RUBINA’S RADAR | THEATRE. ART. DESIGN. FASHION

India’s finest talent, Shabana Azmi is celebrating her late father, Kaifi Azmi’s birth centenary with an ongoing series of events across India, from mushairas to plays to live musical evenings at Janki Kutir. Raag Shayari is an artistic, theatrical collaboration between Azmi, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, singer and composer Shankar Mahadevan and lyricist Javed Akhtar, interpreting the works of the accomplished late poet in a contemporary, musical manner. “Raag Shayari’s an evening of archival value because Shankar Mahadevan sings a selection of Kaifi Azmi’s poems, Javed Akhtar recites them in Urdu and I recite the English translations with Ustad Zakir Hussain interpreting the same on the tabla,” says Azmi. The debut show of Raag Shayari was on January 13 at NCPA, Nariman Point. The second show was held the following evening at the St. Andrew’s auditorium in Bandra, Mumbai with Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh, Rekha, Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Divya Dutta and Madhu Chopra in attendance.

Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar and Shankar Mahadevan during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Shabana Azmi during rehearsals for Raag Shayari. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Zakir Hussain during rehearsals for Raag Shayari.
Photo: Rubina A Khan

Businessman Shom Hinduja’s home in Juhu, Mumbai, is a consummate realisation of art and design by his older sibling, Ambika Hinduja. Her impeccable imagination made the first live cover of Architectural Digest’s India edition this January, with Irishman Joseph Walsh’s Magnus at the heart of her art. Hinduja created the space around the bespoke Magnus‘ universal energies. Nothing screams in the consciously designed space, but the people in it, in sheer wonderment of the art that is congruous to her sustainable design métier. I’ve never met a more self-effacing design virtuoso like Hinduja. Her visual artistry here is a master stroke of her own inherent genius, which understandably, her parents, Ashok and Harsha Hinduja, are very proud of. It’s not only her imagination that’s impeccable, but it’s also the name of her art and entertainment company, with offices in India and the UAE. Impeccable Imagination represents artists from Belgium, Brazil, Iran, Ireland and the United Kingdom and the company’s only just getting ready to launch Blue Beet, a multi-sensory design and culinary space in Dubai in the coming months.

Joseph Walsh and Ambika Hinduja in Architectural Digest. Photo: Andrew Bradley
Joseph Walsh’s Magnus in Shom Hinduja’s living area. Photo: Andrew Bradley

Forts are Indian fashion’s new runways du jour in 2019. Earlier this month, the Red Fort in New Delhi made for an enchanting setting for a fashion show held on its heritage grounds, organised by the Ministry of Textiles. It was a historic first for Indian fashion and a commendable one at that. After showing at the Red Fort, master couturier Rohit Bal enthralled Mumbai with Guldastah, a collection inspired by Renaissance artists and botanical paintings, at the Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour held at the Bandra Fort on Wednesday evening.

Lakshmi Rana in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan
Sidharth Malhotra in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort.
Photo: Rubina A Khan
Models in Rohit Bal’s Guldastah at Bandra Fort. Photo: Rubina A Khan

Models walked down the bedecked steps of the fort in luxurious Bal raiments in hues of ivory, black, gold and red to the dulcet sounds of Shubha Mudgal’s live classical performance. This was the best fashion show I have ever seen in Mumbai. Guldastah was an immersive experience and you could almost smell the roses of forgotten romances with the ethereal floral dominance in Bal’s impassioned collection.

Actor Sidharth Malhotra was Bal’s showstopper, but a resident dog of Bandra Fort beat him to it, wagging its tail happily on to the runway, ahead of him, much to the delight of everyone present. Malhotra seemed to have studied Amitabh Bachchan’s walk and stance thoroughly and mirrored the same quite well on the runway. But then again, mirroring is not quite like owning it! Anju Bhavnani, now more popular as Deepika Padukone’s mother-in-law versus Ranveer Singh’s mother, was all praises for her beautiful bahu when I spoke to her for a lightning Mumbai minute. “We are very happy and blessed, hashtag blessed,” she said. A family that hashtags together stays together? Insta guess so!

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©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | BOLLYWOOD ACTORS DEEPIKA PADUKONE & RANVEER SINGH’S NOVEMBER WEDDING IN LAKE COMO

Bengaluru girl is marrying her Bandra lover boy for real. Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh (Bhavnani) are getting married on November 14/15 in Lake Como, Italy. The couple announced the wedding dates, sans any other details, on instagram around 4pm on Sunday evening, sending the 42 million people following them, and more, into a ‘gramming, tweeting and whatsapping hysteria. Padukone and Singh have worked in three films together, all of which were directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali – Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013) Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018) and have since become a haute favourite with audiences as a reel couple. Padukone, now an international actor having played the lead in xXx: Return of Xander Cage alongside Vin Diesel made it the 2018 Time 100 List as one of the 100 most influential people in the world and Singh is one of the highest paid actors in Bollywood and a hopping favourite with brands, both national and international. Their real life coupling as Mr and Mrs Bhavnani in November is only going to intensify their celluloid net worth. Together, they’ll make money move, and how! Congratulations you two!

Where there’s a wedding, there’s always jewellery in the known universe. And jewellery advisor Arundhati De-Sheth knows that and more. After graduating from the ESSEC Business School in Paris, Sheth was selected to the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy program to specialize in Luxury Brand Management, leading her to a working stint at Cartier Dubai. Mumbai-based Sheth pulls diamonds, rubies and emeralds from jewellers for a living, and loves it. Sheth, Mumbai’s first ever jewellery advisor, or perhaps India’s first, hosted a pop-up of jewels curated by her at Le Mill in the city recently. “I am very passionate about jewellery and the art of making it. In my role as a jewellery advisor, I work with a small group of handpicked jewellers from Mumbai that each specialise in diamonds, coloured gem stones and Jaipur jadau. I source jewellery from them on request, but I also approach other jewellers for a request that fits them. I’m not working with large brands at the moment, only private jewellers who work in a very organised and professional manner,” says Sheth of her distinctive job profile.

I think fashion stylists in India are so focused on pulling clothes for their celeb and bridal clientele that they never seem to get the accessories, or the jewellery accents right. It’s always too much or too little, never just right. Jewels can play up an ensemble majestically as can the most exquisite diamond look stunning on one individual and most unsightly on another. But then again, Sheth gets paid to tell you that as your personal jewellery advisor on call. The allure of beauteous, blinding bijoux is where Sheth steps in, nudging you towards bespoke sparkles befitting your persona, awakening your latent personal style in the process, all for a price of course.

Mumbai’s culinary landscape is as multifarious as it’s ad-interim. Relevance, consistency and popularity make for a rare threesome in the newly-opened bars and restaurants in the city. Kode, a freestyle bar and kitchen in Kamla Mills, Mumbai that opened in June 2017 is where it’s at with contemporary flavourful fare, theatrical cocktails, speak-easy design spread across 4000 square feet of industrial ground and Friday nights as a thumping lounge with a dance floor that 500 people shimmy and shake on.

The Burrata accompanied with a Tomato Foam, Melba Toast, Rocket Leaves and Balsamic Vinegar was great. The Turkish Flat Bread, Asparagus and Gruyere Quiche, Avocado Carpaccio with Crackling Spinach, Edamame and Tofu Thai Curry with Garlic Rice, Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, Beurre Blanc Chargrilled Prawns, Sweet Potato Crisps with a Green Pea Truffle Oil Dip make for my favourites from the expansive menu led by Chef Momin. And there’s still desserts and cocktails! The White Chocolate French Toast with Mango looks like a sunny-side up egg but it’s anything but, despite the mango “yolk” running over. It’s like a Westernised and very elegant Shahi-Tukda so to speak. Beloved by all, the Deconstructed Black Forest Cake with Maraschino Cherries is addictive. The theatrical presentation of the food and cocktails, like the cinnamon stick on fire in the Bird’s Nest Cranberry Passion Fruit Vodka Cocktail or the crushed rose petals that go into making the exquisite Forgotten Petal Sour Gin Cocktail replete with a Campari Soap, Australian Champagne Tea Foam and Cotton Candy or the White Chocolate French Toast, does not take away from their intrinsic flavours. It just adds to the drama and fun of drinking and eating out in a city that went from being a Bombay that never slept, to a Mumbai that sleeps way too early.

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©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S REVIEW: PADMAAVAT IS THE NEW PADMAVATI

Padmaavat, with Deepika Padukone playing the valorous Queen Padmavati of Chittor, finally releases on Friday with a gender swap in its title from the original Padmavati to Padmaavat. From a film on periods (Padman) being pushed to a February release by its lead actor, Akshay Kumar, to give the period drama that is Padmaavat more theatre play due to the fiscally debilitating off-screen histrionics around it, the ongoing PMS (Padmavati Movie Stress) hasn’t abated just as yet.

I saw the film on Tuesday evening at journalist and author, Shobhaa De’s screening in Mumbai. 120 minutes into the film, I simply couldn’t fathom why the director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali would even call his film Padmavati in the first place; he very well could have called it Khilji as it’s a glorified, and almost one-directional ode to Alauddin Khilji’s insatiable lust for immortality, battle and sex. And, his relentless desire to possess Queen Padmavati of course. The film highlights the Rajput and Kshatriya codes of honour and living in a manner most celebratory, Bhansali’s chandeliers, diyas and picturesque frames notwithstanding. In no way does it demean Indian culture and its customs, and no Indian will be affronted with the film. Though Bhansali does seem to unnecessarily lionise Khilji beyond his omnipresent pillaging fame.
imagesAs the antagonist Khilji, Ranveer Singh looks menacing and monstrous physically, but his wavering accent that switches from Arabian to contemporary Hindi to Afghan, along with an inept enunciation of the language of his Sultanate, makes it difficult to believe he’s a 14th century imperial Sultan. Singh’s performance is flamboyant, loud and open to interpretation sexually, but he is not convincing as an erstwhile ruler or wannabe Alexander the Great in the making in the least. And, as for the costumery, when Singh ascends the throne of his slain uncle, Jalaluddin Khilji (Raza Murad) he wears heeled boots with the royal regalia on his person! Sure, high-heeled boots for men were in use as early as the 10th century for equestrian sports, but it seems highly unlikely that Khilji would have had access to those during his time in India.

Shahid Kapoor as Maharawal Ratan Singh of Mewar is ineffectual in the film. But in his regal dhoti/lungi, he makes for an exquisite kohl-eyed, eight pack ab-fab model that Calvin Klein needs to add to its brand new Kardashian-Jenner spread immediately! As Queen Padmavati’s paramour and subsequent husband, he is rather rigid and impassive, which is very unlike Kapoor’s able celluloid skills. Padukone is flawlessly beautiful (more so in 3D) serene and poised in every single frame, looking as cinematically desirable as she possibly can, but Kapoor meets her stellar, restrained performance with a face bereft of any emotion, romantic or otherwise. There are no subtle layers or nuances to his performance as a royal in command and especially so in the intimate scenes with Padukone. And no one does the neck quite like Shah Rukh Khan, in Khan’s own words. The only time Kapoor shines in the film is during his duel in the desert with the lust-lorn Sultan. His quiet resolve and aggressive battle moves speak volumes here.

Padmaavat plays on Khilji’s self-serving megalomania and his obsession with Padmavati’s beauty. Padmavati is his unattainable dream in the film till Padukone takes on her role as queen in the last hour of the film’s screen time. In effect, the film is a take on Khilji and his obsession with her luminous beauty that is a mere catalyst to his narcissistic lust. The battle scenes are reminiscent of Troy (2004) as is the story line pertaining to the quest and conquest of a beautiful woman. The dialogues are rife with varying language styles – in some scenes, Kapoor says waqt in a Rajasthani accent when the word samay would have worked just as well for his character. The Ghoomar song is basic, nothing extra really. It is just another well-choreographed Bollywood number and incomparable to the greats Bhansali has orchestrated in the past in films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Devdas (2002). But then, who knows what the uncut version of the song looked like! The film is based on the legend of Khilji and Padmavati, assuming everyone is aware of this historical obsession, and that does not suffice for 180 odd minutes on film. The screenplay does not offer any backstory to Khilji’s temperament or his dynasty’s reign, or take cinematic licence with Maharawal’s and Padmavati’s romantic interludes or add more authenticity to the time period the film is set in, besides heavily embroidered clothes and Bhansali-esque sets. Language, both verbal and body, is terribly askew in the film.

Padukone is the only actor who stays in character, in language and poise, and costume throughout Padmavati-turned-Padmaavat’s over three hour runtime. It is her aura and acting prowess that Padmaavat will be remembered for, not to mention also taking home the highest fee for any Indian actress to date for the film. And just for that, I am glad the film was named after her central character, with or without an “I”.

Did I like the film? Well, let’s just say I was forced into a massive historical throwback and it’s not even Thursday yet!

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©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | FDCI’S INDIA COUTURE WEEK 2017

RUBINA’S RADAR 

The 10th edition of the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) India Couture Week 2017 (24th-31st July), was a splendacious celebration of India’s fashion vanguards at the Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi. India Couture Week has earned its laurels for the past decade of being the best in the country with its marked excellence in fashion. And what’s a fashion week in India without some Bollywood stardust thrown in? ICW 2017’s couture catwalk had actors like Alia Bhatt, Ranveer Singh, Aditi Rao Hydari, Shilpa Shetty and many more walking for the participating couturiers.

TARUN TAHILIANI | Tarakanna:
Tarakanna was an alluring experience with an “evolved vocabulary of design” befitting the legendary status of Tahiliani and his majestic consummation of couture. His design constructs were fluid, almost seamless, in silk, velvet, brocade, Italian tulle and georgette, in hues of burnished rose, gold, olive, black, ivory, midnight blue and the de riguer bridal palette of red.  The unparalleled artistry of Tahiliani’s craft shone on the runway. As the models glided on to the breathtaking autumnal leaved set, designed to semble the end of autumn, Central Park in New York perhaps, the earthy tones came alive with the shimmering Swarovski crystal-embellished ensembles, all 85 of them, taking over the runway. The line alluded to a bride’s lightness of being, akin to her dancing in the glory of her marital coupling in bespoke designs, fitted not just to her body, but also to her soul. Scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan’s visual aesthetic lent itself beautifully to the magnificent confluence of the Tarakanna line and the buoyancy of the human spirit it embodied. Throughout its duration, the show appeared to have suspended the audience in the most exalted place of happiness and wonderment, that stayed on long after it had ended. 

MONISHA JAISING | Opera:
Sexy is a vibe Jaising shoots for consistently, and her Opera collection wasn’t left wanting in the least. The clothes were tantalising and edgy, and a tad theatrical too, primarily made in lamé, velvet metallics, Italian organza, banarasi brocade and metallic satins. The light and set design of the runway didn’t really take you into the world of operatic tenors and high octaves that inspired her line this season, as the models walked in her evening dresses and gowns, cocktail saris, crop tops and ball skirts. The multi-faceted actor-turned-businesswoman-turned-yoga-guru, Shilpa Shetty – a flawless showstopper who nails it every single time, tripped on the brocade train of her gown, not once, not twice, but four times, as it kept getting caught on the runway floor. To say that the runway nailed Shetty, rather than the other way around, would be an understatement here. Shetty of course, let it slide and slayed it forward on the runway, with a strut only her enviable body is capable of, coupled with the radiance of her persona.

ANITA DONGRE | Tree Of Love:
Anita Dongre is a relatively new entrant in the Indian couture and bridal wear landscape, having started her couture line, Bridal, only six years ago. But, she is a veteran player, and a very successful one at that in the prêt-à-porter business of fashion for the last two decades, with her labels – AND, Global Desi, Pink City and Grassroot. Dongre opened her first Grassroot store in Manhattan, New York, recently and will be opening the doors to her Bridal store there subsequently. Her Tree Of Love collection was inspired by the Bishnoi community and their spiritual reverence for nature. Dongre married her “love for trees, rich Indian craftsmanship and music into one joyous collection” with dominant shades of blue, green and red. 
Beautiful SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) embroidered tabards, paired with tulle skirts, mushroo and hand-embroidered tea-length dresses with gottapatti lehengas, obi belts, embroidered flat shoes and cross-body potli bags made up the very desirable contemporary bridal line. The uncut diamond jewellery from her Pink City line as stunning. Dongre’s runway felt like an Indian summer wedding, with the metallic trees adding dramatic flair to the aureate mood board.

GAURAV GUPTA | Moondust: 
Gaurav Gupta’s knows how to haute couture the runway up. Structure and form are Gupta’s forte and he plays that well, like a consumed installation artist, with “blurred boundaries of traditional and modern couture”, choosing to “sit on the cusp of both worlds”. The Moondust collection is Gupta’s interpretation of a surreal ball Cinderella went to, in sculpted ensembles created from translucent textiles in pale tones of grey, blue, green and teal, playing with shadow and light. Handcrafted embroideries and silhouettes accentuating one aspect of the body – either the legs, the back, the arms  or the shoulders – but never all at once, kept the collection elegant and sassy. Though he was going for an immersive experience with this line, it was anything but immersive. Aditi Rao Hydari was Gupta’s showstopper and surprisingly, she was one of the best ramp walkers in the lineup of Bollywood stars.

MANISH MALHOTRA | Sensual Affair:
Manish Malhotra’s exceedingly mirrored runway for his Sensual Affair collection, seemed to be asking, “Mirror mirror on the wall, on the ceiling and on the floor, Who is the grandest couturier of them all?” Satin organzas, silk tulles, satin velvets made up the fabric for Malhotra’s lehengas, sherwanis, voluminous skirts and gowns with trains and the gorgeous fitted corsets, in ivory, soft grey, vintage rose, burgundy and teal tones. The models swirled around on the gleaming catwalk, left, right and centre in a fast-paced, synchronised rhythm, showing off 85 ensembles, with not a second to breathe. It left you wanting to see more of the clothes, with just a little bit of stay. Rapturous glamour is what Malhotra does best, be it sensual, sexual or unusual. There is no one grand couturier of them all, but t
he grandest finale to a decade of couture at the India Couture Week 2017 was undeniably Malhotra’s, with Alia Bhatt and Ranveer Singh walking for him. The raucous screams that erupted throughout the show area were deafening and most definitely burst an eardrum or two amidst the audience in the excitement of it all. Tears were shed at not meeting Singh, who seems to be the star, no, superstar of Delhi. Sure he’s popular, but really? Bhatt was an enchanting delight on the runway as always, looking like the Bollywood belle of the ball. 

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2017