“I would love to be a part of a movie with a social message!” – Onima Kashyap
No matter what part of the country you are living in, you have seen the poster of Onima Kashyap, stylishly gulping the Coke! If being the face of Coca Cola on a million copies is a feat, the model is a gifted artist and has several experimental creations to her credit. IAD tries to take a sneak peek into Onima’s life (and her creative mind)!
We understand you are from Delhi, and have moved to Mumbai. What do you miss the most about Delhi?
My family! It was a tough decision to leave them and move to Mumbai to pursue my dreams. I also miss street shopping with my ‘gossip girls’ at Sarojini and Janpath, and Delhi’s street food, be it Lajpat Nagar’s Chhole Bhature or Chandni Chowk ke Parathe.
At what age did you realize that you have to make your career in arts and fashion designing?
I was a backbencher and used to draw sketches in between commerce lectures. Most of my doodles were expressive eyes or girls wearing glamorous clothes on the ramp. My classmates used to tease me. They would say, “What the hell are you doing here in Commerce, you are an ‘art person’. This is not for you. Go ahead and apply for some creative course!” A very good friend of mine used to push me to take risks. She’s the one who told me to follow my heart. That’s how I got started at Pearl Academy of Fashion.
What does artistry mean to you? How did you develop your artistic skills? How did it shape your life?
Artistry is a spiritual process of connecting with your inner self. We, as artists need to introspect and figure out our own life journey. Art makes it easier to face our realities. It helps us bring out the charisma of our soul to the outer world.
Personally, there is a constant urge in me to imagine and create things from objects around me. It’s like putting my soul on a canvas. It’s never planned. Sometimes am just sitting and an idea gets stuck in my head. And I want to play with it. My designer once said to me, “You are one dreamy kid. I think you are like a scientist lost in your own discoveries,” as I’d constantly explore new designs instead of following her orders. I’d say art is a mystical thing that can happen to anyone. It helps me understand myself and be aware of my true feelings. One needs to be really honest to create a good piece of art, be it music, painting or theatre.
Tell us about Onima Creations? Does it stand for a particular theme or genre? Where do you draw inspiration for your designs and art forms?
“Onima Creations” is a mix of everything – sculptural paintings, wall arts, doodles and drapes on dress forms, paintings on canvas and so on.
I believe in an approach to show a free spirited mind and thoughts without constraints. My inspirations are based on the complexity of human emotions and how we connect to nature. There is a freedom of exploration. Most of my themes represent the vastness of our universe where energies are in constant motion. The style is called expressionism. It is a technique to convey the emotional state of the artist.
Who recognized the model in you? Tell us about how did you get your first break in the entertainment industry?
In college, my batch-mates would ask me to model their clothes. They’d tease me saying, “Waah ye ladki toh designer bhi, aur model bhi! Sahi hai”! For a while I modelled professionally to earn some extra pocket money. Then I got a job as a designer. Even then my bosses would ask me to model their clothes to save time and money. At that time, I was leading a monotonous life. A 9-9 job that made me realize the dearth of freedom and growth.
As a child, I was involved in a lot of painting, music and dance. I loved performing on stage and took part in various competitions. So, there was a part of me that wanted to explore that space. It was only when I gave an audition for an NDTV reality show that I realized I want to be a performer. I then got involved in various street plays. I did stage plays with Asmita Theatre Group. I also started sending my audition tapes to casting directors in Mumbai. That’s how I got my first advertisement for Himalaya Toothpaste directed by Shirsha Guha.
Taking up modelling and entertainment – is it for money or recognition?
Honestly, I’d be lying if I say I don’t want the recognition, and the entertainment industry is a highly paid industry. The good part is, whatever I earn from my commercials, I use it to fuel my art and hunger for learning new things. I finally have the time to do the things I have always fancied. I make use of every bit of my time… I’m taking singing lessons from Swati Mukherjee, and I am also learning pottery and belly dancing.
How’s the competition in the industry and how do you stand out in the crowd?
Competition in the industry? I feel like a cute little goldfish swimming alongside the sharks. [laughs] On a serious note, I think if you are destined to do a role you will get that role. I observe myself and meditate a lot to keep calm and peaceful. 🙂 I perceive my mannerisms, the way I react in my day-to- day life and my thought processes while doing certain things and use that while acting. I channelize my energy on working on myself as an actor and work on bringing out the real me into my performances.
How does it feel being all over the place with the Coke ad? Is it overwhelming?
I had no clue that it would be such a big project on a promotional level. I remember one of the agency guys asking me at the selection audition, “How will you feel when you see your poster is placed along with Deepika, Ranbir and Salman?” I thought he was teasing me.
Two months after the photo shoot, one evening when I was coming back home (and was in a very terrible mood), I saw my first hoarding. Suddenly, there was a smile on my face and butterflies tingling in my stomach. I forgot all my worries. There was another poster half a mile on. And another. And another. The best one was at a shop outside my house. A carpenter working nearby asked me “Madam ji ye ladki aap jaisi dikhti hai,” and then I said “Main hi toh hu!” I still can’t forget the way he reacted. [laughs] He probably thought I was joking.
What do you think has been your best work so far?
The Coke hoardings, of course. But I’m also fond of the Baggit series. There were five ads shot in one day and I had to give takes very quickly. It was a lot of sweat and hard work. But the output was fantastic.
What will you choose if you are asked to choose between commercial modelling and fashion designing?
I love to imagine things and transform my thoughts to bring into existence. Creativity is the driving force behind both the mediums, be it acting or designing. So, being an artist, I always get fascinated by channels of communication through which I have the scope to explore and innovate. I would love to be a part of a movie with a social message.
Your mother must be a big support. Will you be comfortable sharing a little about her?
Being a working woman, mom [Nisha Kashyap] has always insisted that I be an independent girl. And she has always stood beside me in every decision that I have made. For instance, we were river rafting and we stopped at a point to rest. I saw a big cliff from where people were jumping into the Ganga. I looked at my dad seeking his permission and he was a little skeptical. But my mom said, “Just go and try it!” It’s this progressive attitude of my mom that has kept me going.
She never pulls me back as there are no apprehensions from her side. Her belief in me strengthens my belief in what I do. (signs off)