Jashn-E-Kaifi With Shabana Azmi At 25, Janki Kutir

Shabana Azmi celebrated the 98th birth anniversary of her late father, the legendary Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi, with an evening of music and poetry called Jashn-E-Kaifi at their family home, 25 Janki Kutir in Mumbai on the 14th of January 2017. Her brother, cinematographer Baba Azmi orchestrated the annual evening on a larger scale this year in a bid to bring back some of the cultural nostalgia of artistry that is not only reminiscent of their home, but an integral part of both, his and Shabana’s growing years – a home where legends like Begum Akhtar, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Guru Dutt, Chetan Anand, SD Burman, Madan Mohan, Balraj Sahni and MF Husain commingled with their parents Kaifi and Shaukat Azmi in a manner most concordant, in the pursuit of the arts. As she showed me around the house – her parent’s bedroom, her childhood room, resonant with memories of an era gone by, I was intrigued by the rich fabric of its familial history. As we walked around the house, every exposed brick seemed to whisper a couplet with the wafting aroma of tea brewing in the kitchen heightening its mystical, old-world aura. And then there was the music…

I heard Sonu Nigam, India’s most beloved singer and a fine musical talent – perform live – a big first for me. The stage was brought alive by raw musicians and singers as well as seasoned ones to an enthralled audience. I loved Javed Akhtar’s rendition of Kaifi Azmi’s poems which brought the house down, and understandably so. Some of Kaifi’s most famous written works in Indian cinema set to music are Tum Itna Jo Muskura Rahe Ho Kya Gham Hai Jo Chupa Rahe Ho (Arth 1982), Chalte Chalte Yunhi Koi Mil Gaya Tha (Pakeezah 1972), Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Mere Kaam Ki Nahi (Heer Ranjha 1970) Waqt Ni Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool 1959) Meri Aawaz Suno Pyar ka Raaz Suno (Naunihal 1967) Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar (Arth 1982) and Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho (Hanste Zakham 1973). 

Here is Jashn-E-Kaifi in pictures:

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Jashn-E-Kaifi stage

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Sonu Nigam

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Javed Akhtar

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Shabana Azmi with her nephew, Viraj Vishwakarma

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Sukriti and Prakriti Kakar

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Kaifs Azmi’s favorite chair

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Shabana Azmi

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Twinkle Khanna Launches Her Second Book, The Legend Of Lakshmi Prasad

Rubina A Khan interviews the multifaceted author Twinkle Khanna for Gulf News:

Twinkle Khanna’s first book, Mrs Funnybones went into reprint over 25 times, and her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, published by Juggernaut Books has already gone into its second print run of another 50,000 copies in the first month of its launch! The book was released on Tuesday evening at the JW Marriott Juhu in Mumbai and had Shabana Azmi, Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt reading excerpts from the same, with Karan Johar in conversation with the author. Khanna has evidently got the business of funny right, not just in her bones, but also in the literary world, with her distinct voice being read and heard, and most importantly, loved. The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad, currently at the number two spot on the Amazon India bestseller list, is a collection of stories that stem from inspired experiences in her life.

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Twinkle Khanna at the launch of her second book, The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad

“I was doing some research for a column when I chanced upon Arunachalam Muruganantham’s life, and his incredible work of making low-cost sanitary napkins for women. His story gripped me and that’s when I sat down, wrote the first few pages and sent them off to my editor to take a look. Then I began chasing Muruga and after innumerable, lengthy interviews, he agreed to let me fictionalize his story and that is how this book came into being. The other stories then followed, as they were all topics I had briefly touched upon through my columns and now, I could weave substantial tales around them,” says Khanna of the book’s existence.

The elemental difference in the narrative style between Mrs Funnybones and Lakshmi Prasad is that Khanna wrote the former in first person, in a “laugh-a-minute sort of narrative” and the latter in third person, “touching upon social issues in a light-hearted manner.” Khanna expands on her choice of publisher for Lakshmi Prasad, with a whimsy that is quintessentially her. “Chiki Sarkar was my editor and publisher at Penguin when I wrote Mrs Funnybones and so when she left to establish her own publishing house, Juggernaut Books, I just followed her like Mary’s little lamb.” She plays down her irreverent sense of wit, with a real, grounded sense of self. “My family is filled with oddballs and we all indulge in playful banter and pull each other’s legs. It’s not as much as them enjoying my company, as much it is for all us to just be together, making each other laugh. It has been a gratifying couple of years now since I wrote my first book. I bump into readers everywhere I go and I think the greatest compliment is that people have stopped asking me about anything else except my writing and I love that.”

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Karan Johar in conversation with Twinkle Khanna at the launch

A strong black coffee in the morning, followed by endless cups of green and peppermint tea throughout the day fuel the mother, wife, daughter, interior designer and writer in her. But it’s the coffee she had recently with Karan Johar on his show, Koffee With Karan Season 5, alongside her husband Akshay Kumar that’s got everyone talking. From her husband’s size (shoe-size!) to Johar’s preference of keeping his mike in a part of his anatomy that’s best left unseen and unwritten, gave viewers an almost uncensored version of her unabashedly humorous and mocking self. If there was any doubt in anyone’s mind that she was not the brain behind her writings, KWK dispelled it all with one clean and hilarious swipe on the show that left even Johar and the viewers stumped for words. “I don’t think a brain has been established inside my head; everyone has a brain and I just looked after mine pretty well by feeding it lots of books. I am really not concerned with how people, men as well as women, perceive me, whether I am sexier now that I seem to have a brain or otherwise.”

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Akshay Kumar and Ranbir Kapoor

Now that she’s a bestselling author, her words are platinum, especially to an aspiring writer. “I would tell anyone who wants to get published to read everything they can get their hands on and that they establish a routine of writing every single day. Literary agents look for something they call a ‘voice’ that’s distinctive, remarkable and defining and the best writers have one, and you can hear it echoing in your head when you read their work. A writer needs to have a distinctive style as well in order to make it easier for them to find a publisher for their works.”

When she’s not busy observing the world and writing on it, Khanna loves reading to her four-year-old daughter Nitara. “I read every single day to her. Nitara shares my love for reading and also has a curious mind like mine. She is fascinated by Julia Donaldson’s books at the moment,” says the glamorous mother of two.

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Ranbir Kapoor read an excerpt from the book

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on November 17, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

I Get This Amazing Positive Energy From Salman Khan And I’m Very Inspired By Him, Says Indian Fashion Designer Vikram Phadnis

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Salman Khan

Indian designer Vikram Phadnis has held fashionable ground, and successfully at that, in the Indian fashion industry’s fiercely competitive and evolving landscape, for the last 25 years.

It is a prodigious victory, transitioning from a film choreographer to fashion designer, that called for a celebratory commemoration of the same with a special runway show held in January in Mumbai. None other than Bollywood legend, Amitabh Bachchan, walked as the designer’s showstopper, amidst enchanting and glamourous attendees.

Phadnis’ impervious and composed countenance and his single-minded focus on actualizing his dreams of dressing up the world in his designs, contributed largely to this accomplishment, but not without a few steadfast friends, Bollywood superstar Salman Khan being the most formidable influence in his life. In Dubai for the Aaraish show, the designer spoke exclusively to Rubina A KhanGulf News tabloid!

What is your biggest strength, surviving and thriving for 25 years in a ferociously competitive and predominantly Bollywood driven fashion business in India?
I don’t think I can call it my strength as such, but I am a very driven and ambitious person inherently, and I think inadvertently, that has become my strength over the years. Whatever I have achieved in my life as a choreographer in the entertainment business and the last 25 years as a fashion designer, is due to my ambitious drive and that I am almost never satisfied or content with my work. If you are not driven or focused and are not willing and able to deliver every single time, and slip up, there are a dime a dozen people ready and waiting to take your place. You have to keep at it constantly, be consistent and innovative and strive for new goals and benchmarks with each collection or outfit. Like in a Bollywood actor’s life, Friday is the most important day at the box office for every film of his to determine his value and worth, for a designer, it is every single time he makes an ensemble or puts a collection together for a showing. It is a constant endeavor every day.

Did you feel taller than Amitabh Bachchan, who was your showstopper, on your very well-attended commemorative show, Adhvan, in January?
I just felt completely humbled and I felt so blessed walking down the runway with him. I have worked with him on films like Waqt, Hum Kisi Ke Kum Nahin and Bade Miyan Chhote Miya and I can just say that there are no more men like him anymore. He is truly exceptional. He’s the only man I call Sir in the world.

Would you consider yourself among India’s top three talents in fashion?
I don’t know. There are far more commercially viable and well-known names in India’s flourishing fashion business than me and I have never measured my success with the strength of others’ success. There’s always someone ahead of you and there’s always someone behind you in the business. It depends on the perspective you see it from really.

Who, according to you, are the top designers of India?
Tarun Tahiliani, Sabyasachi, Anamika Khanna and Monisha Jaising.

Who were, and still are, your biggest supporters in your career path?
People like Hemant Trivedi, Mehr Jesia-Rampal, Priyanka Chopra, Malaika Arora-Khan, Kareena Kapoor-Khan in a big way, have supported me enormously, and still do, and are a very important part of my successful journey as a fashion designer and undoubtedly Salman Khan, without whom I don’t think I would be who I am today.

How has Salman Khan impacted your career?
Whatever I am today is really because of Salman. He showed me a whole new world, when no one understood me. I worked with him for 13 years as a designer, and he gave me so much without expecting anything back. He gave me a standing in the entertainment business, his professional support and backing, and personal strength. When I wanted to quit choreography and go and study at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, USA, he convinced me to stay back in India and helped me find a footing as a designer. He took me in all his film projects, and opened my first store in Mumbai. He was never selfish about anything, allowing me to work with other actors alongside working with him, not restraining my creative freedom, and gave me more than even I could imagine. Till today, there’s a picture of Salman that hangs in my cabin in my office. I am inspired by Salman and get this amazing positive energy from him, always. Salman is the older brother I never had. He made me travel worldwide with him and introduced me to people everywhere. In fact, the first time I traveled abroad was to Dubai with Salman! I had never sat in an aircraft before or had any idea of what a plane even looked like from the inside, and I had obviously never been outside India either. This is 30 years ago! It was a stage show Salman was doing back then that he had taken me for. Dubai was not even remotely like what it is today. It was on the verge of the modern and magical explosion that Dubai is today. Dubai feels like home to me and every time I travel to Dubai, it has a newer dimension to it.

What, or who, has been a constant muse for your designs?
I don’t create clothes with one particular muse in mind. I make the garment according to the person I am working for, or the collection that I am putting together. I don’t think a single inspiration or muse can transpire into an entire collection or a garment for different kinds of people.

Which is your favourite, and most memorable contribution, as a designer to the fashion world?
I think everything that I have designed and created for Salman Khan – be it the dhotis, hot shorts, sarongs… made an impact on Indian fashion, because prior to him wearing them, no one was wearing these garments on screen, and the fact that he carried them off so well made them extremely popular and on trend all of a sudden. Also, getting the opportunity to dress up international model Naomi Campbell, the South African President Jacob Zuma and cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar in my clothes have also been memorable moments for me as a designer.

Is there anybody rich and famous in India who does not wear you?
There are so many people who have not worn my clothes! And I do not run after the rich to wear my designs or even think like that. You never know who your ultimate buyer is when you’re creating a garment anyway. I like to make wearable and affordable clothing that is essentially commercially viable. I do not make impractical clothes for the runway that a person can’t wear off it. I like to see people, all kinds of people, wearing my clothes in the world, and not see them hanging on the walls of my studio.

What is it about Dubai fashion that intrigues you?
Fashion is more forward in Dubai than in most other countries. Like I said earlier, Dubai is the first international place I set foot in and it is home to me and I feel I understand the fashion landscape here quite well. When it comes to fashion, the people in Dubai know it all and more! And the best part of Dubai is dressing up its women! They are just so fashion forward and clued in, that it keeps me on the edge constantly and drives me to give them my best. And it also helps that I have a great fashion network and database in Dubai.

Are designs in Dubai driven largely by what Bollywood is wearing, or your designs and craftsmanship?
No, I don’t think the fashion in Dubai is necessarily driven by Bollywood trends. The taste here is very diverse – some like their fashion ethnic, some prefer fusion, some go for the quintessentially traditional designs and some stick to haute couture. There is not one set pattern that the fashion here adheres to and that is what keeps it, and makes it, so fashionably exciting. It’s like a year-round fashion runway, from prat to haute couture, celebrating fashion globally.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 13 February, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Girls Chase Ranbir, And He Runs After Samara!

Rubina A Khan interviews jewellery designer, Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni for Gulf News:

Whilst Bollywood superstar-in-the-making, Ranbir Kapoor, makes headlines for his box office hits and misses, his hookups and breakups in Bollywood and his current single status, his sister Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni has transitioned from being a star kid, to wife and mother, to an entrepreneur in her new role as a jewelry designer, launching her eponymous line, in the first half of January this year. Bollywood veterans’ Rishi and Neetu Kapoor’s first born is excited about stepping into her new shimmer and shine phase as a designer, and if the alluring Sahni’s quintessential minimalist and classic personal style is anything to go by, her designs will have you clamoring for more!

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Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni

You launched a jewellery line, your first, earlier this month – Riddhima Kapoor-Sahni. What turned you into a designer vis-à-vis modeling for the Notandas jewellery brand with your mother, Neetu Kapoor, earlier on?
I have always understood jewellery and have an intrinsic flair for it, but I was never a jewellery person as such. I would wear small pieces but not really bling myself up! But I was mesmerized by the designs of Notandas, the brand my mom and I modeled for, and were the face of, for the past eight years. Their designs were at par with top international jewellery houses and we had a blast shooting for them. Every piece was stunning and was a pleasure to wear every single time and made a deep impression on me during that time period. After the contract got over, I started telling my jeweller to make this and that for me, designs that were mine, instead of buying in stores, for everyday wear. The result of that was that everyone started commenting on my designs and loving them, so I thought why not design jewellery for others too? No one has really tapped the mid-market segment in India for every day, fun jewelry that’s made of diamonds, semi-precious and real stones and 18 karat gold ranging from Rs 30,000 upwards and that’s how Riddhima Kapoor Sahni Jewellery came into being, along with my jeweler friend and partner, Anuj Kapoor in Bombay, where our pieces are manufactured. It’s wearable, affordable and light jewellery anyone can wear everyday to a lunch, brunch, coffee conversations, birthday party – be it your child (I’ve been getting so many orders for them!) teenager, mom or just about anyone who loves jewellery.

It’s just the beginning as RKS is only about two weeks old right now, and I am already overwhelmed with the fantastic response to the bracelets we launched this month, especially the four-leaved clover one and the evil eye one that was my first design. My plan is to launch ten pieces every month, and take orders on the same. I have been taking orders from India, London and New York so far, and hopefully Dubai soon, as I plan to go international with my brand. January has been about bracelets and February will be another exciting launch of pendants as it is the month for romance and Valentine’s Day.

I am working on customizing orders with people I share a personal rapport with – I will emboss, engrave and add elements to my designs for them and will even revamp a wedding ring for them, but in my style and design aesthetic. You just have to leave it to me and trust me on that. And no, I will definitely not be doing the whole “copying the Cartier” kind of customizing at all! Online is the future and I am promoting my work through social media. I don’t want to open a store as of now, but you never know.

Who is the woman who wears your designs?
Me! The woman who wears my designs is someone like me. My designs are an extension of my personality and who ever wears them can then reflect their own personas on them.

From a star kid to wife and mommy to now jewellery designer and entrepreneur… what role is the most exciting for you?
Being a mother is by far the most exciting, satisfying and rewarding role in my life.

Your sense of fashion is classic minimalist. You are always dressed for the occasion you’re at without the Bollywood or the Delhi fuss. What are your must-dos for your look?
I like to make a statement with my look, but in a classic style. You’ll never see me in a set or wearing my entire jewellery box blinding people everywhere I go! I’m a big watch collector – a classic, vintage Rolex person – it’s my jewellery. So, a watch is mandatory for every outfit that I wear and then I’ll add my chain bracelets as I am in love with all my RKS bracelets or a cuff or earrings to complete the look, whether I am wearing jeans or a dress or an Indian ensemble.

What is your favourite gemstone to wear and now, to work with, for your designs?
Rubies are my favourite gemstones. I wear a small sized one on my little finger.

How did a beautiful girl like you not ever think of doing movies being Neetu and Rishi’s daughter? And how are you so comfortable being away from the spotlight given you grew up in the thick of it?
At 17, I went off to London to study and was away from all the filmi brouhaha. I came back home to Bombay at 22, and got married, soon after, to Bharat (Sahni) who I had met in London, and moved to Delhi. If I had stayed on in Bombay, maybe the life of stardom might have hit me, but staying away, I was unaware of the effect it could have had on me. My parents were swarmed and bombed with film offers for me but I’m really glad I didn’t do films and the way my life has played out. I love my life and I love my husband and my kid and the way things are.

You just celebrated your tenth wedding anniversary on the 25th of January, but you look like a newly married girl. How has it been being Mrs Sahni?
Bharat and I have come a long way – ten years! It’s an amazing, ongoing journey together, and our precocious daughter, Samara, is almost five-years-old now. It’s incredible just thinking about it. I do miss my parents because I live in Delhi, and they are in Bombay, but it’s not too far geographically, so it’s not that bad. My parents just celebrated 36 years of being together on the 22nd of January this year and it’s been inspiring to see their marriage, looking up to them and seeing them surviving it all. I’m very close to both my parents and of course my brother. Family comes first for my dad and he’s very big on that. So I’ve learnt to keep family first in everything I do.

Your daughter Samara is a summation of all the Kapoors, and the dubsmashes you post of her on Instagram are very popular. Who does she take after?
Samara loves herself! As soon we are ready to step out, she makes me take selfies of us in the car, pouting and posing with her. She loves the camera and loves singing, dancing, dressing up, putting on pretend makeup, enacting dialogues from my dad and Ranbir’s films and imitating just about anyone. She’ll keep asking me, “Mamma, why do I gave to go to school? Let me help you in your jewellery business. Mamma, why do you get to wear pretty clothes, jewellery and makeup everyday and why can’t I?” I indulge her, as does everyone in the family, to a large extent, but I just want her formal education to be completed, as besides her naughtiness, she’s very bright, a thinker, with an elephantine memory and sometimes, her thought processes befuddle me and get me wondering if she’s really only five years old? These days, kids only teach you everything. Samara is just like my dad – she is totally like him. She has him and Ranbir wrapped around her little finger and she means business. Girls chase Ranbir and he runs after Samara!

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on 28 January, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Salman Khan Walks The Runway For FDCI’S Huts To High Street Fashion Show To Promote Khadi | Gujarat

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Salman Khan

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Salman Khan | Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015

An Evening Of Pandeymonium With Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar And Piyush Pandey!

Amitabh Bachchan launched Pandeymonium, a book  written by India’s most lauded, awarded and loved advertising creative, Piyush Pandey, on 14th October, 2015 in Mumbai amidst a large gathering of the city’s intelligentsia.

Amitabh Bachchan / Getty Images

Amitabh Bachchan

The conversations between Amitabh and Piyush about the world of advertising and how they worked together for eight long years on a campaign to make India Polio free or how they did their respective mothers’ shraadh in Sidhpur (the only place in India where one can do so) in Gujarat whilst filming the Gujarat Tourism campaign or how Piyush had to make Power Point presentations (his first and last!) for Amitabh for the Cadbury campaign or how Amitabh has stopped disclosing things to his wife Jaya as it is never good enough for her, made for an engaging and amusing insight into their world.

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Piyush Pandey, Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar spoke about his experiences, working with Piyush as a 16-year-old boy who knew nothing about advertising or looking good, only cricket, in a vein most humorous. A delightful evening indeed, spent amidst the greatest Indian luminaries from the world of film, cricket and advertising.

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Sachin and Anjali Tendulkar with Piyush Pandey

All images are subject to copyright and can be purchased on Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Raj Kapoor’s Daughter, Rima Jain’s Ganpati Aarti 2015

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The Ganesh idol at Rima Jain, daughter of the late filmmaker and actor, Raj Kapoor’s house.

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Rima Jain and Jaya Bachchan

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Rima Jain and Jaya Bachchan

Rima Jain, Jaya Bachchan | Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Ranbir Kapoor And The Mumbai City FC Footballers – Nicolas Anelka, Sunil Chhetri, Andre Moritz & Subrata Paul

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Ranbir Kapoor

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Nicolas Anelka

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Nicolas Anelka, Andre Moritz, Sunil Chhetri and Ranbir Kapoor

 

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Subrata Paul, Nicolas Anelka and Andre Moritz

©Rubina A Khan 2015

Shah Rukh Khan For TAG Heuer Watches

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Shah Rukh Khan

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Shah Rukh Khan

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Shah Rukh Khan

Photographs by ©Rubina A Khan / Getty Images

Shah Rukh Khan | Getty Images