The Green Room

25 years down and I’ve lost count of the number of green rooms I’ve been in (for the uninitiated, Green rooms are designated areas behind the main stage and ramp in show business, where models/ actors/ dancers dress up and prepare themselves. The specific origin of the term sadly is lost to history, which has led to several imaginative theories and claims. One story is that London’s Blackfriars Theatre (1599) included a room behind the scenes, which happened to be painted green; here the actors waited to go on stage. Some English theatres contained several green rooms, each ranked according to the status and the salary of the actor: one could be fined for using a green room above one’s ranking. Of course, I have my own personal spin on this (purely going by the number of requests I get from expectant male friends to assist me): that it’s the room which derives its name from the colour of Envy, which, as most know, is Green!

Whatever the origin, it all started for me with my first green room experience in 1989 where I was a helper backstage whilst in design school; it was my first exposure to the ‘flurry behind the fantastic’ in the career I had chosen. Years later, it remains one of my favorite spaces even today, as this is where I witness magical and often extraordinary transformations. The audience up front of course has little idea of the organised chaos that exists here for all they see are beautiful clothes on poised models on the ramp and yet, this area is the very soul of a fashion presentation. It’s where everyone bonds, it’s where the mirror becomes one’s best friend, it’s where the quality of couture is put to test with hurried models starting to shed their clothes as they’re running back to the green room (try changing into a complete new look with jewellery, make-up and hair intact in 2 minutes). Unlike the west, it’s also where stars are born (many of today’s leading Indian film stars began their career in our green rooms e.g. Aishwarya Rai, Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Katrina Kaif, Sushmita Sen, Lara Datta, Bipasha Basu, Arjun Rampal, John Abraham… the list goes on and on), it’s where hearts are joined and also where they often break, it’s where everyone, be it models to backstage teams to make-up artists and stylists, design assistants and wardrobe managers, give those 25 minutes their all to help showcase months of hard work put in by the designer in the best possible way… it’s where selfies rule; it’s also where I manage to get some great candid images using my smartphone. The famous statement “the best camera is the one that’s with you” truly finds its meaning here.

Between the trauma of the stuck zippers to the euphoria of the deafening applause at the end of the show, the Green Room remains the beating heart of the fashion Industry.

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I, Me, Myself


Thoughts crossing my mind … The social media world is (mostly) about ‘I’, isn’t it?….. it’s like the secret diary we all wanted to write as children but in this case, some of us left it’s tiny lock open and deliberately lost the key 😊…. “I did this, I feel this, I travelled here, I ate this, I hate him, I love them, I am cool, I got a picture with a celeb, I am bored, I am fat, I love chocolate…”. From teenagers to the wise old ones, the story is pretty much the same… the story of “I”.

Could this be pent up narcissism?… or are we simply assuming that it is our moral obligation to let the world know about all that we do and/or feel?

Don’t get me wrong…. sharing is great, in fact necessary (Blogs are a testimony to this fact), but I wish a significant some of us would harness the true power of the internet and could (also) get beyond ourselves and have an honest opinion about things that can initiate change… thoughts that can make others wonder…. posts that could genuinely attempt to make a difference.

Ah well… Meanwhile, just read on FB that miss X is sipping an expensive champagne whilst sitting in the first class lounge of an airline and is further traveling to an exotic destination (Happy for you, my dear but that really is more your business than of all the hapless who have to endure this exalted degree of enlightenment repeatedly; and anyways, what’s the deal about sticking that map with a dotted line showing origin & destination with class of travel on your personal FB Page?)… Truly moved darling … Chin Chin (which incidentally has a rather interesting meaning in Japanese… do look it up)!

In the midst of my country’s republic day celebrations today, i simply could not resist this line:

Think about all that Mahatma Gandhi would have achieved if he had access to the internet …

Just saying…

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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The Coloured Nomad

In my career as a fashion professional, I must admit that I have been significantly partial towards brown skins and frankly, it has nothing to do with the fact that I’m Indian and hence biased or that I dislike any other colour of skin. I suppose its the calling of the Nomad in me which embraces the affinity between the tones of the person and the ethos of the clothes that i create.

The larger issue that I’ve always wondered about though is this: Why does there exist disparity within the human race based on the colour of its people. Why does racism exist at all actually? When the creator put together his greatest masterpieces i.e. Man and Woman, and gave all of them exactly the same constitution, the differences he indulged in were not only in the colour of skin, but also in the shapes of various parts of the human anatomy and features, as well as in the dimensions of the human form itself. What then gives us the right to differentiate and divide the human race? Unfortunately, it has mostly to do with (a) geographical boundaries and (b) religion, and ironically, both are man made! Our planet, gifted to us in pristine condition and then we chose to fight battles and kill in the name of “our land’’ simply to create an illusionary boundary which would give us exclusive right to something which was meant for all… I often wonder why these boundaries and rules don’t apply to other species created by God, namely Animals and Plants…will one ever question a deer that wanders into another country or shoot down a dove that flies across the infinite blue skies, or net the fish that boundlessly swim across oceans, or burn the grass that spreads unabashedly, all clearly oblivious of these invisible demarkations? Would we ever ask for their passports and visas? And what about Religion? God is one and he was meant to be the answer to our prayers, the reason why faith was to exist…Then how has religion, meant primarily to spread the word of God and the principle of faith amongst mankind, become the very source of its destruction? Sadly, it seems, God’s greatest creation, mankind, may just have become its own nemesis!

The God i believe we should all follow is LOVE…everything and everyone…without prejudice, without a care about race, colour, sex, religion and without blindly believing in our own decisions, based on those imaginary divisive lines on the planet that we ourselves have created.

Finally, I’d like to quote something beautiful said by my spiritual master, Tarneivji:   “Wanting to fall in love is the greatest sin…Simply acknowledging it’s presence is the greatest virtue”

LOVE…. It can’t be that difficult…

Note. The images above are from the RANAS OF KACHCHH collection 2016-17 of JJ Valaya.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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Jaisalmer. Part 2

First, the history lesson: Jaisalmer is a city in the Indian state of Rajasthan, located about 500 kms. west of the state capital, Jaipur. It is also known as ‘The Golden city’ because the yellow sand and the yellow sandstone used in the architecture of the city giving it an amber tinge. Once known as Jaisalmer state, it is a world heritage site. The town lies in the heart of the Thar (the great Indian desert) and stands on a ridge of yellowish sandstone, crowned by a fort, which contains the palace and several ornate Jain temples.

Now, the facts, and I’m going to keep it short and simple: Do not visit Jaisalmer as a tourist but imbibe its true flavours instead as a traveller. What’s the difference, you may ask…well, essentially that means ‘dump the predictable itinerary of the tour guide’ and instead, choose to make your own … In my opinion, the real fun lies in exploring this small city on foot. The ‘gullies’ (streets) are narrow, follow considerably low standards of hygiene and cleanliness (welcome to most of India) but manage to magically throw surprises at you at various turns! Expect to encounter some of the finest hand carved Havelis, hobnob with locals with moustaches meant for the Guinness book, shop for fine handicrafts, puppets and embroideries at a bargain, dodge an assortment of cows and bulls, take in a variety of dancers and singers and finally, revel in the grandeur of the fort (which incidentally houses half a city within its belly) …and if this is sounding more and more like a surrealistic film setting, its because it nearly is (specially at sunset)!

So what do I like about this city?  It’s actually the size itself…its intimacy makes it easily discoverable and once you’re done with the city, there’s much to take in around the city such as the dunes of the great Thar, a drive on the legendary Silk route and the rumoured-to-be-haunted village Kuldhara.

The mystery beckons… don’t hold back.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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The Art of Randomness. 1

A restless working Sunday afternoon and I throw back my head in mental exhaustion … I see the solitary light above stare back into my eyes… A fan hangs from the ceiling … I pick up my phone and make an image. The light bounces off the lens and creates illusionary clouds… it manifests itself as the Sun and the fan now hangs from the sky.

Smartphone image made just now…. the sharing of randomness is a must!

Art exists everywhere…

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Suryagarh. Jaisalmer, India. Part 1

To call India a mere country would be grossly inappropriate; for it is indeed, a continent within itself where one can and will, observe incredible changes in almost everything (People, Food, Architecture, Weather, Language…) if he or she were to travel East to West and/or North to South. As an Indian, often, I’ve even found myself awe-struck by the sheer diversity that this country offers! I do hope that within this lifetime I am able to witness as much of this magic as i can, and in turn, get an opportunity to share such moments with you. Today, i thought i’ll visit (with you) a beautiful property called Suryagarh located in one of India’s most tourist friendly states, Rajasthan in a city called Jaisalmer.

You’ll find plenty of flowery reviews and oodles of praises about this boutique property online and offline and almost all have obviously gushed about how special it is. And though most are accurate, it is my firm belief that hotels become noteworthy not because of the way they look or due to their EQ (Exotic quotient) but more importantly because of how they make you feel and how connected they themselves are to their surroundings, and all this without trying too hard.

And that is where this hotel scores! From the time you hop off the flight in Jodhpur (subconsciously dreading the 4-5 hour drive to Jaisalmer that is to follow) and spot the chauffeur waiting at the airport to receive you (his subsequent pampering takes good care of ridding you of all your fears linked to the haul) to the warm reception you recieve at the hotel itself…From the smiles of the liveried staff to the unpretentious luxury of the rooms… From the expanse of raw topography that surrounds it to the manicured elegance of its gardens…From the delectable quality of the local-inspired-gourmet cuisine to the lonesome crooner’s haunting voice in the courtyard… Everything seems to come together in a surreal manner to almost make you feel as if you belong there and simply never want to leave. (That said, i suspect, a lot of credit goes to the owner Manvendra Shekhawat’s vision and to the perfection of a very charming gentleman who treats this hotel as his home, Karan Singh).

I’m going to leave it upto the internet to tell you more (in case you desire to know more i.e.) and I’m sure it doesn’t take much to realise that i highly recommend a visit here to all who plan to venture out to Jaisalmer.

And yes, whilst you’re there, try and indulge in the comfort of the Jaisalmer Haveli, with its private infinity pool and other privileges, its your very own oasis in the midst of the mighty Thar.

More on Jaisalmer, the city in Part 2.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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Decoded Paradox

It was in 2011 that I realised that alongside a successful career in fashion, I had romanced, and if I may add, enjoyed myself tremendously in a parallel, secret existence in the company of a camera.

Photography for me started as a hobby, one that I have cherished and pursued with great enthusiasm for over two decades. To me, taking pictures was akin to a karmic connect, as it bestowed me with a celestial ability to show the world just as I wanted it to be seen; it quite effectively pampered the artist in me, allowing me to deconstruct and recompose the world in my own manner.

In my chosen wonderful world of fashion (one that i love dearly) and specially as a couturier for 25 years, I have always considered myself fortunate to be surrounded by great artists… inspired creative souls who constantly contributed to the fertility of this parallel voyage I was undertaking. No surprise then, that my subsequent resolve to venture into the world of Art was based largely on costume and royalty, the two things that i cherish deeply, via a fine art photography show (and book) aptly titled DECODED PARADOX*.

 INSPIRATION. Delhi. I came here 27 years ago with a solitary college friend from Chandigarh as my only known contact in the city. I was overawed by the sense of scale and the crowds that Delhi is synonymous with but was prepared to embrace this bustling giant in my quest to find the true path to follow my dreams. Would this city return my embrace? After all I was just another mortal being added to this vast expanse of teeming human presence. The only way to find the answers was to plunge into the unknown and let destiny takes its course. I did exactly that – and what a ride its been! Not only did this city welcome me with open arms but it also gave me the very foundation to build the edifice of my dreams. Experiences, people, moments…good and not so good have all been a part of the awakening and integration of my spirit into this city.

DELHI. The Indian capital city of Delhi has always been a seat of power and has a long history as the pivot of several empires. The earliest architectural relics date back to the Mauryan Period (c. 300 BC); since then, the city has seen continuous settlement and has been the perennial seat of power for several dynasties: the Rajputs, Turks, Afghans, Mughals, and then the English. Now our politicians consider Delhi an important city for control and rule.

Today’s Delhi, however, in the throes of modernization and remodelling, revelling (sometimes quite immodestly) in the euphoria of an economically charged environment, continues to also show that its magic lives on its streets. It is an evolving avatar of a future city that few notice as they drive across it everyday. It boasts of a parallel existence for millions of people as well as offers dramatic views of the old and the new. It often amazes me that the same roads that were once reserved for kings and queens to ride on are now common to the average man. In some way, we embrace the past by simply walking on the same soil as some of the greatest in history have; a thought that perhaps most don’t even realise. The show was my attempt to infuse two separate periods of time into a single frame, creating an absorbing paradox, interpreted by combining a staged setting (based upon the city’s feudal legacy) with the reality of the Delhi that lives on and off the roads today. The resulting visuals communicate two rather different scenarios…the almost frozen form of the fictitious historical personages from a nostalgia evoking past, surrounded by a very alive and vivid present…juxtaposition and contradiction, both of which I have tried to seamlessly integrate into the final work; an attempt to blur the conflict, if any, into an interestingly congruous composition.

 INVOLVEMENT. I suspect that my years of being in the wonder world of fashion and my modest understanding of costumes and textile history has added vastly to the staging part (as it involved recreating imagery from centuries back in all its purity and authenticity), whereas the very character of the present city, its people and architecture (old and new) as seen from the road, have generously contributed to creating the perfect backdrop to the final image. As I continued to capture my subjects in their unplanned settings, I also noticed that a varied set of my personal emotions ranging from awe, angst, joy and despair, amongst others, were increasingly becoming pivotal catalysts in visually piecing the images together. The casting process i.e. the selection of my nobility was perhaps one of the most critical aspects of this show; irrespective of which strata of society they belonged to, my selection was based purely on one criterion: a presence distinguished enough that its resultant aura had absolute relevance to the final image.

Finally, one of the key fascinations I’ve always had with the visual world is the fact that the unseen lies within the seen, longingly waiting to be discovered. Delhi resides somewhere between the seen and the unseen, and if you have the eye and the patience, i assure you that you will discover the diverse realities of this chaotic yet intense city.

*Decoded Paradox is a series of fine art photographic prints which have been exhibited in several art galleries and have also been privately published as a coffee table book. All costumes and clothes used in the pictures are from JJ VALAYA Couture.

(PS* If you wish to add this book to your personal collection, please reach me at valayajj@gmail.com and i’ll give you the details on how to take it forward)

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media.

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