Of Moghuls, Models & Movie Stars

Prabuddha Dasgupta

Butler

Jitendra Singh Rathore

The Maharaja of Jodhpur is still in residence at the Taj hotel’s Rajasthan flagship, Umaid Bhawan Palace, so service, needless to say, is impeccable. Credit Singh Rathore, who heads the hotel’s group of private butlers. His team of 20 combines its knowledge of the area with an attentiveness—unpacking luggage upon arrival, stocking a fridge with local delicacies, customizing meals—that’s fit for a king. Ore more appropriately, a maharaja.

Model

Lakshmi Menon

When Hermès anointed 2008 the Year of India, it cast 27-year-old model Menon as the face of the nation. But before she starrred in the company’s campaign or graced the cover of Vogue India (twice), Menon says, she “wasn’t aware that modeling even existed.” And now? She swears she is still a simple hometown girl, preferring her parents’ home in Bangalore to fashion-week parties in Delhi or Mumbai.

Style Arbiter

Priya Kishore

“Mumbai is one of the most exciting cities in the world,” says Bombay Electric co-owner Kishore. “You can’t help but feel the energy by simply walking around the streets.” And here, on a well-trafficked stretch in the bustling neighborhood of Colaba, her fashion-forward boutique—often referred to as the Barneys of Mumbai—aims to reflect that spirit. Kishore curates a collection of rising Indian designers such as Gaurav Gupta and Sonam Dubal along with the likes of Comme des Garçons to create what she calls “a harmonious culture clash.”

Sculptor

K. S. Radhakrishnan

Indian art is deeply rooted in sculpture—one of native son Subodh Gupta’s metalwork pieces recently sold for a record $1.2 million at a Christie’s auction. Radhakrishnan breaks the mold, so to speak, using a nontraditional form of bronze casting to create acrobatic figures. Yet the artist still manages a nod to “old” India: The image of a man pulling a rickshaw is a recurring motif.

Yogi

Bharat Thakur

Yoga may be one of the oldest physical disciplines in existence, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get an update, even in the country where it all began. Mumbai-based Thakur, who studied yoga, Ayurveda, and Buddhism deep in the Himalayas for 14 years, has taken elements of this ancient practice (breathing, postures, chanting) and added cardio and music to develop his own brand of “artistic yoga.” And Thakur is credited with whipping Bollywood—and Hollywood—stars into shape and has some 100,000 students in studios across India, Moscow, and Dubai.

Fashion Designer

Krishna Mehta

“In Mumbai people have a stronger sense of personal style,” says fashion designer Mehta. “I think it’s because the pace here is so incredibly fast, no one has time to look around or compare themselves to others!” Although Mehta started her career designing menswear in the late eighties, she has since expanded her reach, dreaming up flowing embellished dresses that resemble traditional Indian tunics but are updated with puffed sleeves or a cinched waist. Her latest collection calls upon kutch embroideries and tie-dyed prints inspired by the colors of Rajasthan.

Architect

Bijoy Jain

Architects are known for thinking outside the box, but 43-year-old Jain, who runs the firm Studio Mumbai, has done quite the opposite for his most recent project, Palmyra House. He designed this 3,000-square-foot vacation home—just an hour outside Mumbai—using two louvered wooden boxes located on a coconut plantation. “We specialize in projects that enable us to pursue architecture with integrity,” Jain says of his environmentally sensitive designs. Taking cues from Indonesia’s rainforests, Jain and his team are at work on a 12-room retreat in the Corbett Tiger Reserve, a national park northeast of Delhi.

Actress

Tabu

In Bollywood, much as in Hollywood, one-name starlets come and go. Tabu, however, has stood the test of time, appearing in 64 productions over her 20-year reign. And given her four Indian “Oscars” (and countless nominations), she is more like a Meryl Streep of Bollywood. Last year the actress starred in Mira Nair’s film adaptation of The Namesake. And like so many of her California sisters, what she really wants to do next is produce.

Saviojon cotton voile dress ($150) and jewelry from Colaba Street market

Novelist

Amruta Patil

Her debut graphic novel—one of India’s first—chronicles a day in the life of Kari, its twentysomething lesbian protagonist. Clearly 29-year-old writer and illustrator Patil is not interested in telling the same old stories. Her upcoming book, Parva/The Epic, reimagines the 18-volume Hindu epic the Mahabharata from the points of view of three minor characters.

Power Couple

Ravi Krishnan and Bandana Tewari

Their story reads like a sartorial fairy tale: She’s the fashion features director at Vogue India and he’s the man who brought fashion week to Mumbai (he now runs a private equity fund). But even in such a style-oriented household, things aren’t all Prada and McQueen. “India still loves its colorful silk saris,” says Tewari. “We haven’t yet adopted fashion’s basic black.”