Kolkata: ''When I was still in college, someone asked me to put together a fashion show. I was a total illiterate in fashion and knew nothing about 'shows.' I was about to refuse when fashion photographer Sanat Ghosh offered to help me out. The show was a success.'' That was Sanchita Kushari Bose speaking. Bose's company, Dream Merchants, today holds the monopoly on both ramp and photographic modelling in Kolkata.
Lazing around in one of her rare moments between meetings, seminars and shoots, Bose was casually dressed in shorts and a floral top. She looks like a college girl, though she is 29 and has been married for a few years.
''We held the first-ever live fashion show in Calcutta at the poolside of Hotel Hindustan International with my first batch of 20 models in 1994. This was the birth of Dream Merchants. The displayed outfits had big brand names among designers like Sharbari Dutta, Lahori Basu Mullick and Salim Gouri. It was Dutta's first fashion show, titled Jankhana.
''The overwhelming success of Jankhana was the beginning of the journey - an everlasting journey that defines its own destination. It is a journey through lanes and gullies others did not dare tread,'' recalls Sanchita.
The company is now one of the hottest single-stop supermarkets for models in India. It has a list that includes a Miss India, a Ford Super Model and a Gladrags Mega Model in its impressive portfolio.
From Celina Jaitley to Bipasha Basu to Koena to Piyu Sarkar and Rimi Sen, they all owe their grooming and their discovery in some way or another to Dream Merchants. ''We sell dreams, we make stars, we show ways and we coordinate,'' is the bottomline of the company.
Dream Merchants is responsible for choosing models, training them and preparing them for the big show. It is also into event management for corporate firms. Bose's unique selling point is the massive model database she has created within eight years of floating her company, aptly named Dream Merchants.
''When I began, I had a database of 50-60 models, male and female, all aspiring to become famous. In the first six months of our operation in 1994, we got only one assignment. We now have a database of 7,000 men, women and children of all ages and backgrounds. Our assignments have grown from single digits to 1,000 plus,'' says Bose. Dream Merchants has a CD with profiles of around 700 aspiring and established models to be sent to those who ask them for models for their products and shoots.
Model Hunt 1995 was the first show of its kind in Calcutta. Bose scanned over 1,000 models and built up a database under the supervision and monitoring of three of the best fashion photographers in the country - Sanat Ghosh, Satyaki Ghosh and Vivek Das. The show brought out some of the best models of Kolkata.
''Till then, the city had no professional modelling and coordinating infrastructure at all. I can claim to have pioneered a movement in fashion, beauty and modelling in Kolkata,'' says Bose. This was followed by 10 mega assignments. By this time, agencies like O&M, HTA, Lintas, Clarion and Mudra also took interest, bringing in business.
Well-known photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta took Bose's help for his Ladakh shoot. Dream Merchants has worked and coordinated with several celebrity names, including Pooja Batra, Mehr Jessia, Anshu Modi, Arjun Rampal, Syed Zulfi, Jasmeen and Sayon Munshi.
''We currently have a database of 500-plus models in Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangladesh. Bipasha Basu and Celina Jaitley were almost discovered by us, with the Sharad Sundari Beauty Contest in 1995. In the near future, we plan to run a complete training and grooming course for models, run workshops for children for personality development and grooming workshops for housewives,'' says a confident Bose.
Among other activities, Dream Merchants does product launches for corporate firms, event management and choreography, and runs a grooming school for models. ''We coordinated during the casting of a Vidhu Vinod Chopra film. We did a shoot with Aditi Gowarikar for PC Chandra Jewellers of Kolkata.
''We have opened a full-fledged grooming school for aspiring models housed in a 1,500-sq ft apartment with an 800-sq ft hall. We have branched out to Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Dacca,'' says Bose.
Dream Merchants outsources models to Mumbai, Delhi and other places. Bose worked as event consultant for some time for Swabumi. ''We were event managers for the All-India Psychiatrists' Meet at Nalban for 2,500 guests. This included musical programmes, a banquet, games, a magician show, lights, firecrackers, food, complete with seating arrangements and table cards.''
Dream Merchants team comprises dedicated workers like Bose's younger sister Rika Kushari and their father who looks after the accounts. ''We started picking up tips about professional modelling and coordination. We explored the length and breadth of the country to educate ourselves and understand the finer points of management and coordination in modelling and fashion shows.''
When asked about the secret of her success, she says: ''Hard work. I work for 20 hours a day. I do not wait for people to come to me offering work; I go to them myself. I think that if one cannot handle success and lets it to go to one's head, one loses the battle. A supportive family has made it possible to realise my dreams. Rajdeep, my husband, takes my erratic work life in his stride, which includes jetting for weeks together.''
Bose does not care about fashion trends. She believes that it is better to have an individualistic style rather than copy a style that doesn't suit you. ''I do not believe in crash diets. I believe that one should diet sensibly with the focus on a healthy diet,'' is her opinion on food and eating.
Isn't she afraid of the competition that is suddenly surfacing in her line of work? ''Where is the competition?'' she asks with confidence. ''Most of them work so unprofessionally that all they can do is to give our kind of work a bad name. If I work hard and am committed as much to my work as to my clients, I am not afraid of competition. In fact, I think I will welcome it. It will increase the challenge of my work.''