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Queen for the FT

You know some moments are life-defining even while you are experiencing them: Listening to Ravin of Buddha Bar play his personal collection for us on a friend’s boat on the Arabian Sea at dawn; riding pillion with MF Husain in Kolkata on a monster bike wearing leather; looking deep into Eckhart Tolle’s fathomless eyes at the Sea Lounge to discover the 'Now' and sharing a glass of Merlot and a Cohiba with Leonard Cohen at the Kemps Corner Hotel...

Place along with that, hearing Susheela Raman’s latest album ‘Queen Between’ with her, a few hours after she’d put in the final bells and whistles and called it a night recently in Mumbai.

Susheela Raman
Susheela Raman

We have been fans of the London-based Raman and her husband, the guitarist Sam Mills ever since we first heard them play at a Jaipur Lit fest evening. Which is why, to hear that no less than the Financial Times has rated their latest offering with five stars validates ones enthusiasm.

“Another magical collaboration with Qawwali musicians from Lahore, songs delving deep into mysticism and folklore,” is how the FT’s David Honigmann describes the offering.

“Susheela Raman has spent the last few years in occasionally fraught, but often magical collaborations with Qawwali musicians from Lahore, and this new album documents that sound world, with the Rizwan-Muazzam Qawwalis in full ecstatic flight amid the South Asian psychedelia,” says the tome, famous for its stiff upper lip.

Directing Designers
Great to catch up with Neeta Lulla (in pic) at the ‘Elle Carnival for a Cause’ this Sunday, one of Mumbai’s landmark annual social events.

Manish Malhotra. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Manish Malhotra. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Neeta and we go back many years and we have admired the way she has evolved, progressed and transformed herself.

Neeta Lulla
Neeta Lulla

And true to form she’s not done with the growing. Shyly, she whispered to us that she’s on the verge of launching her first film, an Indo-British production, which she will direct! “It’s still not been announced,” said the workaholic designer, a Bollywood and glam staple, “but it will be very soon, it’s something I have been wanting to do for a long time-so it’s a dream come true!”

Which makes us ask, of course: what’s it with Indian designers and filmmaking: From Manish Malhotra to Sabyasachi Mukherjee to Neeta Lulla, the direction bug has bitten them all! Blame it on KJO!

Sabyasachi’s New Store
And meeting the stylish and graceful Sabina Chopra, muse of and dynamo behind Sabyasachi reveals further fashion news: the maestro is all set to launch his newest store in Mumbai-all 7000 square foot of it in Sobo.

Sabina and Anil Chopra
Sabina and Anil Chopra

“As we speak Sabya is in the store in shorts and tee, working on the penning,” confided Chopra looking very much like she’d stepped off a yacht in St Tropez herself, “We’re launching with small groups, highly curated evenings and all of Sabya’s best. You have to be there.” And we said, “But of course!”

Sabyasachi Mukherjee
Sabyasachi Mukherjee

Hello Keith, Goodbye Sayani
Let us be candid: we are quite happy to be the post box between two of this era’s ‘voices’: Ameen Sayani and Keith Stevenson. Ever since the former responded to the latter’s good-natured cribbing on these pages, about being paid peanuts for a children’s film many decades ago, it’s been a volley of words betwixt the two.

Ameen Sayani
Ameen Sayani

Stevenson, whose now back safe in the environs of LA where he lives and works has now sent us this mail: “Reading the response to my Hungama Bombay Ishtyle bit by that LEGEND, Ameen Sayani, was the icing on the Medhu wada of my trip home. Here is one of the nav ratnas of Indian broadcasting history, heaping praise on me? Humbling.

Keith Stevenson
Keith Stevenson

Ameen, besides being a legendary broadcaster and compere par excellence, is a wonderful human being. Years ago, when I was a callow youth, trying brazenly to breach the gates of the entertainment world, I received a call from Mr. Ameen Sayani letting me know that as he was unable to do a show, he had suggested to the producers that they use me.

That was the entrée into the world of compering that opened doors and brought me fame and fortune; not too many people have the strength of character to do that. Most would quash the aspirations of newbies to consolidate their reign – Not Ameen Sahib. In my book that puts him on the top, where he belongs.”

Which is all very nice and fine, of course. Our only grouse is this: what’s the use of moderating between two celebrated ‘voices’ when thanks to online media, we’ve still not had the privilege of hearing either great voice through out this long exchange?

My heart belongs to India
Ever since some bright soul tweeted about Narendra Modi’s choice of personal effects ( in watches, pens, etc.) such is the following he commands that there are many luxury goods mavens who feel that it is quite likely to influence buyers and increase sale of these goods.

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi

For the record, the tweet went: ‘Movado watches, Bulgari spectacles, Mont Blanc pens, ‘Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani’. The best brand ambassador?

Tata Birla?
How times have changed: for those of us who remember Mumbai in its salad days, the Century Mills headquarters at Prabha Devi with its neon lit Atlas eternally holding up the globe, was a thing of beauty and a joy forever.

A symbol of one of India’s premier industrial groups-the Birlas, this unprepossessing structure reeked of the power and stature of the august Marwari clan that had been at the forefront of the Freedom Struggle.

So it comes with a certain amount of sadness that this landmark building, office of one of the country’s most respected business groups now carries prominently on its frontage the name of its legendary business rival. ‘CROMA-A Tata Group Enterprise’ says the sign at the front of this Birla bastion!

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