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A star is gone

>> Sad news. Iona Pinto, the statuesque beauty queen, who won the Femina Miss India title in 1960, a year after the beauty pageant was launched, succumbed after a bravely fought battle against cancer last week. Pinto who represented India at the international pageant way before Reita Faria famously won the Miss World title in 1966 was an iconic figure in the world of modelling and beauty pageants.

Remember, this was two decades before the slew of titleholders like Aishwarya, Sushmita, Priyanka and Lara made their mark on the international stage when young women like Pinto had to depend entirely on their own resources.

Often that meant a tailor down the road and family and friends who helped with makeup! Perhaps it was this that played a part in Pinto missing out on winning the Miss International title in 1961 at Long Beach to Miss Colombia by half a point! In Persis Khambatta’s book on beauty queens ‘Pride of India’ the experience has been recounted.

Apparently, the five finalists had stood on stage waiting for the judges to deliberate, and Pinto was by far the best contender. And yet the final results declared Miss Colombia the winner! The mystery was explained when the Dean of the Judges, Vincent Trotta, later told Iona, “Miss India, I hope you keep smiling... because you stopped smiling you lost half a point to Miss Colombia.”


Iona Pinto

Apparently, as the choice was so tough that the judges waited for one of them to do something wrong in those ten minutes. Sad because if she’d contested two decades later she would have had the best training and support system that would have not only have taught her how to smile but for how long and what intensity!

Never mind, Ms Pinto went on to a dazzling career in modelling and a long, happy marriage and kids. She is survived by her family including her daughter Vanessa Vaz Muller, who herself became a leading model in the 80s.

Mumbai’s all night hangout
>>  Good news for those who love nothing more than an after–party natter over a hot cuppa. A little bird tells us that the Taj is planning to shift its iconic 24-hour coffee shop The Shamiana back to its original venue (South of the lobby where the Zodiac Grill and Starboard are presently housed).


Shamiana at the Taj

Those of you who can read without Lasik will recall that in Mumbai’s salad days, the Shamiana was the place to converge to after any late evening engagement. In those days wherever you were in Mumbai, after the party was over the cry would go up: See you at Shamiana! And people would land up for post dinner gupshup and chai at the Taj’s coffee shop. Under the exuberant colourful canapés and surrounded by artsy bric-a-brac (Elizabeth Kerkar’s tribute to Indian handicrafts) Mumbai’s young and restless crowd would bond in to the late hours. So now, it will be interesting to see if after all these years when the city is crammed with coffee shops to please every palate and wallet, the Shamiana can be restored to its original glory. (Incidentally, rumour has it that when Camellia Panjabi, the genius behind some of the Taj’s most successful initiatives was shopping around for a name, her friend Suhrid Sarabhai took one look at the décor and suggested Canapé — a brilliant pun on the décor and the kind of food a coffee shop serves). Let’s see if its new location will enable Mumbaikars to be united with their favourite late night hangout.

But where’s the warmth?
>>  Yesterday feeling young and adventurous, we signed up for fancy skin treatments at one of those spanking new beauty franchises that are fast mushrooming across the country. This one we were happy to learn didn’t have a price tag to match its hype. A phone call to book the appointment, a consultation with a doctor and then one hour lying flat on our back receiving all nature of gels, emollients and unguents on our face. To be honest, it was not an unpleasant experience. The service was professional and informed. The girl who was administering the treatment was well spoken and articulate and the ambient music (cascading violins, vaulting flute) was exceptional. No, there was nothing to complain about and yet so much. The trouble with places such as these is that the problem is not what they do — but what they don’t. Yes, everything is efficient, (almost) and works like clockwork (more or less) and the ambience is cleaner and more hygienic than what we’ve been used to. But hey — where are the smiles, the small personal exchanges, the easy camaraderie, and the human considerations? At the end of it, we felt as if we’d been processed on the assembly line of a canning factory. I can never understand why in our race to being international and world class we have to sacrifice the human element and our God-given warmth!

Jani’s new direction
>>  Our friend Jehangir Jani is one of those artists who unlike a lot of others in his field rarely allows commercial considerations and popular trends to influence his art. Which from oils on canvas to watercolours to sculpture and installation he has experimented with a wide variety of mediums and techniques to express his creativity.


Jehangir Jani’s new creations

Recently, we caught up with him and learnt that sculpture and water colours have been keeping him busy since his last showing in the city at the Loft at Lower Parel in 2008.

The sculptures, which are in stone mainly, depict every day quotidian objects — the symbols of modern urban existence. What caught our interest are also Jani’s creations in recycled cotton fibre, which depict objects like toasters, scooters and pressure cookers. Under Jani’s hands they assume iconic and vivid identities.

“In October, I have a show of watercolours in Hyderabad and in December, an International Sculptors Symposium in Baroda. Whew!” says the ever busy artist, who is the elder brother of the celebrated designer Abu Jani of Abu–Sandeep fame. Talent runs in the family!  

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