Friends in the front row

"Everyone thinks Anupama Chopra and I should be rivals, since we both appear on rival TV channels doing film reviews, but actually we are friends and have great regard for each other," says our friend, CNN-IBN's Rajeev Masand, whose opposable thumbs are as watched in Bollywood as the Khan abs-pack tally.

We had called Masand, to enquire about his speaking engagement with Chopra this evening at the launch of her book, The Front Row, based on her popular TV show of the same name when he along with actress Kangana Ranaut and Arunabh Kumar, would be in conversation with Chopra.

Anupama Chopra with Martin Scorsese
Anupama Chopra with Martin Scorsese

"Anupama and I have been friends ever since her days as a print journalist with India Today," says Masand. "And ever so often we find ourselves flying together for film premiers and star interviews around the world. The last time was when we found ourselves waiting together to interview Johnny Depp about his film Transcendence," he says.

Rajeev Masand; (left) Johnny Depp. Pic/Getty Images
Rajeev Masand; (left) Johnny Depp. Pic/Getty Images

"We'd both seen the film the previous day and hated it," he laughs. "When Depp made us wait till 7 pm for an interview slated at 1 pm, we had a good laugh about Hollywood being as tardy as Bollywood," he adds. "And once, I gate-crashed by his own invitation, a romantic dinner Vidhu Vinod Chopra was having with Anupama in Rome!" he laughs.

"The Front Row was a professional milestone for me," says Chopra. "Mehboob studio became our home for two years. We had such a great time creating the show. We hosted a dazzling array of guests from Ang Lee to Amitabh Bachchan, Steven Spielberg to Shah Rukh Khan. I even got a few minutes with Martin Scorsese at the Marrakech Film Festival.

Our ambition was to create engaging, insightful and entertaining conversations about cinema. I hope readers enjoy revisiting the show through this book," says Chopra, who, according to Masand, is "one of the most hardworking film critics around."

"For someone in her position, she really works very hard," he says. "Once at Cannes, where she was a participant, as well as a reviewer, she was so overworked, that she fainted and they had to put her in a wheel chair and she was still working!" he adds.

Kunal's Choice: Johnny Lever
For our money, the funniest response to the Deepika Padukone's Vogue My Choice film, is Kunal Vijayakar's spoof on it on The Week That Wasn't.

(From left) Kunal Vijayakar with Johnny Lever, Boman Irani, Zenobia Irani, Kayoze Irani and Danesh Irani
(From left) Kunal Vijayakar with Johnny Lever, Boman Irani, Zenobia Irani, Kayoze Irani and Danesh Irani

Vijayakar, who is one of the most talented comic artists we have, has always been brilliantly impersonating women (his takes on Lata Mangeshkar and Pratibha Patil are legendary) but this time he's outdone himself, with the blow-dried locks, the faux moue and the in your face primping in the B&W parody.

So when the talented funnyman expressed his admiration for one of his peers in the business, Bollywood's inimitable Johnny Lever, it was not something to be laughed at. "I cannot believe this man. Just watched the Johnny Lever Live show at Nehru auditorium on Saturday," says Vijayakar. "I'd gone with Boman Irani and his family. Johnny and I are old friends and we've acted together," he says.

"And after all these years and after all the stand up acts that have come after him, he stands there for 3 hours single-handedly cracking you up with laughter, and has you rolling in the aisles, without a single cuss word, or a single sexual joke.

He sings, dances, mimics, makes social comments, pokes fun, creates funny scenarios, situations, is topical and spares no one or any subject. With tremendous respect to all the new fellas, you are great. But he's the greatest," he says. "My cheeks are paining. My back is aching and my stomach is griping just laughing. Salut to you Johnny bhai," says Vijayakar.

Shireen Gandhy
Shireen Gandhy, Sudhir Patwardhan and Atul Dodiya

Kochi-Muziris biennale fundraiser
"This auction becomes special, because artists who are the "source of the river" (metaphorically speaking), as key stakeholders in the art world are donating generously and directly to the corpus that the biennale is setting up for the future," says gallerist Shireen Gandhy of Chemould, about this evening's fundraiser auction, in support of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, for which major artists like A Ramachandran, Anju and Atul Dodiya, Gulam Mohammed Sheikh and Sudhir Patwardhan have contributed their works generously, "This hopes to be an ongoing exercise where different artists step in at different times."

More irony deficiency
Unbelievable as it sounds, Lisa Ray recently turned 43. And whereas the diva is said to have planned a retreat on a private island in Boracay, Philippines, which had to be cancelled because of the Weather Gods, she made up by celebrating her special day with her husband Jason Dehni, at the Ritz Carlton in Hong Kong.

Lisa Ray with husband Jason Dehni
Lisa Ray with husband Jason Dehni

"The couple had pre-arranged for a private pool to spend some quality time with each other," said a spokesperson. "They were accompanied by some good food and champagne to celebrate the beauty's birthday." And then without missing a beat, the spokesperson adds, "Here are some exclusive photographs of Lisa and her husband Jason during their luxury weekend." Err, so it wasn't so private after all?

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