Return of Murjani with Vanderbilt

(L) Mohan Murjani with Tommy Hilfiger and a friend
(L) Mohan Murjani with Tommy Hilfiger and a friend

The more things change the more they stay the same. He may have exited India and the world of luxury a few years ago to settle in Thailand, but this week, when Mohan Murjani, known as the only Indian group in the world to have developed, launched and built renowned international designer lifestyle brands Gloria Vanderbilt and Tommy Hilfiger, sent out an invitation to a select group of his Indian friends, inviting them to the grand opening of the newest international brand, Vanderbilt New York, it seemed as if things had almost come full circle again.

Zarine and Sanjay KhanZarine and Sanjay Khan

Mohan Murjani, the scion of a well-heeled Sindhi clan from Hong Kong, had made headlines when he persuaded one of the biggest names in America, the heiress to the fabulous Vanderbilt fortunes, Gloria Vanderbilt (actress, designer, socialite and mother of CNN’s top rated anchor Anderson Cooper), to lend her name to a new line of designer jeans made especially for women in the mid-Seventies. The jeans were a runaway success. Murjani had later repeated the success with the launch of Tommy Hilfiger in 1985.

Mukesh Ambani and Ramola Bachchan
Mukesh Ambani and Ramola Bachchan

His Mumbai foray, when he rented an apartment at Wellington Mews, saw him pioneering the first real luxury mall when he built the Galleria at the Oberoi, where he sold Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Bottega Veneta, Calvin Klein and French Connection among other brands. (He sold the business to Reena Wadhwa, wife of investment banker Ashok, before exiting India).

Vanderbilt New York marks his second collaboration with the Vanderbilt name, and is a men’s accessories label. Interestingly, invitations for the launch in Thailand, which boasts the presence of actors James Ma and Kimberly Ann Tiamsiri, have been sent out to a rather interesting list of people: Mukesh Ambani, Ramola Bachchan, Harsh Mariwala, Sanjay and Zarine Khan, Tanil and Nilima Kilachand, and Uday Kotak. And Murjani has promised to ‘make all appropriate arrangements’ if they accept.

Gauhar travels to London
“Watermans Arts Centre, London, from 11-15th Oct everyday,” noted Sufi singer Zila Khan had said on the eve of her departure to London recently, adding, with her characteristic wit, “I look forward to performing for fans and friends in London and for those special friends who are coming from UK’s neighbouring countries, who say they are coming to listen to me sing in it, but I know they’re coming just to have a blast with me.” And this picture featuring the play’s lead actors Rajeshwari Sachdev, Denzil Smith and Khan herself with colleagues in London demonstrates quite amply how a blast is had.

The cast of Gauhar in London
The cast of Gauhar in London

We had the pleasure of watching Gauhar on its first day first show at the NCPA, and had been delighted by it. Written by Mahesh Dattani and directed by Lilette Dubey, it traced the saga of the courtesan Gauhar, who’d been the first Indian voice to be recorded on the gramophone way back in 1902.

Not only had the casting been perfect with Sachdev playing the young singer in her prime, and Khan depicting her magnificently in her later years, but also the fact that audiences had been treated to such a well-staged slice of history had made it an experience to treasure. Now, we are sure that London is falling under Gauhar’s spell and how!

Brothers in arms
We chanced upon this picture of India’s steel tycoon brothers Sajjan and Naveen Jindal shot this week in Dubai. The brothers were representing the Indian steel industry on behalf of their respective companies, JSW and JSPL, at the annual World Steel Association Summit.

Sajjan and Naveen Jindal
Sajjan and Naveen Jindal

And we hear the international summit was attended by industry leaders from across the world and had speeches by UAE’s Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Saleh, who is the deputy minister of economy, and Ahmed Mohamed Alkaabi, who is the assistant under-secretary for Petroleum Gas and Mineral Resources at the Ministry of Energy.

A source informs us, “This year was a special occasion for India, as Naveen Jindal was conferred the Industry Communicator of the Year award, and Sajjan Jindal won the ‘Steelie’ award during the summit.” And what’s best is that Sajjan graciously took to social media after the event and posted a congratulatory message for his brother: “Congratulations Naveen, proud of you my little brother.” Sweet!

Reverse brain drain?
Good to know that Dubai, which has long attracted talent over the world, mainly from India, Pakistan and Britain, is giving back in that department too. Sunil John of Kerala, the Dubai-based CEO of the public relations firm Asda’a Burson-Marsteller, and widely regarded as one of the most influential PR executives in the Middle East, is part of that reverse brain drain.

(L to R) Sunil John, Vivek Rangachari, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nimrat Kaur, Ritesh Batra, Arun Rangachari. Pic/Asdaa Burson-Marsteller
(L to R) Sunil John, Vivek Rangachari, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Nimrat Kaur, Ritesh Batra, Arun Rangachari. Pic/Asdaa Burson-Marsteller

How so? Well, as a partner and director at DAR Motion Pictures along with his partner Arun Rangachari, CEO of DAR Capital Group, Sunil had not only produced ‘The Lunch Box’ starring Irrfan Khan, but the company’s movie output is doubling and he says he’s spending more and more of his time in Mumbai because of film production. “My monthly breaks in Mumbai transformed into a busy period, listening to creative pitches of new film projects or reading scripts.

Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox
Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox

It was during one such session that I read the script of ‘The Lunchbox’, and it absolutely charmed my heart. I knew we had a winner in our hands,” says John about the award-winning film, cited as a perfect example of global cooperation with studios from India, the United States, France and Germany. Is this the second coming of the well-produced contemporary multiplex film that will lift Bollywood out of its current quagmire? Watch this space.

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