Six authors in search of a meal

May 04, 2012, 07:52 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

What do you get when you invite the likes of Arundhati Roy, Shashi Tharoor, Vinod Mehta, Gurcharan Das, Namita Gokhale, and Urvashi Butalia on the same table?

>> What do you get when you invite the likes of Arundhati Roy, Shashi Tharoor, Vinod Mehta, Gurcharan Das, Namita Gokhale, and Urvashi Butalia on the same table?

Some sparkling conversation that’s what! Our Dilli jaasoos spotted this unlikely combination of writers, commentators and best-selling novelists on Wednesday night having dinner with Penguin heavyweights: John Makinson, (International Chairman and CEO ), Andrew Phillips (CEO India) and Chiki Sarkar (Publisher India) on the terrace of Khan Market’s elegant Latitude restaurant.

And though our snoop could not overhear the conversation the mind boggles at the range of interests these authors represent: the impact of globalisation? Check. Maoist insurgency? Check. Women’s empowerment? Check. Politics and international diplomacy? Check. In fact, so diverse were the ideological canons of the diners that one observer remarked, “Besides the fact that they were all Penguin authors, the only thing they probably agreed on was the wine list.” We like!

The BJP’s weekend plans
>> A little bird tells us that the top echelons of the BJP’s state leadership, including Maharashtra’s president Sudhir Mungantiwar, the Leader of the Opposition Eknath Khadse and the party’s bright sparks like Devendra Phadnavis (who raised the CAG report, which highlighted land deals of Congress and NCP ministers) and party spokesperson from Mumbai Shaina NC will meet in Bhayander this weekend to discuss several issues affecting the state.

And whereas the acute drought situation and farmer’s suicides will be the topic of the meet (Khadse has long been complaining about the poor infrastructure in Vidarbha resulting in farmer suicides) our source tells us that the big wigs will undoubtedly discuss the possibilities of the Cong-NCP split and its impact on state politics.

As an insider put it, “Ideologically there is nowhere the NCP can go besides the Congress. They can’t hitch up with the BJP or the Sena, without losing face with their vote banks. But given the opportunistic nature of the party, we are watching the situation very closely.”

And of course, at the all India national executive later in the month (held in Mumbai after a long while) this subject will certainly consume the state leadership, as a run up to party strategy for 2014.

Party Hearty Boy
>> For all his notoriety and misdemeanours this diarist has a soft spot for the ill-fated Rahul Mahajan. We spotted him a few months ago at a movie at PVR, with his wife and like the fact that he was standing in queue buying his own popcorn and colas.

We remember him fondly as the enthusiastic young man, who when invited to an August gathering of top city editors, (at the time when his father was still alive and powerful) tried to ingratiate himself with the company by inviting the elderly scribes for a post-dinner drink to ‘Olives’! (sic) So, it was with a sense of bemusement that we heard that on the eve of his father’s death anniversary yesterday young Rahul was at a city nightclub whooping it up with a bunch of friends. It takes all kinds of ways to cope with tragedy we know. But this is an innovation.

Of pomp and privilege
>> Few places have epitomised Mumbai’s arriviste nouveau riche culture more than the once happening Prive. Launched in the early ‘90s with a spate of
high-profile parties that drew the city’s top industrialists, socialites and entertainment crowd in its all white avatar as Athena, the night club soon degenerated in to a playground for the bubble gum crowd, where armies of under-20 SoBo brats would flex their new found muscle. In fact, so prevalent was its thrall over the teenybopper brigade that going to Prive on one’s 18th birthday was almost a rites of passage for a certain type of Mumbai kid. And, of course, there was a hierarchy of customs and manners that accompanied a night out at the club.

A regular table retailed for approximately Rs 15 K, but the one that got you the eyeballs and the acclaim were the three tables in the center known as Lotus, one two and three where at Rs 40K you could be the center of attention (and quaff free champagne to redeem the amount.)

A measure of the kind of people who frequented the club later was demonstrated by the management’s decision to allow entry to guest’s armed bodyguards. And their boasting about the fact that the club’s bouncers were trained to spot designer accessories and used to decide whom to allow on that basis! Recently, we heard that the club has closed down ‘for renovation,’ though insiders allude to financial issues, which the club’s promoters are embroiled in.

So where’s the in crowd partying these days? From what we hear, it’s a mid-Mumbai nightclub that has a less arriviste attitude.

Aamir’s Game Changer
>> We thought of checking with Sameer Nair, (ex-CEO Star TV, and founder CEO of Imagine) what he thought of Aamir’s imminent TV outing. Nair, after all, was the man who set the ball rolling as head of programming when he persuaded Amitabh to anchor KBC for Star Plus and changed the rules of the game (read expanded the budgets, upped the TRPs and made Bollywood-TV crossovers possible.) Nair was characteristically insightful: “Look,” he told us, “Whereas it’s a given that Aamir will present a spectacular show, the interesting thing is its timing. Ever since the mythological trend on DD ceased, Sunday mornings hasn’t had any thing of real interest for TV watchers. This is going to change all that.”

And would he have done things any differently? Nair, who is now looking at webcasting amongst a bouquet of new ventures laughed. “Star is in excellent hands,” he said referring we assume to its stewardship by Uday Shankar. “So besides being curious as a news programmer, I’m excited along with the rest of the country,” he said.

And what does he make of the stories about Aamir using this as a launch pad for a political career? Nair — ever the diplomat — answered with a cryptic “Unlikely!” 

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