Monday, October 31, 2011

Mayawati in fifth gear!

Maanana padega - Behenji delivers! What a track! And what a race! I have been to quite a few international F1 circuits since my husband is an F1 fanatic. But the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Mayaland took my breath away.True confession: I went as a sceptic and was braced for disasters, big and small. But the two days spent in Noida were absolute eyeopeners. And I am not talking about just the Formula One event. Whether Mayawati ( India's original bag lady) or her brother make 30% on every deal cleared in her state is not relevant for now. Show me one neta who is 'clean' and I'll show you a miracle.Everybody takes cuts on everything - directly or through relatives. But not everybody delivers. Mayawati delivered big time. And going by all the massive projects coming up on both sides of the superb expressway, Noida is the place to invest in. As a real estate tycoon I met at a post-F1 party boasted, "I have already trebled my investment." I went gaga at the sight of Mayawati (you can keep your Lady!)! Vettel received his magnificent silver cup from our Behenji, but refrained from spraying her with the celebratory champagne. So impressed am I with Mayawati, I shall propose erecting her statues all over India... with or without the famous handbag!
This appeared in the Sunday Times, before the race.

Vroom Vroom – Force India Vs. Farce India

It’s back to the same old, sadela story : Why Formula One ? Which India are we living in? The argument remains a constant. It’s the peg that changes.This time the peg is Formula One. Voices raised against the Indian debut of the world’s most exciting motor sports’ event are asking, “Do we need such a sport in a country that cannot offer potable drinking water to its citizens?” The answer is obvious : No. We don’t need Formula One in India. The operative word being ‘need’. Extend that to other sports and what do you get? Exactly the same answer. Do we ‘need’ cricket, tennis, badminton,hockey,football, weight lifting,archery? Can we really afford to spend millions on creating infrastructure to host international competitions?What about our pathetic track record?Have we forgotten the CAG debacle already? Why are we screwing up our priorities? Who cares a damn about those speed demons racing around a 5.137km long track at insane speeds? Why are we backing a race that only attracts the elite? How many people in India even own cars? What happens to the swanky Buddh International Circuit at Noida once the race finishes? What’s in it for us?? Valid questions. But we could pose exactly the same queries when it comes to any desi khel and khiladi. So, let’s drop it.
We have become experts at self-flagellation. And we happily allow ourselves to be flogged in public by anybody with an opinion. A lot of negative stories have appeared in the foreign press about the ‘inappropriateness’ of it all. It is either an ‘How dare India break into this prestigious circuit?”, or a snigger- snigger, “ Oh well…. the natives are restless again,” reaction. Most of the reportage has focused on the obvious contradictions and contrasts, and have been written by people assuming a lofty, judgmental tone. It’s the familiar ‘ Bechara India Story’ getting rehashed for the umpteenth time. The point being missed is this : It is not what Formula One can do for India.Rather, it is what India can do for Formula One. Let’s get that straight. India has the upper hand in this game. We have the numbers. And we have the dosh. At a time when Europe is reeling and facing one of its worst financial crises, India is the obvious destination to tap. And the canny man who runs Formula One like an old fashioned despot – Bernie Ecclestone – knows that. European circuits have been done to death. And even die hard fans are slightly bored. The last time Formula One was seen as sexy was when Singapore introduced the night race, with a circuit that snaked through the island state. Singaporean authorities were smart enough to extract their pound of flesh from the deal . F1 turned out to be a win-win situation for the hosts and for Bernie. The sponsors were left in a happy space , too, and got back more than they’d bargained for, given the high visibility generated by the event. Singapore tourism received a big, fat boost and everybody went home grinning. How India leverages this opportunity to its best advantage, depends on us. Let those foreign journos trash India for staging this extravaganza. Let a few countries issue travel advisories telling their folks to stay away. The truth of the matter is, F1 bosses know precisely why they are here – to make money. More money. F1 has been languishing for a while in its old avatar. No superheroes have emerged after Michael Schumacher retired ( and then ‘un’-retired). Much was expected from the wonderboy,Lewis Hamilton, who failed to deliver. And the new-ish kid on the block,Sebastian Vettel may be a devil with his hot wheels, but lacks charisma. Besides, all eyes will be on his team mate Mark Webber ( the Grand Prix Championship works on a complicated formula ) who is expected to bag the top slot at Buddh. That leaves our boy Narain Karthikeyan racing in front of a home crowd. Besides, strange bedfellows, Vijay Mallya and Subroto Roy, who have combined forces for their rechristened team which features Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.
Who will make it to the podium? Will the Buddh International Circuit throw up a brand new star… not an F1 race driver, mind you, but India? Will we be able to pull it off with the required panache and prove critics wrong? We have beaten Russia to it ( the Sochi Circuit built at a cost of 987.3 crores will be ready in 2014). And experts say, the Buddh track with 16 corners, 60 laps and an expected speed of 315kph, is one of he best in the world. But as we all know, F1 isn’t just about speed.Or cars. It’s a turbo-charged entertainment package.This one comes with Lady Gaga. It rocks!
I haven't forgotten - Ra.One review tomorrow...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Padwa Greetings!

I am debating whether or not to inaugurate my traditional Maharashtrian 'nath' today. It is calling out to me. But I think not!I mean, how would it look for me to wear it to Inox for a 'Ra.One' screening? Yup. That's my Padwa entertainment. Am hoping we will be 'entertained' over those two and more hours. The reviews have been consistently discouraging. Not that I base my response on reviews. I invariably like films that most reviewers savage. So, I'm going to watch SRK's magnum opus with an open mind.... and a generous heart. The popcorn had better be bloody good tonight. More on the most discussed \trashed movie after I watch it.
Right now, I am holding the handsome 'Deep-utsav' issue of Lokmat in my hands and feeling really proud of it. I worked with a fantastic, dedicated editorial team... and as Guest Editor, what more can one ask for but bright,receptive team members willing to go flat out and ensure the final product is amazing! The theme I picked was 'Power' , but not in the conventional understanding of the term. For example, I got Nita Ambani to discuss the power of a surname... and she did so in a candid fashion. Similarly, Amitabh Bachchan has spoken on the power of 'samskaar' and family ties. While Maharashtrian intellectuals and thinkers from Kumar Ketkar, Arun Tikekar and others have explored the many aspects of power... small town power, for example.Then there is the power of words ( Javed Akhtar ), the power of sensuality ( Vidya Balan ), the power of progressive thinking (Ramchandra Guha), the power of beauty ( Kareena Kapoor ),oh... it was challenging, exhilerating and exciting going back to my first love - editing! The Lokmat issue has been a sell out and is now in its third print run. So much for the power of Power!
Tonight is Padwa - or 'Husband's Day'. It is the Maharashtrian version of Kadwa Chauth, but mercifully, without the fasting - our focus, sensibly enough, is on feasting. This year I have experimented wildly with mixed flavours and come up with my own combos - top of the list is crumbled macaroons over spicy Kolhapuri Chivda made out of corn flakes! Bizarre? You bet! But YUMMMMYYYY! Try it! I dare you!!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Love and Light this Diwali...

This appeared in B.T. yesterday....Diwali is quieter this year. More sober, too. As for me, I am very happy with my Krishna Padam (Amprapali). I wore them around my neck last night and felt strangely,sublimely at peace. Lots of diyas and flowers at home. Fragrant agarbattis and delicious 'faral' ( bakar wadis with coffee... what a combo!).
Tomorrow is Padwa. This evening's Laxmi Pujan will be very special - our first with Anansuya Devi - our ghar ki Laxmi!

Let there be light… but less noise…

Happy Diwali, BT readers! All set? Taash-vaash? Kapda-shapda?Mithai-withai? Good, good,good. Enjoy it while it lasts – the euphoria during the festive season, I mean. It was obvious from the gifting-shifting this year that the insane prices of silver seriously inhibited even the most generous hamperwallas, who were reduced to sending wonderfully packaged nuts and choccies( not the same thing as chandi-sona). And of course, the very welcome and exquisite CPAA ‘Saloni’ diyaas that lit up so many homes every year (plus, help a worthy cause). Gold prices went through the roof as well, and perhaps for the first time in the history of the metal, platinum dipped and was cheaper than white gold! The brief buoyancy in the markets is misleading, so don’t get fooled by it for a minute! Given the dismal news from European economies, chances are, India will soon be adversely impacted as well. If I am sounding like Montek Singh Ahluwalia giving an expert’s economic view on the current situation, let me just say I met a whole bunch of really, really smart bankers at Uday and Pallavi Kotak’s spectacular Diwali party. Of course, it was exceedingly hard to concentrate on their analyses and forecasts, with all that razzle dazzle floating around. Any foreigner sticking his or her neck into the Crystal Room that night, would have believed it was a royal function hosted by a Maharajah given the jewellery on parade ( Kya emeralds! Kya rubies! Kya diamonds!). In a way, the person would have been right. Our successful money men are the new Maharajas. That night they were all there in full force, given the collective net worth of the people assembled in the aesthetically decorated ballroom. Shall we peg it at a few billion ?
Perhaps Shekhar and Neelam Gupta’s Diwali Party in Delhi this week will have the requisite Neta Power… but hello! In Mumbai , we look out for the glam wattage! Come on guys, be honest. Would you rather gawk at a gorgeous Kangana in a slinky gown…. or a Chidambaram in a starched ‘mundu’? I guess that pretty much says it all about the difference between Mumbai and Dilli!
I just love Farah Khan ( the talented movie director) for being upfront , cheeky and honest. Who doesn’t like receiving ( and ahem, re-cycling) Diwali gifts? Farah sent out a straightforward sms ( I smiled when I got it) stating clearly that all Diwali gifts should be sent to her new address! Practical pointer… and I really don’t know what recipients are getting all huffy about! Why would any sensible, successful woman want pricey gifts to go to someone else?
But this Diwali greeting goes out to Rockstar Ranbir Kapoor for his honesty. First, he clarifies he is single and not a ‘horny rabbit’ (which may be good or bad news for his countless female fans). Then he gets candid about the stormy relationship between his parents , Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, during his formative years. It is a pretty grim picture he paints. Most Bollywood types, the Kapoors in particular, have gone to great lengths to perpetuate the myth of perfect marital bliss ( come on… Raj Kapoor??). By going public about his trauma as his parents battled it out, Ranbir proves he is so today! He deserves his success ( he is hugely talented). But he deserves our praise for being completely transparent and telling it like it is …. or was.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Phoren Mamu at MAMI...

This appeared in Asian Age today...

“ Which language do you people speak in India?Is it called ‘Errr-du’?” asked the dapper foreign gentleman, who had just been introduced to me as the main MAMI man. I was taken aback. But given the occasion ( one of Mumbai’s super- deluxe soirees), I was mentally prepared to meet all types. This bloke was being treated like visiting royalty, and shepherding him around was a prominent socialite.Who on earth was he? I still don’t know, and don’t care. Clearly, he was an ill-informed jerk. I nearly choked on my white wine, while answering politely, “Perhaps you are referring to ‘Urdu’ which is widely spoken in Pakistan?” He looked slightly annoyed, and said, “ It’s possible. Is English still taught here ? Or is it forbidden? Discontinued? Do you write in a native language?” I didn’t bother to respond. The man obviously did not know when to cut his losses and scoot. He must have been jet lagged, I reasoned, as he continued the barrage . Someone whispered he was a big noise at the ongoing Mumbai Film Festival.I should have guessed. Because, we had had a rather strange conversation on cinema , specifically on Bollywood . The man had pronounced pompously, “Nobody is interested in that sort of mindless song-and dance genre. If India wants to tap world markets, your films must change.” Oh really? And who the hell are you? I pointed out that our films were doing brilliantly across the world.Bollywood was one of India’s top brands internationally.The spectacular success of our films in countless territories was impressive enough to attract top Hollywood studio bosses and several global co-productions, ready to invest serious money. Bollywood was being assiduously wooed by ‘all those who matter’. I even threw in a few figures (confession: I made them up). He snorted dismissively, “But the overseas’ audience mainly consists of other Indians.” So? Their opinion doesn’t count? Their ticket money is of a different colour? “ Other people don’t relate to your films,” he went on, adding airily, “ You must change the format if you want to succeed.” That’s when I took off. I asked him whether ‘Crouching Tiger….” had changed its format to please Western audiences? I pointed out the gigantic domestic market for our films and how we really don’t need to pander.Besides, I thundered, what was Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Moulin Rouge’ if not a glorified Bollywood film? And why the hell should be change a highly successful formula that we have always loved, in order to kowtow to the West? Are Western film makers saying, “ Oh… we have a potentially huge market in India. Why don’t we make movies that please Indians?” Are Hollywood studios rejigging ‘Batman’ or ‘Pirates…’? to impress desi film fans? Are those guys thinking, ‘Maybe, we should try and change our movies around for the humungous Indian market?’ ” Nobody is saying that, right? Not now, at any rate. But soon, they will. That’s when we’ll have the last laugh. Just like the Taiwanese and Hong Kong film makers did. Indian film makers should stop trying to accommodate the likes of this rather obnoxious chap who is here as a VIP guest of MAMI. He didn’t have a clue about our country, culture, diversity, music, movies. But he had the audacity to express strong opinions and damn our films. How come? Because he can! Because he knows we’ll take it.
After listening to my bhashan on Bollywood, and why Bollywood should never change, the man admitted sheepishly and lamely, “I never said you should stop making those song-and-dance films. All I am saying is that your film makers should go beyond that genre, and make a different kind of film that speaks a more universal language.” By then, I was all fired up. “Have you seen ‘Monsoon Wedding’?” I asked, sticking my chin out. He had. He countered, “Have you seen ‘Water’?” I hadn’t. Advantage Mr. Goatee. . He asked a few more condescending questions that left me wondering why we pick such people for our Festivals. Worse, why do we give them so much bhav? Our Bollywood extravaganzas are unique! They are completely bizarre. And totally wonderful. We love them for their craziness. We know what we are paying for. We like the absence of logic…. the many absurdities. We worship our stars. And our mad movies have a profound influence on our lives. We don’t need to clone the West. We have our own specific identity. A legitimate and highly entertaining genre called The Bollywood Movie. Take it or leave it. But by elevating people like him to important positions at our prestigious film festivals, we downgrade ourselves. This is seriously depressing. Let’s stop being so damn defensive and apologetic.Our younger filmmakers are talented and bold. Their movies are speaking a new, creative language that is very much our own. Look at ‘Dev-D’, ‘Band Baaja…” ‘Manu Weds Tanu…” ‘Delhi Belly,” and a few other recent hits that have captured a new audience, but stayed true to themselves and the new urban reality . Bollywood movies have always touched an emotional chord in us, whether it’s a weepy or a nutcase of a film (“My Friend Prateik”). This is what we like. Leave us alone, Mr. Big Noise..
There are several ‘gyaan’ givers like this gentleman, who show up for such junkets. They know next to nothing about the host country, but are placed in elevated positions, given super fabulous treatment (Indians really do make the best hosts ), and while here, they think nothing of talking down to the natives as we hang on to every word and all but prostrate ourselves at their feet. Nothing personal against this chap. The fact that I didn’t bother to ask his name after that ‘Err-du’ comment, shows my utter lack of interest in the ignoramus. But it did bug me that someone as erudite as a Shyam Benegal would have to put up with this person’s inane, superficial commentary during the festival. Am I being super-touchy?? I don’t think so. “ Obviously,English is no longer taught in India,” was one of his crass comments. I should have said, “And obviously, good manners are not taught in yours.” But the annoying asli Indian inside me kicked in, alas. ‘ He’s our mehmaan , jaaney do,” I shrugged. I had given him a pretty hard time . So, sab theek hai!
Blogdosts, here's wishing you a fabulous Festive Season ahead...

Friday, October 21, 2011


My 'Inspirational Woman' - Bibi Russell with Antonio Banderas ( definitely my 'Inspirational Man') at an Awards' Function in Spain recently. Please note: Banderas is wearing the humble Bangladeshi 'gamcha' around his neck - a Bibi trademark.
This appeared in The Week...

Inspirational Women of the World….

This was long overdue! The Nobel Peace Prize 2011 was sensibly awarded to not just one woman, but three! Like a triple sundae – three flavours for the price of one! Clever. And pardon me if I sound cynical, but it does seem somewhat patronizing to lump three ladies in one basket and expect the world to cheer. High brow commentators have described it as a ‘significant’ decision. Oh really? Why? Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman are women doing extraordinary work, with or without the Nobel. The ‘significance’ however, is being linked to associating women achieving peace and development, while being given a major role in governance. This is something right thinking people ( not just women, mind you) have been fighting for over centuries. The Nobel is symbolic, yes. But effective? President Obama was given the Peace Prize too, remember? And that had automatically taken away the sheen from the Swedish academy that hands out the award. In a way, it had downgraded the Prize itself. Today, perhaps women across nations will raise a toast to the three female winners and start believing a lot will change in the immediate future. Karman, the Yemeni activist is a fine example of a courageous woman who took on the mighty. So is Gbowee, who mobilized Liberian women , Christian and Muslim, against rape and other brutalities in civil battles. Sirleaf, of course, is the first democratically elected female President of a war ravaged and notoriously corrupt country (Liberia ), who successfully managed a serious debt crisis and restored peace after taking over in 2006.
There are several other, equally gutsy women in our own country. But they may never receive the same recognition. Dealing with alcoholism and violence or even being at the receiving end of unspeakably savage sexual acts committed by men in uniform, is not new to us. But with activists being targeted and killed across India, it does require enormous courage to speak up and fight those in power. Perhaps, the Nobel Peace Prize will draw a little more attention to the contribution of women in healing, nurturing and leading communities that get battered during strife. Perhaps it will lead to a slow but permanent transformation within societies that have so far scrupulously excluded women from the decision making processes altogether. But I suspect that’s going to be a really long wait. Maybe, by the time my grand-daughter grows up she will be able to take far many more positive ground realities for granted than I ever could. In India, we display an almost schizo reaction towards women in power – we are either ridiculously awe-struck or ridiculously envious. Rarely do we respond to such women in a naturally accepting way. By placing a few on pedestals, does it help the others who are still struggling down there?
I have just returned from a memorable trip to Paris where I attended the very prestigious Veuve Clicquot Awards for Businesswomen . 2012 will mark the 40th anniversary of this award which was started in memory of the feisty founder of the champagne brand that bears her name – Madame Clicquot. Widowed at a desperately young age of 27, Mme. Clicquot took charge of her life and her husband’s vineyard, to make something of both. And she succeeded spectacularly! Since 1972 , only 300 carefully screened, hand picked women have been bestowed the award This year’s awardees were a fascinating mix of ballsy entrepreneurs , but the one outstanding feature that united the twelve women ( I happened to be the only awardee from India in the Inspirational Women’ category), was a sense of fearlessness… audacity, even. From a shipbuilder in Netherlands, a structural engineer in the United Kingdom, to a butcher from Ireland, these were women with great personal histories and leadership qualities that were obvious and formidable. And yet, when it came to emotional acceptance within communities, the narrative changed and hit familiar roadblocks. Being successful entrepreneurs and being agents of real change are not necessarily the same thing. How we assess ‘empowerment’ also varies from culture to culture. But one thing is a constant – faith. Every single woman I spoke to during the intensive workshops, believed strongly in herself. Armed with such self-belief, she felt confident enough to take on any and every challenge in both her professional and personal life. If only similar self-belief could be converted into an injectible virus, what an amazing infection it would make! Definitely,worth marketing those vials and starting a world wide epidemic!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Friend Prateik...

Some more pics .... i love these dinky French cars!
Would you believe the next 3 images are of an airport lounge??? Yup. Terminal 5 at London Heathrow is this spiffy! Well, at least the BA Lounge makes up for the mediocre flight experience.
Am off to Bangalore tomorrow morning. Love the city. Love the people. Hoping to catch Yeddu on the run somewhere.... ha ha!
This appeared in Bombay Times today...

My Friend Prateik…
That I adore this sensitive young actor is a given. I adored his mother, Smita. And I see a lot of her in young Prateik. That is why I find it particularly grotesque to read reports about Smita ‘haunting’ Prateik… and not just him. Crew members have gone to town about sensing ‘Smita’s presence’ on the sets of ‘My Friend Pinto’, etc. This is plain disgusting. Exploit a famous parent if you must. But have the grace and good sense to leave a dead mother in peace. I watched a few , really sickening scenes in an otherwise enjoyable movie ( ‘Pinto’), and felt really , really sorry for Prateik that he had to go along with a script that so blatantly used his personal life and tried to manipulate audience sentiment ( he is forced to speak about his dead ‘mama;). Come on, you chaps. Are you that desperate? In any case, Prateik needs to pick his future roles with a better sense of judgment. How many times is he going to flog the poor Goan orphan, innocent and vulnerable, easy to use by bad guys who send him off on dangerous missions? How many times will Prateik be reduced to the stereotypical ‘Mac’ who keeps repeating, “What men? No men!’ and speaking a peculiar Goan –Hindi that does not recognize gender? Kalki, too, needs to run miles in the opposite direction from uttering those fake dialogues as a male ( Main thak gaya…. Main bahut angry hai.”). But the girl is like a poised ballet dancer ( ‘Singing in the rain’ rip off)
Prateik is a far better actor than all his combined roles so far. His range was evident in this movie as well, particularly during the singing and dancing scenes which were straight lifts of or tributes to old Hollywood musicals. The movie is disastrous in the first half, and one sees it going nowhere, with all those amateurish, untidy characters and wonky plot lines. Post –interval, it comes together somehow and ends on a magical, feel good note. If the film maker was attempting his version of ‘Hangover’, well…. that’s a bit too ambitious. ‘Pinto’ had its moments, of course. With a splendid turn by Divya Dutta as a boozed up, fading actress of yore ( watch her signing autographs at the bar for ‘fans’ ). Shruti Seth puts in a great performance as well – here’s a lovely, stylish young actress who deserves better. But it’s really Prateik who breaks your heart – those eyes, that mouth. Even the peculiar, high pitched voice that I hope he doesn’t change but converts into his trademark. He can sing, he can dance, and he can clearly ACT! That’s saying a lot more than can be said about a whole bunch of star sons ( and daughters, of course!).
There’s no light at the end of the South Mumbai tunnel! This is Day 2 of going without electricity and water. Uddhav Thackeray says it’s a political stunt. I am desperate enough to believe him this one time! Disgraceful and scary. Hate to think of residents occupying the 25th floor of our complex. What happens if there is a medical emergency??

Monday, October 17, 2011

'Powerless' in South Mumbai

Before I get to the grim news (power failure), here's something for you to exercise your grey cells. The Guessing Game goes on. But only for one picture. The second one, featuring 2 professional models ( at the time). It was shot for 'Femina' by the legendary photographer, Jitendra Arya. These are dinosaur images clicked in the dark ages. You have to guess the year...
And the pic on top is of two of my daughters, Anandita and Avantikka, clicked last week. I rather liked it. And have taken their permission before posting it here. Young Vishwaveer who clicked it, could make the cut as a photographer. Agree???
The bijli went at 3 a.m. on sunday. It is 8 p.m. monday right now, and I am still in the dark. Along with thousands of others in South Mumbai. BEST (ironical name for the Electric Company that has let us down so badly!)insists it's 'trying' to restore power. Not trying hard enough, I'm afraid. I'm thinking about those living on the 25th floor. The elevators aren't working either! What happens during a medical emergency?? Add the sweltering October heat factor.... this isn't fun.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Here goes... from the bottom up.... the group shot of all the winners taken at the beautiful vineyard, right after the vine baptism ceremony. Just noticed... all the Nordic blondes are together in a clump... and 'women of colour' like moi, the gorgeous Brazilian girl Leila, and the Egyptian sisters are grouped together. Hmmmmm. Interesting coincidence. Don't miss the dishy Stephane in yet another dapper outfit!
Oh.... that's the standing Baccarat chandelier I had mentioned in the earlier post. Magnifique, non?
C'est moi signing the VC Laureates' Book.
That's the jovial direct descendent of Mme. Clicquot after presenting a personalised, signed botle of La Grande Dame in the chalky 24 kms long, underground cellars of the estate.
And finally, the gorgeous Royal couple of Bhutan - Jigme Wangchuk 5, and Jetsun Pema his then fiancee , and now, the newly minted Queen. I'd shot this charming portrait at Pawan Varma, our Indian ambassador's sprawling residence in Thimpu, on the day the King had announced his engagement to his childhood sweetheart. Move over, William and Kate!

This appeared in The Week...

Have women forgotten how to flirt…?

I read Julia Stephenson’s terrifically spirited ‘Spectator’ column recently in which she laments the death of flirting in Britain… and chuckled to myself. Forget Europe , where flirting is an art form and equally appreciated for being that, in India, the land of ‘naayikas’, and apsaras, we too are stupidly following the Brits and forgetting what it’s like to enjoy a mild flutter, create a delicious frisson, and for a few brief moments, lose oneself in that wonderful space that makes hearts go ‘dhak dhak’. Julia is hugely distressed by the coarse behaviour of ‘Ladettes’ – young ladies representing the ‘90’s , who mimic the worst Laddish (read: loutish) behaviour by boozing it up, rioting , brawling at pubs and vomiting in the streets. These women resent what they consider old fashioned male attention and often snarl at a gentleman opening doors for them or offering a seat in the tube. Julia feels it is this crude and rude response to traditional male etiquette that has driven British men to turn ridiculously timid! According to Julia, British men are too terrified to flirt!
Is that happening to ‘desi boyz’ as well? Are we turning our chivalrous, gallant guys into ninnies who refuse to make eye contact with a pretty girl for fear of being slapped? I was talking to a youngish woman recently, who admitted she has all but forgotten what it’s like to be desirable… attractive to the opposite sex. “Nobody looks at me!” she whined. And she isn’t alone! Like her, thousands of much younger girls crib they are feeling de-sexed and unappreciated. One of the main reasons is that men are scared of being accused of sexual harassment, particularly at the work place. Even harmless, appreciative compliments are not welcomed by female colleagues. These days, a man is asking for trouble if he says, “Lovely saree,” or “This colour really suits you.” Internationally, men have been sacked for lesser ‘crimes’. And women find it hard to recall when they last received a compliment from a chap. How sad is that? It happened to me (compliment!) very recently when I ran into someone from college. I was initially flustered, then confused, and finally abrupt! Poor fellow behaved like he’d just got a tight slap, as he hastily apologized and fled! I kicked myself later for my inexcusable conduct. But it was too late to do anything about it by then.
When I got home, I recalled a lovely encounter with a famous woman I’d spent time with in Delhi. I was there to interview her for a glossy and she invited me into her boudoir while she got ready for the shoot. I wondered why she was constantly dropping the pallu of her chiffon saree and then replacing it delicately over her left shoulder, all the while gazing at her image in a gigantic mirror. After the 30th time, I finally asked her if she needed a safety pin to hold it in place. She smiled, “Darling, I am practicing, it’s an old habit!” She went on to explain how she used the pallu trick to ‘flirt’. I found that amusing, if a bit tacky. But at least she bothered! Nobody does, any more. Not even young girls looking for romance. Most times, they hang around at parties chatting animatedly (even dancing) with one another. At the end of the evening, they crib, “As if we had a choice… did you see the men? Losers!” Poor men! Damned if they do, and damned if they don’t! So, I asked some of these accomplished ladies why they even bother to dress up, look terrific and hit the social circuit. Do they not want male attention? “ Of course,we do… but from the right guys.” Social interactions are so very complex these days! Where are these ‘right guys’ hiding? And what’s wrong with girls taking the initiative?
As Julia points out, flirting is not infidelity. Or even a prelude to an affair. “It’s more about joie de vivre than sex,” she states. I love the way she clarifies that Europeans view such flirting as ‘routine good manners’. So it is. Really!So, what about that little eye flutter, ladies? Nothing too obvious, mind you. Just a teeny weensy one to remind ourselves we are female and the old mating game isn’t entirely passé. But for us to pull this off, we also need men to be men… come on, guys, are you up to it?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Paris-Reims Mystery Solved!

Thank you for your patience, Blogdosts. So... here's the story. I was the proud recipient of the Veuve Clicquot Tribute, in the category of 'Inspirational Women of the World' . The Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman Award was started 39 years ago, in 1972, to honour the memory of the founder, Mme.Clicquot, widowed at 27 and left to manage her husband's estate in Reims.This prestigious award recognises the contribution of women in different spheres, with a special emphasis on entrepreneurship. This year, there were 11 other recipients from far flung countries like Brazil. Since 1972, this Award has gone to just 300 women.
I was very impressed by the solemn, dignified manner with which the ceremonies were conducted over two intense days. Workshops, brain storming sessions, working lunches, and of course, fabulous dinners and celebrations with the best vintages. But it was the vine baptism ceremony that I most enjoyed. And the awarding of the medal. And no, 'Another Kiran from New York', disappointingly enough,there were no gold painted men in loin cloths peeling grapes pour moi. Just Stephane ( last pic) dressed appropriately like a French country squire! The formal black tie dinner at Les Crayeres (third last pic) was when my Tribute was presented in the most elegant setting and matching manner. I'd like to believe I responded equally elegantly! And if you are admiring the standing chandelier in the second last pic, it is indeed magnificent. After all, it is in the Maison Baccarat. Sigh!
There are more pics.... but I don't want to bore you. Ciao for now!

This appeared in the Asian Age....

"Only Raavans in India. Where's Ram?"

Okay. So we are done with burning Raavan’s effigies across India.And at least a few people are in a celebratory mood knowing they earn more than Rs.32 a day. As we prepare for the annual Festival of Lights ( even a single,decorated diya costs more than those measly thirty two bucks!) and discuss the victory of good over evil for the 900th time, we are fooling nobody. Least of all, ourselves. Let’s face it, we are in a mess. A terrible mess. Chachu Chids and Bodo Da Pranab can hold hands in public, even kiss and pretend to make up. But sorry… their overstated bonhomie has come through as a patently false and very unconvincing patch up. The kind one associates with high profile, warring Bollywood couples who appear together on reality shows to promote a new film, and dash back to their vanity vans the moment the shoot ends, to continue snapping and snarling in private. This sort of a spat would have been unthinkable a couple of decades ago. Politicos have always waged bitter battles against colleagues, but never in the public domain. Such incidents were shrewdly handled behind closed doors, much like joint family feuds. That two of the most astute and powerful men in the cabinet decided to slug it out in such a khullam khulla manner, suggests just one thing – there’s nobody in charge at the top of the heap. Anarchy within families generally gets out of hand when the patriarch or the matriarch is too weak to arbitrate and restore order. It looks like present scenario in Delhi is similar. The Patriarch ( Manmohan Tauji) looked and sounded bewildered, even overwhelmed by the sudden outbreak of hostilities within the fold. While the Matriarch ( Sonia Madamji) was recuperating overseas, and not in a position to intervene when required. By the time Madam came back and took control, the damage was already done. That she asserted herself immediately on her return, says a lot about her complete and absolute control over the unwieldy party that has been bogged down by indiscipline and ego issues for quite a while. The two jhagda-jhagdi stalwarts eventually managed a small face (and party-) saving photo–op, plus, issued loaded statements that required no decoding. By then, the chattering classes had drawn their own conclusions.
Dekho bhai. Life is ajeeb. And has a gajab kahani. But when those who run the show start behaving like errant schoolboys, squabbling in a football maidan, then even the most loyal supporters realize that the bimaari is far more widespread than it appears. Since the tough and enduring fabric of India has remained consistently intact because of the reverence we possess for the Great Indian Family system, it is but natural that we should suffer from a case of instant disorientation and experience a deep sense of disillusionment when the head of the parivar is seen as a kamzhor individual - someone whose authority means not a thing. At such crisis points, our belief in the maa-baap system ( that has kept us together for centuries) gets rudely shaken. Without a wise, mature, caring, strong Pitaji and Mataji, the family structure becomes scarily dheela. Problems start. Tiffs happen. Family disintegrates. Nobody wants that. Not even Manmohan Singh’s detractors. He was India’s nominated Father Figure. A benign head of the family, we believed in for the longest time. He just seemed better than the rest. Morally superior. Above and beyond corrupt practices , no, even corrupt thoughts. A man India could trust. Rely on. Not terribly ambitious. But sober, soft spoken and non-threatening. Someone capable of handling the many personalities and thin skinned colleagues in the chaotic coalition that was clobbered together ( and has miraculously survived so far). Let’s hand it to him – Manmohan Singh ‘managed’, where several others might have failed. His job description was never as sexy as Chidambaram’s or Pranabda’s. And the poor man was willy- nilly reduced to playing the role of Madam’s chosen courtier. This couldn’t have been much fun for the celebrated economist, frequently credited with having turned India’s economy around. But such was the rather unenviable image and positioning he was stuck with. Despite that, he acquitted himself reasonably well. Till the recent debacle.
It’s time for our favourite Tauji to go back to being the man India loves to trust. It’s a pretty difficult expectation to live upto. But if anybody can pull it off, it’s our blue turbaned friend. We like the familiar. Manmohan Singh is the familiar … the familiar fall guy. We’d like him even more if he stopped playing the fall guy and started kicking butt. How about it, Sir-ji?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Jhenda Ooncha Rahey Hamara....

These two images from my Paris- Reims trip are meant to tease your imagination. It was a memorable moment for me... tres sublime, as the French would exclaim! More about this particular ceremony and honour in my next blog. Till then, keep guessing!

This appeared in Bombay Times on Tuesday,11th Oct....

Can anybody explain the Malinga Magic….?

A really vibrant, well- traveled and very attractive Australian lady of a certain vintage, had stars in her eyes when I went to collect her from the hotel she was staying at. I thought she was blushing and teased her about it. She cooed, “What do you expect? I was in the same elevator as Malinga… he is soooo hot!” Wait a minute. Malinga? Hot? Apparently so. And not just ‘hot’ in the eyes of mature women. I have heard twenty-somethings gushing over the guy and screaming his name when he is playing. There has to be something bewitching about the man. But what? Charisma and sex- appeal are like that. It’s impossible to deconstruct the two. If Malinga appears an unlikely candidate to sweep the ‘sexiest man in cricket’ title, let’s take a straw poll right now. Hands up, for Malinga the Hottie! Did yours go up? Well, there you are. It can’t be the hair. It isn’t his physique ( not with that pot belly). It most certainly isn’t his sartorial style ( Malinga could pass off as the friendly neighbourhood coconut vendor ). So then? He isn’t even the best cricketer around! But , honestly speaking, he is certainly the most unforgettable one. Howcome? His errr… bowling action, for one. And above all, his rustic, natural charm. His individuality. He is a player fans want to watch. When he’s bowling ( or batting!), you can’t take your eyes off the guy. And with so many swooning females as his core constituency, Malinga should be getting a lion’s share of the juicy ads other cricketers hog. Mumbai Indians invested well when they put down all that dosh for Malinga. And what a thrilling Champion’s League win! Let’s wait for the next IPL… and more Malinga magic.
As for Shane Warne…. poor guy. This one is a goner! Crikey! As the Brits would say… a bloke who shares his girlfriend’s bronzer and mascara? Warne swears by Liz Hurley’s beauty products and readily admits to raiding her make–up kit. Ever since he hooked up with the luscious Liz, he has lost his original personality totally. While the weight loss is a good thing, the frosted hair, blush- on and lip gloss are a tad distressing. The old rough and tough Warnie has been remodeled by Hurley into a botoxed dandy. Next thing we know he’ll be confessing he likes wearing frilly knickers to bed! Since a wedding seems imminent,Liz must be working doubly hard on getting Warne into photo-worthy shape in order to flog the rights to the X’Mas nuptials – the bidding wars of the glossies have just begun.
A huge round of applause to Preeti Maria and the IMC Ladies’ Wing for getting the legendary Bangladeshi Fashion Icon, Bibi Russell to show her impeccable collection in Mumbai. Bibi is an extraordinary person who has almost single handedly revived the rich weaving traditions of her country, thereby providing much needed employment to thousands of skilled crafts people in and around Dhaka. Bibi is a pioneering entrepreneur, and it is only appropriate that our own dynamic women entrepreneurs honoured Bibi in the city, before the stampede to their charity-led annual pre-Diwali extravaganza begins today.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

17 Books that impacted my life....

I wrote this for the 17th Anniversary issue of Bombay Times, because Deepali asked me to. Not sure too many people read it.... the profile of the B.T. consumer being somewhat different! But I so enjoyed writing it. The list made me reconnect with my formative years ... a time when young people actually read BOOKS, and not just text messages.
Now here's the tricky part - some work for my Blogdosts. How about your list? It doesn't have to feature 17 books. I'll settle for 5 ! Go for it, guys....
And if you really, really want to know more about what my Paris trip was all about... encourage me! Just a few short words will do... ha ha. But for now - no more champagne or foie gras!! Oooooffff... all those lethal calories!

I really thought this was going to be one of the toughest writing assignments ever. Picking 17 books out of the hundreds that have been devoured, absorbed, internalized, digested and cherished!But… guess what? It turned out to be not just an easy piece to write, but a hugely pleasurable one! And the list presented itself on a platter – the choices were that obvious. It was during the writing process that the real fun kicked in… revisiting favourites from my formative years, and realizing just what a powerful effect those continue to have over my imagination even now. There have been several memorable books since then, but none with such a seminal influence over my head and heart. Not so surprisingly, a lot of them were written by women – from Simone de Beauvoir to Germaine Greer. Francoise Sagan to Amy Tan. Throw in Anais Nin, plus Linda Goodman and we have six outstanding books right there.
Here goes. And this is a list that does not recognize order, hierarchies, genres. It’s just a list that is personal and passionate.
1) ‘War and Peace’ . Published in 1869. Written with majestic sweep by Leo Tolstoy. I fell in love with Pierre Bezuhov while reading the book. And imagined I was Natasha Rostov. Rarely does a movie match the book. But in this case, it was as brilliant. Audrey Hepburn as Natasha!
2) ‘Anna Karenina’. Perhaps this was my ‘Russian writers’ phase. Vladimir Nabokov called Leo Tolstoy’s classic “ One of the greatest love stories in world literature.” Great love stories have to be tragic. Read this one… and weep for days.
3) ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover.’ Irresistible! It was one of the earliest ‘banned’ book. So, of course , it had to be read! D.H.Lawrence created one of the most erotically charged illicit relationships between a titled woman and Mellors, her energetic game keeper. This book is much , much more than a ‘sexual romp’. But try telling that to the philistines??
4) ‘Tender is the Night’. F.Scott Fitzgerald’s perfectly poised, elegantly written gem ( before he wrote ‘The Great Gatsby’) has one of the most evocative opening lines ever about ‘a large, rose- coloured hotel’ on the French Riviera.
5) ‘Le Petit Prince’. Written in 1943 by Antoine de Saint Exupery, an aristocrat-aviator, it’s book one passes on to grandchildren and reads all over again for the 25th time, just for lines like, “One sees clearly only with the heart.”
6) ‘Delta of Venus’. Author, Anais Nin. Described as exploring ‘The language of the Senses’, this is sublime female erotica, or as critics described it , ‘the essence of female sexuality.’
7) ‘Bonjour Tristesse’ .Written by the then 18 year-old Francoise Sagan (1954). The precocious Cecile in the book begs the question – child or adult? Of course, it is Francoise herself!
8) ‘ The Fountainhead’. Show me one young woman who has read this book and not spent the rest of her life looking for Howard Roark!Futile, my dear.Utterly futile.Men like Roark exist in fiction alone.
9) ‘The Kitchen God’s Wife’. Amy Tan. Clever, sharply observed, heart breakingly accurate in its sensitive depiction of the immigrant experience.
10) ‘Sun Signs’. Sounds crazy. But Linda Goodman’s astro book changed my life. It has changed countless other lives! To call it scarily accurate is an understatement! Find yourself in this hefty, definitive tome.
11) ‘The Female Eunuch’. This book will always remain special. I met the legendary intellectual, Germaine Greer and was totally blown away by her dazzling thinking. Written in 1970, it soon became a feminist bible.
12) ‘The Second Sex’. Simone de Beauvoir. Glad I didn’t meet her! Superb writer. Sad woman. She famously wrote, “One is not born, but becomes a woman.” Do we have a choice?
13) ‘Gone With the Wind’. Margaret Mitchell. How dare anybody attempt a sequel? To that?? Sheer audacity!They don’t make men like Rhett Butler any more. Nor women like Scarlet O’Hara.
14) ‘The Golden Gate’.Vikram Seth’s 307- page poem, a love story, no less.Only a genius can pull off such a literary feat .Seth is a genius.
15) ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’ William Shakespeare’s vivid and delightful ‘comedy of errors’. If only our lives could be as easily sorted out by elves and fairies.
16) ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles.’ Thomas Hardy’s exquisite prose! Compulsory reading for all aspiring writers. But such a depressing read! How did Hardy know that ALL women are sad?Perenially and essentially sad?
17) ‘Wuthering Heights’. Emily Bronte’s only novel, published in 1847.A brutal love story that destroys several lives.Come on. Admit it. Ideally,every woman should have known a Heathcliff once in her life. Even if, all too briefly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Paris Je t'aime!

As promised. Here I am at a pretty 'sadel' British Airways' lounge shared with American Airlines... which is equally 'sadel'. At the end of a long, long, day in Paris, with four different kinds of weather, what do I get? Yet another delayed BA flight! All that effort to get here on time after the nightmarish experience in Mumbai, where I was bumped OFF the BA flight, after an electronic check-in etc etc... on biz class etc etc. There was just a single, non-responsive office boy in the back room... not a single responsible person at the check-in counter. And the flight was an hour later! I was distraught and ready to commit harakiri since my first meeting in Paris was in the afternoon. It was the kindness of the Cathay Pacific staff that helped me locate someone from BA finally. Did that help matters? Naah! My next best option was to BUY fresh ticket on Emirates and wait it out in Dubai. But at least I made my meeting.... straight from the airport, I might add. In my travel gear, I might also add.
And here I am at CDG being told my BA flight to London is delayed.... and the connection to Mumbai is alarmingly short. So, the chances of my bags arriving home when I do, are looking remote. But am I about to buy myself another pricy ticket on Emirates? Am I totally mad?
With that, let me say 'au revoir' for now. The spectacular October skies over the Place de la Concorde made up a little for this mess. So did the outstanding Cafe Viennoise at Fouquet's on the Champs Elysee. I carry back with me the most sublime memories of Reims - at the heart of the Champagne district. More on what I was doing there in my next post. Let me just leave you with the tantalising tidbit about a special vine baptism ceremony I was honoured to participate in at the superlative Maison Veuve Clicquot that hosted the very presitigious annual Businesswoman of the Year Awards. Twelve international women in 2011. And only 300 others since 1972 when the first such award was given. To say the entire two days of meeting extraordinary women from as far away as Brazil, and as close as Egypt, was anything less than the great vintages we got to sample, would be doing grave injustice to the legacy of Mmme. Clicquot, acknowledged as a pioneering entrepreneur by all those who are aware of her fascinating story.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taking a Bijoya Break....

Have a wonderful Dusshera, dear Blogdosts. I'll be travelling out of India and may reappear in this space only over the weekend. But who knows - if I find myself with a couple of hours to spare at a busy airport in Europe, I may just pop up and surprise you.
Right now, I am off to the 82 year-old Pujo Baadi at the Tejpal to offer flowers and prayers to Durga Mata. I used to notice the artists who paint the Goddess' face used to take their inspiration from Hema Malini's visage till pretty recently. This year, they've switched to Vidya Balan!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wanted:Gutsy Film makers!

It's Saptami today. And the moon is looking beautiful! Last evening, entirely on the spur of the moment, I went to my old haunt, Waman Hari Pethe at Thakurdwar. And fell in love with a Devi Mangalsutra. I missed Ashaben, who used to run the store with great gusto, is now at the factory. Young Aditya Pethe runs the show from Juhu. I recall dealing with his grand father in the old days. What a personality Baba Saheb had.... and those three, major rocks glittering from the handsome gold ring on his long, elegant finger. To say nothing about his emerald shirt buttons. The manner! So old world, refined and courteous.... and then came Subhash Bhau. And now young Aditya!
After the mangalsutra, came the buying of gajras from the old phoolwali who sells them from a topli. A topli full of fragrance! A kilo of mogras now sells at a thousand bucks. A gajra, for thirty-five. Yellow champaks at ten rupees each! I missed my mother - I used to buy gajras for her from this phoolwali's mother.... the fragrance remains unchanged!
Happy Pujo! Ashtami tomorrow...
This appeared in Bombay Times today...

Why Bollywood needs more gutsy film makers….

By all means fall back on the Khans and Kapoors when all else fails. But guys… take a good look around you. Things have changed. Audiences have changed. Today’s movie- goer wants a mezze platter, not the standard murgh makhani at the multiplex. In any case, the multiplex experience has transformed the way Indians watch films. It is the total package that counts. And that package comes with a hefty price tag. Going to the movies is no longer the cut rate, weekend ‘family outing’ it once used to be. Which is also why film makers willing to take a chance with modestly budgeted movies are doing well and walking away with the applause. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s richly erotic, cleverly twisted take on a classic (“Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster’’) is bound to find an audience large enough to make a respectable amount of money. He will also receive enough critical acclaim to attract financiers for his next project. In the bargain, the audience wins. This is essentially what the movie business is all about – a win-win situation for both - those who produce films, and those who shell out good money to watch them.
SBAG is a great example of what happens when a team takes chances with a potentially strong subject and goes ahead boldly, without worrying about signing up a star cast that does not feature marquee names. Jimmy Shergill, to all appearances has everything going for him as a ‘typical’ Bollywood hero from the old school – he is tall, fair and fine featured. His voice is strong. His screen presence, pretty effective ( remember him in ‘Manu weds Tanu’?) . And his acting abilities are far superior to those of some of his more successful contemporaries. And yet – here’s the bad news - Jimmy is not seen as a ‘star’. Which means, his name alone is not enough to attract canny financiers. Jimmy needs a set up in order to bag roles and showcase his considerable talent. If his performance in SBAG doesn’t do it for him, nothing will. Jimmy’s Bollywood story is a little like Vivek Oberoi’s. Vivek also had what it takes to make it big in the film industry ( including fantastic breaks). But Vivek was foolish enough to antagonize the BBBs - Big Bad Boys of Bollywood - after taking a panga with Salman Khan ( during his Aishwarya phase). That was it. Bollywood closed ranks and effectively choked Vivek’s career. Jimmy is different. So far, he has minded his own business, kept his head down and got on with his roles. With no known patrons or godfathers to back him , Jimmy has done it on his own. Good for Jimmy.
And good for Randeep Hooda, who wasted his early years in showbiz playing a dumb role – that of Sushmita Sen’s boyfriend. He was outstanding in SBAG, bringing the right mix of villainy and vulnerability to a tough role. But at the end of the day, a good movie works because of a great script. Period. SBAG may be seriously flawed on some levels, but Dhulia was working with great material – a crackling script. That is more than half the battle won in this crazy business. The real test will come with his next project. The audience is already panting in anticipation!
Happy Navratri! Let those ghagras swirl…

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Too Many Sacred Cows in India...

It's been a fabulous weekend so far. I can sense Durga... feel her presence.... she is here, for sure!Even my frangipani looks happy after being whipped by the retreating monsoon. Last night's crescent hanging low in the sky, over the tranquil bay right outside my window, made me want to sing and dance with abandon!Did I? Well. Only inside my head. I spent a deliciously soothing evening enjoying an intimate dinner with Anandita. Today, I shall be 'Burbs bound. Haven't visited Bhawana in years. I want to touch the feet of her Devi.... stop by a Pujo Baadi. Mumbai always looks beautiful at this time of the year. With luck, I may even get to crash a dandiya raas celebration and enjoy Falguni Pathak's irresistible performance ( she is outstanding, and has been away from the city for too many years during Navratri). Khaman Dhokla, here I come!
Durga! Durga!
This appeared in the Sunday Times today....

Too many Sacred Cows in India….

Lighten up, everybody!The sky is not about to fall if a Bad Boy cricketer from across the border has the temerity, the himmat, to say a few rude things about one of our national icons – Sachin Tendulkar. Tauba! Tauba! Even in his wildest dreams, the wild-eyed, wild-haired, wild-tempered Rawalpindi Express, the man who was once known as the world’s fastest bowler, the mercurial madman Shoaib Akhtar, could not have anticipated the hostile response in India to his recently launched autobiography, aptly titled ‘Controversially Yours’.This is plain ridiculous. Aren’t we over reacting to a comment that is neither scurrilous nor defamatory? Akhtar has said far worse stuff about himself! If the man was boasting about his fast deliveries, and their effect on Sachin, let him boast. Cricket history is not encrypted or classified info. The footage speaks for itself. Shoaib,the enfant terrible (on and off the maidan), is known for shooting his mouth off. If his autobiography does indeed take a few well- aimed pot shots at contemporaries, so what?Did readers really want a goody- goody book from this naughty-naughty man? Thank God, he has had the guts to say it like it is. Most other, cricket stars have penned the most bloodless accounts of their lives, opting for safe, over racy. Apart from the Aussies, who make careers out of bad mouthing team mates and rivals, most cricketers make lousy , darpok writers. Shoaib has shown spunk in plenty, and let’s be a little less huffy and a bit more sportsmanlike about his take on our Sachin.
We are a nation of particularly thin-skinned individuals. We refuse to laugh at ourselves. And we abhor criticism. We worship our heroes to a ridiculous extent. And are a bit too hyper- touchy if an ‘outsider’ utters a single negative word about our sacred cows ( too many of those, to begin with). Several biographies have been ‘banned’ by mysterious sources for mysterious reasons, because they do not adhere to the cheesy hagiography format we prefer. Any number of well-researched, credible biographies remain in warehouses because of arbitrary injunctions filed by interested parties. In the case of Shoaib’s book, we have gone a step further, by canceling its official launch,choking debate and effectively bowing down to political pressure. While Sachin is indeed a much admired global sports figure, to have fans holding ‘Sachin is our God’ posters , is plain nonsensical (Shoaib promptly retorted, “ He may be your God, not mine.”).Pity CCI officials in Mumbai beat a hasty retreat and canned the event. Had we shown more maturity and confidence about the so-called ‘offensive’ remarks, perhaps we could have engaged Shoaib in a chat-patta dialogue and given him the chance to defend his comments. What a terrifically lively press conference that would have been!
Our Sacred Cows are really lucky! Their followers do all the dirty work for them. Sachin himself has maintained a discreet silence and sensibly ignored Shoaib’s taunt, preferring to focus his time and energy on a different sort of move – the one to his brand new, five-storeyed magnificent mansion ( a ‘decent’home, is what he calls it) in Bandra. A destination that is bound to become as important a landmark as ‘Antilia’ or ‘Mannat’. By blanking out Shoaib’s zingers, Sachin has once again proved what a superb tactician he is – why open flood gates when silence works better? In any case, Pakistani cricketers ( and politicians) have consistently generated more controversy than our ‘Boys’. Take Imran Khan’s most recent book, “Pakistan: A Personal History’which is perfectly timed, what with Imran being touted as the next prime minister of Pakistan. It is not half as spicy as Shoaib’s, but there’s still enough masala in it to qualify as a good read.Will India ever get a neta to write a ‘tell all’ memoir?How about it, Chidambaram? Pranabda? India has a lot of catching up to do. But by threatening Shoaib and demanding an apology, we have only displayed our own touchiness. Sachin may be a national treasure, and a great cricketer. God bless him! But he gets handsomely compensated for occupying that position. Let’s stop behaving like miffed school kids and accept there will always be other, less adulatory opinions. Let’s learn to take a few barbs on the chin and sportingly face those demon balls bowled at 100.2 mph.It’s hard to believe, but we were the world’s number one cricket team till pretty recently.Sachin still remains India’s darling.The Rawalpindi Express got derailed long ago.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sahib Biwi Aur Hottie!

What a movie!! After ages, i watched a film that hit all the right spots - erotic, cerebral and emotional. A case of brilliant casting and a script that sizzles with every lush and detailed scene. It's always the script that's the real star - in any memorable film. No script, no film. Not all the big budgets and special effects in the world can make up for a lousy, flimsy script. And here's a movie with a modest budget, but with immense ambition - and the talent to pull it off. Only a gutsy director can come up with such an inspired ensemble cast. Jimmy Shergill, one of Bollywood's most wasted talents, finally gets to strut his stuff as the 'Sahib'. That he does so with delicacy and refinement says a lot about 'what lies beneath'. Mahie Gill as the Biwi, is passable, but is no aristocrat ( fire her stylist, forthwith!). She looks and acts like a wanton village belle, and one can completely understand why the Sahib shuns her. It is really Randeep Hooda as the Gangster who fills up the screen with unadulterated testosterone. As the Biwi's rugged driver "without any class", his supremely assured performance goes from brutal to delusionary, cunning to needy, with the sort of finesse one rarely sees in commercial cinema these days. His 'Bholanath' ( am i getting it right?), is a far more complex creation than the original. But poor Mahie is no Meena Kumari... and is the movie's weakest link. It is Deepal Shaw who is the real surprise package in SBAG. She puts in a convincing performance that goes way beyond her popular image. Unfortunately, the music is weak. But every single person ( i wish i knew the name of the actor who plays Jimmy's trusted aide), including the minister, the mistress, and the stepmother, adds to the rivetting narrative. Tigmanshu Dhulia has once again proved his mettle. A must watch film after a spate of over rated rubbish.