Monday, April 30, 2012

Ghar ki Murgi...

While it feels good to be home, my heart continues to go dhak dhak for Paris. We loved our very special boutique hotel . It is called Hotel Bel-Ami and like its name, it is full of friends, or rather friendly staff. Friendly.... and the French? That's a rarity. Plus, all the guys speak a version of English, so one doesn't have to go into that annoying 'Parlez vous L'Anglaise' routine just to ask where the bloody breakfast room is. BTW, that bloody breakfast room is so popular, it attracts non-residents from 6.30 a.m. It must be the buttery , freshly baked croissants and the golden brioche.
Avantikka is fine with all the extra calories, and insists we have walked them off  pounding the pavements of Paris. Our 'Mission Goyard' was successful... if frightfully expensive. Just as we had agreed on what to pick from this historic store (1853) just off the Place Vendome , I heard a polite greeting in chaste Marathi. It was aapla Riteish Deshmukh, and his brand new missus, aapli Genelia. Both were still in honeymoon mode and were really sweet.... Riteish with his brolly, in particular. We chatted animatedly in Marathi for a good 15 minutes in that super snooty store. And just after Riteish said his 'namaskars', I asked Guillaume, who was assisting us whether he knew a Bollywood star had just left the place. He looked slightly blank but sportingly added, " Yes.... he looked familiar."
 With Avantikka's Goyard under her arm, we decided to go for a coffee break to my favourite place - Cafe de la Paix. It was a good plan ( we love the elegant loo there). I was feeling like a Fat Duck ( the bird , not the restaurant), with all the foie gras we had been happily walloping with our Sancerre. But it was our Goyard moment.... so, we recklessly ordered more foie gras ( it is served in an exceptionally imaginative way here).
To make me feel less guilty, Avantikka suggested we walk back to the hotel - in Saint Germaine des Pres??? Not a chance! So, I am still feeling like a Fat Duck. By tonight, I shall be transformed into a ghar ki murgi.
All in a De's work.
Kal May Day hai.... dekha jayega....

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Paris is always a good idea....

It is drizzling in Paris. Do I care. Naah. I am in Paris. And the weather does not matter. It is cold. But then my heart is warm and my spirits high. I am told by concerned friends back home that they are shocked out of their skulls about Rekha being nominated to the Rajya Sabha. Why, why,why. If Jaya B is making an impact as an M.P. Can Rekha be far behind. The age old competition continues. And it would be an absolute treat to watch the Silsila Episode 2, so many decades later. Meanwhile, I shall pull on my boots, carry by parapluie and sing in the rain. My daughter is taking me to dinner at one of our favourite restaurants here, Costes. We are in full Paree mode. But a bit of us has been left behind in Monaco. The last night there in one of the great restaurants of the world, Alain Ducassse driven Le Louis Quinze, was truly a moveable feast.... The memory of which will no doubt linger and linger.... What that genius Ducasse does with vegetables from Provence, is so delicate and refined, it is as if an angel is working in the kitchens after tending personally to the petit pois and the asparagus. A bientot. Avantikka is on a mission. It has a name. I believe it is Goyard. Au revoir, mes amies.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hotel de Paris, Monaco

Blogdosts I am at a destination one can only dream about or watch in super glam Hollywood movies from another era.I. am astonished Bollywood has not discovered this locale so far. Or perhaps I should feel relieved. Imagine a full on Bollywood production taking over this tiny Principality and converting it into a garish nightmare. Though, IIAFA would be an excellent idea. And perhaps Monaco Tourism should pitch for the awards . Right now, the place is getting geared up for the Grand Prix, and am happy to report Force India and Vijay Mallya are both well established in this playground for billionaires. There is a Saudi Prince floating around on a yacht that is a mansion on the ink blue bay.As for the Opera House, I can only describe it as a jewel of such vivid brilliance and beauty, one almost forgets the world famous casino attached to it. Ah well.... I am sounding euphoric after ages.... And feeling it, too. Cannot be the Sancerre..... It has to be Monte Carlo.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Monaco,the destination... not the biscuit!

Blogdosts, I am leaving tonight.It  is to a super glamourous destination.... and I am most excited. I have been to this tiny, jewel-like principality thrice earlier. But even that is not enough. Imagine! Thrice is not enough!!
I shall attempt blogging from Monaco and Paris.... I'm sure the Business Centre of the world famous Hotel de Paris will be accessible.... I hate travelling with my laptop. God knows it's arduous enough to negotiate international airports.... why get weighed down with additional baggage?
 As always, I shall miss this space.... this connect.
  Au revoir, mes amies.... as you can tell, I am practicing my school girl French, abhi se!

                           This appeared in Asian Age yesterday.....

                                        Murder on the Mumbai menu….

 It doesn’t happen only in C-grade crime thrillers. It’s happening now! In a city nearest you!Mumbai has beaten Delhi in a particularly macabre game. It involves diabolical murders and sleazy plots that make even the horrific Jessica Lall killing look amateurish and clumsy. There was a time when Mumbaikars would express shock and awe at the violent goings on in the Capital. We would say a trifle smugly, “Thank God we live in a civilized city… we are spared!”  Ha, ha, ha! We’d read about Aarushi Talwar’s murder and tch- tch sanctimoniously (“This would never happen in Mumbai!”). Till a recent spate of grisly , cold blooded killings woke us up to a harsh new reality. The day Neeraj Grover’s body was discovered,hacked into several pieces, and Emile Jerome along with Maria Susiaraj became household names across the country, Mumbai received a rude wake up call.Now, after a series of sadistic crimes involving young ambitious starlets, ruthless boy friends, and merciless pimps, all of whom have conspired to kill  innocent victims in cold blood, Mumbai isn’t smirking. The latest sultry siren on the crime radar is someone called Simran Sood (RGV must be hot on her trail). Going by reports, she is a seasoned operator on Mumbai’s frenetic party circuit, making sure she gets into hard core IPL after- parties, where she networks with cricketers, movie stars and other influential people. Had it remained there, Simran would have been one more pushy starlet, willing to sleep around in the hope of getting a break. There are thousands like her on the fringes of Bollywood - attractive, sexy party girls who don’t let go of an opportunity to make money, score drugs and trap richie- rich men . Mumbai is an expensive city. Survival is one thing. But flashing a luxurious lifestyle, quite another. Someone’s got to pay for it! After the sensational murder of Arun Tikku, the 64- year-old- father of Anuj Tikku,  Simran’s name is being thrown around in a more lethal context.She has changed her lurid story several times and her latest ‘confession’ has her as the accused killer, Vijay Palande’s wife (earlier, she called herself his sister / niece / friend). There are a lot of red faces in Bollywood and  beyond, as Simran’s Facebook account  shows her posing with assorted celebrities like Neil Nitin Mukesh, Gautam Vora, various cricketers and others.
   The modus operandi in most of these cases involves smart, good looking girls ( ‘Honey traps’ as our cops call them) and their dangerous liaisons with hardened criminals. The motives are the same – greed. In this case, Simran’s ‘associate’ ( for want of a better word) gangster Vijay Palande has also confessed to killing Karan Kakkad , a rich boy from Delhi, because Palande fancied Kakkad’s BMW.  Kakkad was yet another Delhi bakra who wanted a touch of  glamour in his life.Kakkad wanted a shot at – you’ve guessed it – Bollywood. There are dozens of Kakkads who fly into Mumbai with stars in their eyes, and a couple of crores in their pocket. Fortunately, most of them go back broke, but alive. Those who are desperate, seek out the Simrans and Palandes who prey on such gullible men…. and increasingly, slit their throats when they are of no further use. Anuj Tikku was spared this grisly end, but  Arun,his poor father paid for his mistake of coming to Mumbai. Little could Sr. Tikku have known about the sinister plot that had been hatched by Palande to kill the old man, kill his son, and grab their pricy properties. He had done it before. He was sure, he could do it again.
 Just as the city was recovering from this blood curdling story, came the equally shocking news of  a Dehradun girl,  26-year-old Meenakshi Thapa, who was butchered by two people she’d met during a film shoot. Unable to claim a hefty ransom (15 lakhs) from Thapa’s family, the accused chopped her up, threw her body parts out of a running bus, flung her decapitated head into a water tank at Allahabad, and resumed their normal activities as if nothing had happened. According to the cops, one of Meenakshi’s alleged killers ( Amit Kumar Jaiswal) is a lawyer, the other ( Preeti Surin) his assistant. All three had tenuous showbiz links. Meenakshi had worked as a junior artist in Madhur Bhandarkar’s under production ‘Heroine’.No matter how these scripts read, the bottom line remains the same. There is a pattern to all three murders remains alarmingly similar, with Bollywood as the centerpiece. Whether Simran the seductress also worked as a match fixer, whether she really had a torrid affair with socialite broker Gautam Vora ( notorious for being the boy friend of   Viveka Babaji, the statuesque model who committed suicide), or  she knew some of the other celebs whose pictures she posted on Facebook, one thing is clear –  Bollywood Dreams are at the centre of  unbelievable violence.We used to mock Dilliwallas and the ease with which young girls were snuffed out at friendly, neighbourhood bars and clubs for their grave crime of not serving drinks to unsavoury characters after closing hours. Mumbai’s recent record shows how swiftly this megapolis has overtaken Delhi in the  society crime department.
   Even as Jerome, the handsome, athletic Naval officer sweats it out in jail, his girl friend has calmly gone back to the family fold in Mangalore. Today there are new criminal-celebs on the scene, with equally sadistic murders attached to their names. Let’s call it the Bollywood Syndrome. And let these murders be terrible and terrifying reminders to all those young men and women who arrive in Mumbai hoping to become Kareena Kapoor and Salman Khan. Bollywood is unapologetically carnivorous. It devours the unwary and innocent … spits out bones. Its appetite is huge. It’s beast without a conscience. Come here … and be prepared to die.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sarees... and Splendour....

I was so delighted to launch a handsomely mounted book that celebrates the splendour of the magical six yards - the timeless saree. It's a labour of love put together by Ahemdabad-based saree enthusiast Soha Parikh. We both wore Patan Patolas (not planned!) to this elegant event appropriately held at the B and B Art Gallery. The sultry evening saw a lot of lovely ladies in exquisite heirloom sarees. Here's hoping the saree does not die in India, the way the kimono almost has in Japan.
To celebrate the book ... and frankly, just to be wicked and greedy, I attacked Zeba Kohli's absolutely scrumptious new range of organic dark chocolates from 'Fantasie', her family owned chocolate company. The ones I got instantly hooked on to are the square slivers filled with sesame and pumpkin seeds.
As if this wasn't greedy enough, I jumped out of the Patola saree and into a self-designed caftan, to attend an engagement party of a daughter's school friend. And what a FEAST, Chef Hemant Oberoi ( of the Taj!) had laid out in the Ballroom. Multi-cuisine can be either wonderfully inspired or go horribly wrong. Chef Oberoi excelled himself last night! In fact, I complimented him extravagantly ( the lobster! Oh God - what lobster!), and told him most of the high profile invitees had abandoned the original Punjabi Munda, Sukhvinder, who was belting out Bhangra in the adjoining Crystal Room, to gorge at the Chef's table (s). Hemant blushed! He actually did!
This appeared in Bombay Times....

Cannes : Who can and who can’t do it…

The annual Cannes madness has begun…not in France , or Hollywood but in Bollywood! And one wonders what all the fuss is about. There are a few idiotic young actresses who go on and on about being ‘invited’ to Cannes like there’s no greater recognition on earth. Perhaps, it is, for these ladies of zero or little accomplishment. In fact, were someone to offer them the Bharat Ratna, even in jest, they’d probably stare blankly at the person and ask, “Bharat what? Bharat who?” But mention Cannes ( invariably mispronounced by our crew), and see those eyes light up, and the babbling begin. It’s become a silly little game of one upmanship, with a single question on everybody’s mind, “What will you be wearing on the red carpet?” Films are incidental. One hears starlets sighing, “Who has time to watch films at Cannes, yaar. We go there to party!” And that’s pretty much what our desis do. Never mind that very few people recognise them. Never mind that with mega international stars around, even our biggest and brightest are ignored by fans and photographers. The clamour to be seen at the world’s most glam movie event ( some would say it eclipses the Oscar’s and Globe put together), has reached such insane heights that one hears of heavy duty lobbying to get on to the Cannes’ gravy train. Not a single film of ours has made a major impact here, or won an award in the longest time. Given that Bollywood today is a top entertainment player globally, shouldn’t we be planning,positioning and marketing ourselves better?
All our eyes will be on Aishwarya this year. As a brand ambassador for the hair and make up company that is one of the top sponsors at Cannes, Aishwarya maybe contractually obliged to put in an appearance, like the one she did in Dubai recently ( for the watch she endorses). But Cannes continues to be the biggest photo op in the world. And Aishwarya has to make a statement that is big enough for her admirers to go ‘Wow!” Unfortunately for Ash, some of her earlier Cannes outings have been less than impressive. Cannes is often the acid test for fashionistas and celebs to grab eyeballs and delight the paparazzi. One less-than-smashing appearance in an unflattering gown, and phut! Critics tear you apart instantly. Ash’s admirers are holding their breaths and praying she gets it right this year, especially since Ash is still in Mommie-mode, and obviously not in a hurry to shed those post-baby kilos. Let’s hope her stylists settle for a graceful saree just this once and not one of those fitted, slinky peplum gowns that do nothing for ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’. As for the rest,it will be worth monitoring what Bipasha Basu struts her stuff in on the red carpet. Heaven help us if she picks yet another skimpy teen-outfit that barely covers her… ummm… derriere. Much fun awaits! My eyes are peeled!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ravinar! Ravinar! Ravinar!

Thank you, 'Dirty Picture' and Vidya Balan. Phew!
Entertainment!Entertainment! Entertainment!
To that let's add Ravinar! Ravinar! Ravinar!
The missing link....must check it out one of these days, now that I know of its existence.

Enjoy piggy-backing, guys!

And do look up the meaning of 'Plagiarism' while you are at it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Baby Afreen's tragic death....

Nothing beats a zero activity Sunday! Chilled tomato and melon soup with basil for lunch.Dahi chicken for dinner. And the marvelous 'Magic Fingers' Babita's relaxing massage in between.
Would have loved to watch Smita Patil's 'Bhumika' tonight. Will settle for 'Downtown Abbey'. I adore Mr.Bates. If any of you is following 'DA', do let me know what happens to the dishy Irish chauffeur.
This appeared in the Sunday Times today...

Death of a baby girl….
Baby Afreen’s short lived life on earth was cruelly snuffed out in Bangalore this week. And the nation mourned the little one’s tragic end. But the only reason we are talking about this horrific tragedy is because Reshma Bano, Baby Afreen’s 19 year-old mother went public with the ghastly, sordid story.She was compelled to speak about the torture her precious baby had been subjected to at the hands of her father, 26-year-old Umar Farooq, when she rushed Baby Afreen to hospital in a critical condition. Reshma Bano was Umar’s second wife, forced into accepting an unstable, violent drunk as her husband. According to hospital reports, the infant had been subjected to the most inhuman acts of brutality by her sadistic father, resulting in severe brain and body injuries, including bites and cigarette burns all over her tiny body. Farooq, who faces murder charges under IPC section 302 , is lodged in Parapanna Agrahara Central Jail, where even other, hardened jail inmates have beaten him up, obviously filled with revulsion for this devil of a man who tortured a helpless infant, resulting in her death. No punishment is harsh enough for Farooq.What sort of a human being would assault an innocent newborn? After all, what was Baby Afreen’s ‘crime’ ? Aha, this is the trick question. And there are no easy answers to it in our wretched society. Baby Afreen’s sole crime was that she was born female. For that,she was condemned to die by her own flesh and blood – her father.An enraged man who’d desperately wanted his young wife to deliver a baby boy. There can be no bigger injustice in the world than the fate suffered by Baby Afreen. If the case of Baby Afreen’s torture-filled 85 days on earth have sent shock waves through the watching world, it also has a lot to do with the sad realisation that Baby Afreen was not alone.There are thousands of little girls facing the same fate all over India.Babies whose lives are crushed by the very people who create them – mothers, included. The ugly truth is we remain a nation of boy-worshippers. Sickening as that sounds.And we are doomed to stay that way.
Shockingly enough,this boy-worship extends across the board, and is not restricted to any class or community. One sees blatant discrimination against the girl child at every level. ‘Girls not welcome’ goes the message.And it cuts through every strata of our complex society.Overt and covert acts of blatant favouritism are practised (and widely accepted) as much in the poshest home as in a jhuggi jhopdi. When will we start putting value on our beautiful daughters? Educating the girl child has spawned countless national initiatives with a few NGOs undertaking worthwhile projects. But unless and until there is a change in our in our hearts, minds and souls, and we stop looking at daughters as liabilities to be palmed off on someone else, there will be any number of battered Baby Afreens in future.Had Reshma Bano not rushed her baby to the Vani Vilas Hospital last Thursday, Baby Afreen would have died much earlier, and perhaps, nobody would have known she had ever been born. Indeed, Baby Afreen was a victim even before she arrived in the world. She was rejected by her sadistic father, the moment she emerged from her mother’s womb. That Baby Afreen survived several attempts to kill her by this beastly man is a miracle in itself. For Umar had pronounced a death sentence the moment he discovered his baby’s gender. Today, he faces one himself. Most would agree, it isn’t punishment enough.But that won’t bring back Baby Afreen. Or console her devastated mother, who is in a state of shock, still waiting to breast feed her dead baby. Is Umar alone responsible for this crime? Surely, not. We stand guilty, along with Umar. Until and unless our obsession for producing a boy-child is recognized for what it is – a sickness - a centuries’ old sickness with no cure in sight, we are doomed.
‘Boy worship’ is a terminal disease. In India, it is an epidemic with no end in sight. We really are doomed. Baby Afreen, RIP.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My 'Hello!" interview with Tina Ambani....

Let those comments roll, Blogdosts. It's looking like a pretty boring weekend right now. Don't feel like writing... no movies to watch.... oil in my hair... not fun, for sure!
But I have to tell you what happened a couple of nights ago - Tina A. was so kicked with the 'Hello!' coverage, she did what very few celebs do - invited the entire 'Hello' team for sunset champagne on 'Tiaan',her magnificent yacht. Dressed informally, she mingled with each person, from alarmingly young interns to the make- up artists, and made them all feel welcome, as she chatted away on the deck. When it was time to say goodbye, she gave a box of Alphonso mangoes grown on her farm to everybody. A warm and wonderful gesture that was appreciated by all. If only a few other snooty celebs would take a cue from her....
This was written for the 5th Anniversary issue of 'Hello!'

Shobhaa De in a heart-to-heart with ‘Forever Hot’ Tina Ambani…

“ Anil has never said ‘no’ to me for anything….”

“ I love both my daughters-in-law - they are thoughtful and caring,” declared Kokilaben Ambani as the two of us sat at her dining table on the 9th floor of ‘Seawind’ the iconic South Mumbai residence of half the original Ambani parivaar. Kokilaben’s attention to detail was evident in everything, from the fresh methi salad with sesame seeds and the delicious ‘kandh khichdi’ ( an Ambani household speciality) to the heavy duty silver thali service we were eating out of. The food was piping hot and delicious. That superb ‘garma garam’ meal set the mood for the after-dinner poolside heart-to-heart that was scheduled with Kokilaben’s Chhoti Bahu, the ‘Forever Hot’ Tina Ambani, who lives on a lower floor with her husband Anil, Kokilaben’s Chhota Beta, and their two sons Anmol and Anshul. Kokilaben wanted to know whether I’d be quoting “everything” . Tough question! Especially because I have known Tina since she was sixteen years old. Kokilaben sighed. She herself does not give interviews. Being Kokilaben cannot be easy. And yet, not a crease crosses her calm and serene face while talking about her sons. She says all she’s doing is performing her role as a mother. “I see Anil every day. Mukesh calls me the minute he gets into the car on the way to the office. Nita has a very good gym. I go there thrice a week for a massage. My children take good care of me. So do my grand children. There’s nothing to complain about.” She looks away and adds, “Anil is just like Dhirubhai. His restless nature reminds me of his father.His mind is always running (“ Anil nu magaj har time daudey chhey” ). Then she looks at her jeweled gold watch and says, “Tina must be waiting…”
It’s close to 11 p.m. Tina looks like a freshly plucked rose. She has spent the day at the hospital named after Kokilaben ( she goes there thrice a week). It’s been a long day. Anil’s out of town, and the two boys are not home. Tina pushes back her fabulous hair (better than Dimple’s legendary mane), and drawls, “ There are three men in my life. I don’t have to share my space with any other woman.What do I have to crib about?” Oh- oh. We are off to a great start. She adds naughtily, “ I’m talking about my husband and two sons…” Phut! Should have guessed. “ I am a hands- on wife and strict mom. I like to know what’s going on in all their lives. I am friendly with the parents of those my boys hang out with. I track where they are and with whom. They are obedient children, and my top most priority.” Does she track Anil as closely?” Tina laughs, “ We share a very equal relationship.It has always been so. I have never ever been insecure.Anil has never given me the chance to feel that way. Nothing rattles me. Trust your man. Trust yourself. Ignore rumours. That’s my mantra.People around you will always try and play games…. manipulate you… pull you down. I stay miles away from Mumbai society and have zero interest in other people’s lives or idle gossip. At this stage in my life it’s important to get rid of negativity. My work is my meditation. As for Anil, he has really come into his own during the last five years. Whatever happens,happens for the best. It has actually worked well for everybody.” Read the subtext carefully, folks.
Tina prides herself on being just another working girl in the city, which, in a way she is. “I have no hang ups. I am very straight forward. We have 130 doctors I interact with at the hospital. Plus, the long hours I spend with my Harmony team, working for senior citizens. It’s a very normal, busy life. If you ask me how many cars we own, I have no idea. And I don’t care whether I’m in a Lexus or a BMW so long as I am mobile. If I have to take a commercial flight, I do it without any issues. Anil often offers our private jet. But I say, ‘Why waste money? I’ll just fly commercial.’ That’s me. I’ve worked since the age of 17. I value money. When people ask me to name the brands I wear, I laugh! I don’t need a Birkin. I am a brand myself. I can carry off something I’ve picked up on Colaba Causeway as easily as I do a Bina Modi outfit.” Which is largely true. For example even for this very Hello! Shoot, Tina was happy to do her own hair and make-up. She smiled, “Pakkhi took an hour and a half to do my face! I told her I could have done it in ten minutes.” How did Anil and the boys feel about Tina doing this interview (she has stayed away from the glam press for years). “He was surprised! But I told him I wanted to see if I still enjoyed posing for the cameras. And I had such a super time with the young, fun, professional Hello! team. I was trying on various nail polish shades on the morning of the shoot and I asked Anil and the boys which one I should go with. I liked red. But all three preferred nude. Anil tells me what suits me and what doesn’t. Sometimes, he asks me to change when we are going out. He says, ‘this makes you look plump. Wear something else’. And I do. Or now that I have lost weight, he says, ‘That’s so loose! Get a new wardrobe.’ Other than that, he doesn’t interfere with my shopping. He never questions me. I have always bought whatever it is I have fancied. Dhirubhai bought my mother-in-law’s clothes. Anil used to do that for all the ladies of the family earlier. He’d pick up sarees and pearls for all of us. Now, he leaves even his own shopping to me. Anil is very fashion conscious. He likes to dress in the latest styles. Tom Ford is his current favourite. Anil is particular about every single detail around him. Whether it’s the table linen, bed sheets or curtains. Once he asked me to source a particularly comfortable mattress he’d slept on at the Four Season’s in New York, and I managed to get it.” From bed linen to baubles. Serious baubles. Tina’s spectacular, blinding jewels require friends to don shades in her dazzling presence. Anil’s reaction? “If it is something really noticeable and a statement piece, he teases me by saying, “New? I’m sure you are embarrassed to wear it.’ Anil has never said ‘no’ to me for anything. But the gift that is really special is an eternity band crafted out of heart shaped diamonds that Anil gave me soon after we got married. In any case, what are jewels or possessions? I can’t take them up with me. I feel blessed to enjoy such luxuries. Nothing ever belongs to you. You’re just a custodian. Share what you possess and you’ll feel happier.” Is there anything in the world that Tina covets but which maybe unaffordable even for her? “The Last Supper,” says our smart art connoisseur.
It’s been interesting to observe the change in Tina over the years. Though, the essential person remains the same, there is a new steadiness in her personality which she attributes to a better understanding of herself. “The best relationship you can have is with yourself,” she states confidently. “I work out for an hour and a half – no personal trainers, nothing. I know my body and what I need to do to shed weight.I focus on cardio, and after that, I just lie down,shut my eyes , and listen to chants or any other soothing sounds.This is my time with myself which I love.It gives me clarity and inner strength.I’m feeling good, externally and internally. I am not a morning person. But I do wake up to see Anil off. He gets up at 5 a.m. and is fast asleep by 10p.m. That’s when my ‘day’ begins! I watch tv shows, movies, work on my iPad, chill with friends late into the night.” If that sounds like odd timings for an odd couple, does it involve special arrangements like separate bedrooms? Tina’s response is immediate: “No!I have my own dressing room. But I don’t want my own bedroom.A bedroom is for two people, unless you are single.” Was it always like that from the time they met? “ Well, I met Anil in ‘86 through my nephew Karan. Initially, I wasn’t interested. I was a movie star. Wrapped up in my own world. I hadn’t even heard of Reliance. But I liked him. Unlike some Bollywood men I knew, Anil didn’t come on strong. He seemed like a decent Gujju guy. We had a similar background. Both our families are Sreenathji worshippers. We ate the same sort of food, spoke the same language. He courted me like a gentleman, with flowers and notes like, ‘You are jogging all over my brain.’ I was 31 when we married in 1991. I’d seen life. There’s a reason and a purpose why he’s in my life and I’m in his. We are each other’s strengths. That’s the truth. He may not say it. But I’m saying it.” So, all those stories about them….? “If your priorities are right, you don’t let these things get to you. I don’t, and neither does Anil. I am married to a guy who is famous. He is an achiever. I am proud of him. There are no ego hassles if he gets more attention or signs more autographs. He walks very fast, often way ahead of me. But that doesn’t make me feel left out . That’s his pace. I’m confident enough to walk in alone. I don’t insist on him sticking to me throughout the function. We understand each other’s place in society. We have strong, separate identities that don’t clash The downside is that society has certain pre-conceived notions about us and can be judgmental. This makes me uncomfortable. But the fact still remains, I’m not embarrassed by anyone or anything! I mean that.”
By now, we had consumed a litre of water each.We’d planned to crack a bottle of champagne. But the working women in both of us sensibly thought better of it. Tina enjoys her bubbly and seafood, especially while chilling with close friends on the deck of ‘Tian’, the yacht, she happily admits Anil bought for her and the boys .Anil himself gets seasick. “ The yacht is my space. It is so calming,” declares Tina, her eyes shining.Anil is a vegetarian and a teetotaler ( a narielpaani and cola guy). But being a superb host (“ even with the family”), Anil orders the best wine and champagne for his wife when they go off on family vacations ( “just the two of us with the boys”) . They prefer remote safaris ( ( Zimbabwe, last year), which are Tina’s best holidays since the family can really bond in the wilderness, away from the stress of city life. Anil and she also take short breaks in Mahableshwar at a friend’s home, or in Goa, where Anil’s sister Dipti lives. “ Holidays are when Anil switches off completely. No office work. No phones.” But how does the DBRS (“daal-bhaat-rotli-shaak”) addict manage when they travel to international events like their recent Oscars’ outing? “ Anil loves Lebanese, Chinese, Thai, Mexican and Italian cuisines. It’s not true he only sticks to Gujju food. On our safari holidays, he instructs the cooks what to make for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And pre-orders crab for me since it’s unavailable there.”
Now for that ‘aha’ moment at the Oscar’s. How did it happen? Was Tina blasé about her Red Carpet debut at the world’s most glamourous event? “ I have to admit I was very excited in the car driving to the event! The whole thing is so brilliantly organized. Everything is so professionally put together. The best part about being on the Red Carpet with Steven Spielberg was when some Indian fans recognized Anil and me and shouted our names. Steven turned around and said, ‘ Hey, people here know you guys.’ But it was Anil’s comment that touched me the most. He said, “From ‘Des Pardes’ to walking the Red Carpet at the Oscar’s. What a journey you’ve had , Tina! Had Dev Saab been alive, he’d have been so proud of you!” Frankly, I had not looked at it that way at all…. and I enjoyed the Red Carpet even more after he said that.” How involved is Tina in Anil’s movie business? Here’s the surprising answer : “ Not at all. I have no role to play. We were at the Oscar’s not as some altu-faltu guests but as part owners of ‘Dreamworks’. That’s a business decision.Anybody who has the resources these days wants to be associated with movies. Anil has always loved cinema. My being a part of the industry has nothing to do with his business decisions. I am not even aware of the films his company backs. Sometimes I call the office and say, “Guys, at least send me a list and let me know which movies we have interests in. My connection to movies is very emotional because of my background. Theirs is a business linked. I’m not in sync with it.” Does she never miss that world? Would she turn producer someday? Tina shrugs, “ When you have been in front of the camera, why would you want to go behind it . Why?? I don’t miss that part of my life at all.” No recent roles she’d have liked to perform? Tina thinks deeply. “ Vidya Balan’s.” Hmmmm. In ‘Dirty Picture?”. Tina is caught off guard. “ No. No . No. In ‘Paa’. She recovers quickly, hastily adding, “ I haven’t watched ‘Dirty Picture’ so far.” Right.
It’s past 1 a.m. I am thirsty and sleepy. No more water. Just a wrap up question. The one everybody is dying to ask : Has Tina been to ‘Antilia’, Mukesh and Nita’s new home? Small pause. “ Of course. We were there for Mummy’s birthday last month. We are family.”
So they are.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mumbai to Libreville

Blogdosts... confess. Did you know there was a vibrant and bustling city called Libreville, the capital of a country called Gabon? Do you even know there is a West African nation called Gabon? Of course, you do! Right ?? Well, I didn't. Ignorant me. And when I received an invitation from a dynamic lady, Cecilia, the brilliant ex-wife of French President Nicholas Sarkozy, to attend an important one day conference, I was ready to jump at the chance. That's before I started my research! It will take me 24 hours, door-to-door, to get to Libreville. Once I get there, I'll need 48 hours to recover. By then the conference will be over! Should I go? Would you? Will I live without visiting Libreville?
The Table continues to hold its position as the top table in Mumbai. Justifiably so. Over a relaxed lunch with two elegant gentlemen, I enjoyed my crab meat and alphonso mango salad, as well as what The Table calls a Zucchini pasta. There is no pasta in this warm, perfectly balanced dish - just wiggly strips of crisp zucchini with slivers of well toasted almonds and pine nuts. Soooooo perfect for our long, hot summer!
One hop step and jump away from The Table is my current favourite boutique called Fuschia and Orange. Well priced, stylish and wearable outfits, mainly caftans, which I practically live in. Dimpy, the enterprising designer from Chandigarh who runs this tiny boutique, told me her sales in Chandigarh really rock 'because of all the rich politicians' there!!!!

Oh.... here's a terrible confession: I watched 'The Artist' and struggled to stay awake. It was boring and far from entertaining. The dog deserved the Oscar, not the owner.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chhota sa crisis....

Blogdosts, a couple of months ago, while I was in Cuba, some of you had warned me about my blog doing the disappearing act overnight. For more than a week it was disabled. And just as suddenly, it re-appeared ! I don't know why this should happen. But I am glad it's still there.... albeit with a difference. My 'Visitors' count didn't show for another week. And when it did, it was from zero! So what happened to the 11-lakh visitors who were there earlier? Any answers? Today, the number is approximately 23 thousand (which has happened over a really short period of a month or less). How do I get an accurate representation... how do I retrieve the lost numbers?? This is really important. Please do put on your thinking caps and help me plug this problem.
Am looking forward to watching 'The Artist' tonight. So, you know what you can expect to read here tomorrow night...
Am feeling like a tub, after a late and heavy lunch at Brittania - yup - the famous Irani 'berry pulao' place. It was packed with tourists clicking pictures of a larger-than-lifesize cut out of the royal couple - Willy and Kate! But the sign that caught my attention was a bold one that cautioned, "Do not argue with the management." I relished my pulao even more after reading it, and dared not say it was a bit too greasy.
To counter its greasiness, I walked down the block to the National Hindu Hotel (we refer to restaurants as 'hotels' in Mumbai, thank you!), for the best South Indian coffee in the city. Mukesh Ambani can keep his Matunga coffee joint. My vote goes to National Hindu at Ballard Pier.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Grousefull-2 - 3 - 4

Inviting applications from any young person who has lost an immediate family member in a terrorist attack.Project Common Bond in the U.S. is looking for you to participate in an 8-day camp in July 2012 ( between the 12th and 20th). Tuesday's Children will be held just outside Boston and is an opportunity for victims to share in collective healing. If you are reading this and are eligible, PLEASE send in your contact details immediately in the Comments space.
This appeared in Bombay Times today....
Money down the tube….?

When one watches seriously awful movies that go all over the place without going anywhere, it hurts! I watched ‘Housefull-2’ at a reasonably packed multiplex, and was both bewildered and astonished. Why bewildered? Because I actually heard a few people laughing! That too at some of the most ludicrous scenes, like a particularly nasty one in which Mithun Chakraborthy is shown running around a tree with an English maid. Nothing wrong with it…. except that the maid is played by a dwarf. And the offensive ‘joke’ revolves around her physical stature. Surely, as senior an actor as Mithun, could have refused to enact such an insensitive scene? There are enough obligatory messages that assure audiences no animals have been harmed during the shoot, and that cigarette smoking is injurious to health. What about somebody objecting to the cruel projection of people with physical problems. There were several distasteful jibes which are blatantly racist /sexist. Like referring to a dark complexioned man as a negro and implying his wife had slept with a fair complexioned chap to produce their son( Shreyas Talpade).Most of the humour is off-colour and far-from-funny. It’s the vulgar cracks in our movies that need better monitoring. Cracks, that display our deep rooted prejudices so brazenly. Of course, the four over age and over grown ‘boys’ in the film have done their best with the lousy material and put in spirited performances despite the complete absence of any logic or even basic decency. Take the ‘painfully’ long drawn out sequence involving an alligator biting Riteish’s bottom and a python going for Shreyas’s crotch .The absurd movie hurtles along on nothing more than koila gags. In all probability, it will be declared a huge hit. Which will provide the green signal to make Housefull-3. Aaaaargh!
Finally managed to catch up with Agent Vinod three weeks after its launch. And once again, I was bewildered and amused, but for entirely different reasons.Why had this slick and stylish film been savaged and dismissed? There wasn’t a single dull or clumsy moment and the pace was breathless. Saif retained his positioning as one of the most sophisticated stars in Bollywood, with a witty, tongue-in-cheek performance in the best traditions of international spy thrillers. Who looks for a linear, credible storyline in projects like this? How plausible was Mission Impossible? Apart from Kareena’s saucy nautch girl number, with its overt lesbian moves, everything else in this ambitious film worked brilliantly. Particularly, Saif’s perfectly pitched gay scene with Freddy Khambatta, the prancing airline purser. Most importantly,one can actually see where the big bucks went in ‘Agent Vinod’.The extravagantly shot Karachi wedding sequence was pure eye candy. Still puzzled why the movie has been banned in Pakistan – are our neighbours on an over-active guilt trip??
But the movie to watch out for is a modest, high concept, small budget quickie titled, ‘Vicky Donor’. I can’t wait to see a film about a professional sperm donor which has the tagline, “Every drop counts…”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What makes 'Oh-Man' special...?

This appeared in the Asian Age yesterday...

What makes ‘Oh- Man’ special?

The serpentine expressways in Oman are something else. I commented on them as the swanky Chrysler pulled out from the airport and headed towards the magnificent Al-Bustan Palace Hotel. Our local Indian minder, a successful desi professional working in the oil trade, spoke with genuine pride about the special asphalt used to ensure the roads in Oman stayed ribbon smooth and were able to withstand white hot summer temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius without melting. Impressive.Miles and miles of silky smooth roads snaking through demonic-looking volcanic mountain ranges are nothing short of an engineering feat. I sighed with love and longing…. preparing myself to endure the agony of bumping along on Mumbai’s notorious pot holed rastas, which turn into dangerous traps during the ferocious monsoon, swallowing the unwary and leading to countless accidents. Hours earlier, while rushing to the airport to catch my flight to Muscat, I had taken the wondrous Worli Sea Link to save time, and driven into the heart of darkness, literally. Mumbai’s glittering showpiece looked ominous, like a sea monster waiting to gulp foolish motorists paying a bomb to use a bridge that was largely unlit. Given the crazy speeds favoured by car enthusiasts racing one another on the Sea Link, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the international airport in one piece… or at all!
But hello! There was a surprise waiting for me at the long immigration line. In fact, there were four adorable surprises. I noticed two baby bassinets placed on the floor just ahead of me. A young man was busy looking for passports and forms while the twin infants slept on blissfully. No woman in sight. Naturally, my daughter and I couldn’t resist a peek… we were dying to coo and gush and make those silly sounds women make when they spot cute bachchas. That’s when we spotted the partner. It was another young man. Okayyyyy. “ Beautiful babies!” we commented. He beamed, “ Beautiful parents!” and pointed to the other man. Got it. Just then, another chap came up to me and asked whether he could jump the queue. “Do you mind…?” He gestured to something he was carrying, and I was flabbergasted to see another pair of gorgeous twins in similar bassinets! He too was with a male partner! This was one hell of a coincidence. Four foreign men, four babies.Newborns, at that.And happily leaving Mumbai with their little bundles of joy. Later, we spotted them in the lounge, hard at work, bottle feeding their little ones expertly. I remain baffled. And can’t help but wonder what these guys and their babies were doing in Mumbai. I’d say, they were here to pick up their freshly delivered parcels …. delivered by surrogate mums. But what of the complicated legal processes that govern surrogacy? India is fast acquiring the reputation of spawning baby-making farms, most of which are pretty dodgy. Perhaps these men had all their paperwork in place. And all four babies looked Caucasian, not Indian. Since they’d sailed through the tight scrutiny of our vigilant cops who man immigration counters, it must have been a kosher arrangement. Well… welcome to the world, babies.
The immigration guys at the other end in Muscat weren’t half as friendly or obliging. In fact, they were predictably rude as they went through every leaf of my passport and asked searching questions. The one that took the cake and left me fairly cross was when the cop with the deadly eyes demanded proof I had indeed traveled business class! “Show me where it says ‘Business Class’,” he said testily, examining my boarding card. I pointed to the word ‘Premiere’, and said it meant ‘Business’. He looked unconvinced, but let me go. Phew! I was flying Jet Airways. Must tell Naresh Goel to reprint his cards!
Since this wasn’t my first trip to Muscat, I wasn’t surprised by the nasty attitude. All Indians there are disparagingly referred to as ‘Hindis’. They look at us as nothing more than slave labour. But the fact remains it is Indians who have built Muscat. Indians and Pakistanis. While our labourers sweating it out on desolate building sites in the barren stretches of Oman are treated slightly better here than in Dubai, it is still annoying to have to deal with sneers and rudeness from locals. The Omani chauffeur of the fancy Chrysler tells us airily he isn’t really a chauffeur. He is a wealthy businessman filling in for a friend. Right! Another cabbie comes up with a similar story and says he owns the latest Merc, his brother drives a Ferrari, and his dad loves the Lamborghini he possesses. So, what’s he doing behind the wheel of a lowly cab? He scratches his head and says vaguely, “Oh…. this is just for fun.” We refuse to tip him… naturally. How much can a ‘Hindi’ tip a millionaire cabbie?
Oman remains a spectacular and attractive tourist destination, regardless. It is well worth a visit. It is entirely safe, extremely clean, and not as expensive as its glittering counterparts in the region. Women are treated with respect and there are enough job opportunities for them in Oman to attract middle level professionals from India. The Sultan remains a well loved ruler, known for his progressive policies, especially in the field of education. Girls are encouraged to qualify in diverse fields and there is a fairly good representation of women in responsible government jobs. Anybody who tries to whip up religious passions is immediately picked up and deported. The mood is pretty relaxed and foreigners are left alone so long as they don’t offend local sentiments. Alcohol is served discreetly at private parties and in bars located inside luxury hotels. But the friendliest creatures around are the countless dolphins cavorting in the warm waters of the bay. Fortunately, they don’t discriminate between ‘Hindis’ and the rest!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Sleaze: Cricket's only hope....?

Isn't that the most innocent expression of eternal love? I found this lock ( along with dozens of other locks) at a popular Lover's Point along the Amalfi coast. Our dishy chauffeur told us the locks are brought there by courting couples to demonstrate their commitment to each other. It was so Romeo and Juliet, it took care of my cynicism ( for fifteen whole minutes!) and brought a smile to my face... sweeeeeet.
The column below appeared in 'The Week' some weeks ago. Before the 'phoos' IPL started. Earlier today, the Mumbai Indians lost to the Pune team. Sure, it was a packed Wankhede stadium. But what everybody was talking about was Pune Captain Saurav Ganguly's kinky pic - he was caught with his pants down - literally. A rather perplexing photograph was published by the racy Mumbai Mirror, that showed Cricket's Dada exposing his bottom ( white undies), with his tracks pulled down to his knees. Agreed, it's beastly hot in Mumbai right now. But the other blokes in the picture had kept their pants on. What was Ganguly thinking? We've seen his bare chest ( unimpressive ), and now his semi-bared bum. Is Saurav a closet errrrr... exhibitionist? BTW, Harbhajan will be going flat out to prove what a terrific Captain he is...the guy has what it takes, so don't be surprised if he leads his team to victory ( never mind today's loss.... game abhi baaki hai).He's looking fit and able. It's called the Basra effect. Well, whatever she's doing, let's hope she does more of it and Mumbai Indians walk away with the trophy.

Sleaze:Cricket’s only hope??
“ Media rocks in this country!” declared a heavily made up young woman wearing frightening cat eyed coloured lenses. It was clear from her body language, get up and well rehearsed script that she was going flat out to squeeze her five seconds in the limelight for all its worth. She chose to play ‘victim’ and talked about her ‘clean’ image. She added she was ‘really hurt’ to be dragged into such an unsavoury controversy. Of course, we lapped it all up. Cameramen zoomed in on her pumped up pout as she talked about taking ‘legal action’ against the wicked newspaper that had dared to sully her squeaky clean reputation by linking her to match fixing. Not a muscle moved on her face, her expression was frozen. She was the perfect ad for Botox. That is, if one wants to resemble a mask. By the end of her impromptu press conference, her name was in the public domain. Pretty much the entire country now knows who Nupur Mehta is – she was the oomphy starlet referred to by a bookie ( Vicky Seth) during yet another sting operation hoping to nail naughty cricketers throwing matches for money. Big money. Nupur was promptly dubbed a ‘honey trap’ by scoop-seeking tabloids and television channels. I doubt that Nupur Mehta is complaining!
Strange how sleaze throws up new headline grabbers who then go on to become dodgy celebrities by default. Nupur Mehta is the latest starlet to hit a sixer in her very first media match! Nupur’s hitherto non-existent career is made! Just like Veena Malik’s fortune went up by several lakhs after she ‘exposed’ her ex-boy friend, Pakistani cricketer Mohammed Asif, a few months ago. While nobody remembers her ex-, Veena Malik, a struggler from across the border, has gone on to bag several lucrative assignments in India. But what separates Veena from Nupur is that the Pakistani girl showed guts when she decided to expose her former boyfriend and in the process, took on the powerful Pakistani cricket board. Later, she also challenged the mullahs in her country after she was severely criticized for allegedly posing nude for an Indian magazine. ‘Badnaam’ though she is back home, she has found employment and professional respect in India, for which she is grateful. It remains to be seen what happens to Nupur. My guess is she will be invited to participate in the next season of the Bigg Boss, just as Veena Malik was. Once she becomes a familiar, household name in India, she will be flooded with offers to dance at NRI weddings and perform item numbers in movies. She may get to host her own show, and who knows, she may also get someone like Ram Gopal Varma to sign her up for a movie based on the match fixing scandal. These days, anything is possible, if the money is right. Frankly, I wouldn’t be at all shocked or surprised if the entire episode was staged by the bookie and Nupur. What had either of them to lose?
Notoriety used to be a desperate woman’s last resort in the old days. Today, our attitude has changed dramatically. Look at Monica Bedi. She was just the pretty girl friend of Abu Salem - one of India’s most dreaded gangsters. She did time in jail, got out, and resumed her interrupted showbiz career without missing a beat. Ekta Kapoor has just announced a movie based on the life of Mandakini, who was also known as a gangster’s moll. Some say she married Dawood and is the mother of his babies. Today, she lives a life of anonymity in suburban Mumbai. But for the right price, she may be persuaded to go public with her life with the D-Man.Will anybody be shocked? Naah. Brazening it out and capitalizing on ones misfortunes ( if they can be called that, in the first place!), has become a perfectly acceptable career option. The worse the story, the better.
As has been pointed out by sports’ journos, top ranking players the world over are extremely vulnerable. Attractive young girls have easy access to their hotel rooms.This has been happening for decades. Besides, when it comes to cricket, even a remote connection to Bollywood , raises the stakes substantially. Nobody had heard of Nupur till her sultry image cropped up in connection with yet another betting scandal. She was smart enough to grab the moment and milk it dry. There wasn’t a hair out of place when she gave those sound bytes with such aplomb. She’d probably figured this was her only shot at grabbing media attention…. and some juicy deals. She sweetly claimed she was a ‘lover of sports’. Well, now there’s a whole lot of action coming up for Nupur, the sports’ lover.And nobody thinks her life is sordid. Nupur is viewed as an entrepreneur, not an opportunist. And Nupur’s time starts now!
P.S. I am indeed a masochist. I sat through Housefull -2. Yup. All two and a half dreadful hours of it. Spoilt my dinner and my mood in the bargain. I must be a sucker for self-inflicted pain.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Because we will always love her....

I loved this lemon seller's hoodie. He was such a cheerful chap, assisting his dad in a tiny roadside stall just outside Positano on the Amalfi Coast ( by far the most picturesque drive in the world). I wanted to upload several more images from Italy. But my over-worked laptop is protesting! It's Good Friday tomorrow. I'd like to be baaaaad.Will be watching Housefull-2. I really don't care how terrible it is.... I gotta see it! Am I a masochist?????

This appeared in The Week....

“ Because we will always love her….”

It was with much sadness that fans of ‘The Voice’, Whitney Houston, read the coroner’s report that confirmed the worst. Whitney had drowned in her bathtub after consuming lethal doses of cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and a cocktail of pills to deal with anxiety, allergies and tense muscles. Add to that a heart condition (atherosclerotic heart disease), and it was a tragedy waiting to happen.And to think Whitney appeared to have it all – beauty, talent, fame and wealth. She was God’s blessed child, a woman who was adored by millions across the world. And yet! While watching the award-winning ‘My Week with Marilyn,” the same thoughts and concerns flashed through my mind. At one point in the movie, Marilyn is addressed as ‘The most famous woman in the world’, by a star struck British journalist. The camera cuts to a close up of Marilyn (brilliantly played by Michelle Phillips). She looks a little bewildered and scared, almost as if she’s asking, “Is he talking about me?” Most of the movie is devoted to capturing her off-camera anxieties in the most delicate way. It’s a marvelously nuanced script that remains consistently sympathetic to the subject and never strays into cruel terrain as ‘The Iron Lady’ so blatantly did. When biopics attempt to explore (but more often, exploit), the vulnerabilities of their subjects, audiences are forced to turn the searchlight inwards. As it happened with ‘The Dirty Picture’ and the depiction of Silk Smitha, which I found one- dimensional and forced. Even so, it propelled countless viewers, women in particular, to examine their own lives and relationships, even if they were not a part of show business.
What is it about fame and women? Recent pictures of the ravishingly beautiful and immensely gifted Manisha Koirala tell their own sad story. Anu Aga is valiantly making public appearances these days after a long hiatus. Both women look ravaged by more than just time. If there is a link of some kind, it is to the undeniable fact that the movie and music industries across continents are controlled by men. These are hard nosed business guys paid to deliver hits and make serious money.There is far too much at stake and when it comes to female performing artists, the temptation is to take the easy route and focus on their sexuality. Talent comes a distant second. This sort of brazen commodification takes a huge toll on some, but works for others . There are women like obscure starlet Poonam Pandey who are more than willing to strip and play ball, so long as they stay in the news and can cash in on their three minutes of notoriety. But it is the others, often trapped in a web of their own creation, who fail to get away. Whitney and Marilyn blazed blinding trails across the firmament with their beauty and grace. And yet, nothing could compensate for the emptiness in their lives. Strangely, both were attracted to men who humiliated and brutalized them, emotionally and physically. Marilyn is shown crying and cowering on a staircase, clutching her then husband playwright Arthur Miller’s detailed and harsh notes on his fragile wife. Notes, he wanted her to find and read. Notes intended to wound. Despite these acts of mental cruelty, Marilyn refused to let go and reclaim her life. She admits as much to the sweet, adoring young lover who offers her an out. It’s the fame, she whispers , in a voice slurring with all the tablets she has consumed. For Whitney, too, it must have been the fame. But unlike Marilyn, Whitney had a young daughter to think of, to be concerned about. A daughter who is already displaying all the signs of an unhinged existence. She too is experimenting wildly with drugs, booze and boyfriends (one rumour involved an aborted engagement with her foster brother, Whitney’s adopted son). She also reportedly fled from her mother’s funeral and had to be checked into rehab soon after. Bobbi Kristina is a ticking time bomb. At 19, she has joined the ranks of the world’s poor little rich girls. Her mother left her little girl her entire and pretty vast wealth… but all the money in the world may not save Whitney’s daughter from her famous mother’s terrible legacy.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spare a thought for Sridevi....

And this 'modest' palace on the edge of the lovely bay with clear, emerald green , unpolluted waters is where the much adored Sultan of Oman lives. Locals refer to it as the Buckingham Palace of the Middle East.I'm being naughty. He's single. That makes him the Queen ?????

This appeared in Bombay Times yesterday...

Spare a thought for Sridevi…..

I didn’t know Mona Kapoor. Even though, as a young girl, she lived in the same South Mumbai complex as I do,and in which her mother, the formidable Sattee Shourie owned a flat. I was away in Muscat when Mona died, and got to hear of it through mutual friends who had attended her funeral. Later, I scanned media coverage of the multiple functions that followed Mona’s passing away, and found one person missing from the images. Sridevi.The other mourners in impeccable designer whites may or may not have been Mona’s close friends. Nearly every celeb covered by the media was present for someone else, not for Mona. They were there as acquaintances of the Kapoor clan. Some were Anil Kapoor’s old associates, others , part of Boney’s ( Mona’s husband) or Sanjay’s circle. Then there was the younger lot, cousins and buddies of Mona and Boney’s two children. There were no pictures of Jahnavi and Khushi, Sridevi and Boney’s daughters. And my heart went out to Sridevi. What a position to be in, after spending so many years of her life living with Boney ( since June ’96), and giving birth to two daughters.Yet, when tragedy struck, there was no place or position for ‘the other woman’ in that very public space in which Boney was featured as a grieving widower.
Clearly, Mona was a much adored and popular person, judging from the outpouring of love for her even from virtual friends who knew her from just from her Twitter handle and frequent tweets, including the rather grim final one in which she bravely confronted her condition and imminent death. Mona must have been an extraordinarily courageous, dignified and strong woman. May her soul find peace. In terms of timing, it’s sad that she didn’t live to see her son’s movie debut. And that his first media exposure happened under tragic circumstances at his beloved mother’s funeral. What now? Sridevi will be seen in her major comeback film fairly soon, an ambitious and risky project that her countless devoted fans are looking forward to. Boney has also landed himself a cushy job with Sahara. And yet,Bollywood watchers are still in a bit of a quandary wondering how to respond to Sridevi once the rituals and mourning period for Mona are over. Should they offer condolences? Make no reference to the unfortunate death in the family? Pretend nothing has happened?
What will Boney do? Make it legal and officially marry Sridevi, the lady he has shared his life with for 16 years?? Will Sridev’s long cherished dream of being recognized by all, family included, as “Mrs. Boney Kapoor” , finally come true? Sure, it’s complicated. But these are just a few realities of modern life, not restricted to Bollywood. There are several similar situations in urban society. It is just that for Boney and Sridevi, being Bollywood personalities, the spotlight and speculation are hard to avoid. There are no road maps in delicate scenarios like this one. What should Sri have done? Stayed away or turned up? What was going through her mind and heart as she and her young daughters followed the coverage ( assuming they watched it?). How will she deal with the public scrutiny and intrusive questions when she does step out with Boney next? Tough. Mona has left for a better place. But Sridevi is very much around. A little sensitivity directed her way, wouldn’t hurt.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Oye! Oman....

Prizes for anybody guessing the identity of the guy in shorts. Yes, the one with the knobby knees. Hint : He was in David Lean's " A Passage to India,". We were off on our dolphin watch and as you can tell, only some of us had the gear for it. That's Nandita Das with her solemn son named Rihaan (?). Though, I thought she'd named him Vivaan, after the famous painter who is also her father, Jatin Das' friend. The lovely young girl in yellow is Saba, Saif Ali Khan's sister.
The rest of the images are of the magnificent Al -Bustan Palace Hotel, which was built by the popular Sultan of Oman for Kings and Heads of State during the GCC summit in Oman. The 9th floor continues to be reserved for royalty.The red Chrysler was our car during the stay, and I really flipped for it. Car fanatics laughed at me and said it is no match for the Mercedes or BMW in terms of price or engineering. So what? It was wide bodied and super comfortable. I hope Chrysler launches in India soon. They have one customer - me! The last image is my favourite. I took it near the famous Muttrah Souk, where we bought colorful caftans and Omani scarves. As must be pretty obvious, we had a relaxed and enjoyable time in Muscat.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

India's BYTs : Bright Young Things

This appeared in Sunday Times today....

India’s BYTs…. Bright Young Things

While the War of the Generals rages on and the wall of BRICS reveals countless cracks, somewhere in small town India, wonderful things are happening, quietly and minus fanfare. A young engineering student from Allahabad bagged an unbelievable 1.3 crores a year job with social networking site Facebook, and the country smiled. Tanuj Nandan, in charge of placements at the Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, declared triumphantly, “ This is also one of the biggest job offers made to alumnus of any technical institution of the country.” The brilliant student comes from a humble family in Kanpur, and had to pass nine grueling telephonic interviews before receiving the plum offer that will change his life. Soon,the young man will pack his bags and relocate to Menlo Park, California.Yes, such a long journey!But, what a break!
In Muscat last week, I got talking to a Kashmiri salesman in a carpet shop. He’d been in Oman for over twenty years, leaving his family behind in the Valley. He was due for his bi-annual visit when I met him. We got talking and he mentioned his three daughters back home, his eyes shining with undisguised pride. “Doctors! All three girls …” We chatted about their future, marriage prospects, hopes and expectations. He was very candid and clear about their goals, and came across as an enlightened father, completely in tune with the times. Similarly, a few weeks earlier, I met the young daughter of an antique dealer from Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar. She’d qualified as a computer scientist, as had her sister. Both were professors at a prestigious South Mumbai college. As for the father, he continued selling colonial furniture from a tiny shop in the crowded bazaar. And no, he didn’t want his daughters to join the trade. He had worked hard to educate the girls. And he wanted them to make their lives and careers on their own terms. The young girl looked at her father with immense gratitude and said, “I realize how tough it has been for him. I offered to set up a website to help expand his business. But he prefers to do it the old-fashioned way through word of mouth and good will.” Ditto for the carpet seller, who looked a happy man selling exquisite Persian carpets to international celebrities staying at the magnificent hotel in which his shop was located. Of course, he missed India.But this was his life, and he loved it.
Whether it’s the brilliant student from Allahabad, or the doctors from Kashmir and the computer scientists from Mumbai, there is a sense of hope and optimism for today’s ambitious generation that cannot be cynically devalued or diminished. Contrast their stories with the story of a thirty something wine maker I spoke to outside Naples last month. Here was a man born into privilege, educated at the London School of Economics, who went on to become an investment banker with one of the world’s most powerful financial firms.But, he had thrown it all up to come back to the family- owned vineyard in Italy.Why?He took his time to respond. His answer was thought provoking. “I belong to a generation that has woken up to a rather grim reality, which is the fact that our parents enjoyed a far better quality of life than I can afford or hope to match in future. This is so contrary to our history where each new generation upped the game and took it to a higher level.” He was smart enough to recognize the big change sweeping across Europe. It is the youth paying the price for an economic downturn they had nothing to do with. Does he foresee a reversal of the current phenomenon? No, he doesn’t. He knows he’ll have to work much harder, and earn less than his father or grandfather. It’s a tough call. He is married, but has postponed having kids. “We can’t afford them,” he admitted . So, what happens next? He surprised me with his response. “I’m looking at relocating to Singapore.” Why not India? He hesitated before responding, “Safety.”
The War of the Generals has announced the tattered state of India’s security to the world. Despite the dirt flying around, we still have our boy from Allahabad, and others like him, doing India proud. Let’s keep smiling!