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Ode to the Indian subcontinent…

Yesterday marked 70 years of independence for the Indian subcontinent. For many, the memories of the partition which followed – a tragic moment in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’s history which gave birth to at first two then three nations – have become faded over the years.

Earlier this month, we joined a remarkable Remembering Partition project  organized by Godrej India Cultural Lab  with:

  • A pop-up museum of precious items brought with families
  • Stories captured through the India Memory Project
  • Recordings of families recounting of their journey from the Pakistan side of the border to India…
  • Art installation
  • Panel discussions
  • Imagining partition through fashion
  • The poetry of Kabir set to music by Kabir Cafe
  • 1st viewing of Gurinder Chadha’s film – Viceroy’s House (English) / Partition: 1947 (Hindi)… in which my husband can be seen as Jinnah

While acknowledging the blood, sweat and tears that was part of history, I’d also like to extend a personal thanks to India for giving many the opportunity to be ‘adopted’… this marvellous, maddening and at times mystifying country India has been kind enough to let me – and many others – call it ‘home’.

Here are a few images from the Remembering Partition events…

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Big B in Bandra

India’s greatest superstar of all time remains the “Big B.”

For those who never heard of Bollywood (is that possible?), Amitabh Bachchan, is the ‘angry young man’ who took Hindi films by storm in the 1970s and 80s. Who made “Kaun Banega Crorepati” (Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) the ONLY show you heard blaring from every single home, with streets deserted so all and sundry could be glued to the TV set. Who remains film royalty even in his 70s.

Amitabh Bacchan (Aug2013)

Part of the Bollywood Art Project, this image can be found strolling along the bi-lanes of Bandra.

Other Sunday Snaps:

Fringes of fame aka star selfie ‘autograph’

A few months ago on my trip back from Kolkata, I was sitting in the lounge hunkered over my laptop furiously dashing off a few ideas and responding to emails… I heard the dulcet tones of a vaguely familiar voice however ignored, absorbed instead with processing the packed three days spent with my client and team.

As I boarded, our eyes met and she exclaimed “Hey! I know you!” Even I took a second to make the connect via mutual friends’ of my partner… Sweetly she commented “Such a different context! So sorry I didn’t recognise you earlier!”

Honestly, I looked quite different from when we last met and while we certainly socially connected several times, we don’t really know each other so well. Both of us can be forgiven for not immediately recognising.

But here is the kicker – there are a lot of people out there that think they know her.

As I walked out of the airport, there was a full bank of paparazzi. Egads?! Was that for her? Could that be possible??

And it struck me how we’ve always met within the closed ranks of an ‘inner circle’ of our mutual friends’ homes, in relaxed known environments where you can simply be yourself.

Flashing Fahad at Flash Point

Paparazzi at the Flash Point book launch

I’m lucky. My partner is known but primarily within certain circles and environments. He has a chameleon like quality… many roles he does are so completely contrasting that recognition doesn’t get in the way of every day life.

Not so for some folks we know. With a few, I’ve learned to pick certain restaurants or places to meet where there will be less of the “Sir! Can I just have a photo with you?” In most cases, socialising happens either in homes or closed events.

Because selfies with someone famous is the new ‘autograph’. And I’ve unfortunately witnessed the mobbing that can take place with demands for brushes with fame.

Circa 2004

Saif Ali Khan + Carissa Hickling, circa 2004

So do I fall prey to this malady? Generally no… at least not with folks I genuinely know.

However, don’t laugh, I will confess to one ‘star pose’ taken more than a decade ago when we both were dashing late for the Mumbai – Delhi flight, sharing the bus across the tarmac together…. Emboldened by the fact I knew folks that worked in New York and India on his recent (then) hit film (Kal Ho Naa Ho), asked for a pic together. My little annoying ‘fan’ moment was never to be revisited. I assumed.

Except a funny little thing happened a couple months back. We met again… He was chatting with my partner as they were in a film together and we spent a most enjoyable evening at the opening of the Prithvi Festival. This time, I took the photo and spared us both a repeat of a star-struck selfie!

Lilette, Denzil & Saif at the Prithvi Festival opening

Lilette, Denzil & Saif at the 2015 Prithvi Festival

Clearly this isn’t just an Indian phenomenon. When Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister of Canada, all over Facebook popped pics with the new PM to the extent that it seemed that practically everyone I know in Canada has ‘met’ him!

What do you think? Is the ‘star selfie’ the new ‘autograph’?

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The Naked DJ

Yes that really is the title… of a documentary film I caught as part of the Singapore International Film Festival last week.

What made it remarkable is that it was shown without any censorship – apparently passing without difficulty. Can I just say – wow! Singapore is definitely changing!

You need to understand, Singapore is not a place known for originality or its acceptance of ‘alternate’ perspectives or lifestyles. DJ Chris Ho (X’Ho or DJ Mentor) is known for being a force for counter-culture and while I see him more of a creative ‘borrower’ than a creator of original content, he certainly courts controversy and shakes things up.

The evening began with an amusing ritual. Little bottles were passed around – “Take one and pass it on.” What was it? Chewing gum. We all collectively indulged in chewing contraband gum just to set the tone for some naughtiness! (more…)

Red carpet specimens

I will admit that our social calendar is often full.

Some are the normal live music shows, festivals, friends and family celebrations but peppered amongst these are ‘EVENTS’ (yes in caps) where they roll out the red carpet. Film and theatre premiers, _____ (insert brand, book, whatever) launches, etc. Where the point is to see and be seen – to have the shutter bugs snap and flash as guests enter.

For the first 40+ years of my life, such ‘EVENTS’ (yes those caps again!) were rarities rather than regular affairs. However the hazard of having a partner in ‘The Biz’ means these are a normal part of life in Bombay.

There are times at such ‘EVENTS’, I’m reminded of a short section in Fahad Samar’s book FlashPoint(more…)

And the BAFTA Award goes to…

We landed in London on Friday morning and managed to fit in a couple ageless pubs in Ealing, train, tube and taxi travels, a touristy wander around Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, St Martin-in-the-Fields, saw part of an opera at Trafalgar Square, skirted the edge of China Town, chowed down on fab Caribbean cuisine and rum at Dub Pub in Covent Garden

However one of the highlights was a stop most tourists miss… the hallowed halls of BAFTA – the British Academy of Film and Television. (more…)

Sunday stroll on Juhu Beach

OK… I know it is mid-week not Sunday. However I also know we live near the sea yet for some strange reason it is rare to find us strolling by the water.

So we when we arrived on Sunday slightly early for a private preview of Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet, conveniently located at Sunny Villa in Juhu, I took the opportunity to wander along the beach and thought today to share some quick snaps.

For those not familiar with Mumbai’s Juhu beach, it is a weekend favourite for families, blushing couples, energetic adolescents and hawkers… one of the few places free to come out and play. There is a long stretch of sand with plenty of room to jog, play soccer, enjoy a picnic with a multitude of vendors catering to the crowds that grow until sunset the gradually slip away. (more…)

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

What fun! This weekend was the ‘Indian Premier’ of The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with a special viewing for cast n crew. (more…)

Silencing “India’s Daughter”

Quickly before yet another version of India’s Daughter was blocked, I watched the documentary lest I be tempted to comment on something without actually seeing it.

I needn’t have panicked I’d miss the opportunity… like rabbits, as soon as one is blocked, another link pops out of another YouTube hole.

Banning "India's Daughter" on YouTube

Banning “India’s Daughter” on YouTube

Social media and mass media alike are abuzz with reactions to the decision to not permit showing the BBC “India’s Daughter” documentary in India. And catapulted its viewing via YouTube in a way a mere airing on BBC TV alone could never have accomplished. (more…)

Google melting borders – ‘Reunion’ one year later

Last year, my father in Canada sent me a link to a google ad called ‘REUNION

“Have you and every other acquaintance seen the Google ad that has  millions of viewers?”

Aside from immediately recognizing a friend – Auritra Ghosh – it was impossible to ignore the emotional pull of this little ad story.

Reunion is about the fictional reunion between two elderly men from India and Pakistan. They were separated as children during partition with no contact after. Their grandchildren use various google services to help bring them back together.

Seeing this again today was a good anecdote to remind that while politics, religion and atrocities may divide, people still connect on a very human level irrespective of such things.

Today this ad has over 12 million viewers. While fictional, it taps into a deep sentiment that binds Indian and Pakistani people despite all that have divided.

I dare you to not get a little emotional!

Google’s Reunion

For more details, check out:

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