Monday, August 13, 2018

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Personal Project | The Floating Magazine 2.0

The Floating Magazine (TFM) is a digital publication about visual culture in Asia & Middle East. This is a project I have been running for about a year, and have recently re-launched with a new design and new features. Check it out:

Feature | The Zine Culture | PrintWeek India magazine

The more gargantuan the mainstream becomes, the more there is the need for alternative or counterculture voices to emerge. And one of the key platforms that have hosted many of these voices is independent zines. The first ever association with the term ‘zine’ began with various fanzines for science fiction in the 1920s.Eventually, zines helped fuel the punk music subculture including the Riot Grrrl movement (an underground feminist movement associated with the punk rock and alternative music scenes) of the 90s, among others. 

As (yes, there is a whole Wikipedia devoted to zines) explains, zines have been around forever; they have only shape-shifted a bit over the years.Instead of being photocopied versions of cutting and pasting of content and images by hand, a lot of zines are now digitally, and sometimes quite finely, produced. Their essence however remains the same in most cases. They are still sold or distributed in small quantities and in selective places. Most importantly, they still champion the DIY, counterculture and personal opinion spirit. During the last few years, print zine as a medium has been explored by a few Indian visual artists with some terrific results. 

We speak to two Indian visual artists who have done interesting work in this space and are championing the zine movement in the country. Read more:

Friday, October 21, 2016

Interview | Paul Willoughby | Paper Planes

All the brilliant, off-kilter, independent magazines of the world, take a bow. The D&AD Professional Awards 2016 gave away its precious pencils to ten indie magazines from different parts the world –AvauntRubbish FAMzineSireneBeauty PapersBuffalo Zine, DEAR, Design 360˚Flaneur Magazine,The Ride Journal and Weapons of Reason.
We got an opportunity to talk to one of the jury members for Magazine & Newspaper Design category of the D&AD awards – creative director and graphic artist Paul Willoughby. Paul has worked as the creative director of the iconic Little White Lies magazine. He is the co-founder of creative agency Human After All that also creates one of the winner magazines, and one of our favorites, Weapons of Reason. Paul’s portfolio boasts of other clients like The Guardian, The Financial Times, The New Yorker, Adobe, IBM, Nike and Adidas.
We talk to Paul about the D&AD judging process and his experiences of working on Little White Lies and Weapons of Reason. He also gives us some interesting insights into Makeshift magazine and Rubbish FAMzine. Edited excerpts:

Personal Project | The Floating Magazine

The Floating Magazine is (so far) an online personal project that I started in December 2015. It is dedicated to having meaningful conversations with visual arts from Asia and Middle East. Here are the artists who I have interviewed on the platform so far:

Chirag Wakaskar, founder, Everyday Mumbai (India)

Dhruvi Acharya, contemporary artist (India)  

Hadi Uddin, photographer (Bangladesh)

Xuan Loc Xuan, illustrator (Vietnam)

Eiman Elgibreen, artist (Saudi Arabia)

Shiho Kito, photographer (Japan)

Tejal Patni, photographer (Dubai)

Can Cetinkaya, illustrator & artist (Turkey)

Yael Bronner Rubin, artist (Israel/Hong Kong)

Esther Goh, illustrator (Singapore)

Jia Sung, artist (Singapore/USA)

Sveta Dorosheva, artist (Israel)

Nouf Alhimiary, photographer (Saudi Arabia)

Yashaswi Mathis, artist (India)

Takashi Yamamoto, printmaker & artist (Japan)

Sai Selvarajan, filmmaker (India/Sri Lanka/USA)

Neuneu Woo, illustrator (China/Singapore)

Kouzou Sakai, illustrator (Japan)

Adil Hasan, photographer (India)

Kurchi Dasgupta, artist (Nepal/India)

Chia Chi Yu, illustrator (Taiwan)

Kursat Bayhan, photographer (Turkey)

John Ed De Vera, graphic designer (Philippines)

Kishor Sharma, photographer (Nepal)

Selman Hosgor, illustrator (Turkey)

Kathrin Honesta, illustrator & graphic designer (Malaysia)

Heraa Khan, artist (Pakistan)

Meera Sethi, artist (India/ Canada)

Feature | Commercial Minimalism Shakes Up Indian Design | Rice

Just a few weeks back, two international stores made their debut in the upscale Palladium mall at Lower Parel, an area populated by swanky skyscrapers and chic boutiques.
One of the two stores – H&M, saw a staggering amount of shoppers pillaging the store on the launch date. While this was quite predictable, the amount of interest that the other store generated came as a pleasant surprise. This other store was, of course, Muji.
I remember visiting Muji for the first time during a trip to London in 2012. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine that a brand as “bare” as Muji, however intelligent, would ever find its way to India. Launched in 1980 in Japan as Mujirushi Ryohin which means “no-brand quality goods”, Muji now has a cult following around the world for its ultra functional designs, and its branding strategy of, well, non-branding.
Muji refers to its products as empty vessels and it is in essence the complete opposite of the over-embellished products that dominate the Indian marketplace. Things, however, are obviously changing, and Muji’s presence in India is a testimony to that.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Interviews | Dhunji Wadia & MG Parameswaran | Printweek India

MG Parameswaran 

After working at places like Rediffusion Y&R, Boots Company, and UDI Yellow pages, MG Parameswaran or Ambi joined what is now known as FCBUlka Advertising in 1989. While rising in ranks from VP to CEO to advisor of the agency, Ambi has worked on some of the biggest brands and campaigns in the country. After spending more than two decades at the agency, Ambi decided to call it quits. But instead of announcing any retirement plans, he started a brand new chapter in his life with his advisory company We meet Ambi over a cup of coffee in his new office to congratulate him and to talk about print advertising in India which – as Ambi points out – is going through its own evolution right now. 

Edited excerpts:

Dhunji Wadia

For a long time, Rediffusion Y&R, an agency known for some of India’s most iconic ad campaigns, had been skittishly skating in the advertising landscape. One of the biggest reasons for that was its flimsy relationship with its senior leaders. In 2014, after the exits of many senior leaders, the agency roped in Dhunji Wadia as its new president. Wadia, of course, wasn’t new to the system; he was already successfully handling the operations of the group’s smaller agency- Everest Brand Solutions. Wadia has over 25 years of experience. Before Everest, he had spent around 18 years with another ad behemoth- JWT India, leading its operations in Bangalore and Mumbai. During his tenure, the agency bagged quite a few prestigious awards for its work.

Today, Wadia is proud of what Rediffusion has achieved under his leadership so far. And he should be. Over the last one and a half years, Rediffusion has managed to create a pretty strong and impressive showreel, and scooped awards for their work including Make in India and Dipper Condoms (for Tata Motors). We speak to Wadia about his journey in Rediffusion so far and about how he stays so calm under pressure, among other things. 

Edited excerpts:

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Feature | Kathputli Colony | Man's World Magazine

It’s difficult not to be dazzled by the different art forms that can be found in every scrawny street of Kathputli Colony, the slum in West Delhi that is home to several generations of traditional folk artists. The families, which consist of acrobats, puppeteers, folk musicians, dancers, snake charmers, sculptors, magicians, painters and bioscope makers, among others, settled here from different parts of the country almost four decades ago. Once peeled off, however, the colony’s endlessly fascinating veneer reveals a plethora of issues, and an endless wait for its residents. In 2014, the tensions between the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and the residents of the colony were at an all time high. The DDA, which has partnered with the real estate company Raheja Developers, was trying to get the residents to move to transit camps at Anand Parbat, as part of its ‘in-situ slum rehabilitation scheme’. The promise made to the residents was that once the colony was vacated, the construction of multi-storied buildings would begin, with modern flats set aside for them.

About 525 families out of an estimated 3,000 moved to the transit camps, but the rest decided to stay put. For almost a year now, there has barely been any dialogue between the DDA and the residents of the colony. The sounds of the media attention, the NGO interventions and the daily demonstrations are playing at very low decibels now, and although normal life goes on, there is a sense of uneasy calm here. I walk through the morning bustle and a crazy amount of filth to Phad artist Shankar Lal Bhopa’s grocery shop, located next to his house. Talking about the current state of things, he says, “We haven’t been told anything about what’s happening. Our internal meetings about the issue have stopped too. But we still don’t feel safe, as all this can change any moment, and the biggest fear is that they will evict us.”


Read my other pieces on Kathputli Colony here, here and here

Monday, December 28, 2015

Feature | Farm Chat | Makeshift magazine

Working the rural fields of India’s Maharashtra state can be lonely and backbreaking work for small-scale farmers. So Anil Bandawane, a farmer and engineer, created a Facebook group called ‘Baliraja’ — farmer king, roughly — with about a dozen fellow farmers in 2012. The members chatted about their work, posed questions, and traded tips, building ties they couldn’t form alone on the farm. They also began filling the isolating divide that can lead struggling or financially desperate farmers to suicide (a significant problem in rural India).
The group grew rapidly. Anil began to see the massive potential for a bigger forum where farmers could connect with each other and talk with experts who answered questions in real time. He expanded Baliraja to the instant messaging service WhatsApp, which now counts more than 1,000 farmers plus agricultural experts, consultants, and suppliers.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Features | Gaysi Zine & White Print | Paper Planes

At Paper Planes, our love for indie magazines intensifies at an alarming rate with every new indie title we get introduced to. And more so, when we get to know the fascinating and inspiring stories about how these magazines are put together. So today, we walk backstage with the Gaysi Zine.
The Gaysi Zine comes from the well-known Gaysi Family, an eclectic group that’s been relentlessly working towards creating meaningful conversations within and about the queer community in South Asia through various platforms. The Gaysi Zine is an integral part of the group. Armed with its latest graphic anthology edition, which happens to be its fourth, The Gaysi Zine has been consistently successful in blending some very fine content with stunning and inventive design.
Well, how do they do it? 
White Print, a Braille lifestyle magazine in India, has only one full time employee – Upasana Makati–who also happens to be its owner, publisher and editor. In the last two years of its being, White Print has had a lot of content contributions from freelancers and now has a freshly struck agreement with Delhi Press’ The Caravan magazine, well-known for its long form journalism. However, there have been times when Upasana has had to write the whole issue herself. On a muggy September morning, we catch up with Upasana over coffee to get a lowdown on the process of putting together an indie magazine, especially a magazine that has had no specific reference point, being the first of its kind in India.

Profile | Sameer Kulavoor | Paper Planes

The works of 31 year old Sameer Kulavoor, visual artist and founder of design studio Bombay Duck Designs, often fiercely cut through the bones of urban India to capture its soul. The quintessential self-initiated publication projects like The Ghoda Cycle ProjectOh Flip, Zeroxwalah Zine and Blued Book are keenly observed minutiae about the makeshift and inventive side of urban India, peppered with personal notes and bursting with raw energy.

Read more:

Profile | Gigi Scaria | Open Magazine

Our ideas about what’s home and what’s displacement are constantly evolving. They often confront us in different forms. In one form, there is the exodus of Syrian refugees, who have had to flee their home to escape the atrocities of a civil war. In another form of migration, many working class people shift from rural to urban areas in the hope of better lives. Within a city, migration happens to adjust with the rapid shape- shifting and urbanisation of the city. In his oeuvre so far, Delhi-based multi-disciplinary contemporary Indian artist Gigi Scaria has often explored the idea of migration and many of its facets. His current show ‘The Ark’, a mix of paintings and videos, at gallery Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai, carries forward the theme seamlessly. ‘The Ark’ emerges from the poetic and mythical past—Noah’s Ark—but addresses the horrific migration and environmental situation of the present and leans towards a hopeful future.

Read More:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Narrative| Goa | Unmapped Magazine

A house painted blue. A balcony with an unobstructed divine view. Coconut and Chikoo (Manilkara zapota) trees in the courtyard right in front. Chikoos sneakily being gobbled up by monkeys who made a special appearance only on Sundays. Daily routines that involved working for a few hours in the mornings, leisure cooking, making gimlets, walking at the beach and sometimes into the sea, nuzzling into the rough yet soothing sand, curling up with Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, clicking pictures of the bold colored Portuguese styled villas, making new friends at the beach, listening to Goan music at shacks that tenderly tussled with the sound of waves, getting freshly baked bread from the French Bakery (Baba Au Rhum) downstairs, working some more, cooking some more.

This is a glimpse into my life for two months in Goa (India) last year. READ ON:

Features | Marketing | Financial Express

Indian Express group (or Financial Express to be precise) and I go way back. I first started working with FE as a Trainee Reporter about 8-9 years back, which was kind of a life changing experience for me. It gave me some sort of direction in my life probably for the first time. I got tremendous amount of freedom despite holding the lowest rank in their editorial community. I worked at FE again almost after 3-4 years when I had taken a break to come back to Delhi. I worked with them in Delhi first and then moved to Bombay, as part of the FE BrandWagon team. Anyhow, FE recently came back to my life and now I am doing a little bit of freelance stuff for them. It's quite exciting to be writing for a newspaper again! :) 

Here is a short piece on an ad, marketing & media social networking website Kulzy:

And here is a piece on the English news channels space in India: 

Feature | Unique Content Distribution Models in India | PrintWeek India

Feature | Food Packaging | PrintWeek India

Feature | Innovative Hearing Aid | Makeshift Magazine

Friday, October 16, 2015

Profile | Shumon Ahmed | Open Magazine

The monstrous presence of the decaying, dying ships on the shores of Chittagong in Bangladesh appear in sharp contrast to the people working there who seem like Lilliputians in front of the vessels. Still, somehow, both beautifully and poignantly merge in some of the photographic artworks exhibited as part of Bangladeshi multidisciplinary visual artist Shumon Ahmed’s solo show, ‘When Dead Ships Travel’.
For the past few years, Ahmed’s name has been mentioned enthusiastically in almost all conversations about the contemporary art scene in Bangladesh. The artist was in Mumbai for the opening of the show at Project 88, a 4,000 sq ft gallery in a space that used to be a century-old metal printing press in Colaba. Our conversation starts with the current show, but slowly meanders through other fascinating aspects of Ahmed’s work and life.

Read more:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Profile | Reena Saini Kallat | Open Magazine

Deo-Yan is a hybrid between the Deodar and the Banyan tree, national trees of Pakistan and India respectively. They both lovingly emerge from the same roots, but on two opposite sides. Zoom out your perspective a bit, and you will see that the hybrid tree is sheathed beneath a pair of human lungs, and small pieces of electric fence are scattered all over the image. Deo-Yan is one of the many imagined species that are part of the multimedia contemporary artist Reena Saini Kallat’s new solo show ‘Hyphenated Lives’ at Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai.
“‘Hyphenated Lives’ looks at our shared existence. Nature tells you, like nothing else can, how certain species are interdependent on each other. Nature is also in defiance of the divisions that we have created. This particular body of work has come from our long shared historical past that is so deep-rooted,” says Kallat as we sit down for a long chat over evening tea at her studio at Chimbai Road in Bandra West.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Profile | Raghava KK | Open Magazine

Bedecked with large colourful paintings, the walls of the main gallery at the landmark Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai are bursting with energy. It’s an August morning. Preparations are in full swing for the opening of Raghava KK’s new solo exhibition ‘Ridiculous Copycats’, which will later travel to the Art Musings gallery. Less than five minutes late for our meeting, Raghava walks in full of the exuberance that mirrors his artworks, and apologises profusely for being delayed. We meet Raghava in front of his colossal artwork Guernica 2.0, placed at the wall right opposite the entrance, a rendition of Picasso’s renowned anti-war work Guernica which was created in 1937. He was completely stunned when he saw Guernica for the first time, he says, and began to see so much more in it that he decided to “evolve” it. “The best art makes the viewer contribute his or her perspective to it. And I wanted to add my perspective to Picasso’s Guernica,” says the artist.....

Read On:

Narrative | Protestant Cemetery, Rome | Unmapped Magazine

Protestant Cemetery, Rome

A second-hand, slightly battered book with a mustard color cover was my first introduction to a bunch of poets referred to as the Romantics. Blame it on the first year of graduation when English literature was raining down on me like fish from the sky, that I was fascinated by the Romantics’ vivacious and crazy lives much more than their work. A wobbly B&W movie screening where most of them, mainly Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley and John Keats, were mingling in an astoundingly reckless party made that morbid fascination stronger. Of course, over the years, I got better acquainted and enchanted with their works too.
13 years later, I found myself in Italy’s capital Rome where two of the great poets from the Romantics’ disruptive and brilliant group- Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats – lived for some time, died and then were buried in the Protestant Cemetery....
Read on:

Friday, September 4, 2015

Features | Indie Magazines | Paper Planes

Paper Planes is a fabulous indie magazines subscription venture in India called, thanks to which we now have access to so many interesting indie publications from around the world. And it is one of the most exciting projects I am working on right now. 

Here are some of the magazines that I have blogged about so far!

Features | Street Beat | The Daily Pao

I do this monthly series for The Daily Pao. It is also part of my personal project

"This new series of posts by freelance writer Payal Khandelwal documents some of the city’s artists, craftsmen and designers who lie outside the mainstream. Their work can be seen on our pavements, in makeshift shops and various nooks and crannies and forms a vibrant part of our cityscape."

Read the stories below: 


Monday, July 27, 2015

Profile | Tasneem Zakaria Mehta: The Revivalist | Open Magazine

How Tasneem Zakaria Mehta transformed Mumbai’s Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum into one of the country’s most buzzy and contemporary spaces for Indian art.

A piece I wrote for Open Magazine. You can read it here:

This was also re-published on the Huffington Post India:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Interview | Chip Kidd | Kyoorius

"Our second conversation in the series of interviews done during AGI Open conference, held in London on 26th and 27th September, is with the extremely talented Chip Kidd. Writer, art director, book designer, editor and Batman fanatic, Kidd gave us one of the wittiest and most entertaining sessions at the conference. He specializes in book cover designs and has been working for Alfred A. Knopf since 1986. He is also the author of well-known books including The Cheese Monkeys, The Learners, graphic novel Batman: Death by Design and the most recently released and much talked about Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, a book targeted at children."

Click here to read more

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Feature | A Designer's City: Conversations on Creative Bombay | Unmapped Magazine

Between the chaos of life and the tranquillity of the sea, Bombay has many facets indeed. The famous or infamous indomitable spirit of the city, the humans behind what is now an international case study - the dabbawallas, the impeccable yet rickety Mumbai local trains, the largest slums in Asia, Dharavi, the largest red light district in Asia, Kamathipura, the historical architecture of the town, the charmed life and bohemia of Bandra, the vast spaces of crowding suburbs, the snarling traffic, the ubiquitous black and yellows, the filth, the vibrant nightlife, the burgeoning street art, the heady concoction of different types of people, and so much more. Bombay is indeed one of the world’s truly unique cities, both for its offerings and its quirks.

Feature | Arranged Marriage Detectives | Makeshift Magazine

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Feature | Military Dogs | Motherland Magazine


We’re sitting atop a rocky outcrop, overlooking a forest clearing. It is a cloudy evening in Gwalior as we watch Flame, a German Shepherd, walk cautiously and attentively alongside his handler, Sitaram Meena.
Flame approaches the edge of the thick jungle, where two men are concealed underneath the natural cover. Five minutes later, after diligent sniffing and intense observation, Flame breaks his silence, having located the two men. He knows he’s cracked it, looking eagerly to Sitaram for acknowledgement of his triumph.
Flame is in training at the National Training Centre for Dogs (NTCD), a Government of India institute under the Border Security Force (BSF). As Sitaram pats him, the unit’s Assistant Commandant, Dr Shankar, challenges Sitaram to push Flame harder in these mock drills. Today, Flame and Sitaram’s test is just a harmless simulation. Soon, they actually might face a lethal encounter at the areas affected by the armed proponents of Maoist struggle in India.