New garden of five senses
Gauri Khan, Rajesh Pratap Singh, Zorawar Kalra, Ambrish Arora and Rajeev Makhni — divided by professions, united by creativity — set up a multi-sensory showcase
The alchemists were at work on a breezy Friday evening, stirring up a magic to awaken the five senses in a city that tends to dull them in the rush of life. So there was Gauri Khan setting the theatre with her bottled chandelier, designer Rajesh Pratap Singh attempting to touch and feel an abstraction called creativity and chef Zorawar Kalra serving up Indian with an earthy twist.
Conceptualised by Chivas 18, which has been hosting a creative confluence of ideas pinning them on reinterpreting its 85 notes through varied installations and immersive experiences, the second edition had us glued with its unique mindplay.
This was Gauri’s foray in public curation of design in Delhi, which she credited to designer and friend Ashish Soni. With an amber glow emanating from the 1,800 bottles in the chandelier, she created a whisky warmth in an evening coming out of winter. With a crystalline bar and coffee tables bouncing off the liquid warmth, she kept it simple, minimalistic and let the light flow through the glass. For somebody who was drawn to charcoal sketches and graphics from school, Gauri says she keeps evolving every day, “keeping her spaces comfortable and liveable while investing them with my clients’ personality.” She doesn’t like to be called an influencer but rather a blender of influences. She held up the glitter with the sobriety of black leather-topped bars and sunken tables.
Rajesh Pratap Singh decided to break free from the texture of fabrics and decided to explore a tactile world through an industrial installation. Finding art in the manufacturing process of a mundane unit, he sees himself as a “conduit of creativity.” So his installation was a metal lighthouse with water taps, embedded with LEDs jutting out, giving it the effect of the many lamp pillars or deep minars you find all along the Konkan coast. “The top of the pillar is open as if drawing energy from the universe that flows through these taps as light and which you can feel and touch on your skin,” he told us during a walkthrough. Taking a break from fashion, which he says is his trade, this pursuit was of the unbridled aesthete, who believes “we must deconstruct in a world of precision.” Which is why he is taking off on a Himalayan trek before putting out his summer lines.
Zorawar’s food theatre and whisky cocktails, that lifted his progressive Indian cuisine, were a clear hit of the night. Believing that food diplomacy was 40 times more potent than Bollywood’s, he shared how he is planning to take over the Orient and the emerging economies with his branded restaurants. “As restaurateurs, we have not been able to tell the story of Indian food. I am working with regional Indian cuisine and hope to reveal their complexity, technique, earthiness, and roundedness to the world. Except for the UK, where Indian food got introduced through some idea about a colonial past and curry houses, Indian food is not quite up there. And that’s my challenge,” he told us. Coming up are a new Asian fusion restaurant called Bow Tie overlooking the Qutub and a “Farzification of Kolkata and Kashmiri cuisine.”
Interior Designer Ambrish Arora, the auteur of aromas, came on board as he loves to take up challenges. During the course of his working career of over 30 years, he has trained and worked as a boat designer before moving to spatial design. He founded Studio Lotus in 2002 along with Sidhartha Talwar and Ankur Choksi which works in the realm of consciousness in space. The installations bring primary sense into play with the use of seminal elements. “I always liked a challenge. Architecture involves all senses. The installation combines water and fire. One part shows rain and the second has a tower of fire,” he says.
Arora’s installation had three parts. “The first part of the installation was conceptually a spartan set-up with a window where you could hear the rain. The petrichor seeped into the room. There was an old chair inside the room which was conceived as a tavern where a man who loves his whisky and the mountains stays and he can watch the rain,” he said. A meandering path from this room led into a small area where one could smell 40 notes from whisky. These were kept in small petri dishes which exuded this smell. “Conceptually you’ve walked into a timber cask,” added Arora. A third area had 200 bottles cast in wax which were lit up and gave off a woody smell. The installation was entirely recyclable.
Rajeev Makhni, the tech guru, was the sound maestro for the project. “When I was approached, I wondered what I could do here. I could not show five phones or review them. But this is a platform that chooses the best people in their profession so that they can transcend what they do,” he said. There were two world firsts in the installations. It was a virtual reality room where you were plucked out and planted in the middle of a meadow. But you didn’t have to wear the special spectacles. Then there were headphones, through which the sound streamed in from different directions, sometimes far, sometimes near. “There are mountains on one wall, sea on side and waves lapping. You will feel as if you are boating down a river with bridges and you can hear sounds which are coming from a particular direction,” he said. So the sound of the drum came from behind the hill, the ripples from the water splash of the boat. This is called binaural sound, the way it happens in real life. “My challenge was that the audience should not look in the direction that the sound was coming from,” he said.
A heady feeling — that was what most people came out with — and it was not just the free-flowing alcohol that was responsible for it. The installations clearly were the talking point of
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