These immortal words by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are the inspiration behind the story that follows. Channel 6 celebrates 22 years of serving the city by honouring 22 icons of Hyderabad. Making it to the list are people and the spicy and exotic Hyderabadi cuisine that have put the city on the list of the world’s must-travel-to places.
Let’s start with the people. Defining the power of one, these personalities have, through their work, underlined by passion and dedication, made Hyderabad a better place than what they found it to be. All of them have used talents, skills or funds to enhance the lives of others. They have provided employment, empowerment, education, nourishment and entertainment.
Tangible evidence of their impact is the presence of world-class medical facilities, printing establishments, institutions like the Nasr School and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, the IT and infrastructure sectors, Rama Naidu studios, organisations fighting to save our lakes and our heritage structures, film clubs, newspapers, gyms, dance schools, theatre festivals …
Not included in this list are several names no less iconic: the Akkineni family, the Ohris, Saina Nehwal, P Gopichand, Anji Reddy, Amita Desai, Daphne Rebello, S M Arif, Sania Mirza, Gagan Narang, Hema Malini Arni, Mohan Hemmadi, VVS Laxman and GVK Reddy to name a few. Some of these people have been written about in our magazine recently, others were unavailable. But their efforts are no less laudable.
Now for the food. The biryani is to Hyderabadis what apple pie is to Americans. It has to be the one dish that ranks above all others when it comes to the local palate, with a fan following that spreads across the world.
And what would Hyderabad be without its ashrafis, badam ki jaalis and the traditional Andhra sweets made accessible by G Pulla Reddy? We celebrate these iconic delicacies that are a must on every gourmet’s itinerary in the city.
We haven’t included the city’s best-known structures though they are no less iconic. They command respect and awe, and to our eternal regret, do not get enough of either. The Charminar needs no introduction and the Salar Jung Museum — a lifelong collection of a true connoisseur — are the silent torchbearers of Hyderabad’s rich history.
Channel 6 salutes all these icons of Hyderabad. We continue to be inspired by them.
To a lot of us living elsewhere in the country, Hyderabad was a sleepy little town. Until Chandrababu Naidu arrived on the scene with a bang. Suddenly, the city was talked about everywhere and in the eight years and almost nine months that he was CM of this state, he gave the city a complete makeover. From wider roads to flyovers, a state-of-the-art airport, an IT environment and an investment-friendly atmosphere, he ensured that Hyderabad caught up with other metros. The Clintons, Bill Gates, IT giants — everyone made their way here to see what Naidu had done.
He, on his part, was extremely driven, convinced that the reforms he initiated could help Hyderabad become a modern city. He says, “I believe that education, human resources and reforms can change any part of the country once infrastructure is provided. During my tenure, I set up over 300 engineering and medical colleges because I found students were going to other states to study. I commissioned a law college — NALSAR — which today is one of the best in the country. My plan was to create world class infrastructure so that IT companies would want to come here.”
He was the one who coined the cock-a-snook slogan ‘Bye, Bye Bangalore, Hello Hyderabad’ and invited IT companies to set up shop. And it was he who, after several meetings with Bill Gates, succeeded in having the latter setting up in Cyberabad a Microsoft centre, which is today the company’s second largest, after its headquarters in Seattle.
It was also the tech-savvy Naidu who initiated e-Seva, a single window for payment of all utility bills. And it was the ex-CM who was responsible for launching a campaign to save water bodies, and encouraging private-public partnership for development of parks for schools.
Zooming along the growth highway, he initiated a 160-km six-lane Outer Ring Road for smooth flow of traffic. Naidu was known as the CEO of Hyderabad. Driven, motivated, and switched-on, he would check the power grid at 6 in the morning every day. He did this to check if electricity was being distributed evenly, whether it was being compensated in areas where there had been power cuts and if people, especially farmers, were being informed in advance about shortages.
Naidu also introduced the practice of swiping cards to mark attendance at the Secretariat and observed it himself too. He called for meetings early in the mornings and conducted surprise checks at various government offices. He studied the policies of countries like Singapore and Malaysia so that the best of those could be implemented in the state. Though the metro failed to take off in his regime, he was instrumental in initiating the project and brought in the MMTS in the interim.
Today, as leader of the opposition, his wings are clipped. And for anyone who has followed the growth trail of the state, it is easy to see how things have, kind of stagnated since Naidu lost power. He admits to making mistakes which states like Gujarat and Bihar have corrected while copying his model. But, his love for his state and its capital city, which was powerful enough to make him refuse the topmost job of the country, makes him an optimist. He concludes by saying, “If I come back to power, I know there is a lot of damage control to be done. I will have to undo a lot of wrong before I can make things right again.”
Ask any thinking individual in the city and they all swear by this dynamic politician who brought about refreshing winds of change to the city. He gave it a much-needed facelift and the legacy he created during his regime lives on.
Suraiya Hasan Bose
Revivalist of ancient weaves
This diminutive octogenarian needs no introduction. Her Kalamkari prints have made this art of block printing a household name across the country. And, thanks to her, many a groom has looked resplendent in sherwanis made from Himroo and Mashroo fabric. These are ancient Persian weaves which came to India and Hyderabad through Iranian migrants and royalty… a dying art she has been singularly responsible for reviving.
She recalls, “When I started out in the 60s, very few people knew how to develop this fabric as it is a complicated weave. Himroo had completely disappeared after Partition. I started training young widows who were economically backward to weave and then included Mashroo as well.”
Suraiya aapa, as she is known, also runs the Safrani Memorial School that has 600 students, the medium of coaching is English, and the children of her workers are educated free of cost.
She proudly reveals that all the tenth graders of the school scored a first class in the board exams.
Her Kalamkari, which is block-printed in Machlipatnam, is sold to Fab India, designers and other leading stores. The product range includes sarees, stoles, dupattas, tunics, bags, table and bed linen, and wall hangings in hand-painted Kalamkari.
Suraiya aapa shrugs off the accolades and insists her true satisfaction lies simply in the fact that she was able to revive Kalamkari, Himroo, Mashroo and Ikat, another old weave. But she is deeply worried about their future.
“I regret to say that the younger generation does not want to follow in their parents’ footsteps and learn these weaves. In a few years, I believe none of these will be available.”
Suraiya aapa has done her bit to revive a great tradition. The city owes it to this iconic figure to ensure that these arts don’t die and wither away.
Art historian and collector
Clad in his trademark kurta, the 85-year-old Mittal is a walking encyclopedia on all art forms and crafts — Indian paintings/drawings, textiles, metals or Bidri work. Setting out as an artist after undergoing training at Shantiniketan, Mittal began collecting works of art. His first pick was in 1944 from a shop in Dehradun, where he bought some Japanese woodcut prints for four annas. On researching, he found they were the works of Japanese wood printmaker Hiroshige. Though Mittal stopped painting in 1962 to dedicate himself to becoming a collector, many of his paintings are exhibited in various museums.
It was at the invitation of Badrivishal Pittie in 1951 that Mittal came to Hyderabad with an exhibition and decided to make the city his home. In the early 70s, he visited Germany and saw how the small museums there preserved their cultural heritage. On returning, he established the Jagdish and Kamala Mittal Museum of Indian Art in 1976 to be administered by a 12-member trust. To keep nepotism at bay, he debarred family members from becoming trustees.
It has been three decades, but he has not got land from the state government, so all the objects are displayed at his home. “Each object is well catalogued and meticulously preserved. Sometimes the objects have been loaned for display at exhibitions in the country and abroad,” says Mittal.
He regrets that he has been unable to train an army of people in the field of preservation. Though instrumental in setting up the International Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage, Mittal is a sad man today as “not much is being done.”
As for the collection, thanks to his wife, Kamala, also an artist, it has grown steadily — Mughal, Pahadi, Rajasthani, Deccani, western and central Indian, paintings and drawings; classical and folk bronzes; embroidered kantha pieces; metalware, including silver, bidri and brass; terracotta and wood carvings; and Qurans from the 12th to the 19th centuries. Plans are on, Mittal says, for construction over his residence where art lovers can have easier access to the collection.
Begum Anees Khan
Educationist, Founder, Nasr School
The Begum believes there is no better tool than a good education to empower the girl child. Decades ago, after completing her MA, Begum Anees Khan wanted to take up a job. Her father-in-law, the Nawab of Surat, would not hear of it. How, in a family where even the men did not engage themselves in pursuits beyond known circles, could a woman think of seeking employment outside, he asked.
So, on advice from a friend’s, she set up a small crèche-cum-kindergarten school on the premises of the family’s home in Khairatabad. She found staunch supporters in her mother-in-law and husband. This, and the mentorship of Mr Prakash Rao, Principal of the Teachers Training College, Saifabad, saw what started out from two rooms in June 1965, going from strength to strength. Today, Nasr School is one of the city’s most respected, with 3000 students on the rolls. The boys’ school, at Gachibowli has 1000 pupils.
“I tell my girls to be self-reliant and have the self-confidence and courage to follow their dreams.” She herself is an inspiration — she earned an
M Ed in New Mexico, USA, so as to run her school professionally and has since received several awards for her contributions to education, including a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Khan Bahadur Babukhan Foundation. Approached to set up a branch or franchise of the school in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, she is right now engaged in working on the proposal.
Dr P M Bhargava
Founder and Director, CCMB, scientist
Dr Pushpa Mittra Bhargava, Founder and former Director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, (CCMB) former Vice Chairman, National Knowledge Commission, and former member, National Security Advisory Board, is a scientist, writer, thinker, institution builder, and architect of modern biology and biotechnology in the country.
He made Hyderabad his home more than 60 years ago, when he shifted base here from Lucknow, armed with a Ph.D at the age of 21. CCMB, considered a jewel in the crown of Indian science was conceived, built and directed by him and stands testimony to his great vision. CCMB’s cutting-edge research led to the development of DNA fingerprinting technique and world leadership in exotic microorganisms, plant biology and conservation of endangered species. It placed Hyderabad on the international map of science. On why he chose Hyderabad to create a state-of-the-art institution, Dr Bhargava says, “In the 1970s, I could foresee Hyderabad emerging as the intellectual capital of India.”
His pioneering research in cancer, liver cells and discovery of an important protein “seminalplasmin” won him innumerable national and international honours, including the Padma Bhushan and Legion d’ Honneur from the President of France. Known for his courageous stands on various public issues, at 84, his contributions continue to cover a wide range: from history and social analysis to promoting ethics and a scientific temper, to analysing the relationship between science and art.
Asked what motivates him, he replies “Different things motivated me at different times of my life. After independence, it was nation-building and to show that outstanding work on a substantial scale that would compare with the best in the world can be done in India. When I shifted to biology from maths and chemistry, the motivation was the innumerable unanswered questions around which a lot of superstitions and religious irrationality are based. After the 70s, the driving force has been the need to put India which is reeling under corruption, on the right track.”
Kuchipudi Dancer and Teacher
She has been variously described as a boneless wonder, master of the navarasas and a dancer of exceptional grace. Kuchipudi exponent Sobha Naidu has performed extensively to critical acclaim in India and abroad, winning prestigious awards, including the Padmashri. It was after 12 years of tutelage under the legendary Vempati Chinna Satyam in Chennai and just at the time when she was flooded with offers there, that Sobha preferred to return to Hyderabad to set up her own school, the Kuchipudi Art Academy. Here, she has trained over 1000 students, including NRIs and foreigners.
Pride in being a Telugu was a big factor in her choice of Hyderabad. “Kuchipudi is the precious treasure of Andhra Pradesh. Being a Telugu girl, I felt it was my duty to propagate this art here.” Sobha has produced 14 dance ballets through her academy and they have been performed all over.
Her dedication to the propagation of this dance form is evident from the fact that she charges students a mere Rs 200 per month. The underprivileged are taught free of cost. “Incredulous parents often do a double take — asking me if I am mentioning the cost per class!” she laughs.
“Just one lifetime is not enough for this great art,” Sobha says. To stay focussed, she has refused several Telugu, Tamil and even Hindi film offers.
Dr G N Rao
Founder and Chairman,
L V Prasad Eye Institute
He went abroad with a view to return to India — and never wavered in this resolve. What he wanted to do back home was to set up an eye institution as good as those in the US.
The LVPEI is a household name for anyone who has needed any kind of eye care. It has grown, as Dr Rao says, “… way beyond my imagination. The original dream was to create a good centre in Hyderabad alone.” The centre is working out of 107 locations today and counting.
But setting it up wasn’t easy. “The biggest challenge was to get the right kind of people joining our team (and this is still a problem). We had to do lot of in-house training for most cadres. The second challenge was to get our system accepted by the public — appointments, visiting hours, ‘no smoking’ campus, etc.”
Today, the LVPEI has a lot of achievements to its credit. In Dr Rao’s words, it is “An institution which blends cutting-edge work at the top with intense social commitment through what is being done in remote rural areas.” There is also the larger picture of greater impact through expanded networks and maintaining the highest quality. He stays motivated by focussing on how much more needs to be done.
“We are doubling our patient care capacity in the next three years and for that are building a new state-of-the-art hospital on our Banjara Hills (Kallam Anji Reddy) campus. In addition, our research and education infrastructure will more than double during that period. Our Hyderabad campus will continue to strive to preserve its place among the global leaders in eye care.”
One of the cornerstone beliefs of Dr Rao, executed from the first day at LVPEI is that people unable to pay would also be able to avail themselves of the same level of treatment as patients who pay. He concludes by saying, “The idea is that nobody will be turned away without getting appropriate care — irrespective of the ability to pay or the complexity
No wonder then, that LVPEI continues to be a leading light in the field of world class eye care in Hyderabad and the country.
Block printer extraordinaire
This elegant lady can proudly say that two very big American celebrities have worn her kurtas — Michael Jackson and Deepak Chopra. Nowadays, though, she is better known for her salwar kameez sets which are block printed on the premises of her spacious home. She also does some block-printed kurtas for men. It was one such kurta that her brother was wearing over a pair of jeans, that caught the eye of Deepak Chopra, who happens to be his brother-in-law. He asked Tutu’s brother to get him some and then Michael Jackson took one from Chopra.
She recalls how her business — Shehzaadi Prints — started. “Because I liked dressing up, I wanted different designs. I would create them myself and get them printed at Charminar. Then friends started asking me to sell my creations to them. That is when I decided to start the business. I am a nature lover so a lot of my designs are floral, or have fish, birds and trees as motifs.”
The uniqueness of a Tutu Taneja salwar kameez set is that no two pieces are alike. “Even if I use the same blocks, I place them in different combinations. I use different colours and then get baadla work or mirror work done on them. That is all done by hand and since the design differs, their placement also changes.”
Lambada banjarans do the mirrorwork on her dress materials and Muslim ladies from the old city the jobwork for all the sequin and baadla work that is required. Tutu works with cotton and fine muls — and her clients range from Sheila Dixit, the CM of Delhi, to all of Bollywood’s leading ladies. Kiron Kher reportedly bought a 100 sarees at one shot and Dimple, Rakhee, Rekha and Hema Malini have been her clients. In fact, she proudly recalls how one of her clients was approached at Heathrow airport by Rekha who asked her whether she was wearing a Tutu creation.
It is only from home that Tutu retails her reasonably priced range. In her 70s, she still likes to interact with customers personally and build a rapport with them. It is nice to know that there are people like her who have the power to draw Bollywood’s beauties and other celebrities to this city if they want her creations. She made this city her home many, many moons ago, so we can proudly salute this eminent Hyderabadi.
Zahid Ali Khan
Editor, Social Worker
The editor of Siasat, India’s first Urdu daily newspaper, Zahid Ali Khan wears many hats. He is also a social worker, philanthropist and author.
The newspaper was started by his father, Abid Ali Khan and Mehboob Husain Jigar on 15th August 1949. Its readers now span the globe — Siasat having scored another distinction in 2005, becoming the first Urdu daily to have an online edition.
While his father’s earliest concerns were focussed on urging Muslims not to leave India for Pakistan, Zahid Ali Khan has dedicated over half his paper’s profits, substantial amounts of his personal money and a large part of his life to the uplift of the economically backward Muslims in the Old City. A member of the National Integration Council set up by the Prime Minister, Zahid Ali Khan is the only representative from AP in the National Foundation for Communal Harmony set up by P Chidambaram.
Siasat is also doing all it can for the protection of the Urdu language. It has two trusts which have played a major role in ensuring that Urdu doesn’t die out. Also, students are trained for Eamcet, and civil services exams. There is also teacher training, computer classes in Urdu, a “cancer fund” for women, the Abid Ali Khan eye hospital, and general relief work.
“I use the reach of my newspaper to help as many people as I can. Our Eamcet classes are always full. Though there are some hardliners trying to keep people suppressed, I do all that is possible towards striving for education for every child — boy or girl. I want them to be economically stable. At a conference, I once declared that I am communal. I love my community and other communities as well. I work towards the upliftment of my community just like everyone does for theirs.”
A picture of a young girl in the cockpit of a plane rests on his table. Two months from now, she will be the first woman pilot from the Old City, he proudly informs me. He has sponsored her training and paid for the classes so she can earn her qualification. It is such activities, where help is given with no thought for personal gain, that make Zahid Ali Khan a towering icon among his contemporaries.
Founder, Moving Images
Leaving Rabindra sangeet behind in Kolkata, Aparajita made Hyderabad her home after her husband took up a job with Orient Longman in 1986. After some time, he accepted a posting in Bangladesh, but she stayed back as her son and daughter were studying here. Sadly, the husband met with an untimely death in Bangladesh. The children went on to pursue higher education in the UK, while Aparajita has put down deep roots in the city.
Daughter of the late filmmaker Bimal Roy, one of the pioneers of Indian cinema, Aparajita founded Moving Images in 2004. The 300-member club shows a selection of films — features, documentaries and retrospectives of some of the world’s best moviemakers are screened. She has just finished writing the screenplay for a book written by Rabindranath Tagore, and now “dreams of making a bilingual film.”
Moving Images is a “small attempt at meaningful dialogue as good cinema helps build bridges,” says a modest Aparajita. Films are screened all over Hyderabad — hence the name, Moving Images — at Prasad’s Imax, Saptaparni Complex, the University of Hyderabad, Goethe Zentrum, Rama Naidu film studios, Prasad preview theatre, Vidyaranya School and Secunderabad Club.
Aparajita is also associated organisations like Sanskar and Save the Rocks that promote the arts and culture, and protect heritage and nature. “It has been a very happy and valuable learning experience. If I have helped others, people have helped me too,” she says.
Artist, Art Director
He was one of the first artists from Hyderabad to achieve phenomenal fame and recognition. His strong strokes, his unique portrayal of rural women in bold shades of red, saffron, orange and yellow have been much appreciated by art lovers all over the country. “I like using colours that are Indian, colours of the earth,” he says.
The unassuming Vaikuntam has always been painting themes he was familiar with. The women he paints are representative of the Telangana region he hails from. The big red bindis, the parrot which is a recurrent motif, the story tellers, the cowherds — who he refers to as the Krishnas of the villages — and the women celebrating the Batukamma festival echo his signature style. The artist recalls, “I used to paint what I was familiar with and people liked it. Genuine art lovers bought my work and it was word-of-mouth recommendations that helped me.”
Ironically, Vaikuntam’s talent was recognised in Mumbai and Delhi well before people in Hyderabad started appreciating his work. Today he is still painting but the motifs have undergone a slight shift. The parrot is gradually disappearing and the local festivals are finding expression. The Batukamma one is frequently sketched these days.
Sounding almost bewildered about his success, Vaikuntam reiterates, “I paint what I saw in my early years. I am grateful that people liked it and bought my art.”
He has no plans of writing a book on his art though others have written extensively about it. For now, he remains one of Hyderabad’s best known contributors in the field of art on a national level. His bold colours and vivid images of rural women remain strikingly individualistic and a strong statement of Andhra culture.
Activist, Poet, Feminist
Her soft smile and gentle demeanour conceal a steely resolve. Jameela Nishat, is a powerful and effective votary of women’s rights and the voice of voiceless Muslim women. She is Founder-Chief Functionary, Shaheen Women’s Resource and Welfare Association, which works for communal harmony and gender equality. “It is based in a communally sensitive area of the Old City because that is where women are most vulnerable,” she says.
Jameela grew up with a love for literature and the arts, and began writing poetry in childhood. Her powerful writing against women’s oppression, unflinching criticisms of unjust laws and courageous work in promoting community service and challenging patriarchy have earned her as much respect from the victims as resentment from vested interests.
“We not only help women who are victims of domestic violence, whether inflicted by husband, father or son, or any family member, but also work for their rehabilitation by teaching them occupational skills,” she says. Shaheen, which has other branches, also works to create awareness among women of their rights and instill in them the courage to fight against all forms of oppression. “I would like to see a change in Muslim personal laws which are at present neither codified nor gender-sensitive,” she says.
Their skills honed by years of rigorous training under their musician-father, it was a chance pairing at an AIR concert that saw the careers of D. Raghavachary and D. Seshachary taking off. A subsequent concert at Thiruvayyur also clicked, and since then there has been no looking back for these siblings. They are today recognised as one of Carnatic music’s most brilliant vocal duos and respected for their blend of creativity and chaste classicism. They have performed to critical acclaim all over India and abroad.
In the city, they are among the very few musicians who can claim to have performed in virtually every locality. “We love Hyderabad — it is where we were born and where our art took shape,” they say. “We regularly hold music appreciation workshops in the twin cities to spread awareness of our great classical music traditions,” they add. And the duo have their respective set of students — not just city-based ones, but thanks to Skype, from across continents.
Dr Mrunalini Chunduri,
Women’s issues have been at the centre of everything that Dr Mrunalini Chunduri has been active in — fiction, literary criticism and media studies. “I am a practising feminist,” stresses the academic and author of 12 books and over 100 research papers. “It is fine to hold forth about women’s rights, but one should also have the courage of conviction to practice what one preaches.” That, she says, is the toughest part since many women, especially in urban India, might have achieved economic independence but still do not have emotional independence. They lack conviction, and often crumble when it comes to standing up for themselves.
“The most important thing for a woman to have is self-esteem,” she says. “From that flow freedom and success. Also unity — women must learn to stand together, fight together.”
And she herself walks the talk. A successful single mother and informal counsellor to countless women who approach her for advice, she is known for her fearless support to other women — individuals or groups — fighting for women’s rights.
Pragati Offset, international quality printing
What began as a small set-up for business and wedding cards is today, true to its name, among the leading printing companies in the world. Pragati which means progress, was started in 1962 by Hanumantha Rao Paruchuri, now the Chairman. It is managed on a day-to-day basis by his sons, Narendra and Mahendra.
Sittting in his spacious office, Narendra Paruchuri recalls, “We slowly got into offset printing though we were not sure we would succeed. By and by, things picked up and after I joined my father in ’78 we started to look at new technologies. Gradually, work started to come in from ad agencies and we built a reputation for ourselves. Today, our clients don’t even ask us for a quotation. They just give us the project because they trust our quality.”
The company’s motto is that once the project is in hand, the money quoted must be forgotten and the printing should be superlative. Adds Narendra, “Our clients don’t know printing as well as we do. And our standards are very high — we do not hand over a project till we are completely satisfied with the results.”
This commitment to quality is what has seen Pragati Offset winning the International Printer of the Year Award gold medal three times consecutively for their innovative calendars.
Branching out into packaging, Pragati Pack India P/L has already grown by leaps and bounds. The company has several pharma companies as clients; makes labels, boxes and cartons for soap and cosmetic brands, and also the rigid boxes for Vat 69 and Johnny Walker whiskies.
While Pragati sets the benchmark for printing for the rest of the country, and for most of the world, Narendra believes that the Japanese do it best. “Even their menu cards in restaurants display superior quality printing.”
However that may be, Pragati has done the city proud by becoming a name to reckon with internationally.
Dinaz Vervatwala chuckles at the compliments directed at her and the various ways in which she is described: Hyderabad’s best-known fitness guru; Guinness record holder, successful entrepreneur; personal trainer to sports, film and political celebrities. “It is actually a lot of hard work! Sheer sweat and discipline go into maintaining a good physique,”
Dinaz started out in 1993 when fitness wasn’t quite the zeitgeist. A chartered accountant by training, she left her job with a private firm. “I wanted to have enough time and energy for my commitments as wife and mother of a two-year-old even while doing other work. It was in my Yemen-based sister-in-law, who was successfully working in the fitness area, that I found inspiration,” she says.
Enrolling in aerobics classes, she read up all that she could about fitness and then, a year later, decided to take the plunge. The Vervetwalas moved to a two-bedroom apartment in Banjara Hills for the extra space needed. She advertised in a newspaper and began giving aerobics classes in the drawing room for an hour or two everyday, pushing the furniture against the wall to make room for the workouts.
Over the years, mostly by word-of-mouth, she became well known. Later, the many TV programmes in which she featured made her a household name. Gradually, even men were allowed to enroll in the fitness programmes. Business boomed as more people began realising the value of a fit body and good physique.
What few people know is that besides her regular classes Dinaz has a whole range of specialised fitness solutions. These are programmes specially designed for those with health issues like knee problems, hypertension, and arthritis; as also solutions for the differently abled. “These have taken a lot of effort and study to evolve but are now much sought after,” she reveals.
In her 19-year career in the fitness field, she has earned the respect of top sportspersons and thousands of health-conscious clients. Her A-list of clients includes VVS Laxman, Pullela Gopichand, Saina Nehwal, Chandrababu Naidu and his wife, Bhuvaneshwari, Chiranjeevi’s wife Surekha, actor Raja (of Anand fame), Ananda Shankar Jayant etc. The large number of doctors who are her clients says a lot about her credibility as a fitness trainer.
“I am immensely grateful for all the goodwill I have earned. This is what I cherish most — fame, money, awards are just by-products. Shaping the physique has become a spiritual quest for me.”
Founder-President, The Yacht Club of Hyderabad
From software engineer to sailing teacher and championship organiser may seem like a difficult manoeuvre, but IITian Suheim Sheikh’s determination saw him change tack. “I have been sailing in the Hussain Sagar since my teens,” Suheim says, pointing over a stretch of lake from where we are standing at Sanjeevaiah Park. It is here that he gives sailing lessons along the boat jetty to children, especially underprivileged ones.
Suheim is founder-president of the Yacht Club of Hyderabad which trains adults and children alike in sailing, and organises championships and the Monsoon Regatta. It seeks to provide high-quality training, with international and national-level sailors for coaches, and carefully chosen audio-visual material and boats.
So, is his current work a pursuit of personal interest and philanthropy? “Well, you can say that. One of my students finished 14th in the national-level competitions,” he says with pride. The kids he has worked with so far are from government schools. A few are orphans. “We try and work through foundations and trusts that bring us kids who can swim and are not afraid of the water. We also put them through a medical examination and some amount of on-the-water training to gauge their aptitude and skill levels.”
For the related mission of saving the lake, he has initiated an independent campaign. He points out: “The lake needs close to Rs 600 crore to be cleaned up and this is not a project individuals can take up. All one can do is to motivate and energise the process, alert the powers-that-be to the situation and sensitise people through awareness campaigns. All our Monsoon Regattas create this awareness with the tagline ‘Save the Lake’.
“Additionally, we encourage greater participation in sailing in the belief that the more it is used, the more people will prod the government to act and the less it will be trashed. The key issues are the industrial belt at Kukkatpally and the domestic sewage from the Cantonment areas.”
In a state where only engineering and medicine are held to be viable career options, D. Ravinder Reddy dared to set his sights on photography as a profession. He succeeded. And how! Now recognised as one of the country’s leading photographers, Ravi has come a long way since 1988 when he took that leap of faith.
From chief ministers and film superstars to unlettered rural artisans, he has shot them all to great acclaim. He has his own studio —Ravi Studios, and four widely appreciated books to his credit, including one on Hyderabad and another on Andhra Pradesh. Two of his books have won national awards. Ravi is now working on the fifth —based on Tirupati. “In the initial years, there were many difficulties; but because I loved my work I viewed them as challenges and stepping stones to success,” he recalls.
And he believes in giving back to his art. Ravi recently set up the state’s first photo-gallery — a space for photographers to display their images. It is perhaps the first of its kind in India. “There are many art galleries but photographers lack a platform all their own — hence this space.” He is also working to set up a school for photography in collaboration with a good university.
He is a civil engineer by profession and a conservationist by conviction. “My mother introduced me to the heritage of this great city with her stories about its monuments,” he says. “I strongly believe that the most tangible form of any city’s culture exists in its historic structures. And that is what we are seeking to protect and preserve in Hyderabad.”
As someone who belongs to a very old Hyderabadi family with a Sufi background and whose parents were steeped in a love for the literature of the Deccan, Shahid’s concern for preserving the city’s monuments is deep and abiding. He believes that planners and architects must engage themselves in ‘holistic development’ and, while refashioning parts of the city, leave key elements of heritage intact for future generations.
He is a member of the Heritage Conservation Committee, a government advisory body, and also an INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) core committee member. “We work to build awareness among citizens, and youth and students in particular, about the need to protect our ancient art and culture. I give lectures about these aspects.” He is also part of the team which organises the annual INTACH Heritage awards. “We must defend and preserve whatever remains of our city’s cultural assets,” Shahid stresses.
Theatre actor and Director
He kicked up his bank job to follow his passion — theatre. With no formal background in this performing art, Vinay learnt the tricks of the trade with hard work, grit and determination. It was while pursuing his masters at the University of Hyderabad that he was introduced to Prof. Bhaskar Shewalkar who was looking for fresh faces.
“The theatre scene in Hyderabad has not changed much over the last two decades. Comedies have been the main draw, while experimental plays have a niche audience,” says Vinay. So, it is evident that the city suffers in comparison with Mumbai or Delhi. But Vinay, Shewalkar and some likeminded people have been doing what they can through Sutradhar, a theatre group that has performed at various venues like the NIFT auditorium, La Makaan and the Telugu University.
“Whatever the language — Hindi, Hindustani, Urdu or English —connecting with the audiences is important,” he says. And he has not fought shy of difficult themes. For instances, The Untouched, conveys the sexual frustration of a young bedridden girl, while On Vacation takes up issues such as gay marriages and live-in relationships.
Among Sutradhar’s memorable offerings is the tribute to the late Dr Rahi Masoom Raza. “The idea originated from a poem. We went through his corpus — verse, fiction, letters … and came up with a 70 minute script. Whenever and wherever this play has been staged, it has been well received,” says the actor and director.
Sutradhar has always worked at promoting local talent. Established in 1996, people from varied professions, students, doctors, etc. are today associated with it. “It is an umbrella for budding actors, voice-over artistes, directors, screenplay writers and many others involved in stagecraft.”
While Vinay may not have the kind of support that people in other fields get without any effort, his motivation and staying power is what makes him an icon.
Daggubati Rama Naidu
It seems like a film script with a ‘such things can happen if you keep going’ message. Daggubati Rama Naidu has made the shift from his first role as an agriculturist to numero uno producer, recipient of the Dadasaheb Phalke Award (the nation’s highest for achievements in cinema), and mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for producing 100 films. Then there was his stint as MP which saw him being declared the Best Parliamentarian.
One of the stalwarts of Telugu cinema who, along with the late NTR Rama Rao, Akkineni Nageswara Rao and Krishna Ghattamaneni, helped move the industry from Madras to Hyderabad, not only did he establish his studio here but also shifted base to this city. Under the Suresh Productions banner he has produced films in all Indian languages — a feat unrivalled so far by any producer. He not only made Hyderabad his home but also put it on the movie map of the country!
It was quite a task for him to set up the Rama Naidu Studios. “There were just rocks and rocks and only half an acre of land. Slowly, I developed the studios, spending a lot in construction. I had only one aim — whoever comes with a script should go back with a first copy. With that in mind, I set up everything — a colour lab, dubbing studios … We had state-of-the-art equipment: the latest cameras, digital projectors etc. We have another studio at Nanakramguda where there are permanent sets. Subsequently, we constructed the Rama Naidu Studios at Vizag too.”
Today, Rama Naidu Studios is among the premier facilities in Hyderabad. On its premises, the Rama Naidu Film School teaches the craft of filmmaking.
The Daggubati family eats, breathes and lives cinema. Rama Naidu’s elder son, Suresh, looks after production, while Venkatesh is a superstar. Grandson RaNa has made his mark in movies and another, Abhiram, “is also showing interest in films.”
Rama Naidu has led a disciplined life as an individual and producer. “I’m happy with life. I don’t do any other business except movies.” And the magic of cinema continues to captivate him.
What would Hyderabad be without its famed cuisine? Food here is a gourmet’s dream. The biryani originated elsewhere but elements from diverse recipes gave birth to the unique Hyderabadi variant.
Two purists who make the authentic dish are Mrs Aziza Hassan, and Maqboolbhai of Lazeez Caterers. Maqboolbhai has catered for weddings in the GVK family, the Prestige Group from Bengaluru and for several other A-listers. He prefers to cook on-site over a wood or coal oven. Mrs Hassan’s biryani, and some other traditional Hyderabadi dishes, are available only on a made-to-order basis for small groups from her home.
Reveals Maqboolbhai, “The cooks of the Nizam, the Paigah, the Irani migrants and the jagirdars followed diverse recipes. Only the sweets were common. So the Hyderabadi biryani came about with an exchange of recipes, a mix and match of ingredients and traditional methods of cooking.”
Mrs Hassan, whose dishes are equally popular with true connoisseurs of food in the city adds, “Though there were several varieties of the biryani — Lucknowi, Irani, Kashmiri and Mughlai — today the only true biryani is the Hyderabadi one. And within this category too, the Kachche Yaqni ki Biryani, is perhaps the most authentic. It is made by placing marinated raw meat at the bottom of the vessel; the rice is laid out over it and cooked. A lot of expensive ingredients go into making this dish which is why the variant you get in restaurants is not the real thing. They cook the meat separately, then mix it with the masalas and the rice. In earlier days, when the cooks would have to make the dish for a large number of people, they used to cook it this way— the raw meat at the bottom followed by other ingredients.”
There are essentially two kinds of biryani traditionally made in Hyderabad today. One is the Zafrani Biryani where saffron and red chillies are used to give colour to the dish. The other variant is the Sufiyani Biryani which doesn’t use saffron, and green chillies are used to spice the dish. Mrs Hassan prefers to call this the Safed Pulao and says the one with the saffron is a biryani. Both are cooked in the dum pukht style and traditionally served with Mirchi ka Salan, Baghare Baingan and tomato ka kat – a gravied tomato curry. Her biryani recipe is a century old one.
But if biryani is a firm favourite, the sweets are not far behind. G Pulla Reddy is among the oldest sweet shops in the city. The brand began functioning at Abids in 1957. Till a couple of years ago, there were only two shops, but today there are six.
“My father started the business in Kurnool in 1948 and came to Hyderabad in 1957. As of now, we have six shops in the city and four in Kurnool,” says G. Raghava Reddy.
The family believes that quality must not be compromised for profits and that the traditional recipes be adhered to. Some of the popular sweets here are the kaju pista roll, kaju katli, jhangiri, Mysore pak, kalakand, khoya puri and pootharekulu (paper sweet) etc.”
He emphasises that only their enterprise makes the cover for the pootharekulu. “Making the cover is an art and is time consuming. We employ nearly a dozen women to do this job.”
Other popular sweets in the city are the badam ki jaali, ashrafis, gil-e-firdaus and the ubiquitious qubani ka meetha. Maqboolbhai makes ashrafis and badam ki jaalis from recipes that are over a century old.
With such a rich heritage invested in its food — main courses or desserts, it is no wonder that Hyderabadi food has a unique identity all its own.