18 extraordinary Indian men – and one spectacular woman – like you've never seen them before.
In an industry dominated by the Khan triumvirate, this superstar veteran has carved out a cash-rich niche, relying entirely on his acting skills. One of Hindi cinema’s most bankable stars, Devgn’s reputation has been built on the back of nuanced, subtle performances in a host of movies that will stand the test of time – Company, Omkara and Zakhm, to name a few. What’s more: he’s stayed at the top without resorting to the murky PR games typical of actors of this era.
"Ajay Devgn is one of the finest actors around, someone who’s able to get into character with great precision and acumen. His style is economical – he never overdoes anything, always gets it just right. He’s been mature as an actor for quite some time. But now, as the Indian audience evolves, it’s beginning to identify more with him, as someone who is real, someone not in the realm of fantasy, someone who can deliver and entertain – not only in terms of serious characters, but also comedy. That’s what defines Ajay Devgn: He’s a complete actor." - Prakash Jha
He’s tough, he’s brawny, he’s... vegetarian. Dispelling the myth that we don’t have the genes for contact sports, this ace wrestler from the outskirts of Delhi is the first Indian to win back-to-back Olympic medals. The flag bearer for the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony of the London Games, Kumar showed great strength, pluck and grit to bag a silver medal, leading this country to its greatest ever showing at an Olympiad
"Sushil Kumar is like a cheetah in the ring: all stealth and speed. And he’s certainly achieved the unachievable. Given all the hurdles he was up against, he’s displayed commendable consistency – winning medals in two consecutive Olympics. Truly, a champion." - Kapil Dev
Remember when our airports were cramped, musty and unpleasant? We have Sanjay Reddy and his GVK group to thank for transforming the way we fly in India, spiffing up terminals in Mumbai and Bangalore and bringing them up to international standard. More recently, in a reflection of India’s growing global economic clout, Reddy and his team made headlines for their ambitious $10-billion dollar coal mine, rail and port project in Queensland, Australia
"I first met Sanjay two years ago in Dubai. It was hard not to be struck by his physical presence and impeccable dressing, but what stayed with me most was the person. His mind is clear and bright, his discussion intelligent and well-reasoned. This impression from our first meeting hasn’t changed, but our friendship has grown. Sanjay is not only an excellent ambassador for India and for doing business with Indian families, but also for the growing relationship between India and Australia." - Gina Rinehart
He’s been called a design genius, a marketing wizard and a raging hedonist – all of which are true. His clothes have always been showcased as theatrical spectacle: the more sumptuous and grandiose, the better. Yet his commercial success hasn’t blunted his daring aesthetic. Which is why, over two decades after he first burst into our collective consciousness, Gudda – as he’s affectionately called – continues to cut a towering figure in the world of Indian fashion.
"Gudda is a brother, he’s family – and of course, a genius designer. He is not only responsible for introducing me to the fashion industry, but also for teaching me a lot about style, and about life. He is a gentleman, and the ideal recipient of this award." - Arjun Rampal
The food industry has gotten decidedly sexier in recent years – and Khanna is just the face for this bright new culinary world. In addition to helming his successful New York restaurant Junoon, the Michelin-starred chef has authored several books (his next carries a foreword by the Dalai Lama), hosted season two of MasterChef India, produced a documentary series called Holy Kitchens and, in between it all, founded charitable foundations that use gastronomic events to support relief efforts across the world. He has, you might say, a full plate
"The thing that sets Vikas apart from other chefs is the force of his compassion. Many chefs make great food, and Vikas certainly does that, but there are precious treasures of a whole culture which he brings along. He never forgets that he represents Indian cuisine to many people. It’s part of our strength as cooks to be so firmly rooted in our traditions. There isn’t a better ambassador for Indian cuisine. We were fortunate to get Vikas to come work with us on Hell’s Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares and I hope that I have many more such opportunities in the years to come. The time we spent cooking together at my restaurant ‘Gordon Ramsay at The London’ in New York taught me a great deal about the thinking of new Indian chefs. He adds a dimension of humanity to the process of getting people to work harder, and it has been my privilege to know him and call him my friend." - Gordon Ramsay
Photo Credit: Atul Kasbekar, Tarun Vishwa, Tarun Khiwal, R Burman, Rohan Shreshtha
Stylists: Antara Motiwala and Tanya Vohra
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