What about four arms, four legs and two brains?
Any creative couple in a long-standing partnership.
In a world that celebrates single wunderkinds, lone wolves and single-origin success stories, couples are a rare and essential commodity. They are proof that collaboration can take ideas far. They are a testament to the power of unity. They show the world that if you can divide the effort, you can multiply the impact.
Two-person teams are not always easy. Individual skill sets do not usually fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Conflicts of nature occur when there is no third party to mediate. Decision making is difficult when there is no hierarchy. Not all creative journeys lead to the same destination.
Brunch asked comedians José Covaco and Cyril D’Abbes; Artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra; And Bengaluru fitness coaches Swetha Subbiah and Tanvi Hans (Sisters in Sweat) have what it takes to be part of a power couple.
Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra
the artists. 20 years working together
Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra met in Chandigarh in 1997, but only started working on projects together in 2002. As artists, they have created paintings, sculptures, installations, interactive games and videos under the names Thukral and Tagra. “It’s a double whammy. Everyone needs a friend, don’t you think?” Thukral asks.
They have exhibited in Vienna, Tokyo and London, held residencies in Copenhagen and Bern, designed a watch for Rado, and held virtual studio sessions with Apple.
Their style is colorful, playful, silly but never stupid. Take their most recent show Arboretum at Nature Morte Gallery in Delhi earlier this year. It featured a series of paintings inspired by trees, which glitch and fold in on themselves, repeating, while other details dissolve into pixels. It’s a nod to living online and offline, and the increasingly insecure boundaries between them.
This couple’s approach looks more like a jigsaw. “Both of us are juggling multiple projects at once. So one takes the lead and the other follows to support it,” says Tagra.
They’ve made mistakes along the way, stepped on each other’s toes, stumbled together. And when there is conflict, one surrenders, letting the other take over. “We’ve realized that we switch roles between taking chances and playing it safe,” Tagra says. “Jiten is very comfortable as a person but I am very logical. There is also a lot of emotional judgement. We don’t know where it sits but only if it fits well in the heart the work will go ahead.”
They have also been friends for 20 years. “Friendship works because it’s one person who has the map and is navigating, and the other is driving,” Tagra says. “The destination is unknown, but together, we cross the milestone. We don’t think there is a dividing line between our work and social life, because it’s not work. Besides, feeling lonely is the worst thing. We’ve heard that it’s lonely at the top. So, it’s good to have someone with you professionally.”
Sweta Subbia and Tanvi Hans
Founders, sisters in sweat. Worked together for six years
Bengaluru-based fitness coach Sweta Subbiah, 37, and Delhi-based footballer Tanvi Hans, 32, met during a Nike campaign in Bengaluru in 2016. The following year, an alcoholic friend asked them to organize a weekend soccer session for women in their mid-30s; They thought nothing of it and obliged. They booked a sports field and designed a 90-minute session. “We weren’t expecting more than five women, but 17 turned up,” says Hans. The women asked them to do this every weekend. In about 18 months, they were feeding more than 300 women.
Subbia and Hans discovered a surprising gap in the crowded fitness market: sports-loving women looking for a safe place to work out and relax. They founded Sisters in Sweat in 2020 and now host soccer, basketball and touch rugby games for over 3,000 women.
“It’s the combination of our skill sets that makes the sisters sweat,” says Subbiah. Responsibilities are clearly divided between the two to make decision making easier. “Sweta and I realized early on that I am the creative one and she is more practical,” says Hans. “We each have our own areas of expertise, and rarely step on each other’s toes.”
Two heads are better than one, they say. “My creativity has limits, but when you combine the minds and creative thinking of many people, you have a much wider canvas to work with. We at Sisters in Sweat want to cater to girls and women of different ages from different backgrounds across the country,” says Hans. Subbia, her Concludes the idea: “So we both have to understand each other’s working style well and adjust accordingly. We learn from each other’s personal style and push each other forward.”
Are they friends? “Over the years we’ve found a balance between friends and business partners,” says Subbiah. “It’s a work in progress.”
José Covaco and Cyril D’Abbes
Comedians. 10 years working together
Growing up, Jose Covaco, 41, and Cyril D’Abbes, 43, attended the same school in Bandra, Mumbai. They only became known in the 2000s when they both started working at a radio station in their early 20s and bonded over the game Counterstrike. “The first day I met José at work, he gave me attitude,” D’Abbes says with a laugh. “But our point of view was the same. We were both on the same level of stupidity.”
They’ve turned that idiocy into a roaring, roaring success on YouTube, the short-lived video platform, Vine, and other social networks. Covaco has 446k followers on Instagram and is the face of the duo, while D’Abs, with 49.3k followers, plans more content and makes occasional appearances in videos.
Their first videos, made in 2013, were just for fun, to fool around with new social media platforms. “There was this bond of creating content together as well as constant encouragement,” says D’Abs. “We called each other and thought about it every day.”
They still do. But 10 years later, they’ve learned that seemingly effortless comedy is hard work. “It’s important to have the same temperament,” says Covaco. “We’ve both worked hard, put in crazy hours. So, if we disagree, and express it honestly, we come up with a solution or it gets done one way or another.”
It helped that they were friends before. “If we had a work relationship before, it would have been a little more awkward and less honest,” Covaco says. Knowing that if the other has a good joke, it would be foolish to waste it just to gain the upper hand, the two are happy to let each other shine. They admit to being competitive with technology, so disagreements over who has the better mouse or TV screen, who wrote the funniest line, are more likely.
“In an age where 90% of the content you see is already done, it’s great to have someone to bounce ideas off of. And two people together, being real is also something that grounds us,” Covaco says.
“With Josh, it’s easy. It’s rare to find someone as relaxed and comfortable as Josh (Jose),” smiles D’Abbes.
Follow @kkuenzang on Twitter and Instagram
From HT Brunch, March 18, 2023
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