Friday, October 31, 2008

Hey Bhagwan! Now it is Assam's turn...

The saddest aspect of the unabated violence exploding all over India is the buck passing that takes place after each blast. I watched in disgust as a clearly agitated Arnab Goswami tried to get some sane answers out of an annoyingly calm Mani Shanker Aiyar, and other 'experts' from the North East on his nightly show. We have stopped reacting with horror to the sight of mangled innocents, blood, carnage, dismembered body parts..... violence itself. Isn't that scarey? Terrorism is robbing us of our humanity. We are blase about blasts??? We look up idly at the tv screen from whatever we are doing and say tch tch before moving on.
Misplaced sentiments, on the other hand, come into play when mediawallas decide to take over the job of the courts.Press guys are questioning Mumbai cops for shooting an armed man who had taken over a public bus. What should the cops have done? Let him shoot the conductor? Passengers? People on the street?? If the cops act, they are damned, if they don't, they are also damned. Rahul, the dead man who lost his way while locating Raj Thackeray, represented danger to the public. Now he is being converted into a martyr. He has become a political pawn in death. Money is pouring in for his family. CM's of other states are busy cashing in on the shoot out and pointing fingers at Mumbai. I am sick of Mumbai being defamed. If it is such a terrible city, why do people from the rest of India continue to flock to it? Pardon me if I sound over sensitive. But there is something seriously wrong in civil society if we are asked to show sympathy towards Afzal, who struck at the heart of India itself ( the Parliament attack).... and now Rahul, who waved a loaded gun at innocent bystanders before the cops shot him dead. Perverse, is what I say...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Apres Diwali

So much wonderful stuff happened over the all too short Diwali break, starting with the launch of my cd and music video.It was brief and very sweet, with a gracious speech by the chief guest Nita Ambani, dressed in flattering lilac. I felt like a rockstar (naaaah! just kidding! Swear! ), and found it hard to contain my excitement. To my absolute delight, young Neal Adhikari, the composer, performed live and totally unplugged, with his Guruji, Shri Shantanu Bandopadhya, representing the Bishnupur Gharana. It was a charming interlude, made even sweeter when Neal shyly confessed he had composed the song especially for me! "Without her, there is no sunshine in Indian Literature," he told the press. And my heart soared. Pardon me for dwelling on this, but I don't launch music videos every day
! It was a very special moment ... and where else but in this special space can I indulge myself??
Right after that, I jumped into a speed boat from the Gateway of India, and zipped across the dark waters to our other home in Alibag, feeling like a James Bond vamp.It is the best way to travel the 14 nautical miles, with salt spray on the lips and wild hair whipping the face.
Once home, we shifted gear and opened vintage bubbly. The children were looking wonderful. My son Aditya was off to play poker with his buddies, but I had the girls captive ! We went to our small screening room to watch the song sequences from our favourite Bollywood films, staring with "Bobby." Dinner was disgustingly late ( 1.30 a.m.), but we were satiated by then. All that foie gras.... and rocquefort.... come on... puran polis had to wait. By the time we got to Madhuri and 'Maar Dala', I was ready to perform a mujra by the pool myself!!
The next day was far more sober and solemn, with utney and sugandhi tel ritual baths, Diwali faraal and a vegetarian al fresco lunch ubder the palm trees. But wait.... this was the puran poli discovery of all times. I crumbled mine into chilled, spicey kokum (aam sole) coconut curry and believe me, it was bliss. Try it. The puran of the poli effortlessly merged into the pale purple coconut curry, with hints of crushed garlic, and garnished with chopped coriander for additional flavour! Ooooof. Kya baat hai. The mahurat for Lakshmi puja only began at 8pm (enough time to squeeze in a late afternoon snooze). By puja time, we were dressed in our traditional finery - the girls were toasted a warm honey brown after cavorting in the jacuzzi. But they looked just fabulous when they climbed out of their bikinis and into colourful ghagras for the aarti.
Aaaaah. If only Diwali came around more frequently. No..... that would prove fatal for our waistlines. Oh... it was the first Diwali for the two handsome boys on the farm - Schumi and Kaiser, my husband's pet Weimaranas. I am happy to report, they coped just fine!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Latest Raaga

I am both excited and apprehensive. My music album and video will be launched on this most auspicious day by Nita Ambani at the Rooftop of the Oberoi Hotel. I completely enjoyed the experience.... remember my earlier blog about the thrill of dubbing.... it was such a new discovery? The world of music is an enchanted space.. .. I feel so lucky to be a small part of it. The album was inspired by my book, "Superstar India - From Incredible to Unstoppable," which was launched earlier this year.But it took young and talented musicians to design tracks around it. Neal Adhikari was introduced to me by Kaushik Roy, a filmmaker, poet, writer, painter and corporate honcho. Sometimes it is just that - a creative combustion that kick starts a magical journey into the unknown. As I heard my own words coming alive to the most unique folk songs culled from across India (Bauls from Bengal. Langas from Rajasthan, classical vocalists representing the Hindustani school), I actually experienced the joy of being a part of an incredible 'birth'. Music does not require words..... but sometimes, words require music. I feel my book is far richer today after it has been enhanced by Neal's genius.As the cover picture and story in Bombay Times states, " Read between the lines...."
The response to the Karan Thapar show has surprised me!! Sure Thapar was combative, even deliberately provocative.But that's his job.... and it makes for good, sizzling television. I said what I had to.... and as far as I am concerned, it was a fair and forthright exchange. In case you missed the show, you know where to go - Devil's Advocate, cnn ibn website. Don't hold back - give it to me straight on the chin if you disagree. I am a big girl. I can handle it. Promise!Happy Diwali , all. I am off to Alibag right after the launch of the cd. Will post more stuff on my return..... several kilos heavier after all the food we are planning to consume. Not forgetting the bubbly and foie gras.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chivda and chakli time

Diwali is the official excuse. I have been munching non-stop since my return from Paris (to make up for all the cheese.... oooh.... how i love that fromage)! I needed something spicey and lethal to get those tastebuds to start functioning again. I found the perfect answer in bakarwadis, chaklis and the indecently tasty Kolhapuri chivda. Then there were the puran polis to 'sample' (after three of them - one with homemade ghee, another soaked in warm milk and the third eaten with bits of green chilly pickle), I had to stop calling it 'sampling'. Okay. I hogged. Gunaah hai kya??
Just to keep my mind off food, I wrote and wrote and wrote all day. And changed my voice on the phone whenever someone I didn't wish to speak to called up.I am like Kishore Kumar - I do voices. Pretty convincingly at that. Since I answer most calls myself, my 'official' voice is pretty scarey. Does it deter the determined? Naaaah.
Tomorrow, I head to Bandra yet again. This time to shoot with Karan Thapar. I don't know why interviewees shudder and shake at the prospect of being grilled by Thapar. He is an absolute pussycat - I adore him. He has interviewed me many times over the years and I have always found the experience exhilerating. This one promises to be a real cracker of an interview. Karan told me I am seen as a symbol of liberal, progressive, exciting Mumbai. Cry, my beloved city. We don't need symbols. We need a Rapid Action Force in areas that are being ravaged. Well.... I shall do my best as a symbol. But frankly, Mumbai needs a chief minister who knows his job far more!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Confusion and chaos

The trees around the Elysee Palace seemed particularly confused. For some of them, it was autumn, and the leaves had turned a vivid orange. For others, it was already winter and the branches were bare, for the rest, it was early spring! Fresh , green leaves were beginning to sprout and I spotted several butterflies hovering over bushes in full and glorious bloom! The official Indian Women's Delegation to Deauville's Global Women's Forum was welcomed into the hallowed Elysee Palace.... but alas, Sarkozy had more important things on his mind - like the Georgia situation. And Carla Bruni was not around. We had to make do with a senior diplomat who took his job very seriously, indeed. But the rasberry maccaroons were terrific.
Deauville was as glamourous a venue as legend describes it. The olde worlde hotel on the sea front ( Royal Barriere), has hosted the world's best and brightest over decades, including big name Hollywood stars, from Paul Newman, Michael Douglas, Brad Pitt to George Clooney. The suite next to my room was dedicated to Lauren Bacall. And the cabins on the beach were named after international Cinema's greatest. But.... there wasn't a single cabin reserved for any of our stars! So..... I'm guessing we still don't rate in international cinema!
The three day jamboree was a treat. Imagine 1,200 power ladies from across the world net -working like maniacs. Scarey. But since I wasn't there to 'make contacts' or sign deals, I spent my time observing, watching, listening , chatting. Met some wonderful people, attended a few stimulating sessions, enjoyed listening to Vital Voices ( a play staged by seven exceptional women narrating their stories of abuse and eventual victory), and generally indulged in some much needed 'me time'. Over Nespressos and Pommery, I thought about the future - my own and the world's. But one cosmic question lingered - why do the french like their coffee tepid and bitter? The milk (if added) is invariably cold. And the famous coffee, entirely unsatisfying to desis who prefer their cuppa steaming hot, sweet and milky.
I got back to the disturbing situation in Mumbai, post-Raj Thackeray's arrest. It was back to business as usual, I sighed resignedly. But at least, I'd be able to enjoy a hot cup of coffee.... and spicey daal -chavaal. Froid people. Froid food. Go figure.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Get well soon, Amitabh

Amitabh Bachchan's sudden trek to the hospital last week sounded very ominous. Oh God! Not again, was my first thought. Poor guy! Bad health, bad timing! Which person likes spending a birthday undergoing painful medical tests? I watched the news... my heart in my mouth.... familiar images. Different year. What a life it has been for this man. At 66, his insane travel schedule would exhaust a 22 -year- old. Known for his absolute professionalism in a career that has spanned 40 long years, this guy is in serious need of heavy- duty R & R. Perhaps this little health hiccup will serve as a wake up call.... though I doubt it. With one billion bucks riding on his shoulders, he has enormous responsibilities to discharge. What's the bet he'll be back in the studios the second his docs give him the green signal. That's him.
But the visual of the iconic star looking frail, decrepit and helpless , wearing a monkey cap and leaning on his son before getting on to the stretcher, was very, very moving. It reminded us all that time stops for no one. We all have to deal with the changes that are wrought by advancing years. It must be doubly hard for superstars who have an image that refuses to acknowledge the havoc caused by age. We want Amitabh to remain the perennially dapper actor with the world's best baritone. Fans don't want to deal with the sight of an aged man.... powerless to fight the cruel ravages of time.
Quite like Balasaheb at the Dusshera rally. My bank manager was so upset to see him like that, he actually shed a few tears remembering the Tiger who terrorised Mumbai with a single growl, not so long ago.
Well, here's wishing Amitabh a speedy and full recovery. We need him to inspire us through his impeccable craft. My favourite scene from a recent movie is from 'Sarkar'. Uncanny but true. Life does imitate art sometimes. In that scene Amitabh (playing Balasaheb) is waving tiredly to his crowd of supporters. It's a great shot taken from the back. You see him raise his hand.... all the fatigue and sorrow expressed through that single gesture. No words needed. Only an actor with Amitabh's supreme mastery over the cinematic medium could have performed that deceptively simlpe shot as convincingly! Get well soon, Amitabh. Our prayers are with you...

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Domingo is not a pizza !!

Ok. Here goes. I watched the historic concert not under the stars but a steady drizzle that ruined my Gustav Klimpt-inspired saree and made my hair frizz up. But hey.... did I care?? Naah. I was transported, uplifted, inspired ... and more! As were countless other, equally enthusiastic Mumbaikars, who sat through two magical hours of divine music, thanking their stars for the privilege of being present on such a special occasion. Our seats were less than five feet away from the stage, so it was easy to make eye contact with Domingo and Zubin..... flirt a little.... and mouth Bravo! Bravo! after each aria and duet. Opera buffs may have been a little disappointed by the eclectic selection that went from Tosca to Puccini, Strauss to Souza, but imagine the unadulterated pleasure of listening to Domingo sing a soaring version of Granada! It was a grand evening, starting with the Rolex Hospitality marquee serving pre-concert champagne, followed by a stylish buffet in a tastefully dressed Crystal Room of the Taj. I managed to get Domingo's autograph across Anushka Shanker's face!! Just kidding. He signed the Rolex brochure on the page featuring her ( along with Domingo, Shanker is also a Rolex brand ambassador). Chef Oberoi was in attendance...I mentioned the green apple sorbet and Kiran's proposed improvisations!! By then I had downed three flutes of bubbly and was ready to dance the can can.Enough said...
Zubin enchanted the crowd with his energetic baton , weaving a spell.... and I giggled at the memory of his last concert in Mumbai, during which his fanatical Parsee following had referred to the baton as " Zubin no dando". No more from me.... read my lips...
I leave for Paris and Deauville tomorrow night to attend a power packed women's forum... the Davos for ladies, as a part of the official India Delegation. Wish me luck. It is sounding very exciting, with a visits to the Elysee, assorted lunches, galas, cocktails and dinners, including a swish Cartier soiree dedicated to India!! Tres charmant... watch this space... but after a week, my lovelies. The laptop stays home. Au revoir !

Friday, October 10, 2008


Mumbai has its Zeenie Baby, and the world has Zubi-baby (Zubin Mehta, to you!). It is just incredible what his presence has done to the city - people who don't know their Wagner from their gardner, are falling over themselves to somehow get an invitation to the concerts.... and the lavish dinners impeccably hosted by the Taj. The one I attended saw a terrific turn out of the culturati dressed in their arty best( Parsee garas for the ladies, band galas for the men). But it was Zubi -baby who stole the show effortlessly with his natural charm, genuine warmth and an abundance of good humour. It was only appropriate that he spoke about the two volunteers who'd wrtten out 12,000 invitation cards, undertaking the daunting task in 40 degrees heat! He invited them up on the podium because he was so overwhelmed by their commitment. The ladies were either missing or too shy, for there was a no show. Zubi broke into Bawa Gujarati and the entire Crystal Room swooned. It's called the Zubin effect. He really is most extraordinary.... I managed to get a personalised autograph that I shall cherish... and now for Domingo at the CCI. I'M KEEPING MY FINGERS CROSSED NOTHING UNFORTUNATE TAKES PLACE. Zubin has been commenting openly about the communal divide in Mumbai, besides the touchy language issue. There are enough fanatics out there who could stir up trouble. After all, Zubin has also been expressing his strong views on Palestine and other prickly matters. Being pro-Israel is one thing, but being so blatantly political, quite another. Musicians should make music.... and not meddle in matters that are politically sensitive.The great conductor that he is, I hope for his sake he doesn't land in a mess on account of his views.
Sigh.... why not remember the exquisite after- taste of the green apple sorbet at the banquet that had slivers of tamarind, crushed pepper and flakey red chillies adding the right piquancy to it??? Just like Zubin's theekha-meetha interviews.
I kid you not when I say I met a socialite who thought Placido was like a placebo, but was dying to show off her latest Burma rubies at the concert!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jai Durga!!

Sorry guys.... but absence is supposed to make the heart grow fonder, right? Am glad I have been missed by some of you. It's been super hectic (so.... what else is new?).... from the Raj Thackeray interview and its wild repercussions (you really don't want to know!), to the launch of my new saree collection, aptly titled the Superstar Saree ( milk it to the hilt while the going is good, what?), to attending Tina Ambani's Silver Awards for senior citizens ( made to salsa for some really inexplicable reason), to visiting the Puja Badi at the Tejpal for our annual Ashtami darshan of the Devi, it has been excessive and intense. My eyes are shutting as I key this in - but you know what? I was in withdrawal , too! Really, really missing this space. Glad to back on it, even for a brief posting. I met Jaya B at the Tina A function.... and it was a warm and very Bong encounter as she wished me Shubho Ashtami. Amar Singh, I noticed has tiny, perfectly manicured, womanly hands, with neatly filed long nails. They don't go with the rest of him. Maharahtra's new guv must have lost the plot because he quoted Ulysses and pleaded against old age homes, saying our kids ought to be responsible for us, and look after us when we are really, really old..... after all that we have sacrificed for them. Gosh! Which world is he living in?? He is 78 and very dapper. But someone forgot to tell him Tina's entire initiative is focused on senior citizen care and old age homes!! Dev Anand 'emoted' wonderfully, like he was back playing 'Guide', and a horror called Sudha Chandran (dressed in a lurex tuxedo worn over a ghastly saree!!!!) made for a really OTT compere. While Dev's heroine from 'Guide, the gracious Waheeda Rehman was completely ignored. Parmeshwar looked ravishing, but was wearing fashionably torn jeans and her trademark beret to this function (!). Khair... I feel like Ravindra Natya Mandir is my new home. I mean.... twice in a week is a bit much, don't you think?? Jai Durga. I am all set to hear Placido Domingo over the weekend and dine with Zubin Mehta tomorrow night. It's a hard life!! Ciao, ciao my lovelies...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pant... pant....

Even by my own impossible standards, this has been an excessively hectic week. Going beyond Kemp's Corner twice in three days!! Unbelievable. Juggling four appoinments in the burbs at one go!! Criminal. But hey, there was an upside. I enjoyed meeting all those wonderful people.... and suddenly Bandra seemed a pretty chilled out space to hang in. Karan Johar was playing interviewer for a Men's Magazine. We discussed ... err.... MEN! As is expected, Karan was sharp and fun. Plus, there were those famous 'Candy' sandwiches and rolls on offer ( the best chutney sandwiches on earth), as our free flowing conversation went from the merits of John Abraham's butt (generously displayed in Dostana) to the ghastly taste displayed by some of the city socialites ( Bling is King). I adore KJO, and we have the best natter ever.
From there to Ravindra Natya Mandir to launch Asha Bhende's Marathi book (Majhya Jagat mee), was a dramatic mood switch, but once in the auditorium, I was entirely drawn into the rarefied world of scholars and academics, all of whom spoke so brilliantly. My own speech in Marathi, would have impressed Raj Thackeray! Enough said. For more, get hold of a copy of Mumbai Mirror on Sunday. There is a surprise waiting for readers. I am off to choose curtains. Exciting, huh?? Eat a Bater (partridge) biryani at Amrish Arora's Flamboyante, and generally relax( like I know how!!). Oh... as for 'Drona', what can I possibly say about this unmitigated disaster of a movie, but, 'nice try, guys.'

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Eid Mubarak

My darling dost Raisa Husain always sends me the best sheer korma in the world on Eid. Being a Bohri, the food arrived yesterday, and was there on the dinner table when I got back from Delhi. I blessed Raisa and her family ( including her father, the illustrious artist M.F. Husain), before tucking in.She had also sent that delcious but hard to cook preparation, Nalli nihaara, which was devoured instantly, with crisp Bohri rotis. We phoned several friends to wish them Eid Mubarak. The mood was somewhat sombre. Understandably so. Driving back from the airport, I was enchanted by the sight of so many Devis making their way to city pandals for their brief sojourn on earth before leaving for their heavenly abodes on Bijoya Dashmi.As the noisy processionists danced and sang on the busy highway, I thought how simple it really is to co-exist harmoniously, if only politicians would let us. Raisa will be celebrating Dusshera with us, as always.So will several other friends representing all faiths. That is the way it has been .... should be.It is one thing for a Kripashanker to invite SRK to a well publicised sehri function and derive a photo op from it. Quite another to free your heart from narrow biases that are divisive and destructive.Right at the junction of Mahim Church, leading up to the ancient mosque close by and the historic Siddhivinayak temple down the road, three of the world's most important religions have found equal representation through the years. That's Mumbai. Please note: present tense . Not past. Give peace a chance, the Beatles once urged the world. They were ignored... rather, their message was.We cannot afford to ignore it this time. I'm predicting a war. The third World War. The world will get nuked. Whenever America faces an economic crisis, the war machine is activated to get the country back on the road. Why should it be any different this time?? Dire foretelling of doom and devastation? Well.... don't worry... we'll all go together. Cockroaches shall inherit the earth.