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Remembering Balraj Sahni

Malavika SangghviToday marks the end of the birth centenary anniversary of a very special man, actor, writer and humanist, Balraj Sahni, who also happened to be our uncle.

In his life, he illuminated many a film with the quiet dignity of his performance. But more than his films, Sahni will be remembered for his humanity.

Whether it was travelling to riot-torn areas for relief work, or championing the cause of the disfranchised wherever he went, his success as a film star never came in the way of his compassion or his integrity. Neither did his achievements make him pompous.

Balraj Sahni
Balraj Sahni

A measure of his brilliance is the fact that he had, in his time, associated himself with some of the most extraordinary individuals and institutions of his era: with Rabindranath Tagore when he taught English literature at Shanti Niketan; with Mahatma Gandhi when he worked at his ashram; with the BBC in London as a broadcaster during the war; with P C Joshi and other leaders of the Communist Party of which he was a member; and with Prithviraj Kapoor, K A Abbas, Kaifi Azmi, Shaukat Ali and Zohra Sehgal as a member of the IPTA.

Such individuals are only born rarely and it is with pride and a certain amount of sadness that we remember our granduncle, brother to the Nani we never knew, who lived a life of extraordinary creativity integrity and compassion.

Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut

Kangana in Dior
Can there be anyone more drop-dead stylish than Kangana Ranaut in bespoke head-to-toe Dior receiving her NDTV award? We had met the Parisian fashion brand’s attractive India head, Kalyani Chawla, at Ranaut’s home last month on her birthday, and knew of the fashionista star’s preference for the luxury label; but her choice of dress, following on the heels of her success with Queen and Revolver Rani, is probably the biggest endorsement the brand could ever get! And of course, Ranaut carried it off splendidly!

Stand out exhibition
We have been amiss and have not managed to see our friend, ace photographer Pablo Bartholomew’s exhibition, ‘Calcutta Diaries’. And tomorrow is its last day! If this were a social networking site, that last sentence would have definitely been punctuated with a sad face emoticon.

'Horse Buggy, Calcutta', c.1978. Pic/Pablo Bartholomew
'Horse Buggy, Calcutta', c.1978. Pic/Pablo Bartholomew

“This is the third part of a loose trilogy of exhibitions from my archive, Outside In, A Tale of 3 Cities (2007), and Bombay: Chronicles of a Past Life (2011),” says the photographer, the recipient of many national and international honours for his outstanding work.

Pablo Bartholomew. Pic/Olivia Bonnal Sansoni
Pablo Bartholomew. Pic/Olivia Bonnal Sansoni

“The Calcutta exhibition is divided into four distinct sections, ranging from images of my grandmother who lived in Calcutta till she died, a social commentary on the Chinese community, flowing into the street life of Calcutta and a personal interaction with Satyajit Ray, working on the sets of his films.

Combining these images, I present a kind of biography, on the everyday life of the city a portrait that exposes its twilight years, its disparities, and heady past.” On at Sakshi Gallery in Colaba, till tomorrow evening, being long- time admirers of both Bartholomew and Calcutta, we will try our best to make it. And if we miss it, perhaps Bartholomew will afford us a virtual viewing?

Sapna’s Village
We have been fans of Sapna Bhavnani (in pic) ever since we used to read her stream of consciousness column a few years ago, and though we haven’t had the opportunity to have our hair cut by her, we are aware that this maverick, vibrant woman has a formidable client list that includes Mahendra Singh Dhoni amongst other celebrated heads.

Sapna Bhavnani
Sapna Bhavnani

Recently, Bhavnani appears to have branched out in many directions: as an outspoken participant in Bigg Boss Season 6, an actor activist in Nirbhaya the play, which we saw at the NCPA on its premiere run in India; and as a philanthropist.

“I have adopted a small village in Maharashtra called Malegaon (three hours from Mumbai) and am working on their Nursery School first. We need 24 kid-sized plastic chairs, toys (used and new) and a desk for the teacher,” she posted on a social networking site, adding, “each chair costs approx R120 and you can drop off the toys/chairs at mad o wot Bandra. The kids will give you free hugs and kisses,” she’d signed off. We like!

Overheard
“Time was when girls were taught that if they looked curvy in a tight sweater, they’d land themselves a Hollywood hunk. Now the message is ‘go to Oxford, become a highly qualified international human rights lawyer and you’ll snag George Clooney!’ We’ve certainly come a long way baby and thank God for it!” - A SoBo yummy mummy at her daughter’s kindergarten PTA meet

The world on a platter
This weekend, a select group of Mumbaikars had the privilege of sampling a range of dishes from the world’s greatest restaurants at the Zodiac Grill, thanks to the restaurant’s creator, Grand Chef Hemant Oberoi (in pic) of the Taj group.

Grand Chef Hemant Oberoi
Grand Chef Hemant Oberoi

Drawn from the echelons of the WPO (a kind of elder statement spin-off of the YPO’s), they gathered under the restaurant’s famous roof to dine on, amongst other things, an amuse-bouche of foie gras macaron from elBulli, a tomato gazpacho from Martin Berasategui, the three-star eponymous Michelin restaurant of the celebrated Basque chef, and Ibiza Bay scallops with butter poached lobster from the three-star Michelin awarded Arzak in San Sebastian.

Of course, the Zodiac’s own legendary Camembert Dariole figured in this dish of gourmet Heaven. And the damages to the diners? Besides a few hundred extra calories, we’re informed the meal itself cost the organisation around 12k per head. Far cheaper than flying to these restaurants any day!

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