How insidiously a communal mentality has crept up on us, is evident by the spurious controversy that erupted over an innocuous post by actress-activist Shabana Azmi on the occasion of Dussehra recently.
The message that she tweeted regarding 'no Durga being aborted' and 'no Saraswati' being stopped from attending school, is not a new one. Dozens of others had forwarded it to draw attention to the abject plight of women in India. But from Azmi, it was interpreted as being a communal one. Thankfully, the actress was away from the heat and dust and brouhaha.
'At the screening of 'Signature Move' in Chicago,' she texted us on Friday, before the controversy broke, about her action-packed days ahead. "Terrific response," she said about the film, written and acted by the Pakistani Fawzia Mirza on a same-sex relationship. The accolades her performance as Mirza's screen mother Parveen brought in were not the only thing to cheer about.
The weekend saw her receive a lifetime achievement award at the Chicago South Asian Film Festival the following day, along with a screening of the Aparna Sen-directed Sonata, after which she was off to deliver the Gandhi Peace lecture at McGill University in Montreal.
But it's not all work and no play for Azmi. "I'm off on a 10-day trip with five of my Gujju girlfriends through Italy, carrying theplas, chivda and chakli with us," she exulted, adding "When the travel agent learned that the average age of our group was over 60 years, his spontaneous reaction was 'baap re baap'." "It's now the official name of the group! Zoya has disowned us!"
Incidentally, we read and re-read Azmi's message for any communal slants or prejudices that might have been couched in her words, which we might have missed. Nyet, we could find none. Unless of course, haters surmise a bias against 'Gujjus', 'friends over 60' or ' theplas, chivda and chakli.' And given the political climate, they no doubt will!
In full film promotional mode
You know when Aamir Khan is in full film promotional mode, when the usually reclusive star is up and about, flaunting the latest 'look' of his under production next release. Recently, the star had made high-profile appearances at an awards show (not something he's known to do previously) and a fellow star's birthday bash.
And today, Khan, known to be one of the most astute marketing geniuses in Bolly town, will be found in Singapore where he will be in conversation with an interlocutor at the MasterCard Theatre at Marina Bay Sands, an event for which passes were snapped up a while ago by enthusiastic Singaporeans.
But those who did not get in can take solace: Khan will be walking the Red Carpet (another first?) while engaging with model and TV anchor Nethra Rahguraman, outside the theatre shortly before the event. What's more, 10 passes to the main event are being promised to early bird fans on the red carpet. Thugs of Hindoostan is expected next Diwali, but its promotions are already underway for Mister Perfectionist.
Her Big Indian Wedding
Sakshi, the attractive author and daughter of one of India's sharpest legal minds, Harish Salve, is all set to tie the knot later this year with her Delhi-based fiancé, entrepreneur Karan Bedi.
Sakshi and Harish Salve. Pic/Twitter
Sakshi's bachelorette trip to St. Tropez had made it to the papers a couple of months ago and word comes in that last week was the turn of her soon-to-be-husband Karan, who along with a group of close friends, flew into Bali for his bachelor party and the group was spotted at Bali's popular hangout Ku De Ta.
The couple will tie the knot towards the end of the year and Sakshi, who had authored the book 'The Big Indian Wedding', (whose launch in Mumbai we had attended along with the likes of heavy hitters like Amitabh Bachchan and Mukesh Ambani), seems to be enjoying every minute of her own. And as expected, the guest list of her wedding is expected to see the country's top movers and shakers from the worlds of business, politics and Bollywood in attendance.
Guess who's coming?
The case of prominent prime TV sound byte-er and Congress spokesperson Tehseen Poonawalla and Monica Vadhera, cousin of Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law, seems to get even curious.
Monica Vadhera and Tehseen Poonawalla
A couple of years ago, the couple was the subject of a storm in a tea cup, when a PRO had claimed that the two were not in a relationship at all, and their 'affair' was the result of a carefully choreographed PR exercise, cooked up by Poonawalla for some 'cheap' publicity.
Ekta Kapoor and Tanuj Garg
Now, we are informed (by another publicist) that not only has the couple been married for a while, but that Vadhera has since shifted to her husband's city Pune and is busy with the setting up of her 'new business venture': a high fashion jewellery studio.
'A big launch is expected just around the festive corner', we are informed, and guests who will be flying in for the occasion will be the couple's friends from Bolly town like Ekta Kapoor and Tanuj Garg. What makes all of this interesting, is that the other high-profile guests expected run the gamut of the political spectrum, way beyond the couple's obvious Congress connections: like MP Tej Pratap Singh ( the grand nephew of former UP CM Mulayam Singh Yadav), who is married to former Bihar CM Lalu Prasad Yadav's daughter; along with Rajya Sabha MP and Amar Singh.
This flaunting of heavy weight political connections does not end there. In faux tantalising breathless ardour, the publicist informs, "We haven't finished with the list of the guests yet, but then some secrets need to be kept as secrets, especially when the birdie suggests that there could be a former President attending the event too." Could this mean that a certain Pranab Mukherjee himself will preside at the opening of a fashion jewellery store in Pune? The mind boggles.
Green on both sides
Even as the tide appears to be turning against the present regime at the centre and all kinds of voices, especially those who serve as a weathervane for the direction of shifting winds are being heard, one wise political-watcher, with enough friends in industry and government, has insights that are well worth considering.
According to him, though the man at the top is personally not corrupt, enough evidence exists that when it comes to chicanery, both sides of the grass are green enough. What's more, he says, that an insidious and self-serving nexus exists between both the ruling regime and the one it replaced at the Centre.
How so? By an unspoken code that allows each to look away from the other's misdemeanors and protect each other's interests, regardless of the high moral ground of their public posturing. "A high-profile former minister was given due warning of the raids to be conducted on his son's businesses," we are informed.
"As for the flamboyant liquor baron with large serviced debts to banks, everyone knows he called on the very man who is supposed to be pursuing him publicly on the eve of his flight from India." Ah, so.
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