Batul Kapasi – photojournalist & film maker

Batul.KapasiMeet Batul Kapasi, a final year student at Mumbai’s KC College, specializing in Mass Media. As a student, her interest in photojournalism enabled a useful stint at Pudhari Publications – a leading Marathi newspaper. She also works as a freelancer for entertainment websites, and takes on shooting assignments for events, weddings and corporate films.

Batul is a young socially driven movie maker with a message to share. Play simple, play fair and understand the environment you live in. Don’t attempt to sideline people based on caste, religion and circumstance.

I got in touch with Batul after I saw her “Judgemental” film on YouTube, a short film about a young student in a Mumbai first class compartment, questioning a transgender woman if she’s got into the compartment by mistake. I followed that up with an interview with her for my Big on Talent blog, and here are her responses to some of the questions I asked her.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the Judgemental film? Was it a specific incident? Was it something on your list of ideas? What was the prompt, or inspiration?

I use the local every day to get to college and move around Mumbai. And when I’m in the train I get to observe people from close quarters. And there’s a lesson I learn every day in understanding people – around their worries, concerns, hopes and aspirations. I also get to observe people’s prejudices. Talking about prejudices I once saw a young student questioning a lady who had got into the train at Ghatkopar Station – only to be surprised that she had a valid ticket. The discomfort and disgust displayed by the girl got me thinking – this was movie material.

This was around the time I was working on my “1-Minute Series” and this new idea was a nice inclusion.

Q: How did you go about the production? What equipment did you use? Did you have someone to guide and help you? How did you put this together?

I used basic equipment for my Judgmental film – a Canon 70D and a 50mm 1.4 lens, which I borrowed from a professor at college. New Sound Films/EEG Talent helped me produce this film. This production house is a great platform for budding filmmakers and writers and is owned by Nick Rajsakha, Tejas Rathod and Kunal Kothari. They are also helping me produce other films I have in mind, including Dharavi Dreams which will be released on a much bigger platform.

Q: How did you arrive at using a transgender person for this film? Did you consider other options?

I did a lot of soul searching before picking the cast for this film – I also chatted with people at college and other professionals I work with. Virtually everyone liked the idea I had conceived – and were curious about my next steps, as it was a completely offbeat film.

Initially, I thought of using typical profiles that would stand out in a first class compartment – but I needed to make a bigger impact. That’s how the transgender narrative came into my storyline – and this was easier said than done. My first option was to use an actor, but that didn’t work for more than one reason. I had to get someone from the transgender community to play that role – I didn’t want to rewrite the script to make things easier.

That’s when a good friend of mine, Isha, came to my rescue – useful because she was associated with the Kashish Film Festival. Isha introduced me to Shreya and I instantly knew I didn’t have to look any further. Shreya was just right for the role of the Ticket Collector in the film, and Drashti Thaker did her part well as the student with discomfort written all over.

Q: Did things get out of hand during the shoot? Curious people? Passengers? Other ticket collectors?

Well, Murphy ’s Law always comes into play when you’re shooting – even when you’ve planned things carefully and are completely equipped. When I was shooting the establishing shots of the film, the police cautioned me twice and warned me that they would take away my camera. They really had no idea what I was doing, and I just wanted to wrap up the project without any incident.

When we were shooting at CST, the train suddenly started moving and I realized that people would start pouring in at every station. Around the space I was shooting, passengers were both amused and curious – to my relief, it looked like they were being entertained.

Q: What has the response been for your film? From the transgender community, from professional support groups, from peers, from colleagues and friends.

I must say that I have reason to be ecstatic – viewer response has been good and encouraging. The film has already crossed 1,00,000 views, much to my amazement. And that’s a lot of people who are seeing your name flashing on the screen – it feels awesome and I think well deserved – because a lot of hard work went into it. Shreya, my lead in the film shared it with her transgender group; people like Harish Iyer also shared the film on social media. I also got positive feedback from other members of Shreya’s group while shooting another documentary. There were calls, messages and likes on facebook – more than I had ever imagined. Even shoutouts from people I didn’t even know. All this makes me feel blessed.

Q: How did you get into story telling with a message? What got you into this space? How many films have you made? What plans do you have for the future?

When I was a kid, I was fascinated with stories and story-telling. The stories that I heard from elders at home had to be shared, and I was always thinking of interesting ways to do that. I must add here that my story-telling skills found true expression when I did theatre. Theatre enhances the way you think and develop ideas and makes you realize the importance of time.
Cinema on the other hand is a powerful medium when you want to share your message with a large audience. I have made thirteen films so far – including short films and documentaries. The last film in my “1-Minute Series” will soon be done and I will move on to other projects on my project list. It’s encouraging to have a basket of ideas, waiting to happen – gives you so much to look forward to.

Q: What are your other interests? Where does life take you in the years to come? What you plan to do and maybe, a future perspective…

I love star gazing – I’m a born star gazer. I really like talking to people to know more about their lives and the different worlds they live in. In this journey of storytelling, I hope to understand life better and with more meaning and purpose. I want to travel to places that can inspire my passion for storytelling. I think travel can free your soul and lead you to newer meaningful directions in life – even if you sometimes think you are lost on that journey.

In the not too distant future, I can see myself directing a feature film and a play. To be honest, I don’t know what’s coming – but I am sure whatever is on my way, it would be worth it!

Written, Directed, Shot & Edited by Batul Kapasi.
Cast: Drashti Thaker & Shreya Reddy
YouTube meter: 110,784 (And counting . . .)

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Atamjeet Singh Bawa – paper modeller

AtamjeetSinghBawa_BikeHow to turn a blank sheet of paper into a superbike in eight steps.  Well, as you will soon see, that’s easier said than done – especially when you start from scratch, with a little more than plain paper and board. But Atamjeet Singh Bawa of New Delhi, India, displays a keen eye and a remarkable sense of scale model profiling – something that could get the original designers to drop a jaw and take a closer look.

His range of paper-crafted models includes warheads, space shuttles, fighter planes, warships, motorbikes, and more. The largest model crafted by Atamjeet is the M4-A Pulse Rifle – made to a scale of 1:1 and three feet long. He has also worked on a 1:1 model of a rocket propelled grenade launcher – roughly four feet long. His smallest creation is a 1:48 scale model of the Bell XP-77 Airplane – barely five inches long from nose to tail.

Currently Atamjeet works as a software programmer with an IT firm. He says he loves coding, so there’s no problem with that during working hours. His eyes light up, I guess when it’s time to clock off at work and get home – when he can get his hands dirty with glue and paper.

Q: Atamjeet, how did you pick paper as a medium?

Paper gives me the convenience of ‘doing something from flat’. Look at it another way – paper is also the cheapest and most easily sourced raw stock you can lay your hands on. If I want to make changes, I just take another printout and take things forward.

Paper also enables a remarkable sense of detailing – making it easier to cut, curve, crease and fold. While paper art is largely known for origami, I have attempted to give the medium a whole new dimension.

Q: What is a typical start-to-finish process?

It basically takes seven to eight steps to take my projects from concept to creation – let me try and outline the process for you.

Stage 01: I start with researching my target original for a few days – this includes time spent on looking up product history and understanding design interventions.

Stage 02: Initial 3D renderings of the model on my computer – giving me different viewpoints of approach – this is where I visualize scaling down in terms of form and function.

Stage 03: I obtain a preliminary printout to serve as a planner – this has detailed notes on colors, graphics, paper grades, margins and assembly.

Stage 04 is when I do the detailing of surface graphics, background colors and cutting guidelines. I usually do a few trial print runs here to see how the image prints out on different grades of paper.

Stage 05: This stage can be tedious and labor intensive. Once the printing is done, each component is individually cut out like a jig saw puzzle – I usually end up with an assortment of small to large pieces.

Stage 06 is a validation of the first five stages – to correct the smallest deviations and ensure accuracy in terms of fitment, assembly and form integration.

Stage 07 – This is where I bend, crease, curve and fold to actually form each component and part assembly, based on original profile guidelines.  I also do a soft assembly without glue, to see if there’s a perfect match in terms of interlocking and fitment.

Stage 08: The finally assembly includes a careful step-by-step gluing sequence. This can be tricky, as I have to apply glue spots only on areas that I have pre-identified.

After stage 08, the model still needs to be tweaked, in terms of last minute propping up in terms of alignments. I also need to do cosmetic retouching to mask the white edges visible when you cut out sections from paper or board. This is done using high quality felt pens.

Q: How do you choose your boards, and what cutters do you use?

A: A lot of planning goes into choosing the right paper or board – extreme variations in thickness can result in some level of difficulty during assembly. Fortunately for me you can easily get the kind of paper and boards that I need, right here in India. My cutting tools are actually a growing collection and something I have handpicked over the years. This includes X-ACTO cutters, ergonomically balanced scissors, heavy-duty blades and wooden dowels. When it comes to glue, I like working with ‘Desi Fevicol’ – available in local markets. Fevicol is just right, because it is virtually colorless and gives me enough time to pull, tweak and align before it dries.

Q: How do you achieve that amazing degree of realism in form, detailing, graphics and paintwork?

A: I work with a 6-P guideline that encapsulates Passion, Patience, Practice, Preparation, Perfection and Precision. These are my frames of reference and points of inspiration – whatever I may be doing – playing the guitar, playing ping pong, software coding, or working in my model studio. This level of discipline can be useful, because there are times when you can get tired and want to give up – 6-P helps me go that one level higher in terms of perseverance.

Q: What dreams do you have to take this wonderful talent to new heights?

A: I dream of a Madame Tussauds kind of a museum where all my models could be displayed with a historical timeline. Take the evolution of a bicycle for instance, which I do have in mind as a project. I also dream of working with automobile giants for product launch events that may call for model replicas using my techniques and talents. Just imagine, if Ferrari were launching a new model, I would love to see my paper creation of that car under the same spotlights.


This talk by Atamjeet was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format and independently organized by a local community.

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Prarthana Pednekar – master baker & food stylist

Cup cakes with a Mehendi theme

Meet Prarthana Pednekar from Mumbai. A young, talented master baker and food sculptor who has a finger in every pie – from horoscopes and palm reading, to ethnic cuisines and baking.

While that’s diverse and multi-faceted, she spends all her waking hours in her kitchen-cum-baking-studio. Prarthana bakes the most fabulous cakes and pastries this side of the hemisphere, and what she likes best is listening to the faint hum that starts up when she turns on her oven. Her custom bakery line, run currently from home makes a lot of people happy – especially with the exciting listing she has on her custom order menu.

Here are some excerpts from the long chat I had with her, on what she does, and how she plans to expand her business.

Q: What does your current range include in your specialty bakery line?

A: I currently offer cakes for every rhyme and reason. Cupcakes in all shapes, textures, flavours, muffins that will tenderize the most hard-hearted, and hand-minted chocolates that can turn a frown upside down. There’s a lot that happens in my kitchen-turned-baking-studio, but the most popular orders that come my way are for cupcake bouquets, customized hampers, tiered butter-cream rosette cakes and festive hampers.

Q: Do cakes for special occasions form the bulk of your regular orders?

A: Yes they do, because I bake cakes for birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, baby showers and themed birthday parties. Each cake comes with a specific brief in terms of theme, ingredient mix, weight, size, shape and preferred icing. The icing can be a major challenge because it needs to add dimension and visual appeal.

I usually refer to a sugar-based topping as icing, and butter based, or thicker cream creations as frosting. Whatever ingredients I use, the icing invariably calls for an art component – to actually render cartoon characters, comic book heroes, glam-girl dolls and unusual variations. The finishing touches are the trickiest thing to do – one false move and you have to redo the whole thing.

Q: How do you plan your ingredient mix? Do you have a regular shopping list?

A: While I do have a regular shopping list, most orders have something special and unique that call for additional shopping. While I love the creative aspect of making my products look good and taste good, I also enjoy the planning and shopping process. I need to be careful here because I work with the best ingredients and the best doesn’t come cheap. Each order is literally assigned a small individual pocket book that contains all the specs and my shopping list. I like my pocket book idea, because this serves as a handy reference, the next time I bake something similar.

Q: What happens during the actual baking process?

A: The baking process can get tricky, because this is when you can bake, or break your order. I need to give special attention to the mix, oven settings, baking and cooling cycles. Even storage methods after baking needs special consideration. While this sounds complicated, things do fall into place as you go along – you know exactly what to do and how to do it.

My process pretty much goes like clockwork, though I face a bit of a challenge when I need to tackle multiple orders at the same time. That’s when I need to prioritize in terms of preparation, grouping similar tasks and scheduling oven sharing, which is easier said than done.

Q: Do you have someone to help you to make life a little easier?

A: Yes, I do – my mum is a lot more than an extra pair of hands – always there, always anticipating all those twists and turns where I might need help. Dad, of course, is really sweet and abundantly helpful – ever ready to shop with me, or help deliver when customers call up with an SOS request. I really should induct them onto my board as senior partners, because they prop me up in the many ways they can.

Q: How do you plan to take this to the next level?

A: Right now, I’m weighing my options in terms of core occupation and peripheral interests. And my gut tells my that I need to make the baking line part of my core occupation. I am in the process of outlining a few business models and need to validate them in terms of return on investment. I sometimes wish I could find a like-minded business partner – it’s always useful to have another person who shares the same passion and can help downsize the workloads. Another option is to be part of a value-based supply chain that caters to upper crust outlets – it can widen your canvas.

Prarthana with her Indian Idol, Vikas Khanna, during one of his visits to Manipal University. Vikas Khanna is an alumnus of Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration.

Prarthana Pednekar has a B.Sc. in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from IHM in GOA, and an M.Sc. in Hospitality and Tourism Management from the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration at Manipal University.
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Scottie Callaghan – latte art champion


Who is Scottie Callaghan?

Look up the winners of the World Latte Art Championship in 2006 and the Australian Barista Championship in 2007, and see who walked away with top honours. Today, the name “Scottie Callaghan” is known in the coffee hubs of the world as someone who really knows his beans.

Scottie has worked hard over the last eight years alongside some of Australia’s most reputed roasters, baristas and barista trainers – learning the art and the science of coffee that looks good, tastes good.

All the hard work eventually paid off. Here’s a quick line-up from Scottie’s personal hall of fame.
2007 – Australian Barista Champion **
2007 – 9th place – World Barista Championship
2007 – NSW Barista Champion
2006 – World Latte Art Champion **
2006 – 2nd place – Australian Barista Championship
2005 – Sydney Barista Champion
2005 – Pura Milk Latte Art Champion
2004 – 2nd place – Danes Gourmet Coffee Institute
Grand Barista Championship

I cut into Scottie’s coffee break the other day, to find out a little more about the man who can serve up the most perfect cup of coffee in the world.

1. Did you always want to be in the café business?
I think I was destined to work in the café industry, for as long as I can remember – I have always appreciated the importance of flavor.

When I was young, I would cook a lot for the family – traditional Australian dishes like roasts, porridge, Shepherd’s Pie – and my family didn’t mind when I cooked. These were humble beginnings in a large family of nine. Mum use to make porridge in the morning before we all got up, some mornings I use to beat her to it and make the porridge for everyone. Some might thing I was sucking up, but I honestly just loved cooking and I still do.

2. And what does work mean to a world champion?
I work full time for Belaroma Coffee as their Coffee Champion, working on blends and barista training to make sure the coffee served in cafés that use Belaroma Coffee is at the highest standard possible. I also sell a range of packages to suit people’s budgets and then show customers how to be a personal home barista.

Before joining Belaroma, I worked as a consultant to cafés, baristas and coffee companies – teaching people the finer points of espresso preparation.

3. Do you share your magical trade secrets with people?
For the home DIY enthusiast, I offer a complete Home Barista package – this is all people need to make great espresso coffee at home. My personalised inputs here include setting up the machine and showing customers how to make a great cup. This can be invaluable as it helps people skip the minefield of department stores with lines of espresso machines and no one to tell you what to buy and how to use them.

At another level, baristas also need a guiding hand. And I go to great lengths in helping baristas make a better cup of coffee, at their café or place of work. My orientation is in-depth – right from the basics of grinding, dosing, extractions and milk texturing, to the overall appreciation of high quality espresso. I help them acquire a knowledge base that will be useful on the job.

4. What does a barista need, to earn his stripes?
A natural feel for the sensory aspects of making coffee and familiarity with technical aspects that can get the optimum out of machine and process. A little understanding about the roasting side of coffee also goes a long way in honing skills. According to me, what tops it all is a deep understanding of customer service – and this can take years to learn because it involves people skills.

5. Should barista’s competitive spirit aim at winning prizes?
I guess prizes are not everything but who am I to comment? Barista competitions have been great for me – I have learnt a great deal, met great people, travelled all over the world and built a business on the back of my prizes. But there are baristas who are brilliant at what they do and make a great living for themselves – without entering competitions.

6. What are the five key tips to making good coffee?
A great cup of coffee is an awesome experience; a bad cup of coffee? Well after the good one, one might say, “That’s not coffee.”

So here are five tips that can be useful. Tip One: Always buy freshly roasted coffee – look for a roast date not a use-by date. Tip Two: Buy a good grinder – if you want to make truly great coffee, you need to grind the coffee fresh. Tip Three: Keep your machine clean, which means regular cleaning and maintenance. Tip Four: Adjust the grind to achieve a correct espresso pour. Tip Five: Before you adjust the grind, make sure you achieve the correct dose.

7. Over these years, have you invented any tools for the trade?
I always tell people that the correct dose can make a big difference to taste. And what I mean by that is how much ground coffee to put into your filter basket (the handle that inserts into the espresso machine) and the importance of dosing the same amount for every coffee you make. With my experience in the field, I have come up with some tools that will help users achieve a correct dose and be consistent – cup after cup after cup.

8. Do you make a beeline for espresso bars on your holidays?
The coffee industry is full of beautiful people who I have been privileged to get to know. And I have been fortunate enough to get to travel. Over the last two years I have been to Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Tokyo, London, Singapore andCanada. And I have been able to stop by at some of the best cafes and espresso bars in the world – like Café Europa in Copenhagen or Monmouth Coffee in Covent Garden, London.

9. Is there an interesting offbeat café that comes to mind?
Café Lambre in Tokyo, a small café owned by a 93 year old man named Sekiguchi-san – my all time favourite café owner and one of the true legends of the international café scene. I once asked Sekiguchi-san what he thought of espresso. Waving his hands in the air, he started with an aghhghhghhgh!! “When you are making coffee, everything should be done by the hand – not a machine. Coffee needs to be treated with respect, not with all these electronic gadgets.”

10. Scottie, is there life beyond being a barista?
Oh yes, there is. I am in the middle of a great book called Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts – a great read about someone who escaped from prison in Australiaand fled to India. I also love snowboarding and wakeboarding; I have spent many weekends out on the Hawkesbury on my friend’s boat. And a great weekend for me would be to go shopping for grocery, veggies, fish or meat – and other bits and pieces. I then get home and cook for friends, with a glass of red to keep me company before my friends arrive.

you want to invite Scottie to your part of the world
to organise a training program or just give your boys
some pep talk, here’s how you can reach him.

Image source : Scottie Callaghan

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