Monday, September 27, 2010

Kalmadi as an Item Boy'...?

I heard the latest version of the current hit song and loved it! Kalmadi as an Item Boy? Why not? Let's get him to sing and gyrate to, "Dilli Badnaam Hui, Darling Mere Liye."
This appeared in the Asian Age \ Deccan Chronicle


You know someone is in trouble – big trouble – when the sms jokes about him\her go into overdrive. As of now, most jibes are directed at Villain Number 1 - Suresh Kalmadi. Sample this : “ Baba Kalmadi, Have you any shame? No sir, no sir, we are hosting Common Loot Games. Crores for my partners,crores for the Dame. Crores for me too for putting India to shame.” Black Sheep Kalmadi is in deep s**t. Err… should that read Dik-s**t? And a lot of smelly faeces has literally hit the fan in those pricey rooms meant for international athletes. Never mind. Lalit Bhanot has hit headlines worldwide (80 newspapers, and still counting) by baring India’s butt. Those ‘different standards of hygiene’ are likely to sink the Games in a sewage tank even before they have begun. Desi attitudes to what is sweetly called ‘Number 2’ (in schoolkids’ parlance), deserves an entire tome to itself. Indians are obsessed by where, when and how to defecate. It is a national preoccupation , and has been so for centuries. That we do our job anywhere and everywhere, and pretty much anytime, is well known. What poor Bhanot has done is gone public with India’s dirty secret. It is true – our standards are different from anybody else’s. He has not specified better or worse. Just different. It is only in India… that too, in a crowded, busy megapolis like Mumbai, that one can see grown men, their genitals hanging over railway tracks, as they crap companionably, discuss the news with other s**ters and walk away, lota in hand, like it is the most normal thing to do. Right across from where we live ( and very close to where India’s richest brothers reside ) is a narrow pathway jutting into the sea that cuts the bay. It is an open lavatory that functions 24x7. From the crack of dawn till late at night, one can see a steady line of men and children walking down this strip, carefully selecting their spot, squatting precariously and then opening up their gut without the least shame or self consciousness. Most of the pavements in this, one of the supposedly poshest areas in the city ( if not in India), are covered with piles of excreta ( human and animal). There isn’t an inch left to walk on…. dogs, goats, cows and people nonchalantly s**t together… nobody notices, nobody cares.
We are crucifying the wrong man for the wrong reasons. Lalit Bhanot naively dismissed off the charges regarding filth and unsafe conditions in the Village by saying it is not ‘such a big issue.’ You know what? He is absolutely right1 Toilets can be cleaned up… stray dogs removed from beds meant for sportspeople. The other clean up is far more crucial, far more critical and no amount of heavy duty industrial level cleaning operations can rid India of this dirty stain. What the country is witnessing is corruption of the filthiest kind - undertaken on a scale that may be unprecedented in the world. The fact that the money that has been stolen by these crooks, is our money – the public’s money – compounds the crime still further. Were we asked before these monster budgets were cleared? Were the people of India consulted on the rightness\wrongness involved in allocating such monies for what is nothing but an empty p.r. exercise we can ill afford? And now that we know how systematically we’ve been hood winked, is there any way to make up? Recover the money? Cancelling the Games at this stage, is an immature, impractical suggestion. But giving citizens an assurance that the guilty will be punished ( jail the buggers instantly!) will go a long way in keeping collective tempers down. Aha – here comes the catch. Who will decide which persons are guilty? What will they be charged with? Where is the proof? It will be another Lalit Modi IPL saga…. another Ramalinga Raju eyewash, another Koda cover up. To anybody with some common sense it is obvious Kalmadi was not working alone ( just as Modi wasn’t). It is equally obvious, everybody from Manmohan Singh to Sheila Dixit must have guessed what was going on – and if they didn’t, it reflects poorly on their administrative skills. Why aren’t they assuming responsibility? Why look for scapegoats when everybody knows who the looters are? Mike Fennell’s role is suspect as hell, and he really has some cheek writing to the cabinet secretary to express his ‘great concern with the preparedness’ for the Games, considering it is he who should be in the dock himself! What absolute audacity. Sorry to bring race into this, but we always tend to give the benefit of the doubt to the White Man – any White Man. Let’s put it down to our colonial hangover… we still bow and scrape, cringe and kowtow when dealing with Westerners. Go to hell, Mike!
Lalit Bhanot shold take the cleanliness debate to its next logical level, if you ask me! Why not? The only hope left to salvage our tattered pride is to let the world know how superior we are and how scrupulously we clean ourselves after performing daily ablutions. We can also talk about how we consider our left hand to be ‘dirty’ ( for obvious reasons). Bhanot can present an international paper on – you’ve guessed it - toilet paper! And how Indians believe in the efficacy of using water to clean bums. These sort of diversionary tactics may pay some dividends at least, while bridges collapse, catwalks fall apart, loose tiles kill a couple of workers and strangers from foreign countries stroll into the Village unchecked with explosives packed into large, very noticeable suitcases. As for all those star athletes and even countries pulling out – big deal! These Games were never about sports. Just as the IPL was never about cricket. Both were about making money. So much money, that the amounts one hears about could have taken care of basics like roti, kapda aur makaan for millions in India. But since the poor of India are nobody’s priority in the first place, why play spoilsport? Let the Games begin. And let us console ourselves that thanks to Bhanot at least now the world will know that Indian’s probably have the cleanest bottoms on earth. Those who criticize us are nothing but jealous a**holes.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

When I'm 64... ha ha!

Guys, I wrote this as an exclusive for Hindustan Times. The entire week has been frenetic , thanks to the heavy duty promos around the new book. The road show starts soon, which means I shall be in and out of Mumbai, and missing from this space more than usual. Do bear with me... it is my commitment as a writer to market the book to the best of my abilities. This was something taught to me by Dominique Lapierre after the launch of my first book. "Don't feel shy,'' the veteran advised sagely. "You have spent time and precious energy on this - writing is hard work. If you don't promote your own book, who will?" Wise words. He is right.I have the most at stake - I must go out there and do my best!
One of the pleasures of doing these sort of promos involves the people one gets to me - young journos, photographers, publicists. This time it was my discovery of Uma Kadam - she has just been promoted as the Principal Photographer with the Times of India Group. Believe me, it is a big deal! You'll see her portrait of moi in the Sunday Times tomorrow. I was impressed by this 29- year-old woman's professionalism and positive thinking. Her coverage during 26\11 was so good, her editor, the very reticent Jaideep (Jojo) Bose, and her mentor Hoshi Jal, gave her pictures a great deal of play - those important images desrved very high visibility, and got it. Modest and adorable, Uma has been a press photographer for nine years. She wears her success lightly and does her job minus the slightest fuss. As does another ace photographer I have frequently worked with - Vikram Bawa. Congrats, you guys!
Part -2 of the popular Television show, 'Walk the Talk' with Shekhar Gupta will be telecast on NDTV at 9 30pm tonight. The repeat is tomorrow at 3 30pm. Check it out... and post your candid comments ( I really look forward to them).
I watched 'Wall Street - Money never Sleeps' last night with a great deal of nostalgia and a lump in my throat. The news about Michael Douglas suffering from throat cancer was on my mind, especially since his publicists have announced he won't be able to act again. I don't care what critics say - his older Gordon Gekko is still superbly nuanced - just this side of evil. Look out for the scene in which he dismisses Shia La Beouf with a wave of his hand, saying, "You die your death. I'll die mine." Oooooof! Broke my heart.
Here's the HT piece....

Hum Jab Hongey Saath Saal Ke…
‘Hum Jab Hongey Saath Saal Ke…’ has been my theme song for the past two years. That I sing off key, is another matter.. Asha Bhonsale just turned 77 and celebrated her birthday performing at a rock concert in Singapore. Shabana Azmi joined the Sensational Sixties Club earlier this week and rocked her own party by dancing to the season’s big hit ‘Munni Badnaam Hui…. Darrrrrling tere liye.” Yup. That makes it official. Today’s sixty- year- olds are Item Girls with attitude. And as that delicious strap line for an unhealthy snack goes, ‘I am lovin’ it.’ Far too much is being made of youth, and how wonderful it is to be a part of the under -30 generation these days. You know what? Keep it! Youth, I mean. I swear I’d hate to be a young person in India today. Ooof …. total emotional atyachar, yaar! What can these dudes and dudettes India look forward to… come on, think about it? Unemployment, suicides, corruption, caste issues, communal issues, terror attacks, discrimination, quota systems,double digit inflation…. more corruption? Youth is definitely getting wasted on the young. From the heady sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll hedonism of the ‘60’s and ‘70’s… to this depressing mess??? By comparison, celebrating ones ‘Eksashthi’ ( 61st birthday) sounds positively sexy! I am having the best time of my life as a senior citizen – a far better time than I ever had as a broke, insecure, far-from-accomplished young thing. I mean… come on. Who needs struggle? Who needs the bloody tension of being considered cool or uncool based on the brand of jeans covering ones far from perfect butt? Naah. Youth and all things youthful are totally over rated. I see more worry lines on the faces of twenty something starlets( the bling and botox brigade) than on the 60+ and seriously gorgeous Hema Malini’s calm and contented visage. Dev Anand at well over 80, is a darn sight more stylish and does his sartorial layering with far more finesse than that Shirtless Wonderboy, Salman Khan. And yes, Dev Saab continues to be a chick magnet ( eat your heart out Ranbir, Imran, Shahid and all you other callow fellows). Really.Jawani ki Diwani is a huge, big con. Being jawan in India is a little like being a gay guy in a bordello – the equipment works, but there’s no application. When I look at the collective neuroses that has paralysed this generation of alarmingly young but essentially vague people, I thank my stars I was spared.
No Sir, we really are pretty okay at this age and stage. We have our lines (verbal and physical) in place. And what’s a li’l bit of cellulite idhar udhar between friends and accepting spouses? But that does not give us sleepless nights. We are entitled to our smugness! Our love affairs have always been with human beings not laptops, Blackberries and other gizmos.We lived in the real world, not a virtual one, and men had sex with real partners not Savita Bhabhi . Our communication was face-to-face instead of on facebook. At thirty, we were pretty sorted….we didn’t have to hang around dimly lit clubs waiting to meet some impossibly perfect God or Goddess, who, like Godot, didn’t bother to show up! We settled for the best ‘alliance’ going, moved into rented apartments and didn’t worry about emi’s and other such financial annoyances. We paid our bills with real money, not plastic. And most of our assets were tangible – mother’s gold bangles, father’s Rolex, that kind of stuff. We had the best parties and weddings which were not super productions or ‘events’ marketed by hawks counting every extra orchid and barfi. For our honeymoon, we didn’t think beyond Simla, Darjeeling or even sweet old neighbourhood hill stations like Mahableshwar. Istanbul, Ibiza or Sao Paolo for bachelorette blow outs? Not a chance! We held hands at soppy movies and licked the same ice cream cone by way of erotic symbolism. The ipill didn’t exist, and only bad girls ‘did it’ with their boyfriends.
There were always people with more money, better boobs, fancier cars, bigger homes. But the ‘Lifestyle’ disease had not grown into a lethal, full blown, worldwide virus that it is today. Of course, we died of jealousy when the neighbour bought a Fiat or Ambassador. But we also believed ‘mera number aa jayega’. Impossible is nothing? It’s not as dumb as it first sounds. We were a generation of believers. We naively believed Gordon Gekko when he stated, ‘Greed is good.’ Today’s kids chant ‘Money never sleeps’. Neither do they!
What the young in India need more than almost anything else today is a dream. I am just happy and relieved my generation got to live theirs. Picasso , that randy old goat had grandly declared, “ Youth has no age.”. It so doesn’t.
Botox for the soul, anyone??

Sunday, September 19, 2010

26\11 ... two years later....

This appeared in Sunday Times today....overwhelming reactions! Touched a raw nerve....

As another 26\11 anniversary rolls up…what’s changed?

It has happened. I guess it had to. Perhaps, it happened a few months… maybe a few years ago. Perhaps, it was always there, but swept under the carpet. Society’s dirty secret is finally out – everybody knows what it is, but nobody talks about it. Ten days ago I received a call from a friend. A Muslim friend. She sounded a little concerned. Her anxiety had to do with a nephew’s admission into one of Mumbai’s better colleges. His marks were good, his conduct , exemplary. He had been a prefect in his school, participated in several extra curricular activities. I asked what the hitch was in that case. She sounded most embarrassed as she said, “Well… we are Muslims… and that seems to be the problem in a lot of colleges.” I was shocked to hear this. ‘Are you sure that’s what it is?’ I said, not prepared to believe it was indeed the situation in some of the supposedly progressive South Mumbai educational institutions. My friend went on to narrate how her nephew had been subjected to blatant discrimination during interviews and told upfront it was his surname that came in the way. She once again apologized for the ‘trouble’ she was putting me through. She added, “ If the boy was not as bright, I would have told him to forget it, and do something else. But he is keen to study science and make a mark for himself – he has always been a good student. If he doesn’t get into a recognized college, his career is as good as over.”
I made a couple of calls to friendly, neighbourhood college principals and asked whether they were really screening students on the basis of religion. One of them denied it, the other one admitted sheepishly that such a directive was in place, but on an informal level. “We don’t want trouble,’’ the principal added virtuously. When I pressed and asked him to specify what sort of trouble a youngster like this boy could possibly cause, the principal replied, “ These days…. you never know… how can you trust these people.” What do you mean by ‘these people’? I persisted.The principal whispered, “ Leave it…. don’t make me spell it out…in any case, we don’t have a vacancy.” I called up another college. The person was enthusiastic and polite, saying their list was still open and the student I was recommending, definitely qualified etc. Then I was asked for the name. As soon as I mentioned it, his voice changed. ‘Let me cross check with the clerk… I think I made a mistake. So sorry… admissions were closed yesterday.” Finally, I spoke to a lady who heard me out and said, “Send the boy to me tomorrow morning. I’ll see what I can do.” This story has a happy ending – the boy got in.
But that’s because his aunt was in a position to make a few calls on his behalf. There are thousands like him in Mumbai and across India, who are up against an invisible wall, unable to move forward, determined not to look backwards, but stymied all the way. When I met the young man and his family, they had tears of gratitude in their eyes. The point is : I didn’t do them a favour. And neither did the college. He was entitled to receive the same access and treatment on the basis of merit alone. Any college should have held its doors open for him. Especially since the colleges he had applied to were in Mumbai and not some backward town in the back of the beyond. I felt intensely sad, as I accepted a box of mithai from his emotional relatives.It was as if they had crossed an impossible hurdle when it was just a routine matter of showing your mark sheet, paying the fees and getting in. Will this boy ever forget the humiliation he has been subjected to? Will his family not go back to those frustrating days when college after college turned them away, adopting some pretext or the other. Perhaps, this experience will toughen the lad and make him excel. Perhaps not. It is the ‘not’ that is worrying . Nearly every known privilege that a non-muslim counterpart of his can and does take for granted, is denied to him, in what was once a liberal, cosmopolitan city with great colleges that produced outstanding leaders in every field - people who came from multi religious backgrounds. Today, those same venerated temples of education are practicing a nasty version of religious profiling which is going to lead to major problems if it goes unchecked.
There is no getting away from the current polarisation . I used to kid myself that some of my Muslim friends were being ‘paranoid’ when they talked about ‘the problem’ ( as we had dubbed it ). That ‘problem’ pretty much covered everything– from getting a job, to finding accommodation. At the time ( post- 26\11), we believed it was a psssing phase that would disappear once everything ‘settled down’. Except that nobody quite knew what exactly was meant to settle down or even if that would ever happen. But we consoled ourselves saying sensitivities at that point were running high… people were angry and afraid. More than that , people were confused. Two years down the line, there are no alibis, no screens to hide behind. Positions have obviously hardened to such a degree that now city colleges have begun to follow their own quota system and turn down eligible students only because they are Muslim. We are a few days away from one of the most horrifying, most devastating, most tragic events that ripped the city apart. No, we cannot and must not forget what happened. That awful attack was the work of hard core terrorists trained to kill at random. What we are doing may be much worse – we are killing the spirit of innocents. The latter crime may have far more lethal repercussions!


For those of you who missed Part 1 of 'Walk the Talk', you can catch it on the ndtv website. Someone sweet ( yoo hoo Aparna) did send me the link. And as you well know, I am terrible at all of this.... so, please look for it.

Oh, the book has arrived in book stores across India, and I am happy to brag ( just a little!), that the reactions have been amazing.

Want your verdict on this plan: I have been offered Round 2 of the Kingfisher Model Hunt as a judge. This year, it will be shot in Kerala, Kumarakom. While I really enjoyed myself last year in Goa, I'm a little worried about the time outlay this time.... especially since it overlaps with my book promotion activities. I won't have much turnaround time either, since I'll be in the Maldives for the prestigious Hay Literary Fest, right after.
Do it.... or dump it???

Friday, September 17, 2010

It's super cool to be 60....!

Guys, I have been naughty and neglected this space. My apologies! This is what happens when there's a new baby ... err... book, to deliver. Being both devout and superstitious, I went straight to the feet of Lalbaugh Chha Raja and gave the Lord my first copy ( duly gift wrapped ) of 'Shobhaa at Sixty'. I was nervous.... would we be able to jostle past the crowds and reach him? Guess what? It turned out to be a magnificent darshan, all thanks to a gentleman who shall go nameless ( he graciously said, " Darshan happens only when Ganpati Bappa calls and only due to his benevolence. Glad you had a divya darshan!"). 'Divya' , it most certainly was! Strange. When I am in Ganeshji's divine presence, I turn to mush and go blank! All the wonderful things I want to tell him, stay in my mind. All those 'requests' remain non-articulated. I can only close my eyes, surrender.... and feel uplifted! It is such an extraordinary feeling - and nearly everybody I've asked, has also told me they experience a strange power when they enter the Lalbaugh pandal, that renders them numb! I emerged from the darshan feeling twenty kilos lighter.. and in a state of unadulterated bliss. On a more mundane level, I was also famished! We rushed to my favourite restaurant SOAM, right across the road from the historic Babulnath temple. We feasted on palak and moong dal with jowar bhakri. Shudh vegetarian fare. So 'satvik' and wholesome, I want to go back for more. Soon!


Then, it was another round of back- to- back interviews, shoots ( watch out for the next issue of 'Society' - Suchitra Iyer, the clever Tam Brahm editor, and Vikram Bawa, the man with the magic lens, made me feel like a Goddess ) and, of course, my own columns. This morning I shot with Shekhar Gupta for NDTV's 'Walk the Talk', which will be telecast tomorrow night, 9.30 p.m. India time. With a repeat telecast on Sunday at 3. 30pm. I enjoyed it thoroughly, even though our last few shots took place under a downpour! The skies over Marine Drive were spectacular - deep grey and full of attitude. They were also heavy with rain, which came down in torrents as we were about to wrap up. It was time for a Bollywood -style duet! But Shekhar had a flight to catch. And I, a potential author! It was fun catching up with Shekhar - he's an old friend. What a scary memory the man has. It's scarier than mine!


As I write this, several Ganpatis are bidding farewell to the city. I have had my fair share of 'ukdi modaks' ( steamed to perfection , with the right balance of jaggery , freshly grated coconut and cardamom).

Here's a thought : Something good is happening to all those of us who have hit 6O! 'Sexy Sam' has won the National Award for 'Paa', and my darling school friend Shabana Azmi turns 60 tomorrow! It's official, folks - it's definitely super cool to be 60 - geddit???

Monday, September 13, 2010

'Dabangg' - Who's Fearless??? The audience!

This appeared in Bombay Times.....

‘Dabangg’ - Big ‘Bangg’ for your buck?

Salman Khan’s Eid offering may create history for shattering box office records, raking it in by the truckloads, and breaking the astounding collections of ‘3 Idiots’. But for me, the one scene that really and truly created history and will go down as an astonishing cinematic moment is the one of Salman Khan’s shirt tearing, popping and flying off his back… all by itself! The shirt deserves a special award for performing this remarkable feat – perhaps, it marks a first in world cinema! Imagine – a shirt with a will and mind of its own! A shirt that understands dramatic timing perfectly and helpfully strips itself off the wearer’s body. Wow! Whosoever thought of this stunt wins a permanent place in the Movie Hall of Fame. The shirt definitely stole the show and in a way, summed up the movie. Rarely does a script in our films work as subversively or slyly as this one. Salman as Chulbul Robinhood Pandey, the corrupt cop with a golden heart, parodies himself brilliantly! It is such a clever take on all that Sallubhai stands for ( mad genius, bad boy, man with the best lines in town), and that he succeeds in sending up his own persona so brilliantly, is a killer plan in itself. Those looking for a plot, be warned – it is flimsier than Munni’s ( Malaika in a sizzling item number that out-beedis Bipasha's) barely there costumes. Both are ‘badnaam’. The director claims he went back to the 70’s formula ( half brothers, wicked step father ) to come up with ‘Dabangg’. If so, he should have milked the genre still more and thrown in a wicked thakur and a tonga race. Instead, there is Sonu Sood as a wily goon of the local neta. Not a bad plan, given Sood’s intelligent performance and rippling abs ( unfortunately, his kurta is less talented than Salman’s shirt). The other surprising performance that competes with the Magical Shirt comes from Arbaz Khan playing Chulbul’s dumb brother. That leaves ‘Dhano’ … sorry, Rajjo, an impoverished potter played by newbie Sonakshi in sexy designer gear and perfectly applied MAC makeup , her hair cut and layered to salon perfection. If one can overlook the absurdity of it all - especially a Dubai honeymoon sequence , featuring Salman in Sheikh gear, complete with a photogenic falcon as a prop – Sonakshi is a thousand times more talented star-kid than some of the over- rated stick insects crawling around.
Let’s call this a vada-pav Western which would curdle Clint Eastwood’s blood were he to watch it. It is dangerous in the extreme when a big ticket movie’s box office fate revolves around just one factor – the hero’s star power. And nothing else. Going by that yardstick the makers of ‘Dabangg’ which means ‘fearless’ in ‘Khari Boli’ , are just that. It takes guts and supreme confidence to place all your bets on a single individual – Salman Khan. Clearly, the gamble has paid off big time, going by the buzz. There is hardly a single scene which does not feature Chulbul. Since much is being made of his new look and ‘moochch’, surely SRK had sported it earlier in ‘Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi’ ? None of this matters when the movie is a hit. … the music has clicked ( two really catchy numbers, including a boozy ode to getting hammered called ‘Peeni Hai’ and the mandatory Sufi inspired number to appeal to Salman’s core constituency in the Middle East). Oh – there is also the much appreciated Buckle Trick – Salman’s hot new dance move during a hectic number in which he fiddles provocatively with the buckle of his belt.
Let’s hand it to the main man – he has pulled it off – the stunts and pelvic thrusts are pure Salman. Nothing new there. But it is the naughty self- parodying, which is so camp, so out there, which delivers the biggest punch. What’s left for this guy now – all he needs is a cape. And he can call himself Superman. Officially.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rahul or Salman - Who is the real Biggg Boss??

This appeared in the Asian Age \ Deccan Chronicle
Why Rahul G is a lot like Salman K
Amazing but true - these guys have more in common than most people would like to accept.For one, they are both in the same business – politics by any other name is still showbiz. At forty (plus or minus a year idhar –udhar), they are determinedly single, mothers across India consider them super eligible dulhas, they definitely fall into the ‘hotties’ category with a vast female fan following panting after them, both are dubbed mama’s boys by those in the know, both adore their sister(s), and qualify as eye candy in every which way. Of course there are significant differences – Rahul Gandhi keeps his kurta on in public, Salman can’t wait to peel his shirt off – anytime, anywhere. Gandhi looks like a lean and mean fighting machine, but nobody has seen his pack ( four, six or eight, only his trainer knows for sure). Salman is the original Sando – possibly the most famous actor in the world to flaunt his gut and guts. Salman’s rippling muscles get more media coverage than his leading ladies – which is not such a bad thing, going by some of the recent samples. Salman’s roster of girl friends qualifies him as a true blue marathon man. Not much is known about Rahul’s love life. Salman is an unapologetic alpha male, Rahul G , far more new age and metro, even charmingly retro. Perhaps, Rahul is happy to conform to the strong-silent matinee idol style of the ‘60’s, while Salman’s abs do most of the emoting, on and off the screen. Both come from established- in- the- chosen- field families – the Gandhis have run politics in India for decades. The Khans have been around in Bollywood for decades, too. Parivaar is key. The Khan clan sticks together through good and terrible times. Ditto for the Gandhis ( even though theirs is a more compact unit).Despite their hitting forty ( Rahul is a whisker away from the landmark birthday), they continue to be perceived as ‘Bachchas’ – Salman as the Bad Boy, Rahul as the Good Guy. India is waiting for both to grow up – but not in a hurry. At the end of the day it boils down to just one quality – mass appeal. And as any marketing guru will tell you – that’s one thing nobody can manufacture. It’s like Lycra – either you have it or you don’t. Synthetic charisma works only to a limited degree. Merely pumping someone up with an inventive hard sell strategy that overstates the image can lead to a serious case of overkill. But both these guys exude the real thing – they are bona fide icons , worshipped by fans and damned by critics. They arouse passion. And passion is always a positive attribute – it attracts the janata. Since their survival depends on the faith their constituency displays in their leadership, these boy-men are fortunate indeed that we have not packed them off so far, despite everything.
Now, here comes the clincher: Salman’s future as a big star depends entirely on the box office. Rivals may come and fade away ( as they have), but for Salman to hang on to his position, he must prove himself from one Friday to the next. He has had a string of pricey flops in the recent past. Now , with his Eid offering of ‘Dabbang’, Salman needs a super mega hit in order to hang in there as one of the film industry’s most bankable stars. If Chulbul Pandey does not click with the aam aadmi on the expected scale, Salman’s future will be somewhat dheela. With Rahul, we are likely to be much kinder. He is a lambey race ka ghoda. For one, he doesn’t shoot his mouth off, and when he does care to open it, he speaks thoughtfully and uses a direct, simple lingo that his followers can understand instantly. He listens more and promises very little. This is a perfect strategy, especially since nobody really knows what he stands for, or what his political plans mean in real terms. Since he is the closest thing to a Bollywood star ( good looks, gora-chikna , photogenic) in a country led by really old people, he can get away with token gestures and populist moves (‘ sipahi’ of Orissa tribals – most of whom looked totally blank during his much publicized visit to their neglected, even wretched mohalla). Never mind, he is at least making the right noises, and as we well know, in politics, that’s half the battle won. Bad Boy Salman is forever putting his foot into some place much worse than his mouth. That’s very much a part of his USP – that’s also why his hysterical fans love him. At the end of the day, both men are looking at numbers. It is numbers alone that keep them where they are. Rahul, as his party’s general secretary in charge of IYC and NSUI, is on a crazy recruitment spree. He has to enroll members on a war footing… or else. Given that about 50 to 70 million voters between the ages of 18 and 23 are being added between two general elections. It is Rahul’s primary job to chase this pool of youngsters and get them on board. Luckily for Rahul, there isn’t a rival in sight. Unless, of course, the incredible Priyanka decides to jump in (unlikely at this stage, but who knows?). Salman, poor fellow, risks losing that hardly worn shirt off his back each time a film tanks, and there’s no dearth of younger, hungry rivals snapping at his ankles.
I have a suggestion: Why not a Rahul Gandhi Reality Show on television? Salman had his very own Dus Ka Dum and will soon be the Bigg Boss. Rahul’s minders would do well to pitch him as the Next Big Thing on tv as he goes around the countryside screening fresh candidates and recruits. It will accomplish two major feats in one go – viewers will be trated to a spectacular Bharat Darshan and India will witness the birth of a Political Superstar. Perhaps Katrina can be roped in as co-anchor, now that she is… ummmm, officially single??
What an idea, Sirji… err… Madamji!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blogdosts, Many thanks for your overwhelming response to the book. I am truly, truly touched. Perhaps I should have clarified earlier - the book will only hit bookstores around the 21st of September. The trade buzz has been most encouraging. I was shooting a promo for a sales conference yesterday, and Harish, who is just so good with distribution, told me he had advance orders rolling in. Okay. No more sales talk!!
Today is a very auspicious day - Ganesh Chaturthi. I am planning to watch 'Dabbang' and then go back to Kittichai's 'Koh' to sample what I'd missed out the last time - his signature dishes. Shraavan is over (it ended at 4 p.m. on the 8th). I am seriously considering sticking to my Monday fasts, and giving preference to a largely vegetarian diet. It makes me feel healthier and lighter.
Rushing to a panel discussion on CNN-IBN ( interesting and volatile topic - Caste Census ) last night, I nearly missed the slot - families wishing to avoid the Ganpati rush today, were bringing the beloved deity home and the streets were filled with joyous greetings as thousands blocked traffic for hours. I am planning my annual pilgrimage to Lalbaug chha Raja - this year, the security is that much tighter on account of the terrorist threat. All the more reason to go and pay obeisance at the Lord's feet - with devotion in the heart and enough courage not to fear any calamity. More tomorrow.... till then, join me in saying, "Ganpati Bappa Morya!" and Eid Mubarak.
This appeared in The Week....
These lashes are not for fluttering…

Tala Raassi’s name is not known to many outside the rarefied world of international fashion. She’s the 27 year old, originally from Teheran, who made waves at the recently held Miss Universe Pageant, when contestants walked the ramp in bikinis designed by her. Tala’s flight to freedom at age 18, is part of her dramatic c.v. as she moves up the fame ladder in America, which is now her home. When Tala was celebrating her sixteenth birthday in Teheran, she and her friends were arrested for breaking Islamic laws as practiced in Iran. Her crime? Tala had taken off her head scarf and black chador inside the privacy of her home, and was caught wearing a mini skirt, tee shirt and high heels. The religious police who burst in and broke up the celebrations sentenced her to be lashed. Five days later, she found herself face down on a mattress, ordered to do so by a woman holding a Koran in one hand. Tala kept her tee shirt on, hoping the thin fabric would offer a little protection. On the contrary, with each lash, the fabric got stuck to the deep gashes on her back and made the excruciating pain, still worse. It was then that Tala decided to escape to America and pursue her dream to become a fashion designer. She was inspired by the idea of being in an environment that encouraged women to wear what they like. Where women were free to cover up – or not.
Tala was fortunate to get away with just lashes. She could as easily have been killed. Women in today’s Talibanised Afghanistan have it much, much worse. Like Tala so many years ago, they too have zero personal freedoms, cannot listen to music, dance, drive, receive an education, speak to members of the opposite sex or in any manner, express themselves. Nearly every day, one comes across reports of women being stoned to death… and no matter what the justification, it remains an act of unadulterated barbarity. That the civilised world can do nothing about it, adds to the complicity of the crime. Closer to home, our own record isn’t all that better – after all, if we condemn stoning a woman to death for suspected infidelity in other parts of the world, what can one say about the equally primitive tradition of Khap killings in our own backyard? And it’s about time we stopped referring to them as ‘honour killings’ - that tag makes this heinous crime sound almost respectable. Despite protests and condemnations, our newspapers continue to be filled with grisly stories of young girls being relentlessly hunted down by male relatives out to ‘save’ the family name. Here in Hypocritical India, we refuse to acknowledge this as a major social blight, we refuse to call it the Talibanisation of our culture, and most importantly, we refuse to punish the guilty. If justice was swift and strict in these cases, if those guilty of murder were tried and sentenced in fast track courts within a reasonable period of time, believe me, others contemplating such dastardly acts, would think a thousand times before going after their defenceless victims.
That’s how it goes in our country. Women remain our lowest priority on all levels. Their health and well being are not issues of any importance. Which is a really pretty foolish and short sighted approach, given that women form the fulcrum around which Indian society ( like most other civilised societies) revolves. Despite that, we continue to strip them naked in public, beat and torture them, maim and murder them. All in the name of ‘protecting’ society. The reason we do so is absurdly simple – because we can.
Tala’s memory of those lashes prodded her to take a risky step and plot her escape. She did it! But there are millions of women across the world who aren’t as lucky or as gutsy. What about them? Some lashings are obvious – they are physical. They leave visible scars. Equally damaging are emotional lashings – and those scars remain hidden. Sometimes for life. Either way, the guilty don’t pay.Not in this life, anyway.More’s the pity.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bingo!!! The book!!!!!!!!!

You’ve got nothing left to prove ...
remember, life soars at 60!

Penguin Books India is delighted to announce the publication of

Shobhaa at Sixty
Secrets of Getting It Right at Any Age

By Shobhaa Dé

Published by Hay House
9789380480497 / Paperback / 217 pages / Rs 350

Shobhaa Dé is known to live life by her own rules. Declaring sixty ‘the new forty’, she shares some of her most intimate secrets that are valuable at any age. From beauty tips, dealing with anxiety and ageing to spiritual quests and seeking solace and tranquility, Shobhaa wants you to have a joyous and fulfilling existence.

In Shobhaa at Sixty, she helps the reader rejuvenate their life, giving wise, honest and practical advice on how to cope with the daily challenges and stresses we face in today’s fast-paced world. She shares her own experiences from her life spanning six decades, claiming the inspiration for penning this book was, in her own words, ‘to free people from the cage of age’.

Whether it’s flagging levels of confidence or diminishing stamina, Shobhaa with her trademark wit and insight provides the perfect antidote. Laying great emphasis on family values and ties, she stresses on making each passing decade more meaningful and enriching while taking the time to enjoy the small pleasures of life.

Leading by example, Shobhaa shows us just how much we have to look forward to, no matter what our age!

About the Author

Voted by Reader’s Digest as one of ‘India’s Most Trusted People’ and one of the ‘50 Most Powerful Women in India’ by Daily News and Analysis, Shobhaa Dé is one of India’s highest selling authors and a popular social commentator. Her works comprising both fiction and non-fiction have been featured in comparative literature courses at universities abroad and in India. Her writing has been translated into many regional languages as well as French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.

For more information please contact Mina Okamoto at 4613 1494 or

For more information on Penguin Books India please contact Hemali Sodhi at
BLOGDOSTS! This one is just for you! I swear!
Haven't shared THE NEWS with anybody else.
It is an auspicious day.
And what a lovely way to mark it!
Bring it on, guys!!!! Tell me what you think.... tell me you are happy for me...

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How to pen a masala memoir...

This appeared in Sunday Times...

Tony Blair has done the full monty… well, almost! Don’t we just love it!! At last, a memoir that hits all the wrong notes and the right spots! Deliciously candid, outrageously readable and mercifully, indiscreet! Thank God for Blair’s political incorrectness. This is the stuff good masala memoirs are made of. And fortunately for hungry readers there’s one brave man out there willing to let it all hang out…. err… literally. Now that Britain’s ex- prime minister has informed the world about his boudoir conduct ( “ I was an animal in the bedroom,”), perhaps it won’t be too much to ask his wife Cherie to write her version titled “There’s a tiger in my bed.” He goes on to brag that women find politicians irresistible since power is an aphrodisiac. He merrily justifies what he calls a ‘free bird impulse’ to have affairs, adding, “ There is a moment of encounter, so exciting, so naughty, so lacking in self control…” it provides a thrill that is like ‘‘an explosion of irresponsibility.” Is this a grown man blathering on about male sexual fantasies or a frisky schoolboy salivating and leching in a girl’s dorm ? It hardly matters. The book is likely to sell millions of copies and find zillions of takers for the juvenile justifications it offers on matters sexual and political. It should be read in the same spirit it has been written – come on, Tony is entitled to reveal all. It’s his book. Statecraft meets the Kamasutra meets Lady Chatterley’s Lover - that adds up to a whopping, international bestseller! What’s the bet his publisher has also become an animal, in and out of the bedroom? By the time the numbers roll in, there may be a veritable zoo in Blair’s boudoir.His take on statecraft and bodycraft are both equally engaging, equally shallow. But it is refreshing as hell to come across a 700 page tome that goes beyond affairs of the state and jauntily jumps into risqué territory – sexual affairs. Blair’s own passionate ‘affair’ – no, not with Princess Diana - but the very unlikely George Bush, may arouse hoots of derision in political circles, but it’s pretty rare for a politician to stick his neck out and stand by an old ally when the rest of the world has discarded the person. Going by the published excerpts, Blair and Bush were a little like Tom and Jerry or Laurel and Hardy playing war games.They rode into Iraq together and the world has never been the same again.
Memoirs work best when the person writing them is confident( or foolish) enough to tell all. If Blair admits that there was a stage during is prime minister ship when he was dealing with a G&T ( Gin and tonic) problem, often knocking back a stiff drink, along with half a bottle of wine over dinner, the revelation makes him far more human. If he confesses his attraction for the ‘People’s Princess’, but qualifies that her ‘emotional wildness’ scared him off ( even though he saw a bit of himself in her ‘manipulative nature’), one can completely get it. It is nuggets like these that are likely to make this a truly modern memoir, and therefore appealing to the aam janata across the world. Some of the anecdotes are amusing and cute – like the time Britain’s Queenie herself got down to doing the dishes at Balmoral , after slipping her royal hands into a pair of rubber gloves. It is a vivid and amazing image – can you imagine a single wealthy woman in India undertaking this humble, after dinner chore? And here, Blair is talking about his Queen – one of the richest individuals in the world. He claims three years out of office have given him time to reflect on his government. It has also given him the opportunity to trash rivals and his successor, Gordon Brown in particular. Bechara Brown is dismissed as a ‘strange guy’, someone low on ‘emotional intelligence’. There goes Brown’s female constituency!Blair watchers should see ‘The Ghost Writer’, a movie in which the former James Bond, Pierce Brosnon, plays a thinly disguised version of Tony Blair penning his controversial memoirs.It had generated a lot of controversy when it was released… with good reason. It was a pretty telling film that followed a ghost writer’s scarey experiences when he stumbles on secrets that eventually cost the fictitious prime minister his life.The most shocking suggestion in the movie was that the British prime minister had become a total stooge of the American President, going so far as to suggest that the P.M.’s ambitious wife was an American agent ready to sell the country down the drain. Sensibly, the Blairs had ignored the film. Another movie titled ‘The Queen’ , had also projected Blair in an entirely unflattering light, showing him as a vain and self serving prime minister who cared only about his own image and little else. Blair ignored this one, too.
India emerges glowing away in Blair’s racy book and he has given the country a generous pat on the back (“… a shining example of a large nation, still developing, that manages to be democratic.”). Oh well… just for giving us that rather naïve certificate for good conduct, let us invite Tony to launch his book here. We can treat the Blairs to a special screening of ‘Peepli { Live}’ just to give them an idea of India’s experiments with democracy.


Blogdosts, I am faced with a vexing question and need your help. I hate the idea of using this space for any kind of hard sell. A blog is not a classified ad. Now.... here's the tricky part - I have a new book that is going to hit the market shortly. Do you want me to keep you in the loop about the launch dates, reviews, and other events associated with a fresh title? Would you like me to share interviews, quotes, posters and other details here - if I promise not to indulge in over kill? Be totally honest, okay?? Frankly, I am very excited and would love to tell all . It is a special book and the cover is looking good. The trade has shown a lot of pre-release interest. But that is another story. This is as much your space as it is mine. I leave the verdict in your capable hands. As you are aware, this is not a monetized blog and I am not about to sell out. So relax! The views expressed here are entirely independent. Which is why I love this space and respect your opinions. Haan.... ya, na?

Mission statement made! Over to you....

Friday, September 3, 2010

Shraavan ends next week. On one level I am glad it does - I confess I've had my cravings for meat, fish and a glass of crisp white. But then again, the self imposed discipline makes one feel virtuous ( and SLIM!). I have dropped weight visibly and am feeling lighter. Shraavan is a great way to detox... all that fruit, all those veggies! Each time I felt hungry, I'd drink warm water and think of my waistline - ha ha! It's a good thing my mad travel schedule was comparitively restricted this month. I can tell you it's totally frustrating to be at gourmet destinations and watch other people enjoy an unforgettable four course meal while you stick to limp salad leaves. I am plotting and planning my 'end of Shraavan' party. I've picked an old fashioned restaurant called 'Gaylord's' at Churchgate. My family is most amused. Why that of all places, they've been asking. Well...for one, I am sick of starving at over rated, over priced smart restaurants specialising in so called fusion cuisine ( very few places get it right). 'Nostalgia takes me back to 'Gaylord's'. I grew up within walking distance of this classic place, which used to be the favourite hangout of old Bollywood stars. The food was brilliant then... and is equally brillaint now. Delicious, hearty, sensibly priced stuff sans frills. Besides, I've been dying for sizzlers and very few places serve sizzlers these days. Shall report all next thursday - I am counting the hours! As I write these words I have polished off a plate of diced cucumbers and carrots. Am feeling like an over stuffed rabbit!
Waiting to get my hands on this year's hottest title - 'A Journey', which is Tony Blair's 700- page tome - by all accounts a racy, naughty, sexy read! If any of you guys has read it, do share your views and reviews. I am delighted Britain's former Prime Minister has taken the risque route. I'm sure he has lied through his teeth - but that's half the fun of penning a political memoir. Now that we know Blair is 'an animal in the bedroom' ( his boast... but must check what Cherie feels about this!), why was he such a mouse in the presence of George Bush????
I did promise you a comment on 'We are Family'. Let me just say my tear ducts were in overdrive, especially post-interval. Does that make it a good film? I dunno. I was moved despite myself. After years and years, I cried like a baby while watching a film. Maybe I am a sucker for Mommy Movies. You go watch and give us your verdict.