Dyed-in-the-wool secularism

Sep 03, 2014, 06:00 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

We were impressed by our friend, the statuesque jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali’s recent feisty post about the urgent need for a secular outlook in India.

We were impressed by our friend, the statuesque jewellery designer Farah Khan Ali’s recent feisty post about the urgent need for a secular outlook in India. “Who really cares what religion you follow, who you pray to, how you dress, what you eat, etc. Live and let live. Humanity is all that matters,” said the daughter of Sanjay and Zarine Khan, a family noted for its progressive secular outlook.

Farah Khan Ali with family
Farah Khan Ali with family

Come to think of it, their forward thinking approach to marriage has distinguished the Khans of Bollywood. Farah’s sisters Simone and Suzanne married Punjabis, her brother Zayed is married Malaika, the daughter of mixed parentage, and her cousin Fardeen married a Gujarati.

Gauri and Shahrukh Khan
Gauri and Shahrukh Khan

And this enlightened approach is not characteristic of Farah’s generation either, her father married a Parsi, and her two uncles Feroze and Akbar married a Sindhi and a Sikh respectively. Not only has this resulted in exceptionally good-looking children but also an atmosphere of sophistication and tolerance characterising the family.

Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao
Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao

And the Juhu Khans are not alone either in their belief in secular values: SRK is married to a Punjabi, both Aamir's first wife Reena and second wife Kiran are Hindus and Saif Ali Khan’s first wife Amrita was a Sikh and he is married to a Punjabi Hindu Kareena now.

So we may dismiss the Amar, Akbar, Anthony formulae of commercial cinema as being cheesy but none could say that it’s hypocritical; the film industry has and always will be one of the truly secular places in India where the caste or religion of the next person is unimportant.

So when Khan Ali posted about tolerance and secularism we knew it wasn’t just hollow talk or idle chatter but a dyed-in-the-wool deeply held belief.

Upgrading the skyline
Word comes in that Ajay Piramal, who seems determined to slowly but surely upgrade the standards of real estate in the city, has engaged the internationally renowned and award winning Make Ltd, a cutting edge firm of architects, to build the three residential family bungalows on the site of Gulita at Worli that he had recently purchased. “One for his son, another for his son-in-law and the third for himself,” as a source informed, “And given his past building record, these will raise the luxury bar as far as Mumbai residences go,” she said.

Ajay Piramal
Ajay Piramal

Still to settle
Oh dear, just when things looked like they were going so swimmingly well for this mid-city hotel that appeared to be the centre of all the action in Mumbai, an industry insider says that all that glitters is not gold. “The partner who was supposed to ensure all the required permissions and licences never delivered, leading to the pull out of its international knowledge partner and this is delaying the coming on board of the new principals and what’s more, the losses incurred for the delay will be around Rs 70 crore if reports are to be believed!”

Hope for the sake of Mumbaikars, delighted by the new property and its cornucopia of thrills, things settle down soon and the question marks over it disappear.

A masterpiece at the click of a mouse
While the cynosure of the upcoming Asta Guru art auction is MF Husain's 48X204 inch canvas on Kashmir painted in the 1980s and set to be up for bid anywhere between Rs 1.5 crore to Rs 2.5 crore, this recollection of the artist’s impassioned working style during that era by dancer Sudharani Raghupathy recalls his extraordinary energy and commitment. “In 1983, my husband and I had gone to the India Trade Fair held at Caracas, Venezuela where I had been invited to dance. Husain has been entrusted with the work of painting the main entrance arch leading to the Fair and had been working for a full week but was not able to complete it until the day before the inauguration. So he did not stop painting that night and produced stroke after deft stroke as we watched in fascination. On the whole, it was a colourful night that just flew away. And he was back at the venue the next morning not displaying any sleepiness or fatigue!”

MF Husain’s painting on Kashmir
MF Husain’s painting on Kashmir

Incidentally, the other great works on auction are SH Raza's 'Bhoomi', acquired from a private collection from Delhi; ‘Mother and Child’ by FN Souza; 'Noel' by SH Raza's supposedly inspired by Cezanne.

Masterpieces on line and just a click away! Who woulda thunk?

Remembering Attenborough
Of all the local tributes we’ve heard about the late Richard Attenborough, Dolly Thakore's, who was the Indian casting director and unit publicist of ‘Gandhi’, is the most endearingly local.

“While I was driving Richard to BR Studios one day for a recording for the film, I remember my Ambassador car fell into a ditch on the Juhu Road and without any hesitation Richard got off to heave it up, along with four other passers-by who’d stop to help. Such was the humility and humaneness of the man,” says Thakore.

Interestingly, Thakore offers great insight into the casting of the film in which Jinnah was played by her then partner Alyque Padamsee. “One afternoon, in the summer of 1979, Richard had walked into my home with my friend Rani Dubey (who became co producer of ‘Gandhi’) and seen the collage of theatre photographs on my wall and decided I should cast for the film. It was that day as soon as Alyque walked in at 7 pm after work, (he was head honcho of Lintas then) that Richard asked if him if he would play Jinnah!

And the rest as they say is history.

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