>> We have been fans of the ebullient director Farah Khan ever since we first met her almost 20 years ago in Dubai and London when she was choreographing Amitabh Bachchan’s live performance shows. Even way back then her earthy humour, her affection for and understanding of Bollywood and the easy manner with which she approached not only her work but also life itself marked her for greater things.
On Thursday morning, when we met her at a puja we were delighted to catch up with one of the film industry’s brightest talents. “I’m off to spend a month in Dubai filming Happy New Year, my newest movie starring SRK, Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani and Sonu Sood,” she said. “It’s a heist movie shot in the Atlantis hotel.” Farah showed us a picture she had clicked of herself with two of our favourite stars: Anil Kapoor and Jackie Shroff. “I took them to Shah Rukh’s Eid party.
They were the two stars I was really excited to pose with,” said the director who is courted by Bollywood’s biggest names. “I clicked this because I couldn’t believe that Ram and Lakhan were both there beside me!” she said referring to the famous ’80s film that starred both of them. Nice!
India’s oil aristocracy
>> Wednesday evening saw us in August company and it would have been so even if it had been May! Along with India’s oil aristocracy we found ourselves attending the sixth International Institute for Strategic Studies and The Oberoi lecture, delivered by Dr Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani, the deputy prime minister of Iraq, on Recent Trends in the Global Energy Oil and gas Economy at the Trident rooftop.
A measure of the event’s import was that along with India’s richest man and creator of the world’s largest grassroots petroleum refinery at Jamnagar, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited Mukesh Ambani, the lecture was attended by DK Saraf, MD ONGC, RS Butola, chairman, Indian Oil, Dr Urijt Patel, deputy governor, Reserve Bank, Prakash Shah, former Indian ambassador to Iraq, PMS Prasad, executive director, RIL and MV Kotwal, president of Heavy Engineering, L&T! All these worthies were there for the business of oil and as the dapper Dr Hussain spoke about the sharp rise in Indian energy demand and the estimated figure for its oil import (6.8 mbpd by 2035 as against 2.5 mbpd today) we could see a lot of heads nodding and mental notes being made.
What on earth were we doing at a gathering like this? Well, gentle reader we were there to cheer along our dear friend and former editor (and former press advisor to Dr Manmohan Singh) Dr Sanjaya Baru, IISS, director for geo-economics and strategy, the creator of the lecture series, who has brought to Mumbai in the past the likes of Kevin Rudd, Australian PM, and Heizo Takenaka economic advisor to the PM of Japan. And if all these names and occasions sound ponderous and stern, think again. The IISS-Oberoi lectures taking their cue from Dr Baru are marked for their warmth, wit and lightness of touch (and all the heavy duty schmoozing that takes place in the margins). This is where the big boys make friends and influence people. Over scotch and soda and a stunning view of the city skyline the fate of nations and the price of onions is fixed!
Poetry in Goa
>> Trust a poet to use words so skillfully. When poet, prize winning author of Narcopolis and all round rocker Jeet Thayil posted the following words on his Facebook page: ‘Goa University, 3 pm.
How to read a poem: Bishop, Lowell, Berryman, Roethke, Crane, Hugo,” and followed it up with the succinct, “Pound, Frost, Gilbert, Sexton, Ginsberg, Plath, Wright, Berrigan,” and then added the tantalising clincher, “Moraes, Ezekiel, Kolatkar, Honnalgere, Rayaprol, Bantleman, Sharat Chandra, Ramanujan, Agha Shahid Ali,” we knew we had erred awfully by choosing to stay in Mumbai and not be there to hear the silken-voiced Thayil talk live, breathe and bring to life the works of some of the greatest poets in the world. Goa in the rains, poetry in the air and Jeet Thayil’s passionate words. Couldn’t get better than that!
>> Oh dear. Word comes in of another high-profile young politician in Delhi whose marriage is coming unstuck. This one is all the more sad as it marked the coming together of two communities and famous surnames. Could it be the pressure of forthcoming elections that is taking its toll on the personal lives of politicians? What a price it is to pay especially if the results are dismal.
Power dressing, Ambani Style
>> A word about Mukesh Ambani. The greater his stature and wealth, the humbler and more approachable he seems to become. Seated directly behind him, we watched as he rose and strode across the room to greet all his oil peers, talk patiently to all the nervous investment bankers who approached him and answer every reporter’s query while he was being mobbed post the lecture.
And talk about personal style! In a sea of Zegna and Brioni suits, Ambani’s trademark white bush shirt made the loudest statement and turned every tenet of power dressing on its head! Seated in the audience for two hours listening attentively to Dr Hussain, sans evidence of his pelf and position, sat one of the world’s richest men. As another guest at the lecture later said: “With an annual revenue of $66bn, Mukesh earns $7.5mn an hour. So, the two hours he spent at the lecture are worth $15mn!” You don’t need to wear a Zegna suit then.