Monday night saw the cream of Mumbai gather at Zarina Mehta and Ronnie Screwvala’s evening to introduce Swades, their rural upliftment initiative that aims to uplift the lives of a million people across 2,000 villages in Maharashtra. The event was held at LFW and featured designer Vikram Phadnis’ interpreting the Swades concept. Witnessing it we thought of what an extraordinary life Screwvala has led to bring him to this chapter. And all this without changing his easy affability or laid back style. With a corpus of Rs 700 crore Swades is partnering with a host of international bodies on rainwater harvesting, English education, computer literacy, pre-natal issues, and blindness, addressing some of rural India’s most urgent issues. Swades takes it’s name from the critically acclaimed movie starring SRK produced by UTV a few years ago. From theatre to cable TV to media to film production to a Hollywood tie up-to rural upliftment what a film Screwvala’s own life would make.
Waiting for a Diva
>>She’s known as the ultimate diva, so when Kishori Amonkar was invited to sing before a high powered Delhi audience, comprising CMs (Nitish Kumar), former bureaucrats (NK Singh) and media gurus (Suhel Seth) and other connoisseurs of music, everyone acknowledged what a privilege it was and was prepared to overlook her famous idiosyncrasies for the pleasure of her voice.
But now we have it on record that even the most ardent of her fans was a trifle bewildered. “The evening began late, which was sad for all of us who had been waiting anxiously to hear the legend. Then she came on and began to sing and it dawned on us that the sound system was poor. But she sang for almost 40 minutes when suddenly she got up, said she would be back, exited the stage — and then never returned! We waited. But the lady didn’t show.” Ah, divas have their ways. And though we sympathise with the organisers and the high-powered audience, it’s sometimes a rare (and welcome) poetic justice, when artists keep the so-called high and mighty cooling their heels too!
>>Tch tch. How things change. Some of the most colourful Holi celebrations, I’ve participated in have been in the company of Sanjay Dutt in Pali Hill. That this year things are more black and white is as much a sign of the times as a testimony to Dutt’s astonishing life.
Thought (less?) police
>>The irony wasn’t lost on anyone. Soon after the fashion frat had witnessed designer Narendra Kumar’s self-proclaimed social commentary ‘Thought Police’ at the LFW ostensibly on the state of affairs vis a vis authoritarian behaviour, than another designer allegedly found herself on the receiving end of just that. It was Friday night, 2 am and the eve of her show at LFW when designer Pia Pauro and her husband Andrea Aftab Pauro had just wrapped up a chilled-out evening with friends at the Ellipsis at Colaba and were retuning to the Taj where they were staying. “There were the two of us and two female friends of Piya’s,” says Andrea.
“When we noticed that a police van had parked outside the restaurant. I had the last sip of my whiskey in a paper cup, and we were waiting in the precinct for a friend to show up, when a few waiters began telling us to leave the entrance. So, we began walking out to the road when one of the cops saw the cup and ordered me to get into the van,” says the Italian-Indian F&B professional, scion to one of Delhi’s leading families. “Obviously they thought I was a foreigner since I look European, and that they could intimidate us for whatever ends they wanted.
Pia Pauro (in red pants) with models showcasing her designs
I got into the van but the girls were outraged. After all we didn’t think we had done anything wrong, so she began to express her outrage. At which point the cops got really aggressive and this one cop in the van started telling me that if she didn’t shut up he’d break her bones etc. They didn’t know I spoke Hindi so I overheard them say really crude and vulgar things about accompanying three women so late and having ‘too much, money’. It appeared to be a straight forward class hatred situation,” says the dismayed Delhiwalla.
“Then to make matters worse, a waiter from the restaurant came running out and began accusing me of misbehaviour. I was shocked. Finally, Rajiv Samant who was inside wrapping up an event came out, spoke to them in Marathi and that made all the difference!” We hope this is not the sign of another Dhoble-like phase that Mumbai’s entering? If the police have another version, we’d be happy to carry it.
Attia’s new book
>>At the launch of Ketaki Sheth’s book A Certain Grace we ran into Shama Habibullah, daughter of the late writer Attia Hosain, who informed us that we were in her mother’s birth centenary year. “We published a compilation of her hitherto unpublished writings to commemorate the occasion,” Habibullah informed. “It also contains a few chapters of her unfinished novel.” For the uninitiated Hosain, who died in 1998, was an acclaimed writer, feminist and broadcaster who had been born in Lucknow into a taluqdar family who had moved to Britain in 1947 and became a broadcaster for the BBC.
Her books included Phoenix Fled (Chatto & Windus, 1953), and the highly acclaimed Sunlight on a Broken Column (Chatto & Windus, 1961). We had read Sunlight many years ago and found ourselves enraptured by not only the book but by its graceful author herself — a great beauty of her time.
We are looking forward to buying the book Distant Traveler: new and selected fiction (Women Unlimited, an associate of Kali for women) priced Rs 350. Incidentally, Attia is the mother of the internationally acclaimed director Warris Hussain and great aunt to Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamshie.