Setting the stage

We spoke to Devraj Sanyal, Universal Music's larger than life head honcho, about his latest triumph: that of being chosen as one of the judges in India's first-ever homegrown English singing talent hunt, The Stage, to be aired on TV this weekend.

Sanyal, along with musicians Vishal Dadlani, Monica Dogra, and Ehsaan Noorani, will serve as the jury on the show. How did the organisers manage to get rockers Noorani and Dadlani, who besides being SoBo boys, have knocked about the same rock gigs over the decades, and also happen to belong to two of Bollywood's hottest (and competing) music producing teams?

Ehsan Noorani, Vishal Dadlani, Monica Dogra and Devraj Sanyal
Ehsan Noorani, Vishal Dadlani, Monica Dogra and Devraj Sanyal

Were Sanyal's celebrated people skills involved in this particular coup? "Actually, the channel did that," said the music impresario, when we reached him in London. "We needed a full deck of judges that would complement each other. Monica is the heart, Vishal is the music, Ehsaan is the knowledge," he said, adding, "And I am the suit."

Was there any back stage frisson, given the big names involved? No one competed. All of us were like family," said Sanyal. "Actually we're very old friends too." And then he was off to another meeting in another city, completely immune to that thing known as 'stage fright'.

Delayed arrivals
Last week, when the newly-appointed Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, Ashwani Lohani, an Indian Railways Service Officer of the 1980 batch, who is said to have been handpicked for the job by no less than PM Modi, threw a party for trade veterans at a five-star, naturally it witnessed the best and brightest amongst its guests.

Ashwani Lohani (in blue) inaugurates the domestic operations of AI at T2
Ashwani Lohani (in blue) inaugurates the domestic operations of AI at T2

They showed up to cheer the new appointee on his challenging new assignment. After all, with an outstanding debt of R40,000 crore, as on March 31, and currently on a government bail out, the beleaguered airline needed all the support and goodwill it could garner.

But, word comes in that the party did not give the necessary reassurances. "Lohani himself came almost an hour and fifteen minutes late for his own party," said a guest, adding, "The joke that did the rounds was that the host was only following the late arrivals example of his own airline."

New horoscope for Zodiac Grill?
As for the folks at Taj, Apollo Bunder, they just can't seem to make up their mind on what to do with the Zodiac Grill, the fine dining eatery, which hardly sees a footfall these days.

Hemant Oberoi
Hemant Oberoi

Earlier it was believed that Chef Hemant Oberoi wanted to convert it into a Peruvian eatery, but following his retirement, it appears that the latest thinking is that the Grill should be moved into the Chambers area, to serve as the Club's fine dining venture for its members and hotel guests.

"Even an astrologer will find it hard to predict what happens to the Zodiac Grill," said an F&B insider about the once popular eatery, which has seen much shifting around. "Its stars just don't seem right."

Less is more
"I was always keen on cobbling together a gated community. One gated not by material things but a certain aesthetic, a pronounced taste, and a certain measured nuance, so to speak," said ad maven and aesthete, Swapan Seth, whose other claim to fame is as the younger, more introverted and thoughtful brother, of that banging bon vivant who goes by the name of Suhel.

Swapan Seth
Swapan Seth

Delhi-based Seth was bringing us up to speed on a quixotic little community he has fostered recently on Facebook, enigmatically named 100, which has been witnessing a fair amount of traction with people posting all manner of beautiful goods and services, most of which expectedly have their provenance in Japan.

"I am of the firm belief that less is more. I wanted to create a community that is limited in numbers but unlimited in its loveliness and appreciation of all things fine," said Seth, who had initially called the group, 'How lovely is this'.

"Really, the community shares all the wonderful things that it comes across. It straddles, art, design, poetry, music, food, fashion," said Seth. Where does he see this heading? "A Woodstock of Wow perhaps?" he said, the copywriter in him getting a bit carried away. "Maybe a meeting place where once every year all 100 of us can collect and converse."

"One more thing," said Seth, "up until this article, this was secret group, about which no one but those who are part of it knew."

Gaggan's next move?
His last visit does not appear to have matched up to his earlier ones at the Four Seasons, with many empty seats being reported, and the no show of stars like Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, when Gaggan Anand cooked for city gourmets last week.

Gaggan Anand
Gaggan Anand

But this has not stopped him from allegedly tying up with the mid-city hotel for his much awaited eatery in India. According to sources, "Prato, the Italian coffee shop at the hotel, if all goes as planned, will soon be recast as a Gaggan outlet". "Raman Macker, formerly of Dish Hospitality, who exited from his earlier partners, is going to be a promoter of the new venture along with Adarsh Jatia of the Four Seasons Mumbai."

This puts paid to the Gaggan Lite/ Gaggan Noir concept of an eatery in BKC, which the pony tailed wonder had been contemplating earlier, said the source. But going by the poor show of his recent outing, his choice of venue comes as a surprise.

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