Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Win tomorrow.... or else, Boys!

Ready to scream, yell and throttle for our Boys in Blue tomorrow?? I hope for their sakes they win, otherwise jootey padengey! Sounds horrible? It is meant to! Cricket does crazy things to people. I'm no fanatic, but I will certainly be shouting, "Jhenda Oooncha Rahey Hamara'' tomorrow, along with a billion plus Indians! ********************* This appeared in Bombay Times yesterday... Goodbye Violet Eyes…. Elizabeth Taylor had slept with seven men in her life - which works out to one in every decade ( she died a year short of completing her eighth). Do the math for yourself… she famously said she only slept with men she married. She had been married to seven lucky men – one of whom she married twice. She also said , “ I couldn’t just have a romance - it had to be marriage.” In another context she joked her mother had told her she had kept her eyes shut for eight days after her birth. The first thing Liz saw when she opened them was an engagement ring – “ After that, I was hooked!” She was branded a ‘home wrecker’ for stealing Eddie Fisher away from the sweet and boring Debbie Reynolds. Two years after Fisher, she met Richard Burton on the sets of ‘Cleopatra’ and both were instantly smitten! He’s the irresistible Welsh bloke she married twice over – but even those two marriages were doomed. Ironic really, that a woman who was so hooked on marriage, could not hang on to a single husband. But she remained the eternal romantic till the end saying, “ You don’t get over men like the flu…!” According to Hollywood gossip, she was all set to tie the knot for the ninth time last year – but perhaps her failing health got in the way. What a life! To call someone as grand as her a mere ‘legend’ is to do her an injustice. Everyone is a legend these days. Liz Taylor was spectacular on all possible levels. She retained her title of the ‘World’s Most Beautiful Woman’ even on her deathbed, and millions of fans world wide must have wept when they heard the sad news last week. I thought she was magnificent in ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ ( for which she won an Oscar), and there can be no other movie Cleopatra ever again – such was her iconic presence in a film that deserves a second coming. In her later years, it wasn’t her violet eyes alone ( nobody else in the world had them) that carried forward the mystique. It was , in fact, her tremendous generosity and loyalty that got her the adulation. She stuck by her ‘best friend’ Michael Jackson, when most so-called friends had abandoned him during his sex abuse trial. She gave of herself to causes she believed in and was an early advocate and ambassador for international AIDS initiatives – a cause she began to back after her other good friend, Rock Hudson died of the disease. I doubt we shall see a similar star in our life time. She was as courageous as she was gorgeous. She held her own , and fought a brave war against a host of medical conditions for several years. Hollywood will no doubt honour her memory appropriately. I hope some film body in India puts a well- researched tribute together soon, so that this generation of film goers will get the chance to understand and appreciate the blinding luminosity of a glowing mega star - Elizabeth Taylor. RIP. ************** On a personal note, thanks to our host Vijay Mallya, my husband and I were fortunate enough to spend a few nights on the same bed Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had shared on their splendid yacht, the matchless ‘Kalizma’, which Vijay now owns! As you can imagine, it was an overwhelming experience!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Had to share this....

I was so moved when I read this piece... as I am sure you will be, too. I am off to Singapore... will miss this space. See you here on monday. As I key this in, my nails are gone because Sachin is gone! And I am feeling too tense to watch the rest of the match.
Ciao for now. Catch you guys next week Have an amazing weekend!

Hello My Lovely Family and Friends,
First I want to thank you so very much for your concern for me. I am very touched. I also wish to apologize for a generic message to you all. But it seems the best way at the moment to get my message to you.
Things here in Sendai have been rather surreal. But I am very blessed to
have wonderful friends who are helping me a lot. Since my shack is even
more worthy of that name, I am now staying at a friend's home. We share
supplies like water, food and a kerosene heater. We sleep lined up in one room, eat by candlelight, share stories. It is warm, friendly, and beautiful.
During the day we help each other clean up the mess in our homes. People sit in their cars, looking at news on their navigation screens, or line up to get drinking water when a source is open. If someone has water running in their home, they put out sign so people can come to fill up their jugs
and buckets.
Utterly amazingly where I am there has been no looting, no pushing in
lines. People leave their front door open, as it is safer when an
earthquake strikes. People keep saying, "Oh, this is how it used to be in the old days when everyone helped one another."
Quakes keep coming. Last night they struck about every 15 minutes. Sirens
are constant and helicopters pass overhead often.
We got water for a few hours in our homes last night, and now it is for
half a day. Electricity came on this afternoon. Gas has not yet come on.
But all of this is by area. Some people have these things, others do not.
No one has washed for several days. We feel grubby, but there are so much
more important concerns than that for us now. I love this peeling away of
non-essentials. Living fully on the level of instinct, of intuition, of caring, of what is needed for survival, not just of me, but of the entire group.
There are strange parallel universes happening. Houses a mess in some
places, yet then a house with futons or laundry out drying in the sun.
People lining up for water and food, and yet a few people out walking
their dogs. All happening at the same time.
Other unexpected touches of beauty are first, the silence at night. No
cars. No one out on the streets. And the heavens at night are scattered
with stars. I usually can see about two, but now the whole sky is filled.
The mountains are Sendai are solid and with the crisp air we can see them
silhouetted against the sky magnificently.
And the Japanese themselves are so wonderful. I come back to my shack to
check on it each day, now to send this e-mail since the electricity is on,
and I find food and water left in my entranceway. I have no idea from
whom, but it is there. Old men in green hats go from door to door checking
to see if everyone is OK. People talk to complete strangers asking if they
need help. I see no signs of fear. Resignation, yes, but fear or panic,
They tell us we can expect aftershocks, and even other major quakes, for another month or more. And we are getting constant tremors, rolls, shaking, rumbling. I am blessed in that I live in a part of Sendai that is
a bit elevated, a bit more solid than other parts. So, so far this area is
better off than others. Last night my friend's husband came in from the
country, bringing food and water. Blessed again.
Somehow at this time I realize from direct experience that there is indeed
an enormous Cosmic evolutionary step that is occurring all over the world
right at this moment. And somehow as I experience the events happening now
in Japan, I can feel my heart opening very wide. My brother asked me if I
felt so small because of all that is happening. I don't. Rather, I feel as
part of something happening that much larger than myself. This wave of
birthing (worldwide) is hard, and yet magnificent.
Thank you again for your care and Love of me,
With Love in return, to you all,

Monday, March 21, 2011

'Ishquiya' and more Manoj ... Clinton, Priyanka G and others.

Here's the much delayed 'Ishquiya' review....

A case of freak Bollywood casting….

I watched ‘Ishquiya’ last night ( yes, I know…. I am guilty of being way behind schedule on this one!), and I thought to myself, there are two kinds of male stars in Bollywood, just two – star sons … and the others. If you are not a star bachcha or bhaanja, your chances of making it to the big league are discouraging, if not downright dismal. Look at Arshad Warsi in ‘Ishquiya’ ( and earlier in ‘Munnabhai’, of course). The guy has what it takes in terms of macho, good looks as well as prodigous talent. He is red- hot sexy in ‘Ishquiya’ and it is obvious what Vidya Balan’s character sees in him – pure testosterone. The scene in which she nicks his thumb with a knife and then sticks it into her own mouth to suck on it, is so erotically charged, it beats Munni’s and Sheela’s jhatkas hollow. I don’t know whether it’s the surma in Arshad’s eyes ( a bandit from Bihar wearing blue lenses and electric blue eyeliner? Sab chalta hai in Bollywood, boss), or his daredevil attitude – but it works big time. Compare his rugged masculinity to the sissy, chocolate boy looks of the star- sons ruling the roost – those milk sop, namby- pamby mama’s boys who can’t say ‘boo’ to a goose. And look at Warsi in this particular role… even when the heroine isn’t sucking his thumb provocatively, kissing him passionately or rolling around in bed with him after a raunchy dance number. This guy delivers big time… and that isn’t easy when an actor is pitted against veteran Naseeruddin Shah…. yes, even for the luscious lady’s attention. He gets the best line in the movie when he points out to Naseeruddin that what he (Shah) feels for Vidya is called ‘ishq’, but his own ‘ishq’ for her is dismissed as sex!
As a Bhardwaj movie, I was pretty disappointed with the award-winning ‘Ishquiya’. It was way too glossy, for one. And had the look and feel of a well produced television serial set in the badlands of India. Most of the characters were pretty one-dimensional. And it wasn’t clear whether the director wanted to make a rom-com, a comic caper, or a strong, statement film. By casting Vidya against type, Vishal made his boldest move. And on her part, Vidya was wow! Those tantalizing backless cholis, and the carefully disheveled hair… the kohl-lined eyes and nude lipsticked mouth! But more than all of that, her uninhibited, sexually charged performance in which she plays one man against another with such ease, and makes complete lattoos out of the lot, has the audience panting for more. Since this is a movie more about sexual politics than gang wars, kidnappings and caste equations, Vidya is the one person who holds it all together. Also, the cheeky kid who plays Nandu , the teen Thakur who is trained to handle guns and kill on sight, is a terrific find. She has certainly come into her own with two outstanding performances within a span of a few months (“Nobody Killed Jessica,” being the other one). Vidya, like Arshad , is an ‘outsider’ who is not a pampered, superficial, anorexic star daughter . She doesn’t need to bitch out co-stars, nor flash her designer labels ( can these ladies spell ‘Prada’?) to attract attention. Vidya is far too refined for such cheap stunts. Yet, she is right up there , giving a run for their money to all those clotheshorses with zero talent but loads of attitude. Vidya could become an iconic, superstar – like Vyjayanthimala before her. I will not say Hema Malini or Sridevi, who lack Vidya’s histrionic depth and range . Will Arshad and Vidya team up again? No chance! ‘Ishquiya’ was a freak case of inspired, brilliant casting. After its stupendous success, it will be business as usual for these two – more commercial Bollywood junk. Pity!

Warren Buffet... Go home!!!

The cover story above is from a Chennai-based magazine. And the column below is the one I wrote for the Asian Age on saturday. I had a hectic time ( so.... ummmm... what else is new?) in Singapore. But more on that in another post. The good news is that Singapore has gone from Sanitised to Sexy in under a decade. It is looking gorgeous, and I had a great time there...

************* 80…. Not out! Buffet bats hard for Team India… and himself! Warren Buffet exhausts me. I’m sure he exhausted several other people on his virgin trip to India. At 80,he is still at the crease, batting away… and going by his energy levels, he’ll hit his century effortlessly. It is just not natural for an octogenarian to be jetting half way around the world at such a hectic speed. He described his quickie chakker to India as a ‘Better late than never’ trip. And came up with a booklet full of quotable quotes, starting with philanthropy being much harder and riskier than business. At around the same time, another American Billionaire buddy of his , Bill Gates, was also floating around the countryside telling us what to do with our money ( earn it – and donate it!). Why do I get the feeling India is being sent on a massive guilt trip by these two guys? And why do we need to take lessons in charity from anybody? Least of all super rich Americans who have made their pile. One of whom has an established business here, (the other wishes to establish business in India)?Declared the Oracle of Omaha in Bangalore, “We want to be where the action is, and the action is here.” No kidding, buddy!Someone obviously forgot to tell these two guys our approach to philanthropy is different. ‘Daan’ has always been an intrinsic part of our culture. If the present generation has callously ignored the message from the shastras – that’s their business. The thought of being lectured to by people who represent the land of milk and honey, and scolded that we are not doing enough, is a bit much. I think it is condescending and patronizing in the extreme for anybody to preach charity. To each his own. And decision to give or not to give, or even how much to give and to whom, is a very individual one. We keep hearing wonderful speeches on Corporate Social Responsibility, and there are enough people cashing in on the glory attached to it. But give me a break. Warren Buffet is obviously a very , very generous chap ( he has pledged 99 % of his fortune, mainly to the Bill&Melinda Gates Foundation). Well, good for him. And I am sure the angels in heaven ( where his seat is guaranteed) will compose a special song for him when he gets to the pearly gates. But right now, what he is doing in India is scouting around for fresh opportunities to make still more money. He has his ‘brother or son” Shri Ajit Jain, to help him invest in the country via Berkshire Hathaway ( more chewing gum, anyone?). We are cool with that. We are also cool with more fizzy drinks ( thanda matlab…?) hitting our stores, what with summer around the corner and over a billion parched throats to quench. Buffet says he hasn’t come her with an ‘elephant gun’ loaded for acquisitions, but hey – we are cool with that, too. India is original elephant country. I am confused. Perhaps I am too ‘retarded’ ( Buffet’s word to describe the delay in his coming to India) to get it. But the man is here to make even more money – right? And after he has made it, he will donate it, right? Meanwhile, his share holders will be a happy lot, since Buffet has assured them he is scaling up and looking at big markets like India, China and Brazil. He also told overwhelmed, gushing reporters that he feels he has more money than he needs – he eats well, takes vacations, watches movies… the regular stuff lesser mortals indulge in even without those billions and trillions. So, the logical question to ask him is this : “Why do you want to make more money, Sir?” His answer will be : “ The more money I make, the more I can give.” Noble. Our Mr. and Mrs. Money Bags are being prodded into following the Gates-Buffet pattern of giving. They are being coerced into parting with large portions of their wealth, because they are told it makes them look good. Heaven knows how convinced they are about all this giving-shiving of their paisa, and God knows what their children think about it (“Grrrrrr…. Dad! Mom! Ab mera kya hoga?”). But ‘Giving’ is the new a la mode statement to make. And all these ‘new’ ‘improved’ charity drives amongst loaded desis have a lot to do with Keeping Up With The Buffets. How can you hope to sit at the High Table in Davos if you haven’t announced a humungous donation to a pet cause ?Without knocking these magnanimous gestures of our do- gooders, it is amusing to note the publicity machine that goes into overdrive when these grand donations are made. There’s nothing quiet or discreet about charity these days. And perhaps Gates \Buffet will argue the more you talk about it, the more it inspires others to reach for their wallets. I dunno. I have seen some high profile charity auctions at which dodgy millionaires have crept out of the woodwork for the all important photo- ops … only to creep right back again… zero follow ups, zero money . Where does all that lolly go?? Any answers?? The second and third richest men in the world doing zabardasti with the 55 desi co-Billionaires featured on the Forbes 2011 list, are definitely pushing their luck. Coaxing these guys to sign The Giving Pledge followed by a public statement and letter is really a bit much, as pressure tactics go. The Chinese are smarter. After a similar initiative in China last September, not a single Chinese billionaire who showed up for the banquet bothered to sign the pledge. That’s what is called the ultimate Oriental snub. Let’s see whether the multi-course Indian buffet piles on more on the table than the Chinese one. Or else, the world’s most famous philanthropists may go home hungry and disappointed. No such thing as a free lunch… perhaps India is not the moveable feast Bill and Warren expected it to be!

Gotcha - Batcha!!

This appeared in a few editions of the Sunday TOI yesterday. Why just a few? Because of Holi! Don't ask me how it works, but some cities celebrated Holi on saturday and got their newspapers on Sunday. Mumbai went paperless.... and my Sunday morning was so very empty without my Sunday fix ( newspapers + upma+ coffee). However, it was the super moon weekend... and I made the most of it later in the night - took my daughters for a moonstruck drink at my favourite bar - DOME - from where we watched the moon hungrily, and looked at countless hotties clad in LBDs, as they tottered in on impossibly high heels.
This morning, my coffee tasted so much better with the daily stack of newspapers next to the tray. I read a wonderful piece on Holi ( not my best festival - I find it vulgar and filthy) in The Speaking Tree. It's written by P.C.Jain and Daljeet and talks about the origins of the festival .The part I liked a lot described Holi as nature's own 'utsav'. While the ultimate Holi was played by Radha when she dyed herself in Krishna's 'shyam rang' - thus becoming the first one to celebrate Holi in her entire being! Utterly romantic!!
I tried uploading two new interviews - with zero success. Aparna, I need your help!

Batcha – Gotcha!

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza,” sang Harry Belafonte, many moons ago, and all those of us who grew up singing along with him, generally chorused, “Then fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry.Fix it!” Right now, there is a gaping hole in the Congress bucket – but who’s going to fix it, dear Sonia, dear Sonia…? Not Manmohan Singh, for sure. He has finished ‘owning up’ – remember? As a bewildered and increasingly frustrated nation watches the muck flying around, there is a disquiet building up within a certain section, which needs to be paid attention to… or else. Or else – what? The cynics will ask. Or else… or else, the hole will get bigger and bigger, and nobody will be able to fix it, till it’s too late. With all the leaks doing the rounds, it’s time to just say it out loud – India is in a mess. A gigantic mess. And unless we acknowledge that, nothing is likely to change in the near future. Recently, there was a front page photograph of a middle- aged, portly, pot- bellied ‘Youth Congress’ protestor holding a cut out of Rahul Gandhi, while getting hosed down by the Chandigarh police. It was a telling image. In a country that keeps touting its youth status and reminding the world we have over half a billion young people to fall back on, it would be interesting to ask politicians to define youth. Is youth a mind set or an age? We seem to fail on both counts. Eons ago, we used to laugh at 50- year- old ‘Young Turks’, grey at the temples, and bent in the knees, who would insist on posing as jawan politicos ready to overthrow the oldie goldies ( true blue geriatrics, several years older). Today, the same saga continues with 40+ fellows still playing the youth card. It’s a carry forward of the Bollywood story, where say, a 46-year-old Aamir Khan can get away playing a college student ( ‘3 Idiots’), and nobody cares because Aamir is Aamir and so bloody good at what he does. Rahul Gandhi ( a late and reluctant entrant in the big, bad world of politics) is still treated as a bachcha - a novice, a newbie, an apprentice…. someone who needs at least ten more years to learn the ropes before he emerges as a full fledged politician. India is waiting patiently for the boy to grow up.
Meanwhile , there are Big Boys like Balwa ( handsome, aggressive and all of 36), who are teaching a trick or two to the veterans and threatening to take a few down with him. This week’s boy-victim is A.M.Sadiq Batcha (37) whose body was found hanging from a ceiling fan by his wife. This is yet another incredible story about a lowly door-to-door salesman, who used to hawk readymade garments not that long ago. In two, short decades, Batcha swiftly became a globe-trotting M.D. of a company with a turnover of 750 crores. A mind boggling, but increasingly familiar scenario . Was Batcha’s death murder or suicide? Well… our super brilliant investigating agencies are on the job. Which means we shall never find out, and by this time next week it will be a stale, dead story. His mentor, former telecom minister A.Raja, must be relieved that the dead man was considerate enough to leave a suicide note giving the tainted telecom player a clean chit and declaring his old boss “ innocent”.That was pretty thoughtful of him. Batcha is conveniently dead and out of the way ( rumours of Batcha turning approver were highly exaggerated – right?).He has taken Raja’s dirty secrets to the grave with him. Perhaps CBI sleuths are equally relieved… one less person to grill. The story , which was hotting up… will cool down predictably, just like the world hopes will happen with the Fukushima reactors.
But the more puzzling question continues to persist : where have all the asli young ones gone? The hot blooded students of India? Why are they so indifferent, so passive? They claim piously on various platforms to want to be the change they wish to see. But hello! It isn’t happening. The only change one sees is in their hairstyles. The famous ‘attitude’ is restricted to fashion and sex. They remain an obstinately apathetic lot when it comes to politics. They also insist there isn’t a single leader they can connect with. Which is largely true, given the average age in parliament. The few young politicians ( mainly sons and daughters of netas) are seen occupying front row seats during fashion week far more often than doing anything worthwhile in their own constituencies. Their presence is regularly established in cutting edge photo shoots for glam mags where they preen and pose in the latest designer gear, while those who elected them in the first place, keep wondering where their saviours have disappeared. If there is indeed any genuine angst, anger, disenchantment with the current political scenario, it stays strictly below the radar. At this point, it is hard to visualize a gathering of incensed, young protestors at India Gate or the Gateway of India. Maybe, for this generation, Tahrir Square remains a far off destination that has nothing to do with us or our concerns. Libya and Gaddafi? Bahrain? Oman? ‘Dil to Batcha Hai, Ji?” Ummm… cool movie. Chill guys…. have some Bhang and groove to Rang Barase…. pass the pichkari…pump up the volume. Holi Hai!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Interesting image....

Manoj Kesharwani is quite a character. I like to describe him as India's pioneering paparazzo. He was way ahead of the pack, and managed to beat all his rivals when it came to clicking exclusives - especially of Bollywood stars visiting Delhi. Perhaps it was his over enthusiasm that cost him his job! He was somehow blamed for alerting other lensmen in the Capital about Bipasha Basu's presence in a 5-star suite. What followed was not pleasant. Bipasha insists those rowdy photographers nearly broke down the door of her suite at some ghastly hour of the night, and she felt traumatised enough to summon local help and somehow flee the premises at 4 a.m.
All I know is, it got messy for Manoj. Pity! I have always enjoyed working with him - as is evident from this shot, taken three years ago at an event in Delhi. Just yesterday he sent me a whole bunch of great images - from Bill Clinton, Anoushka Shanker to Priyanka Chopra and Shah Rukh Khan. He really deserves to do well - he is enterprising, cheerful and good at his job.
Let me know if you want me to share his assorted images and I shall try my best to upload a few.
My wrist saga continues.... am willing to give hynosis a shot. Or acupuncture. Since I am headed to Singapore for a literary salon, perhaps I should try and get an appointment with the legendary Doctor Po.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where there is hope....

This is a remarkable story about a remarkable young person. I met Bharti at a 'sangeet'. It was my friend's daughter who was getting married the next day.... and there were lots of beautifully dressed young people letting their hair down on the dance floor. As the dj pumped it up, I noticed a lovely young girl in a wheelchair. Her gal pals were encouraging her to participate and she was doing just that! With a brave smile on her face, she was waving her arms around to join in and be a part of the celebrations. Initially, I thought she may have fractured a leg and would soon be back on her feet. Unfortunately, the story was vastly different. It is a story of gross negligence, neglect and sheer callousness on the part of the guilty individuals who robbed a young, talented woman of her legs.... her life.... her livelihood... and her love.
And to think this happened at a popular night club in a 5-star hotel in Juhu, which was owned and promoted by a celebrity DJ and his partner. Despite her best efforts, nothing has happened so far. Forget responsibility or any talk of compensation, she has yet to receive even an apology.
Read on.... and if you want to know the identity of the guilty, ask me. The magazine that ran the story didn't wish to identify the hotel or the well-connected DJ. Bharti herself is not a VIP's daughter.... so, basically nobody gives a damn.
Well, Blogdosts.... let's show her, we do!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Come on everybody.... own up!!

Would have loved to blog about my Dilli Yatra - short and exceedingly sweet. But my sore wrist is protesting. Perhaps tomorrow?? What amazed me was the indifference in the Capital to the Japanese calamity. The Tsunami, the earthquake... the monumental tragedy of it all, left Dilliwallas totally cold! Delhi partied on non-chalantly and desi tv channels swiftly shifted to local gossip after a few mandatory clips from the devastated areas. Shame on us!

This appeared in the Asian Age \ Deccan Chronicle yesterday.

Own up…. and be damned !

Since India is in Confession Mode – starting with Manmohan Singh - let’s all start ‘owning up’. Ummmm…. let me think…. I once stole a mango from someone’s bageecha. Oh yes, a guava , too. And I threw ink bombs on my French teacher. I also bunked classes constantly. Crashed other people’s cars. Pinched menu cards from fancy restaurants. Rang the fire alarm at school.Rode bikes without my parents’ knowledge.Wore lipstick and kohl at age twelve. Rang doorbells, harassed neighbours, made prank calls to a couple of Italian blokes…. all this before I turned fourteen. Broke a few hearts, too. Had my mine broken. What else? What else? Oh…. a lot more. But , on looking back, I realise I was pretty stupid. Not only did I get caught every single time, I also received punishment ( often, far harsher than the crime committed). Worse, when I behaved still more stupidly and owned up, I got thrashed. I knew what every child knows – owning up is a pretty dumb thing to do, if you imagine there will be zero consequences. The rash act of owning up comes with an important assumption – it automatically means you are ready to face the music and take what follows on the chin.That could involve standing outside the classroom for hours on end. Writing a thousand lines, getting rusticated, not wincing when the cane makes contact with bare skin. You know, the usual torture that follows school confessions. But obviously, our netas have rewritten the old rules. The latest fad is to play martyr and ‘own up’. But after this brave and reckless gesture – what? Apparently, nothing! Illey po. It is as if having uttered those impressive words (“I am willing to own up,” said our pious P.M. earlier this week), the matter automatically ends right there. Khel khatam…. Boys and girls, go home and play…. or pray. The mighty leader has admitted his lapses. We should applaud and be grateful.
What rubbish!
Come on… this is nothing but nautanki. That too, on a pretty amateurish level. Is it enough to say sorry and not follow up the apology with action ( please note: I did not say ‘resignation’). If someone in a position of great power has indeed had the guts and gumption to admit a mistake was made, the next logical thing to do is to rectify it. Or at least pretend! But no. In India it begins and ends with the person uttering those meaningless ‘magic’ words – I confess. Since the P.M . is responsible for this trend, we are waiting for the asli culprits to follow suit. Will they? Not a chance. No wonder fraudster Hassan Ali Khan is not just smirking in court and muttering ‘stupid people’ under his breath as some of those bumbling officers of the Enforcement Directorate get ticked off by Justice Tahilyani like they were errant school kids (“Do your homework….” said the learned judge). Meanwhile, India is left grappling with the numbers being tossed around – who can understand Income Tax arrears – ARREARS – of Rs.72,000 crores ( larger than the nation’s Health Budget)? The ‘aam aadmi’ ( yup , the very same chap our P.M. wants to impress) is unable to comprehend a thing. All he or she is interested in knowing is this – will the bounder be punished? Will he sing? Name names? Or…. errrr… own up?? Since it’s so cool to do so these days, why not, bhai? That goes for Maharashtra’s Chief Minister , Prithviraj Chavan, whose image has gone for a toss in the light of recent revelations. What an irony! Here he was, Mr. Clean himself, who was supposed to white- wash the mess in the State and make everybody forget Adarsh Society Ki Ajeeb Kahani. But his brand of detergent wasn’t good enough! So much dirty laundry has since come tumbling out of his personal closet, that citizens are wondering how he is planning to crawl out of three prickly controversies ( CVC,Antrix-Dewas,Wadala apartment). Will he also take the easy way out and start owning up?
The trouble with confessionals is that after a point, they lose their emotional power to generate sympathy. And unless these public confessions are followed through, they remain hollow and pointless. A massive book on contemporary confessions would be fascinating to read , because such outpourings are engineered to elicit specific responses. When powerful people admit weaknesses, their words make us feel a little better about our own miserable lives ….our petty concerns. George Bush Jr., quite possibly one of the most detested Presidents of America has surprised the public by admitting to quite a few gaffes. It may well have been his intention to influence American opinion and present a more human side to his crazy Presidency. Obama is definitely not in the mood to soften his position. While Gaddafi and Mubarak continue to rave and rant even as the world unites against their tyrannical regimes. Back home, we are more concerned with Rajat Gupta’s stated position on his exact role in the various financial scams he is accused of being involved in. Will he ‘own up’ and opt for as honourable an exit as International law permits? Or will he take Lalit Modi’s defiant stand and defend every single action, regardless of the facts in the public domain?
The ugly truth behind most of the recent confessions is that those going in for them are doing so with their backs against the wall. It’s that route – or else. But it certainly does not make them honourable men, nor does it exonerate them. It should be seen for what it actually is – a ploy to buy time and fix things.
India is facing its ‘Sholay’ moment, with the big question being: ‘Ab tera kya hoga, Kaalia?’
But who amongst the current lot will own up to being Gabbar Singh????

Friday, March 11, 2011

Kick up your heels....!

This appeared in Dubai's leading English daily.... I liked the spontaneous mood of the photograph a lot! The write-up's pretty good , too. And this appeared in Bombay Times this morning.....

Kick up your heels….!

Fashion is a strange and compelling creature. At a time when the world was reeling from those horrific images of the devastating tsunami\earthquake coming in from Japan and wondering whether TV channels were actually showing clips from a forthcoming disaster blockbuster from Hollywood, here in Mumbai, young Japanese designers were bravely going ahead with their scheduled shows at the ongoing fashion week. Their gravity- defying shoes (minus heels!) must have knocked the socks off the fashionistas in the front row. Wow! Japan has always favoured futuristic fashion and the young designers representing Tokyoeye certainly carried this tradition forward. But it was really amusing to note that the biggest celeb around on Day 2, was not a Bollywood hottie, nor an international rockstar, but a middle-aged, portly West Indian ex-cricketer! Viv Richards effortlessly stole the limelight and made front page news when he attended his daughter Masaba’s show, with his former wife, Neena Gupta. Not only did the publicity generated by the ageing legend establish the power of cricket, but it also revealed our own sentimentality - we felt genuinely happy for Masaba, who looked over the moon herself! For a young girl growing up without her famous dad must have been pretty traumatic, especially since both parents were high profile individuals. The initial buzz generated by Masaba at her fashion debut a couple of years ago, had a lot do with people’s curiousity about her persona. Had the girl not been talented, her foray into this tough and competitive business would have ended right there. The reason Masaba succeeded is because she has what it takes to hack it in this field. She also has the one thing most newcomers lack – a signature style that differentiates her from the pack. One can tell a Masaba from a mile …that says something about her confidence and individuality.
As for the rest – yaaaaawwwwnnn! The one fashion trend that needs to be instantly discarded is the floor length anarkali which makes the wearer resemble a moving tepee.Short women looking still shorter, the rest look like fancy,over decorated tents. The other unflattering addition to a pretty long list of ‘ugh’ looks being thrust on unsuspecting women is the Granny-choli with fitted three quarter length sleeves and a wide neckline. Come on, chaps… only Lalita Pawar was entitled to wear that as she wept her eyes out inside a temple. As for the attempt to impose sexless androgyny on clients – why would a beautiful, curvaceous woman wish to look like an anorexic, adolescent boy? Why? Or the other way round, for that matter? Great, for shock value. But for fashion to endure, to be appreciated, worn and enjoyed, it has to go beyond gimmicks…. and starlets as show stoppers. But hey – who knows?? Last week, I fell off my chair when I saw full page coverage of a Delhi wedding with the hosts clad in gaudy,heavily embroidered anarkalis ( yes sir… anarkalis, not achkans), complete with zari bordered chiffon dupattas. And we are talking about two heavy weight (literally!) political players , here! The canny designer must have laughed all the way to the bank after pulling off this garish con job on those Money Bags. New bakras are born everyday. Jai ho!
The Delhi winter continues to linger and linger. I felt envious observing Dilliwallas flaunting their woolies while we swelter in Mumbai. All the public spaces and roundabouts are abloom with petunias, cannas, dahlias, sweet peas and more. The evenings are crisp and cool with a delicious nip in the air. And Dilliwallas are flocking to open air soirees, doing what they do best – free loading! Cheers!
Bollywood mystery: Why didn’t Jimmy Shergill make it big? He is tall, good looking, charismatic and a terrific actor. Watch him as Raja in ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, if you don’t believe me, particularly in the last scene where, as a rejected bridegroom, he is forced to accept defeat but reignedly, gallantly says, ‘Dhol bajaaney shooru karo.”

Why Mumbai....?

This has appeared in the current issue of SWISS MAG, which some of you must have read on SWISSAIR flights. While I like my own quotes ( considering the interview was indeed conducted in my car, since I really didn't have time to spare during the journo's limited stay in Mumbai), her representation of me is definitely OTT and wildly exagerrated. The picture was clicked in under three minutes by the Swiss photographer accompanying her... it's not as good as Manoj Kesharwani's, but chalega!
Watched Sangakkara ( I'd run into him at the Colombo Hilton , a few months ago), the dishy captain of the Sri Lankan cricket team as he hit an impressive ton at the World Cup match last afternoon ( the redone Wankhede Stadium is pretty good - but why no fans??). I may have been the only Indian supporter waving a Sri Lankan flag each time those guys hit a four or a six. Why everybody was supporting the New Zealand team, I dunno! Perhaps, it had a lot to do with the math involved in getting India through to the finals. But going by our team's dheela attitude, we'll be lucky to make it to the semis. The weather was totally beastly ( it has been the hottest March in 53 years - and post-Holi tomorrow, it will get hotter still).Malinga and the others added to the heat - they are HOT! The security seemed top class if menacing ( far too many guns floating around). Will I go to the Finals and risk my life? You bet!
Tonight is reserved for 'Ishqiya'. Somehow, it wasn't on my radar all this while - but now that it is, I have to watch it! Let's hope the absolutely scrumptious 'baigan bharta' made by our eldest, Radhika, last night, is still in the fridge. I get the feeling it will go perfectly with the movie! Verdict on both, tomorrow!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Off to Delhi....

This is a tiny quiz for my Blogdosts - guess the city! Okay... let me make that easier for you. It's one of my favourite cities. Ummm.... let me just say it out loud - it's Pune. But you will have to tell me which part of Pune. Can you identify the place???
I am off to Delhi at dawn. I'll be in the Lawless Capital for just a day attending Penguin's Spring Fever. My session is called 'Friday Blockbuster'. It should be fun. Three authors reading from books in progress. After that, my publishers will sweetly wine and dine us, possibly at the Claridge's - which is one of Delhi's oldest and most charming hotels.
Strange, last night while watching an old Uttam Kumar movie ( he is so wildly romantic and dishy!), set in an old Kolkata hotel, I felt terribly nostalgic and mushy. They really don't make matinee idols like Uttam Kumar any more. He represented an era when there were real men in the movies - not these pretty boys ( and to hell with their six pack guts) running around with goofy expressions.
Tonight , on Arnab's show, the discussion revolved around young Radhika's murder in broad daylight on International Women's Day. Of course, it had to be Delhi where it took place. And of course, the Delhi cops are clueless. But at least the students aren't keeping mum - even if Sheila Dixit has conveniently passed tthe buck on to civil society by insisting it is the duty of citizens to come forward and support police investigations. In that case, darrrrrling, why bother to elect people's representatives in the first place? Leave it to citizens to run the country - we'll do a far better job of it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Loo.... and behold!Happy International Women's Day!

To the Goddess in every woman! Happy International Women's Day!
This is a picture that means a lot to me. It was shot by my son-in-law Pramod, in Pune, a few months ago. My very own Goddesses, Anandita, Avantikka and Arundhati, look really, really happy - but their mum looks the happiest!
I have to tell you, I was in top form this morning. It definitely felt good to be featured as one of the 50 Most Influential Women in India ( DNA newspaper )but it was my husband who made my day when he said, "When I married you.... you were already 'The Woman of Tomorrow' .... not just 'The Woman of Today'." I take that as a supreme compliment and want to tell him, by marrying me, he also established his own credentials as 'The Man of Tomorrow - not Today!"
On that jaunty note , darlings.... go forth and have the best time. Yes, all you wonderful men, too!
This appeared in 'The Week'....

Beware, the corporate bladder….

The annual Chick Fest also known as the International Women’s Day will be celebrated dutifully on the 8th of March. But to organisers of assorted celebrations and festivities, I have just one question to ask – and I ask it aggressively : Where will all those women ‘go’? Sounds like an innocuous question? Not so! It needs to be screamed out loud!Women the world over have nowhere to ‘go’ and it is leading to a very serious serious medical problem that polite society refuses to recognize. The blunt and basic truth is, women have nowhere to urinate when they are in a public place . Women are supposed to exercise yogic control over their bursting bladders, especially when they travel. This year’s railway budget generated a lot of heat, especially from women commuters complaining about a lack of loos at railway stations. If at all bathrooms do exist, they are generally locked up or filthy. With difficult access and no alternatives, women train themselves to hold it all in – for hours on end. This leads to more than mere discomfort, let me tell you. Toxic levels begin to build up, leading to a whole host of what are euphemistically called ‘female problems’ ( ranging from painful urinary tract infections to worse medical conditions). Despite this obvious neglect of basic bodily functions, women somehow feel coy, even ashamed of taking a ‘pee break’ even in offices that do provide separate toilets for them. They don’t like to make their way to distant bathrooms and horribly self conscious, even distinctly embarrassed when ‘caught’. No such issues for men, who of course, are free to ‘go’ anywhere at any time – by the roadside, on the beach, behind rocks, against trees… why,even along the railway tracks, their genitals on full view. Like they say,
‘When you gotta go, you gotta go!” Unless you are a woman!
My entire being was obsessing over this vexing problem last week as I spent long hours inside a public hospital with an ailing relative. Let me put it this way – my mind was in my bladder. And my bladder was bursting. Such was my distress, I couldn’t think beyond peeing – preferably in a clean loo with a lock on the door! There must have been hundreds of female co-sufferers that day who were unable to focus on the task they were there for and could only walk around with pained expressions , their legs tightly crossed.This was ridiculous and unfair. By the time I got home late in the evening, I was sure I wouldn’t make it to the bathroom on time – such was the urgency. I was angry and impatient as I snapped at anybody in the line of fire. Several unsuspecting family members got it in the neck if they dared to cross my path – the one leading to the loo!The scenario now shifts to another hospital – a plush private one this time. Similar story. Except that there was supposedly a loo reserved for women on the premises - but it was tucked away in some obscure corner. My daughter and I went on a determined lavatory hunt. We had a one point agenda – to pee or not to pee was hardly the question – we HAD to. Just then, a gentleman in a bright red shirt walked up to us and whispered , “Loo? Follow me…” He was a senior doc and had accurately guessed our mission … he was our hero. Our saviour. Gratefully, we marched into his private domain and used the facilities reserved for doctors. Once relieved, Dr.R.R.Nawalkar spoke on the sensitive issue of the dearth of toilets for women across the world and how it has always been a low priority. The apt term ‘Corporate Bladder’ syndrome comes from him and encapsulates this condition perfectly.He talked about women with exaggeratedly bloated bellies that have nothing to do with being fat – it is actually an overstretched bladder that is unable to ‘deflate’ after years and years of abuse. “Think of a balloon that is blown up and blown up. Suddenly you take the air out…but the balloon cannot regain its original shape after being that stretched.” Dr.Nawalkar has spent a lot of time studying this universal crisis and said it was time women spoke up and demanded these basic conveniences in public places.
He is so right. That’s the reason why I have written this column. It is straight from the heart. But it is also from the bladder. On International Women’s Day, I demand the Right to Pee. This is no laughing matter. I hope it is taken seriously, especially by our President, Shrimati Pratibha Patil.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Ides of March.....??

I was astonished to see several billboards all over the city , announcing an exhibition titled 'WOMANIZE'. I thought it was an ad for one of those dodgy pills that promise 'length and strength' to desperate men. But no! It was an announcement for a Brides of India show. Am I missing something here? Or is it yet another bloomer committed by an over -enthusiastic copy writer?
Enjoyed myself at a shoot after a long, long time! It is always a pleasure being photographed by Faroukh Chhotia... I was back inside his sprawling studio after a year -and-a-half ( the last assignment was for 'Vogue'). We were done in half -an-hour - that's his magic. You'll see the images in the next issue of 'Grazia'.
Meanwhile , I am off to Delhi on Friday to participate in Penguin's Spring Fever. I'll be reading from my new, unfinished novel 'Sethji' ... and I am nervous! Getting back to fiction after ten , long years has been tough ... but writing fiction is like cycling or swimming. Once you know how , you never forget!
Asif Noorani, my writer-friend from Karachi called me excitedly to say my last book 'Shobhaa at Sixty' is on the Liberty Books' best seller lists across the border. Nicccee!
Oh... and if you haven't watched 'Tanu Weds Manu', don't wait! It's delightful.... and Madhavan is pure husband material! Would have adored Kangana too, but was far too distressed and distracted by her botched up lip implants to concentrate on her performance. Every character in this lively, original movie was perfectly cast, with Pappi getting the biggest pappis! Go have fun !
This appeared in Bombay Times today...

The Ides of March…

Is there something ominous in the air…. or are we letting Shakespeare get the better of us? Nothing seems to be going right – from politics to cricket. This is supposed to be a month in which one thinks of renewal and hope. Spring Fever is meant to inspire us - we should be in the mood to kick up our heels and get set for a bhaang- fuelled Holi… like in the movies. Instead, we are looking at the current shenanigans , scratching our heads and asking, “What’s going on?” Last week, I found myself arguing with a politically correct citizen who was praising the C.M. for certain bold initiatives. Well, Prithviraj Chavan sounds like a good guy, with good intentions … but nobody really knows what he’s all about. And he hasn’t bothered to enlighten us, either. At a time when Maharashtra is looking for a man to lead from the front, be accessible, be seen, be heard, we have a somewhat coy leader who appears grim and preoccupied most of the time. I was told by the same self- righteous citizen that Chavan is the sort of neta whose moves are discreet but decisive. He listed out several achievements of our chief minister… the various ‘clean up’ acts , especially in the hopelessly corrupt Mumbai Municipality. I was relieved and reassured to know that there were some Mumbaikars interested enough in the future of this largely chaotic, virtually lawless megapolis, to track various key appointments (though, I wonder how much the C.M. has to do with them). The latest top cop, on the other hand, is going about his new role pretty assertively. Arup Patnaik means business, and he isn’t mincing words. As a high profile Police Commissioner of Mumbai ( one of the most glamourous and coveted cop jobs going), he realizes he is required to show teeth, especially when public morale is low and people have lost faith in overall policing. Patnaik comes with good credentials, and if police gossip is anything to go by, the guy does not have anything dodgy on his CV.
If only the C.M.would extend himself a little and interact with the people of Mumbai, he’d send out a better, more positive message. As it is, the mood is dheela… with the P.M. himself sounding pretty shakey as he goes into confessional mode and agrees to ‘own up’ ( but after ‘owning up’ – then what?). Cricket fans are wondering whether their home team will manage to make it to the Semis – forget about winning the blessed Cup. Prithviraj Chavan should borrow a few tips from the cricketing world. A great captain lifts the performance of a mediocre team and carries the day. Ditto for a chief minister. The people of Maharashtra have been short changed for too long. They demand a leader who projects dynamism and reflects genuine change. Perhaps Chavan needs a better drum beater to publicise his many initiatives…plus, he needs to spell out a fresh agenda for the State, with realistic time lines thrown in. In such a competitive era, a bit of hard sell is not just a pre requisite, it is a part and parcel of effective communication. Kuch achchey kaam ka achcha P.R. ho jaaye, boss!
After watching ‘The King’s Speech’, I idly wondered if India would ever dare to make such a film? And even if a film maker did have the required courage, would he be permitted to go ahead with the project? For instance, would we ever see a movie being made on a less-than-flattering aspect of Pandit Nehru’s life? I seriously doubt it! And more importantly, would any of our superstar actors accept a role like the one enacted by Colin Firth ( though, personally, I thought Geoffrey Rush was far more impressive as Lionel)? Firth’s ‘Bertie’ is heart- breakingly real… not a glamourised King dealing with an unfortunate stutter. This is not a K-K-K-K- Kiran sort of approach to a speech impediment. One can actually see Firth’s throat muscles contracting as he struggles to get the words out.Firth, the modern day Darcy ( dashing, romantic and irresistible) transformed himself totally to play Bertie - the reluctant, raging, tormented monarch with a serious handicap to overcome.Yes, he earned that Oscar. But my money was on ‘The Social Network’s’ Jesse Eisenberg playing Zuckerberg – what a performance! What a film!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Greetings from Grandma De.....!

This appeared today in the Sunday Times.... and will explain \ justify my absence from this space. It has been a week filled with untold joy. I can't concentrate on a thing - not cricket, not politics, not movies, not even food!!!
Am taking your blessings to and good wishes for the newborn for granted. Enjoy the virtual 'pedhas', while I go back to my Angel.
Grandma De

Not in my ‘Aji’s chappals…. Thank God!

Aji, my mother’s mother, was a tough, taciturn woman who had pretty much led a joyless existence. Widowed fairly early and left with four children ( three daughters and a solitary son) to raise on her own, she was clearly not enchanted by members of her own gender. Females to her, meant trouble. And expense. Yes, during that era daughters could indeed be described as ‘liabilities’ (poor----------- will never be able to live this one down… and we certainly won’t allow her to!). My mother raised three daughters and a son herself.But my mother’s life was qualitatively different from my grandmother’s. And I like to believe her daughters brought her a great deal of joy. I have raised four daughters and two sons myself. As we move ahead into the fourth generation, my thoughts keep going back to Aji and her barely disguised hostility towards her own gender. How would she have reacted to the birth of her great grand daughter?What would she have made of this generation of young, urban mothers in India who actively pray for a girl-child? Not because these moms wish to be politically correct and project their progressive views. Not because they want to ‘fix’ the mother-in-law by producing a baby girl when the family is craving for a grand son, but because they genuinely like their own gender, are happy being female and actually appreciate other women. It’s about having a positive self-image. Apart from any of these reasons, the fact of the matter is , their husbands too feel good about raising daughters. This dramatic change in attitude is not based on sentimentality alone.Today’s forward thinking parents have recognized the value of daughters in real terms. Women no longer spell trouble ( well…they do! But those reasons are different). Investing in a daughter often turns out to be a sounder, smarter investment than backing a son. Daughters offer better long term returns. Daughters deliver!
This is true not just of urban India where women in the workforce are contributing equally if not more to the family kitty ( first, to their maternal homes and later, their in-laws’) but pretty much across the board. Rural India will take another decade to wake up to this new financial asset. But even there, the scenario is rapidly changing. Take a look at your domestic help. Most families prefer to employ women these days, especially as live–in staff. Afraid of being robbed or murdered by male domestics, urban families willingly pay the top buck for trained maids. These young girls send back a handsome portion of their salaries to their parents in the village, while systematically saving what they can for their own future. In a city like Mumbai with its vast population of working women who commute , good house help is a life saver. A semi-literate girl can earn up to Rs.8,000 a month (salaries go up substantially if she can also read, write, take phone messages and keep accounts). Her folks back in the village understand the value of her contribution only too well. And that automatically leads to a better ‘positioning’ for her, within the family, as well as the community at large. With a financial backbone to support her, today’s young female careerist is better valued and in a far better position to leverage her skills to negotiate and engage with the outside world. Sure. The statistics aren’t exactly encouraging – only 23% of India’s workforce constitutes women and we rank 112th in the global gender gap index, with less than 3% holding managerial posts. Despite these daunting figures, one can sense enormous optimism as women negotiate for better options, more opportunities. Not for nothing are women identified as natural born survivors. Inventive, resourceful and tough – is there a choice??
All these thoughts were flying around inside my head,when I spent hours outside a busy maternity ward last week. Several rooms had cheerful streamers and posters stuck on the door declaring, “It’s a GIRL!” I watched proud dads taking extensive videos of their newborns – baby girls included! And I recalled the pall of gloom that once greeted the arrival of ‘yet another daughter’ in most traditional families. Absurd as it sounds , when I gave birth to my daughter Arundhati, a grand- aunt ‘consoled’ me by saying, “Never mind… don’t feel bad…. try for a son next time.”
Imagine then, my unbridled pride when Arundhati herself became an aunt this week and shed tears of joy when she held the newest female addition to our family. I shudder to think how my Aji would have reacted. Perhaps no differently than she did when I was born. Yes, I was told my grand mother had cried copious tears as well. But her tears were different - they reflected her deep disappointment and sorrow ( “Hey Devaa…. another grand daughter…. why? For what? God is punishing us…”). Fortunately, my parents had felt differently… and I was saved!
We have indeed come a long way. And may our triumphant march continue…. Happy International Women’s Day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Came across this fun picture shot in the croc park ( Australia) last year, when I was looking for some other images for a piece I am writing. It cheered me up immensely! Not that I am looking for extra cheer - I have been feeling euphoric since yesterday. Life transforming experiences do that to people. Let me just say - I am in such a state - transformed! I rushed to catch the evening aarti on Maha Shivratri (yesterday), at the Shiv temple in Colaba, and was delighted to see Dilip Maharaj, the chief pujari , conducting it with characteristic grace and devotion. There was much to thank God for.... yesterday in particular... and always.
Today, I am breaking my standard 'no lunch' rule to meet the devilish Anthony Spaeth ( a good friend, who is based in Seoul, where he edits the main English daily). He is back in Mumbai after 11 long years and cannot believe the dramatic changes his keen journalistic eye has been taking in. Why did I refer to him as a 'devil'? Well, many moons ago he was the writer assigned by TIME magazine to profile me. And he was the culprit who coined that annoying, nonsensical 'Jackie Collins of India' tag, which has become an albatross around my neck since! Perhaps, I should even the score with Tony and take him to a real dump for lunch. Punishment enough? I don't think so. Your verdict, guys???
This appeared in Bombay Times on monday......

Fringe Benefits!

The ‘fringe’ routinely has its moments as a style statement… I guess, it’s enjoying that moment now.Especially in Bollywood. The only actress who had dared to sport a fringe in the old days was Sadhana ( recently embroiled in an ugly property dispute). I recall taking a scissor to my own hair after watching one of her films and cutting an uneven, untidy fringe. It looked awful! And my parents were exceedingly cross with me.Perhaps Sadhana herself was taking a cue from the gamine Audrey Hepburn, who wore her fringe most elegantly. It kissed her forehead and high-lighted her expressive eyes perfectly. All these images flashed past me as I greeted Urmilla Matondkar at Nari Hira’s lively party to mark 40 years of the iconic film magazine he started ( a game changer that altered not just film journalism, but mainstream journalism as well). It took me a minute to recognize the super svelte Urmilla who’d just done it – cut a lush fringe! As she put it, “ I was tired of people obsessing over my hair. Bored with the look… and ready to move on.” I have always believed Urmilla has not received due acknowledgment as an actress – she is not just good, she is very good! And smart! Years ago, both of us were speakers at a hard core Maharashtrian rally, and I recall being struck by how articulately and intelligently she expressed her thoughts. She reached out effortlessly to a huge gathering and pressed all the right buttons when she made an impromptu speech that reflected her concerns. Urmilla would make an effective parliamentarian if she ever decides to take the plunge into politics. Till then , we can watch her fringed avatar as a judge on a reality show. The girl can walk the talk, and shake a leg with the best of them. What more does the audience want??
Today is D-Day… or rather, B-Day. And Nana Chudasama will be hosting an adda as usual at his Marine Drive office. Attendance at his Budget adda is by invitation only, and it sees an interesting gathering of ‘men with opinions’. Women are not welcome! Well, they are not exactly barred from this elite club, but the macho men prefer to crunch numbers and analyse the budget over beer, bhel puri and bawdy jokes. Mumbaikars of a certain vintage will remember the scintillating deconstruction of the blessed Budget by the legendary Nani Palkhiwalla ( the grounds of the CCI Club overflowed with his fans seeking instant gyaan). Believe me, such was the power and prestige value of Nani’s extempore and erudite analysis ( strictly no notes ), that Mumbai’s best and brightest would start arriving hours in advance to grab vantage seats on the lawns. From Nani’s address to Nana’s adda – Mumbai has its own unique way of reacting to the annual trauma also known as the Budget.
Mamatadi’s railway budget made sense – literally and otherwise – only to co-Bongs. The rest of us needed translators and interpreters, or at any rate, a ticker or sub-titles would have made it possible to understand what the lady was saying with such josh. Experts on television made it easier for the aam aadmi by providing highlights and bullets. In short, Mamatadi used the opportunity to spell out her own agenda. By all means, go ahead and become the next C.M. of West Bengal….but, don’t shortchange the rest of India for your personal ambitions!