pace of everything that happens in your life. It’s a 6-month wheel, in which you’re exposing yourself to, liking and then getting over things. “So in this space, I had an idea of doing multiple things and that idea is not easily absorbed in the fashion industry. One feeds off the other. If you don’t do this, then there’s a part of you that won’t be exhausted and that itch will pour over into other aspects. I can label myself as a designer, actor or a singer, but that will be inaccurate. It’s not the words, it is the work,” he says.

Few know Verma worked with Alexander McQueen and John Galliano and he admits his core influence is the World Book Encyclopaedia, where under the “Art” section it spoke of the six things needed to make great art —– line, point, perspective and so on. The book showed all these aspects individually, in different paintings of Picasso. “Then I went to McQueen, when Sarah Burton (at that time, Sarah Heard) was the head of the studio. I learned that you can’t do just one thing. You have to do embroidery, pattern making, print, draping. From suits to gowns, you have to do everything. You have to win it all,” he explains.

Artistically inclined, Prashant does think about commerce, “I don’t have the kind of money to have a factory and an office, which is why I called it the ‘Miracle show’, because it’s full of favours. An actor’s daughter is getting married and she agreed to do this to get the pressure off. The jewellery was sourced too. Someone else loaned us their house for the day to get ready for hair and makeup. So when I am doing a show, I am not thinking of commerce. But do I want to make money? Yes. But I look at them as two separate things.”

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At the end of the day, there are countless times when he feels like something wasn’t right, or that there were compromises. But over time, you choose the compromises, you are okay with. The rest fade away. “Your body of work has to be just that not for your clients but also for yourself,” he admits.

Showing with Huemn came along, and it was surreal because they are on a different space of using real people, he observes, as “you saw with the children walking the ramp”. “My parents haven’t ever questioned my weird way of finding myself work-wise. I used to even tell people that I was an Economics graduate from Khalsa College, out of the need of staying completely anonymous. I didn’t want anybody’s perception to be coloured by their judgment on the industry I came from, because people seem to have a construct about what it is like,” he says about sharing one room in Versova with five struggling actors.

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“When I came back to Delhi, I realised people aren’t like that — contrary to popular belief. However, I do think that when you’re good with yourself, you’ll find the right people anywhere,” he concludes.

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