A Madame of multiple trades, media star, law graduate and our current Asia Representative of the Commonwealth Society, Shivani, retains an effortless air of sophistication. When pursuing a legal career, she at once honoured the legacy of her grandfather - the Chief Justice of the state of Jammu & Kashmir - and her transition to the world of TV and glamour took her via the highest possible route: being crowned Miss India World Wide in 1992, and then going on to host some of the nation’s most talked about, widely watched shows, such as ‘Morning Zee’ and lush travel series ‘Namaste India’, which saw her exploring the “length and breadth of the Indian sub-continent in all its beauty and grandeur.” She has also compered many live events, from fashion shows to special government occasions, at the same time as holding the position of CEO and Managing Director of SWP Productions - the creators, active circulators, and show casers of varied cause-driven theatre. “While the pageant and life afterwards was peppered with fun and glamour, for me,” she told us, “theatre was very much central to my enjoyment. I relished the drama in life, whether it was crashing the thermometer when my mother asked me to be careful, or creating family productions for my cousins and friends. The audience was never a concern. For me it was always about communicating a thought. That, I think, was when the seed was planted. By default, I began to write original works. It is hard to pin point when my life got entwined with the stage because there was no beginning and I don't think there will be an end!” The productions Shivani has driven include the play ‘Draupadi – will my spirit live on!’ for the cause of women’s empowerment, touring on Broadway in New York, and ‘I Am Tiger’, which forwarded the project of environmental conservation. This wowed audiences at the Women of the World festival in London, the Ujazdowsky Castle in Poland as well as in the forests of Ranthambore and Khana. “A high point of impact,” she proudly stated, “was our performance through the World Bank Global Tiger initiative at the UN Convention on biodiversity.” Shivani may be well known for her beauty, the razzmatazz and her soaring success, but what makes her truly compelling is her warmth and the sincerity in herself: “there's only one element to being a good presenter,” she aptly added, “and that’s to be yourself. It is as in life: there is only one of you. People will enjoy what you are presenting because of who you are.”
Tell us first what your role as the Asia Representative of the Royal Commonwealth Society entails?
The Commonwealth is a legacy that needs nurturing so that it can reach its full potential and evolve in a relevant manner in today’s dynamically changed context. As Asia Representative of the Royal Commonwealth Society, I identify opportunities and create platforms for meaningful interaction. I am currently in the process of creating the Commonwealth Cultural Forum (CCF), which is an endeavour to strengthen commonwealth values by promoting the diverse cultural ethos of member states.
Tell us more about some of your most memorable times?
The Miss India Worldwide win unleashed so many opportunities and I was able to travel the world independently of my parent’s protective shelter. My life just seemed to change overnight. In terms of my media appearances, in addition to the many television shows, I will always remember working on the National award winning film “Dil To Pagal Hai” with Yash Chopra & Adi Chopra, on the Bollywood platform. When Adi offered the role to me, he said I’d love the part. He spoke the truth! It’s also incredibly flattering to have them remember my part in the film with such deep affection and appreciation.
How did it feel to win Miss India World Wide; did you ever consider an alternative career in modelling?
Winning the Pageant did change my life; I was wined and dined and flown all over the world! Suddenly from being a student, I became a celebrity. I went on to model for some of the most prestigious Indian designers and even choreographed several shows. However, I did not consider a full time modeling career. I always had too many ideas and I wanted to create and curate performances and events.
You have done a lot of television work: tell us more about the journey?
Yes, I’ve been on the Parliament television channel in India to doing the shows on Bollywood, fashion, fitness, music and personalities. I stepped away from it when Ameera, my elder daughter became a little bit older and I could no longer lead her to think I was a stay-at-home-mommy. During my years as a breakfast show host, I worked between 4am and 9am and was home in time to wake her up. I figured I would take a break from television and give the children my time. That’s when I shifted to compering live events. This was easier as the audience has to go home and so can you.
What’s one concept people have about TV Anchors that simply isn’t true?
When cable television first came into India, people thought a lot about anchors - I’m not so sure that’s the case now. I think they’re just taken for granted as if a piece of furniture in the bedroom!
You are very stylish too; what would be some of your favourite go-to outfits?
I don’t consider myself stylish, I consider myself imaginative. When I begin work on a new part, I imagine how I’d make the character look more authentic and exotic. I enjoy wearing jumpsuits and long skirts with traditional fabrics and broad belts. I prefer long and flowing full length outfits that lend grace and elegance to the frame.
Do you believe that hard work can get you anywhere?
You can keep working hard and hardly get anywhere. Though I believe that if you get up, get dressed and show up, you will certainly get somewhere. So I think the key is hard work coupled with imagination. You have to keep imagining what others can’t because then you are unique and then your hard work has a multiplier effect.
What have been some of the highlights of your career?
People have been the highlight of my career. The journey of working with creative and talented people who inspire me to bring out the best of my capability is what I have enjoyed the most. Performing for Chancellor Kohl’s delegation, the then German Prime Minister in the late 80’s was something that put me on the map.
Finally, do you have a life motto to share with us?
“Happiness is a Habit, adopt it!” and “Life is a journey, Experience it”