Blame it on the date

May 14, 2014, 06:02 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

“So in the end, it WAS a little inauspicious travelling on the 13th row on the 13th,” writes William Dalrymple, celebrated author, cultural impresario and self-styled goatherd, about a flight he undertook yesterday

“So in the end, it WAS a little inauspicious travelling on the 13th row on the 13th,” writes William Dalrymple, celebrated author, cultural impresario and self-styled goatherd, about a flight he undertook yesterday. “A small fire broke out in the cabin when an iPhone that had fallen down the back of someone’s chair got crushed in the sleeper seat machinery, began smouldering, then burst into flames.

William Dalrymple. Pic/AFP

I woke up to smoke and the smell of burning plastic, lights suddenly turned on, large BA blonde air hostesses thundering around with fire extinguishers and everyone up in the middle of the night over the Black Sea. It was put out in seconds, and no one was hurt —in fact the guy with the iPhone got upgraded to First —but it did mean we got rushed through the holding pattern over Heathrow and arrived half an hour early. Which could possibly be taken to be a positive outcome, I suppose.”

All’s well that ends well, mercifully. But iPhones can burst in to flames? Who woulda thunk?!

Take that Ellen DeGeneres!
“This is from the awards night at the Indian film festival of Melbourne recently, of which I was a jury member. Amitabh Bachchan was the chief guest and received an award from Simi Garewal. Kangana Ranaut, who was present, won best actress for Queen,” says leading film critic and our former colleague Rajeev Masand, about the wide-angle picture, featuring some very sharply dressed Bollywood biggies.

Photograph from Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. Pic/David Lieu

“This picture happened because every single person in the audience wanted a pic with Bachchan, but since naturally that wasn’t possible, the festival director Mitu Bhowmick Lange suggested that Bachchan and all of us onstage turn our backs to the camera and have a photo taken in a way that the audience was in the same frame as Bachchan and the rest of us. So basically everyone got their picture with him, although it was a group picture.”

And what were the highlights of the trip, we asked Masand. “The night before this was the opening night of the festival. It opened with Sholay 3D and one of Bachchan’s fans read out his father’s poetry and invited Bachchan to do the same. He was very moved and impromptu took the stage and recited his father’s poetry and the crowd went nuts,” he said.

The cookie crumbles
And word comes in that the affairs of this late self-made SoBo banker, who died leaving his son and daughter split over his immense wealth, have been settled. “The daughter, who is married into a prominent film family, has inherited not only all her father’s wealth, 

but also her mother has left her share of the 4,000 sq ft penthouse apartment at Cuffe Parade,” says a source.
And what happens to the son now?

“Not only has he squandered away almost R40-50 crore of his wealth on horses, cricket betting and the stock market, but he’s on the run from creditors,” says our source, adding, “He is now completely alone as his two sisters and mother are on one side.”

So that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Sad.

Happy birthday Pranay
Today marks the birthday of our dear friend, the author, biographer, historian, columnist and digital strategist Pranay Gupte, who we had first met in the early eighties in New York when he was with the New York Times and very much the poster boy for all of us Indian hacks. Remember it was way before the world had been a global village or flat or even accessible to us Indians.

To think that a Mumbai boy, one of us, could have breached all barriers of race and opportunity and made a mark in that bastion of journalistic excellence-the NYT-was almost unthinkable! And the fact that Pranay had done it and had still managed to remain a wonderful human being, a generous host and a caring friend was even more staggering. We were on our honeymoon when we’d met him, a young couple spending a month in New York after the French Riviera. And he’d taken us under his wing. Lunches at the Four Seasons, parties at Mohan Shah’s and Chotta Chudasama’s and anthropological excursions into dives like Plato’s Retreat, the great swinger club of that era. (For the record, it was an anthropological excursion, strictly theoretical).

From then till now, Pranay has remained a steadfast friend. He has written 14 internationally acclaimed books, has a presence in three countries, and after a health scare last year is back on track, about to publish his latest tome: a biography of Captain Nair, Chairman-founder of the Leela Hotels and a political biography of the Gandhis.

Fittingly, this alumni of St Xavier’s school Mumbai, Jai Hind College, Brandeis University and the Columbia School of Journalism has penned an elegant piece for the Huffington Post and the Khaleej Times on turning 66 today.

“So now what? Any birthday resolutions as I turn 66 today? Only to be more kind, more considerate of others, to be more generous, to be more appreciative of others’ efforts in their respective fields, to be more tolerant of their private struggles as they wrestle with their own demons and muses.”
Happy birthday Pranay. Like a good vintage wine, you don’t get older, just more refined.

Much water has flowed...
A little bird tells us that Baz Luhrmann isn’t the only Aussie film personality with Bollywood dreams. Jill Billcock, the renowned Australian film editor who has edited films such as ‘Moulin Rouge!’ with Baz Luhrmann and ‘Elizabeth’ with Shekhar Kapur has been signed on to edit Kapur’s much hyped ‘Paani’.

Shekhar Kapur

But of course, given it’s Shekhar Kapur, no one knows if that’s going to be in this decade or the next!

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