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Gabbana to Shabana

"I wasn't in the dining table scene because I refused to laugh at my daughter," says Soni Razdan about 'Genius of the Year', the Youtube clip, featuring her daughter, actress Alia Bhatt that’s gone viral.

Variously called ‘the most brilliant way a star has countered a negative image’ to ‘such a welcome change that a celeb can laugh at herself’ the short film features the lovely actress responding to her supposed ‘dumb blonde’ image by sending it up in style.

The 21-year-old had been the butt of cyber jokes when she’d mistakenly cited the Maharashtra CM Chavan as being the President of India on an episode of Koffee with Karan. Not that it means anything, but we’d never bought into the stories of her supposed lack of IQ, after all how could the daughter of Mahesh Bhatt and Soni Razdan be anything but bright?

Alia BhattSoni RazdanParineeti Chopra
Alia Bhatt, Soni Razdan and Parineeti Chopra

“She’s no Nietzsche but she’s certainly not dumb,” says Razdan. “She’s done her IB, she’s as intelligent as the next girl, so I used to feel so sad when all those jokes began to circulate,” said the protective mom. “It’s so good to see her respond to it with such style. And hats off to the film’s producers and Karan Johar, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra (in pic) for playing along and sending themselves up too. It’s so great to have humour done intelligently!” she said. As for the scene, which she conveniently skipped, it featured husband Mahesh chuckling over the joke ‘What does Alia Bhatt think is India’s national animal. Ans: Tiger Shroff.’

“Fortunately I had a yoga class, but even if I was at the table I would have not smiled,” said Razdan.

Mumbai boy makes good
In India, Sarosh Zaiwalla is best known for defending the family of actor Amitabh Bachchan against charges of involvement in the Bofors scandal, a case that he had won.

Sarosh ZaiwallaAmitabh BachchanTony Blair
Sarosh Zaiwalla, Amitabh Bachchan and Tony Blair

The Bachchans are among the high-profile people that Zaiwalla knows personally and mingles with socially. He was a friend of Margaret Thatcher, when she was alive. He’s friends with John Major and Tony Blair (who once worked for Zaiwalla as a young lawyer, and whom he allegedly had to sack). He knew Rajiv Gandhi and P V Narasimha Rao. He’s friends with Chandraswami. And with the Dalai Lama. He knew Benazir Bhutto well. The list is a veritable Who’s Who of Global Rich and Powerful.

Try reaching the Mumbai-born St Xavier’s school alumnus and you are hardly ever likely to find him in London, where he started the first full-fledged non-white law firm in the City of London, that bastion of British establishment. That’s because his practice, since he set sail from Mumbai in 1972, is so successful that Zaiwalla can no longer be considered just a London lawyer.

His clients at Zaiwalla & Co – which he founded in 1982, and which now has 18 lawyers - include governments, companies and individuals in Russia, China, Iran, Mongolia, European Union and, of course, India.

Which means he’s usually jetting from capital to capital. And when he’s not in planes, he can be found at his lovely apartment overlooking the Mediterranean in the French village of Villefranche-sur-Mer, a 30-minute drive from Nice. Or at his seaside house, aptly called Neptune, in Sussex, not far from London.

Unsurprisingly, Zaiwala’s London home, a luxurious apartment on the Thames, overlooking the Houses of Parliament, looks virtually out of a Hollywood movie with an almost mandatory Bentley parked in the basement.

But the occasional worry lines do fray the jet set lawyer’s brow.

Word comes in that currently what’s concerning the lawyer, whose name is reported to have once again come up for nomination to the House of Lords, is this onerous task: Which luxury car to buy for France?

Credit where it’s due
In the self-serving atmosphere that’s known as Mumbai society, it’s so rare to have an icon expressing gratitude and admiration for another.

Hemant Trevedi
Hemant Trevedi

Which is why, when designer Neeta Lulla, a star in her own right, was overheard crediting designer Hemant Trevedi for his role in her success, our ears pricked up. “He was my professor at the SNDT when I studied fashion,” she said, when we ran into her over the weekend. “And I will always be grateful for the knowledge he imparted.” Nice!

Alt fest turns respectable?
It’s known as the ultimate alternative trippy getaway for dyed-in-the-wool hipsters.

Held annually in the Nevada desert, the Burning Man festival has won itself a unique notoriety, known to give the hundreds of thousands who attend it instant street-cred.

Jacqueline Lundquist and Richard Frank Celeste
Jacqueline Lundquist and Richard Frank Celeste

Tickets to this year’s event at $400 are reported to have sold out within an hour, but money’s the least important issue at the fest which boasts of barely survival infrastructure and a system of bartering amenities to free the spirit.

But as all underground movements go, Burning Man, which started in 1986, too has to deal with the problems of success: tech tycoons and rap stars have begun thronging to it.

However the last nail in its coffin might just prove to be the leggy diplomatic wife Jacqueline Lundquist’s comment on a social networking site recently: ‘I still need one more Burning Man ticket for Dick! ANYONE????’

The ‘Dick’ referred to, as insiders will tell you, is her husband Richard Frank Celeste, the distinguished American politician and a member of the Democratic Party who served as Ambassador to India a few years ago.

A breath of triumphalism
“There’s an epidemic called ‘hard work’ in Delhi. And the chief vector seems to be someone who moved here about 90 days ago,” says our friend, the noted Delhi-based writer, Padma Rao.

Padma Rao
Padma Rao

“BSES actually called back - like a gazillion times - to check whether the electricity is back (after a brief outage had prompted me to complain), speaking in polite, dulcet tones,” she says incredulously. “NEVER in my life - and it’s been a long one - has a bijli ghar EVER picked up the phone, let alone jot down a complaint, fix the problem and call back to confirm,” says the senior journalist, whose much-awaited book on the Sri Lanka Tamil crisis will be out soon.

Unlike other members of her tribe, Rao has not succumbed to Modi-bashing. “Happy days are here again. And a thumbs up to Modi,” she says, adding in sotto voice, “Yes, yes, I know that BSES is not under the central government and that Delhi hasn’t had its own since that silly fellow resigned-but hey, we do live in the same city where Modi currently resides.”

In these bleak times, her triumphalism comes as whiff of fresh air.

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