Mumbai's colourful panther

May 02, 2012, 08:06 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

One of the reasons this diarist loves Mumbai above all is because it is the home of poets like Namdeo Dhasal, the Dalit poet activist and writer

>> One of the reasons this diarist loves Mumbai above all is because it is the home of poets like Namdeo Dhasal, the Dalit poet activist and writer.

Born in 1949, in a village near Pune, into crushing poverty, Dhasal the son of a butcher’s assistant grew up in one of Mumbai’s notorious red light districts Golpitha, which he immortalised in his first volume of poetry by the same name in 1973.

By that time he had already founded the militant Dalit Panthers organisation based on the American Black Panther movement.

Dhasal was one of the group’s most high profile spokesmen. Dhasal’s poems were a departure from convention for their innovative use of the language from the mean streets on which he grew up.

His depiction of colourful characters and their ways shocked many but also won him enormous respect amongst literateurs, and he was the recipient of the Padma Shri. The award winning and internationally acclaimed photographer Sudharak Olwe, a friend of Dhasal’s who shot these pictures, was fascinated by the poet’s penchant for colorful shirts.

“He has a huge collection of them” Olwe told us. “And in each his personality changes a bit. In fact he’s like a work of art.”
We like!

Surendranath’s sur
>> Word has come in that Kailash Surendranath, the man who gave India that iconic image of Karen Lunel in a waterfall bathing with Liril and a host of other ad films that became part of our national consciousness, has been felicitated at the Education Expo TV — Dada Saheb Film Festival — 2012 for his music video, Phir mile sur mera tumhara, a remake of the original Mile sur mera tumhara.

The first and highly awarded Mile sur mera tumhara was broadcast on August 15, 1988, after the telecast of the Prime Minister’s speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

But that was a long time ago and as his wife and partner Artee says: “Kailash, who’s always been very involved in nation building, wanted to once again spread the message of peace post 26/11.”

Also our children would listen to people praise the first Mile Sur Mera Tumhara who would go into raptures about it. But they would say, “Dad, the film is great, but barring a few, who are all these people? Our generation would be more motivated watching their own heroes spread this message.”

So Kailash, a veteran of over 3,500 ad films and more awards than he can count, set to work once again. And the result is this award, and we are told a standing ovation by the audience present. No underestimating the power of the kid factor. Ask SRK.

A limerick in a tea-cup
>> Our favourite wag, wit, humourist and adman Sylvester da Cunha, sent in this limerick following newspaper reports that the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia had recently suggested that tea be declared as our national drink.

Whereas we have nothing against the brew, we quite understand the sentiments of a true blue Goan son of the soil. Hence the limerick:

How many of us also think 
That tea is our premier drink?
The choices before us are many
But choicest of all must be feni.

-Sylvester Da Cunha

Coffee anyone?

>> We like exchanging a chin wag with zeitgest scriptwriter of soaps (Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki) and blockbuster films (Om Shanti Om and Luck by Chance) Mushtaque Sheikh for the can do, will do flavour of Bollywood he exudes. The recipient of a big fat birthday party thrown in his honour this week by his best friend and partner in crime Ekta Kapoor, Sheikh refused in true Bollywood style to disclose how old he turned. (‘Let’s just say I’m old enough to hide my age’). About his ‘Big Cool Friend’ the enigmatic Ektaa, Sheikh was more forthcoming. “We were in kindergarten together and then went our separate ways only hooking up when I began writing scripts for Balaji films. I know she’s a Gemini and I’m a Taurean but we get along because I ‘get’ her.” However, what interested us most was Sheik’s style of working. Like this diarist, SRK’s celebrated biographer writes best surrounded by people. “I wake up each morning and go to the coffee shop next to my house and sit and write there all day,” he told us. “There’s something about the fragrance of coffee and the chatter of people that inspires me. I even hold all my meetings there,” he said. Sheikh fans have more to look forward to: later this year he’ll be out with two new novels — a children’s book and a thriller set in Bollywood. “It’s a genre that was a natural progression for me,” he says. And no, we are not disclosing the name of the café he writes in — for fear there’ll be a stampede by aspiring film hopefuls.

Remembering Rajni bhai
>> Few couples have epitomised the spirit of Mumbai more than the late Rajni Patel and his ever graceful partner and wife Bakul. This diarist recalls the heady days when, as the all powerful president of the BRCC, the suave Cambridge educated barrister and Mrs Indira Gandhi’s confidante and the TISS educated Bakul were the king and queen of Mumbai society, gathering around them a kind of Camelot: MF Hussain, Dilip Kumar, the young Sharad Pawar, Ifthikhar Kadri and the late Vipula and Nana and Munira Chudasama.

Bakul Patel at the 28th death anniversary of Rajni

This was Mumbai café society at its best: men and women who stood for progressive liberal values and were at the peak of their careers. We were reminded of all of this as tomorrow will be Rajni Patel’s 30th death anniversary, a day marked with respect and solemnity by all those who knew and admired him. “At 10 am, there will be a short memorial function at the Memorial Garden to garland the statue and later at 11 am homage will be paid to him at Nehru Centre,” the graceful Bakul told us. Though bereft by his passing, Bakul has not slowed down the pace of her work. “Yesterday, I spoke at the felicitation function for the National Award winners at Raj Bhavan. And later this week, I will be attending the Board Meetings of finance companies that I have been involved with,” she says. And of course, in between there will be art shows and fundraisers and high teas. “Like most working women, it is a challenge to balance professional work and the call of duty in public life, along with the personal,” she says. Yes, but she manages to make it all look so easy! 

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