Shah Rukh Khan, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Rajat Gupta at International business association meet

Dec 13, 2017, 06:00 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Last week Jaipur was host to a congregation of the country's Captains of Industry (and their spouses), when the Indian chapter of an international business association met for what it described as its 'unconference'

Last week Jaipur was host to a congregation of the country's Captains of Industry (and their spouses), when the Indian chapter of an international business association met for what it described as its 'unconference'.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Rajat Gupta and  Shah Rukh Khan
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, Rajat Gupta and  Shah Rukh Khan

Known to be as high-profile as it is low key, (figure that out) the association's all-day event boasted speakers like legal luminaries Vandana and Rishab Shroff, WIPRO's Rishad Premji, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev and former McKinsey head Rajat Gupta. It saw business leaders fly in from all corners of the country.

Based at the Fairmont hotel and taking its cue from the royal equestrian tradition of the area, the highlight of the summit that blended gravitas with glamour, was the speech made by Bollywood badshah SRK, who'd been flown in for the evening on a PJ say sources. "He spoke about not wanting to be a superstar any more, but a legend," says a source. "Because, as he explained, superstars come and go, but legends stay relevant and touch all demographics at all times", said the obviously impressed captain of industry.

He had not been the only one. Apparently, the gathering had been so struck by the star's words and presence, that some of the country's most well-heeled business heads had unselfconsciously mobbed him for selfies. "It was good to see them forget their own status and behave like kids for once," says the source.

Star authors and successful scribes
We ought to have seen it coming: ever since Bollywood and its stars more or less consumed every other industry in the country: advertising, brand endorsements, the owning of sports franchises, the fashion and television industries and everything else in sight, its power and hitherto unexploited talents have proven formidable.

Soha Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan
Soha Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan

Now it looks like it is the turn of the writing business. It began with a trickle: Naseeruddin Shah's elegantly written memoir, And Then One Day, proved that stars had a writing elbow. Khalid Mohamed's anthology of short stories, Faction, written by 22 leading film personalities consolidated it. Then along came Rajesh Khanna and Dimple Kapadia's daughter, Twinkle, whose dominance on the best-seller charts established that Bollywood was often more interesting when it told its own stories.

Actress Soha Ali Khan's recently launched book, The Perils of Being Moderately Famous, is a case in point. Written with delightful self-deprecating humour and considerable wit, the daughter of two well read parents, Sharmila Tagore and Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, displays an endearing flair. Describing the perils of being the sister of Saif Ali Khan and thus related to the Saifeena phenomena, she hilariously enumerates the numerous and ingenuous ways the media had attempted to elicit information about the expected Saifeena baby, in a chapter which starts with her being the centre of attention during a shopping expedition in Selfridges in London, only to be described as 'Saif Ali Khan's sister' by a gaping fan.

Well, she's not the only one bearing the collateral damage of being related to celebrity. On the eve of the launch of the book, the author's sister, jewellery designer and the infinitely more private Saba Ali Khan, was seen on social media enquiring gently if there was anything at all that family members ought to know about the contents of the memoir before its launch. The perils of being related to someone moderately famous?

Elegant surprise party
One of the most elegant birthday 'surprise' parties in the city, was hosted recently by none other than Birla matriarch and philanthropist Rajshree Birla for her samdhi, the billionaire industrialist Shishir Bajaj, whose son Kushagra is married to her daughter Vasavdatta.

Shishir Bajaj, Kumarmangalam Birla and Rajshree Birla
Shishir Bajaj, Kumarmangalam Birla and Rajshree Birla

"It was held at the tasteful Birla mansion at Cumballa Hill and was very exclusive. Not more than 50 people in all –just family and close friends," said the source. "And given that it was Shishir's 70th birthday, a lot of attention had gone into detail," she says. "For instance, since the birthday boy is known for his fondness for world travel, the exquisite vegetarian food was served in special bespoke crockery, carrying a picture of the globe and other personalised details, which had been created to commemorate the occasion, " she says.

But apparently, for all its detailed planning and execution, keeping the party a surprise for the birthday boy, as always, was still a matter left to last minute personal ingenuity and intervention. Sources say that it fell to Vasavdatta's brother, leading financial statesman Kumarmanglam Birla, to keep the birthday boy distracted and unaware of the imminent celebrations being planned for him in another part of the house, until all the guests had duly arrived. Apparently so well did the usually shy and reclusive Birla execute his responsibility, that Bajaj is said to have been none the wiser about the imminent celebrations, until the gathering had shouted 'Surprise'. Sweet.

Paris calling
"It was a dynamic, private and very elegant function which I curated for Sudha and Krishna Reddy of Hyderabad, for their generous donation towards Action Against Hunger and the Fight Hunger Foundation," said Aarti Gupta Surendranath, whose pictures in front of IM Pei's distinctive pyramid at the Louvre this week had indicated that she was in Paris.

Aarti Surendranath at the Louvre
Aarti Surendranath at the Louvre

"I'd invited Vanessa and Ugo Ciarlatani, the Italian Council General, and the Indian Ambassador to France Vinay Mohan Kwatra, and representatives from the Breast Cancer Research Foundation," she said, adding "India's National Anthem was played and all the guests were given a brooch of the Indian Flag which they sported proudly on their lapels". What about pictures? "As I was also host and MC for the evening, I didn't take any pix," she texted. Oh well, this one at the iconic Louvre is pretty enough.

The laughing artist
"What I liked about the show is that it broke out of the mould and introduced a theme that people could universally engage with," said artist and founder of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Brinda Miller about a latest exhibition presented at the NGMA, where she serves on the advisory committee.

Brinda Miller and Amit Ambalal at the inauguration
Brinda Miller and Amit Ambalal at the inauguration

Titled Sub-Plots, Laughing in the Vernacular, it opened last week in the presence of chief guest artist Amit Ambalal, along with Shivaprasad Khened, Director NGMA, and leading members of the art community, including artists Atul Dodiya, Dhruvi Acharya, gallerist Geetha Mehra, and the exhibition's curator, Meena Vari.

A work from the exhibition
A work from the exhibition

Far from being the dour, starving-in-garrets creatures of popular imagination, artists are often light-hearted and even jocular characters. The late KH Ara was rarely seen without an impish grin, both Satish Gujral and the late MF Husain were known for their robust sense of humour, and even the late Bhupen Khakhar is said to have possessed a sharp funny bone. In fact, as Miller informs, the evening gave rise to many reminisces on the lighter side of art.

"Atul and Ambalal narrated how they had a good laugh when they chanced upon a hilarious depiction of a tiger, and were sure it would impress Khakhar and then the artist had proven their assumption right, using it in a canvas shortly after," she said. "Artists are known to have a good sense of humour especially in the company of fellow artists" said Miller. Indeed.

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