Of Jackie, Indira and Deepika

>> In what was a celebrity packed audience at the Times of India Literary Carnival on the lawns of Mehboob Studios to listen to Suhel Seth converse with Bina Ramani about her memoirs Bird In A Banyan Tree (we spotted Kumar and Neerja Birla, Lalitha Mallya, Hema Deora, Ashok Advani, Suruchi Chand and Gita Simoes), it was Indophile academic and great Indian movie buff Rachel Dwyer who asked the ‘masala’ question.

Jackie Kennedy

“If the book would be made into a film,” said Dwyer, “Who would you want to play you?” Pat came Ramani’s reply, “Deepika Padukone.”

“Because of the sports connection?” we overheard a member of the audience ask another. Ramani had been a sports champ in her youth, a fact that had come up during the discussion.

Deepika Padukone, Bina Ramani

“Because we both have dimples!” Bina declared, clearing all doubt about the reason for her choice.

And whom would she choose to enact the role of Shammi Kapoor, the memoirist’s ardent superstar paramour? asked Dwyer warming to the subject. “Ranbir Kapoor?”

Ranbir Kapoor

“ That would be perfect from the gene pool point of view,” said Seth dryly as an aside.

For the record, the book is crammed with the most extraordinary revelations: Indira Gandhi’s fondness for semi-precious jewels, Jackie Kennedy’s shopping sprees, Raj Kapoor’s conversations with Jesus and of course, a fly-on-the-wall account of the Jessica Lal murder episode!

Salman’s early mentor
>> “I have been around through most of Salman’s much-hyped relationships and vouch for the fact that he has always been a true gentlemen,” said celebrated ad-film maker Kailash Surendranath, when we asked him about the Dabangg actor, who’d spoken so affectionately about him in his interview with Karan Johar in the previous week’s of Koffee with Karan. “The first time ever Salman has faced the camera was for a Campa Cola commercial which I shot,” said Kailash recounting his friendship with the star.

Kailash Surendranath

“He was a kid, whilst all the rest of the cast were hunky seasoned models. But if he was unconfident, he never showed it, and with his amazing energy and swimming and diving abilities, he quickly won over everyone. We instantly bonded and the chemistry encouraged us to do all kinds of crazy things, like diving into shark-infested areas,” recalls the laidback film maker, himself the son of a celebrated film star — Surendranath.

Salman Khan

Has he changed from those early days, we asked the man whom Salman credits for helping him get over heartbreak and taking life a bit more seriously in his youth?

“Yes success has changed him... Made him even more selfless. Today, it seems, he lives and works for others more than himself, loves doing discreet charities, and never ever forgets old friends,” said Surendranath.

Africa in his palm
>> “While looking at Nelson Mandela’s powerful handprint, I was taken aback,” said Shailendra Singh of Percept, about the limited edition, original lithograph that he bid for and had won in an auction in 2011, and which hangs proudly in his office.

“When Mr Mandela had placed his hand upon the parchment for print, the negative space of his palm, created the exact outline of Africa. A complete Africa, right there, in the palm of his hand!” he said.

Shailendra Singh with Nelson Mandela’s handprint

Singh had heard Mandela speak in 2000, at the Laureus World Sports Awards, of which the revolutionary leader had been a patron.

“The opening line of his speech was, ‘Sport has the power to change the world.’ That one line and his speech changed my world. Until then, I had respected sport, played sport and supported sport. But his words impressed upon me the true inherent power of sport.”

Moved by the leader’s death last week, Singh relooked at his prized possession.

“I am incredibly proud to own one of these limited lithographs,” he said. “My understanding is that I am the only Indian in India who owns this bit of history.”
And indeed, when we inspected the print the image in the middle of the hand did look like the outline of Africa!

Hotel Blues
>> Will this mid-city hotel never settle in to a semblance of stability? No sooner had a renowned international chain pulled out its franchise, than many others were said to be eyeing the property.

Now word comes in that one of the world’s leading hospitality groups with a bouquet of luxury hotels in its domain wants to flag off its first Indian foray by bringing in its main luxury brand to the venue.

But sources say that things are proving to be tricky at the moment.

“There are many demands and changes that the international brand is said to be demanding before it signs on,” says our source. “Until then, the brand might just manage the hotel anonymously until its demands are met.”

The people have spoken
Can there be anyone at all unmoved by the majestic dance of democracy that we have just been witness to in the assembly elections in four states?

And is there anyone who can doubt the wisdom, sagacity and sincerity of the Indian electorate?

Because when push comes to shove, seeing through the blandishments of money and booze, the hype of lobbies and vested interests, the hollow talk of the media and the chatterati, the spin and the sting, the Indian voter has displayed a staggering amount of judiciousness and circumspection.

Routing the Congress out, bringing the BJP in but making sure that, with its support to an even more promising candidate like AAP, it holds the reins of power firmly in its own hands.

The people have spoken, the old order is gone. There is hope and celebration in the air.

And all eyes now trained on 2014! 

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