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An evening of style and substance

Wednesday night saw us driving down to the Juhu Vile Parle scheme to partake in an unusual birthday party. That of Simone Arora, Sanjay and Zarine Khan’s statuesque daughter, sister to Suzanne and Farah and Zayed.

The party was unusual because eschewing the practice of throwing a big fat self indulgent bash for a thousand of one’s best friends forever, Arora had chosen to put her pedigree, time and energy behind a worthy cause: she devoted the evening to showcasing and supporting Swades, Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala’s commendable foundation for rural empowerment and social change. What’s more, Arora had further upped the anti by opting for the wholly unorthodox practice by inviting solely women to partake of the evening. And what women they were!

Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala with Simone Arora
Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala with Simone Arora

In the dimly lit glamorous hall we spotted actresses Sridevi, Kangana Ranaut, Sonali Bendre, film makers Kiran Rao and Krishika Lulla, Bollwyood celebs like Lally Dhawan and Sunita Kapoor and a host of Mumbai’s power woman brigade like the ever graceful Rashmi Thackeray, Devieka Bhojwani (our sister), Chhaya Momaya, Laxmi Nair, Anna Singh, Kavita Singh, Zeba Kohli, Maya Alagh, Queenie Dodhy, Rhea Pillai and Aarti Surendranath amongst many others.

Sridevi and Rashmi Thackeray
Sridevi and Rashmi Thackeray

The presence of so many celebrated women, mostly (and coincidentally, dressed in black) gave the party an international and preternaturally beguiling edge. White gloved waiters served bubbly and Sangria in long fluted glasses, the kebabs were particularly delicious (Simone’s family, the Khans are renowned for their gastronomic lineage!) and the air was electric with conversation and laughter.

Kiran Rao
Kiran Rao

But if you think it was your usual Mumbai high society birthday party, perhaps you might reconsider: After a suitable time had elapsed and when most guests (even the most fashionably late) had arrived, the gathering was called to order and the guests made their way to the residence’s lush lawn where a formal podium had been erected.

Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut

The stage was set, the hour had come and the evening suddenly and subtly acquired a unique edge of one of stature and significance. First the Screwvalla’s, Ronnie and Zarina who had quietly and with great acumen in a former avatar built one of the most blue chip Bollywood production houses, revealed their newest passion: ‘ transforming the lives of one million people in five years by empowering our community’.

“We believe that empowering rural India is key to unleashing the country’s true potential,” they said. And then with a substantive AV that demonstrated their commitment to the key areas of water and sanitation, livelihood and agriculture, education and health and nutrition, they unveiled the 360-degree model prototype that could be scaled up across the country.

One million people. In five years. Already substantial headway had been made on all their key commitments and significant goals achieved. “We need partners, but more importantly, we need believers,” they said. Stealing a glance around the gathering of some of the city’s most powerful women of style influence and beauty, we found ourselves thinking, ‘If any one could make a difference it was them.’ Vive le difference!

A star resurfaces in Goa
And an interesting side note to the all-girl, glam–bang magical model tour of former models, which we reported on yesterday, is the resurfacing of former Bollywood stars Kimi Katkar.

Kimi Katkar in Goa
Kimi Katkar in Goa

Katkar, who dazzled moviegoers in the voluptuous Jhuma-Chooma De De number in the Amitabh Bachchan-Rajinikanth-Govinda starrer Hum had more or less retired from public life after her marriage to ace photographer Shantanu Sheorey and their subsequent move to Melbourne.

Now, back in Goa ever since Sheorey established his photography school, she’s kept a low public profile only surfacing when her former show biz colleagues show up in God’s own country. So when Sharmilla Khanna sent us this pic with the message ‘Sending pic of Kimi as she’s not in the group pic.’ We thought it fit to publish it.

Here gentle readers, is a recent candid picture of the vivacious star that made her debut in 1985 in the film Patthar Dil as a supporting actress starred subsequently in Tarzan and concluded her Bollywood career with Humlaa in 1992. And we are happy to say and as is amply evident she hasn’t lost her oomph or her beauty.

Mumbai and the Sheikh
And with friends returning from weddings in the Middle East carrying colourful stories like birds of exotic plumage, it would not be entirely inaccurate to say that His Highness Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan is one of India’s most prominent and sturdiest of friends in the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan
Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan

(His late father, His Highness Sheikh Mabarak Al Nahayan – one of the founding fathers of the UAE was also known for his fondness for our neck of the woods.) Little wonder that Sheikh Nahayan’s sprawling palace in the capital city of Abu Dhabi is usually the first stop for prominent visiting Indians.

He holds a majlis, or gathering, twice a day – during lunchtime and in the late afternoon. And it is legend that along with electric company lunch is always a lavish affair, with heaps of several kinds of biriyani fish, samosa, and mutton curry and a King’s ransom of desserts.

“The best samosa I’ve ever had,” Mumbai’s Rohit Singh, an investment banker with Capstone, who divides his time between India and the United States was overheard saying. He was in Abu Dhabi this week with a University delegation.

Samosa apart, Sheikh Nahayan is known for his business acumen and his investments in India and particularly Mumbai. Perhaps, it’s time for a special visit to try out the all sparklingly, new and much lauded international T2 terminal?

Sweet revenge?
They say revenge is a dish best eaten cold. And as these things go David Davidar, formerly Penguin’s swashbuckling hero, who parted ways with the publishing house in less than ideal situations, must be a particularly sated man. After all, it was to Davidar’s Aleph that Penguin’s star writer took the best-seller’s sequel, once his publishing deal with Penguin soured.

David Davidar with Vikram Seth
David Davidar with Vikram Seth

And with timing as exquisite as it is ironic, it is in the week that Penguin received its fiercest criticism in India (over the Doniger book affair) that Vikram Seth and Davidar celebrated the 20th anniversary of the book’s success in Delhi. As they say sometimes the best writer of plots is Life!

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