Sitting down with Prarthna Singh and Ankur Tewari
Prarthna, a graduate in Fine Arts from The Rhode Island School of Design, is a photographer whose work draws inspiration from Stephen Shore (largely proportioned portraits of suburbia) and who has a steady dalliance with film as a medium (she even. Her work continually explores the idea of a ‘modern’ India, and her wardrobe is one we’d like to dip into (liberally, and often) so it was only a matter of time before we caught up to her.
Musician, man about town, and filmmaker Ankur Tewari is most often found with his band, Ankur and The Ghalat Family (they just released an album which you can find here), and he credits growing up listening to Bach (unknowingly), and the lyrical musings of Patti Smith and Tracy Chapman with some of his musical stones. He is also very much his own brand of artist, and a man with a wealth of insight on the city that both he and Prarthna call home.
We ran Prarthna and Ankur through the Nico Q&A below. Tell us when, and how, you first got into what you do.
Prarthna: My photographic journey began as a teenager when I bought my first camera, a second hand Nikon FM2. My initiation process involved spending hours at a stretch in the dark room, cut away from the rest of the world; developing film and watching my images come to life. The turning point was when I realised the power photography has to tell a story without words. Photographs grip you immediately; with text or a book that process is gradual. I really enjoyed that instantaneous connection the viewer could make with my work.
Ankur: Probably from the time I was in my crib. I still clearly remember the Fisher Price toy that hung over my head when I was a kid. It would play a Bach melody when you’d pull the string. I obviously figured that it was composed by the great composer much later. The first song I played was a pretty lame version of ‘Fast Car’, by Tracy Chapman.
Favourite work / top influences?
Prarthna: I think the world I live in today, the choices I make, politics, the people I choose to surround myself with, the songs and stories I hear- it all adds up as inspiration for my work.
I am continuously inspired by different versions of feminine strength. Women are fascinating and my admiration for them pushes me to try and understand them (and in many ways myself) further.
Alec Soth has always been an inspiration. Recently I saw an exhibition of Vivian Maier’s photography and it was incredible. For someone who had no formal training in the craft and spent most of her years as a nanny, she had an incredible eye. Apart from that I admire the work of Pieter Hugo, Stephen Shore, Katy Grannan and Dayanita Singh. Recently in fashion I love what Jamie Hawkesworth, Zoe Ghertner and Ben Toms are doing, especially because of their choice to work in film.
Ankur: More writers influence my work than musicians. Leonard Cohen. Charles Bukowski. Patti Smith. Sahir Ludhianvi. Gulzar. I hate classifying my music (I’d rather leave that job to others). But if someone would insist then I would take the liberty to classify my music as ‘Kickass’.
Prarthna: I’m actually embarking on a new one now. So I have just begun the research process. Exciting! The last project I wrapped up was the Airbnb campaign for India.
Ankur: My new album which is out now: Side A/ Side B. What does a typical day / week look like for you?
Prarthna: Honestly, no day or week ends up being the same for me. That’s the nature of my job.
Shoot days mostly involve very early morning call times (which I mostly set), I love the morning light. For instance yesterday I was a guest lecturer at Parsons in Bombay so I spent a few hours in the morning prepping, then the next few hours with the students (which was actually really fun and stimulating) post that I had a music video to finish editing so I spent the rest of the day in the studio. Before the day ended I wanted to try this smoothie bowl recipe so I made sure I managed to make trip to the grocery store and do that. The reason I love working for myself. I can take afternoon naps. Ha!
Ankur: I wake up early. Try and wrap up all my writing by noon. Do most of my meetings post lunch. Chill post sunset, try and avoid late nights during the week. Steal an hour (at least) to practice everyday.
Prarthna, The one city (besides the one you’re in) that you'd absolutely love to live in?
Well, the one city I would absolutely love to live in I’ve actually been lucky enough to do so. It’s most definitely New York. In the recent past, I’ve spent some time in Berlin and I think that would have to be my second choice.
Ankur, tell us where we need to go tonight, or acts we need to see.
Anti Social Khar - This new venue is slowly becoming a hub to the ‘scene’. It collides head on with Blue Frog shutting down and I’m sure that a lot of important musicians from the near future will end up starting out here.
Cuckoo Club - This secret intimate venue in Bandra is apt as a testing ground for any stage performance. I have been fortunate to see some interesting comedy and music acts there before they’ve been exposed to the world.
I bar (on a Sunday) - If you want to witness a pure unabashed jam then you better make your way to I Bar in Bandra on a Sunday evening. A motley crew of crazy musicians take stage and jam on some original tunes peppered with some classics. My favourite moment last year was when the whole crowd belted out ‘Hey Jude’ at 3 in the morning. Obviously the gates were shut at 1 after the cops insisted that the civilised people should head home.
And go see Sidd Coutto - Sidd plays in my band apart from supporting numerous other acts. The joke goes that if you kidnap him, you might sabotage the whole scene.
Bombay, in three words?
Prarthna: Bhaiya, khaali ho? (In context to never finding an empty rickshaw on the streets of Bandra!)
Ankur: Magic. Now. Awake.
They take us on a whistle-stop tour of New York City, here.