Mumbai Diary: Sunday shorts

The city — sliced, diced and served with a dash of sauce

On the charity bandwagon
“Cancer patients who travel to Mumbai for treatment usually lack a support system to see them through. That’s why they need to be taken care of,” says actor Imran Khan on the phone from Kashmir when we talk about his association with Helping Hands, a charitable organisation which is holding a fundraiser this week at St Regis.

Imran Khan and Maheka Mirpuri
Imran Khan and Maheka Mirpuri

Most families of cancer patients run out of cash mid-way through treatment often and end up living on the footpath. The organisation helps them find temporary accommodation. “My main job here is to help with visibility and raising awareness. For example, all funds from the charity screenings of my last movie, Katti Batti, went to the organisation,” he says. The fundraiser will also be showcasing works by artists Reena Dutta and Farhat Khan.

More help
Meanwhile. designer Maheka Mirpuri, who lost her father and brother-in-law to cancer, is hosting a charity gala at The Taj Mahal Hotel on October 28, to raise funds for cancer patients. Mirpuri had set up a charitable foundation at the Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) two years ago and has already raised Rs 70 lakhs.

“MCAN (Move for Cancer Awareness). It provides financial aid to underprivileged patients suffering from head and neck cancer, which is the most common in India,” says Mirpuri. She has also created a fashion line, Shouts of Wilderness, which will be auctioned at the event, along with works by Krishanamachari Bose, Akbar Padamsee, Paresh Maity, Manu Parekh, Ajay De and Thota VaiKuntam. Mirpuri adds, “If you want to donate, just simply drop in a cheque!”

Parikrama rocks at 24
Rock legends Parikrama have completed 24 years and are embarking on a 15-city tour to celebrate the landmark. Playing at blueFROG Mumbai on the 29th, the band jokes that unlike in a marriage, this feels like no time at all.

Rock band Parikrama completes 24 years this year
Rock band Parikrama completes 24 years this year

“When we formed back in 1991, our first four practice sessions were just spent talking. We set down some rules then, simple ones like always being on time, and that have stood us in good stead. All of us are still very grounded.” He also says that their audience has changed drastically.

“When we started out, only covers worked. But these days, they expect and accept original music.” Proceeds from the tour will go to the Robin Hood Army, an initiative that aims to feed the poor.

May you play on, Alphonso
Austen Alphonso, 66, has been playing the piano at Zodiac Grill for 26 years, since the contemporary French and European fine dining restaurant at the Taj was set up. Alphonso, who will play his last song here next month when the restaurant folds up, says, “But I have been with Taj for the past 36 years.

Austen Alphonso has been the pianist at the Zodiac Grill for 26 years
Austen Alphonso has been the pianist at the Zodiac Grill for 26 years

My brother Moreno plays in the lobby and my youngest brother is in Canada. We all learnt to play the piano from our father Mauro. He was a wonderful violinist.” “The best compliment he has received was from a woman who told me, ‘I only like Bollywood music, but I love what you play’.

She was an actress,” he recalls. Over the years, he has learnt to stick to playing soft jazz. “I strum the boom notes when I see servers lift the cover off a dish. The awe of the patrons matches my loud notes. This is just to wake them up a bit and create a dramatic moment,” he says.

Pic/Ashish Rane
Pic/Ashish Rane

Mother figures
Prateik Babbar kisses actress Shabana Azmi as his aunt and Smita Patil’s sister Anita Patil Deshmukh looks on at an event to launch Smita Patil: A Brief Incandescence by Maithli Rao. Amitabh Bachchan released the book at Sofitel, Bandra Kurla Complex. Patil would have turned 53 on October 17.

When Shakespeare’s sonnets meet ragas
We just can’t help falling in love with some works-in-progress. Last week, Opera North, a prominent UK opera house, was in the city to collaborate with spirited singer Shubha Mudgal and tabla artiste Aneesh Pradhan.

(L-R) Dominic Gray, Aneesh Pradhan, Shubha Mudgal and Matthew Sharp. Pic/Sherwin Crasto/Solaris Images & British Council
(L-R) Dominic Gray, Aneesh Pradhan, Shubha Mudgal and Matthew Sharp. Pic/Sherwin Crasto/Solaris Images & British Council

The agenda: to set Shakespeare’s sonnets into song. As the first phase of an East-meets-West confluence, word is that the collaboration is gearing up for the 400th death anniversary of the Bard next year.

In the meanwhile, mellifluous jugalbandi sessions took place between the veterans of Hindustani classical music, cellist Matthew Sharp and project head Dominic Gray from Opera North. The unusual quartet arranged a performance for an intimate audience, that included theatre director Sunil Shanbag, author Janhavi Acharekar and theatre artist Dolly Thakore.

To every sonnet that was lyrically spoken, Mudgal chimed in with her compositions as well as Eastern lyrics, such as a poem by Sufi singer Amir Khusrow. Shakespeare’s celebrated Sonnet 18, Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day, was part of this sequence, we hear.

Pradhan said, “As artistes, we are always curious about not just our tradition but that of others too, and in that sense, this experience was enlightening as it brought to light the manner in which texts across cultures and traditions resonated. There was an exchange of musical ideas related to form and technique. We learnt a lot from each other’s musicianship.”

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