Met the most famous woman in the world at a smashing dinner party last night. Oprah Winfrey is all that she's cracked up to be - warm, engaging, human, witty.... AND a thorough professional. She is never off the job, even when she is being charming and sociable. Her mind is switched on even in her sleep - I'm sure. When she speaks to you, she is speaking to YOU! HER ATTENTION DOES NOT WAVER FOR A MICRO-SECOND.SHE IS ALL YOURS! Apart from the media frenzy that blocked the road leading up to the spectacular Godrej Villa, where India's supreme hostess Parmeshwar Godrej presided over a gathering of the mightiest and glitziest ( movie stars, tycoons) it was the near hysterical reaction of jaded, seasoned socialites falling over themselves, tripping over flowing gowns and sky high heels to pay homage to the empress of talk shows, that came as a bit of a shock. Did I have my 'Oprah moment'? Helllll, ya! Am I telling? Naaah.It was way too personal. Way too special.
I'm hoping to meet her again in Jaipur at the jewel of a Lit Fest that kicks off over the weekend. I'm there as a proud 'Penguin'. 25 years of Penguin Books in India is an impressive landmark. And for me, it's doubly meaningful, having been with the imprint from the very beginning. To mark the occasion, Penguin is re-issuing Popular Penguins - 25 of their most important titles. I am honoured and proud to have one of mine ("Starry Nights") included. It's a fabulous list - from M.K. Gandhi to Vikram Seth. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Arundhati Roy!
Congratulations, Penguin!!! Let the celebrations begin!!
This appeared in Bombay Times today...
All the world’s their stage…
I have a sneaking admiration for committed theatrewallas. God knows how they do it… memorise dialogues running into pages and pages, rehearse endlessly for weeks, and finally go up on stage to perform in front of strangers they can make eye contact with. No retakes. No special effects. No 3-D gimmicks. No editing. If they goof up, they goof up. There’s no one around to yell, ‘cut’. There are no vanity vans on standby. And more often than not, there’s no money to be made for all that effort. It’s gotta be love! That much was pretty evident at the packed performance of Anish Trivedi’s ‘Famous Last Words’. A small, tight cast, ably helmed by the ravishing Dipika Roy ( who has also directed the comedy-thriller), kept the audience amused and tickled by their wonderful rapport and terrific sense of timing. It’s a slim and slight play which is fortunately devoid of any fake flourishes (‘Waiting for Godot’ gets its share of swipes and is described as ‘pretentious crap’). Anish, who plays a fading writer declared dead by his divorced wife ( too complicated to explain why in this space), boldly does a Salman Khan by going shirtless in a couple of scenes (“I’m half- naked in the play,” he’d stated recently, and got asked, “…. but, which half?”) Mercifully, he does not do a Ranbir Kapoor and drop his towel , which is just as well. The last time a stage actor flashed his buns on a Mumbai stage was over 30 years ago when Kabir Bedi opened Alyque Padamsee’s ‘Tughlaq’ dressed in nothing more modest than a bright red langot. In “Famous…” it is really Sahil Jaffrey, the fresh faced actor playing Ryan, who steals the show with his effortless, goofy portrayal of a flunkie. And, of course, there’s Amrita Puri, who adds angelic oomph to her Tanya by delivering yet another wide-eyed ingénue, babe-in-the-woods performance (the ‘Gujju from Gamdevi” as Sandy tartly describes her) . Dipika’s interpretation of Sandy, an ‘over- the- hill harridan’ is at once arch, cunning, sharp and sexy. But more than all of the above, what appealed to me the most was the way the credits listed out the contributions made by a host of people . This is a true mom-and-pop show, involving not just Dipika’s husband Bharat ( official photographer), daughter Ariana ( production assistant?), but also their domestic staff, drivers, and peons. Anish’s wife, Vineeta is billed as the costume designer (perhaps, it was she who persuaded Anish to let the towel stay in place?) What a lovely way to promote genuine inclusiveness and get everybody involved in this intimate enterprise. The only family member missing from the long list was Golly, the Kewalramanis’ handsome black Labrador. I am registering a strong protest on Golly’s behalf! Woof! Woof!
Leonardo Di Caprio has been singularly unlucky when it comes to winning an Oscar after being nominated thrice. But if he is bypassed yet again this year after delivering a stupendous performance as J.Edgar Hoover, it will be a real shame. Clint Eastwood’s documentary style movie about the man who worked under eight American Presidents as the feared and loathed FBI Director for 37 long years (1935-1972), is not a brilliant film (in fact, it’s pretty boring). But Leo is brilliant. So is Judi Dench who plays his mother.The film would have worked better as a gay love story ( very powerful and moving) between Hoover and his long time Deputy, Clyde Tolson. But Eastwood preferred to make it a dull political biopic instead. Ah well… who cares, if Leo does win the elusive statuette he so richly deserves.