Indian Real Estate Has A Toxic Problem | Gulf News

The cardinal constituent in realty is location and it has been dictating the price index and value of developments, with unmatched absoluteness. But that seems to be going up in the air now, quite literally, in India. The hazardous concentrations of particulate pollution that engulfed Mumbai in November this year, measured a PM 2.5 of 320. But Delhi witnessed a PM 2.5 of above 900, that was way beyond the maximum of 500 and went into “extreme mode” terrain, compelling the government to declare a public health emergency in the capital.

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Red Fort in New Delhi | Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images

When inhaled, PM 2.5 affects the human body’s natural defence, going deep into the lungs and even the bloodstream, causing serious health disorders like asthma and increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Clean air and water is a constitutional human right, but that right seems to have been drowned out by the drilling drone of the innumerable developments and their construction dust, vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions that make up the toxicity in the air. State governments ignoring the Supreme Court’s orders to limit agricultural burning isn’t helping either, endangering human lives even further.

Air quality is the new “prime location” and health is the new “amenity” that people are starting to look at when it comes to real estate today, not just an exclusive address or city. It is their lives at stake after all. ‘What good is buying a home in an elite neighbourhood in a metropolis that will leave you breathless’ is the common refrain in India since. The address people choose to buy in, or rent in, needs to be healthy and fit for human living, and conducive to their mental health and overall well-being, not herald a life ahead with disease and hospital bills. Sustainable is the word of 2019 – forget the fashion industry being the biggest pollutant globally – it has come down to sustaining human life in India in 2020 with fresh air and water and taking measures to rein it in. Instead of developers selling spaces highlighting the ‘heart’ of a city, it’s time they advertised the ‘lungs’ of a city to get people to buy.

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Peddar Road in Mumbai | Photo by Rubina A. Khan/ Getty Images

Newer realty developments are definitely hit with the unprecedented pollution levels in Delhi, and it will be a detriment going forward in 2020 for buys in the capital. Mumbai is not far behind either. Unless of course, the deals are lucratively priced to lure people in, with the promise of fresh air and improved Air Quality Index by the government. Non-Resident-Indians have a choice to wait it out and not invest in India till the air clears up, especially the ones living in the United States, that has some of the cleanest air in the world, but do resident Indians have a choice? Not really, barring buying homes in Goa and Rishikesh and that is quite indicative of the buying trend in 2020 for resident Indians.

Indian realty is obviously unprepared for the AQI factor that will very soon be a dominant determiner for property buys and sells in the country. After all the regulatory laws that shook up the business since 2016, this is another deterrent for the sector, especially with the large unsold inventories in the country. A war on pollution needs to commence in India now to accord  its taxpaying citizens a basic human right to breathe clean air and stay healthy.

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Lonavla | Photo by Rubina A. Khan/ Getty Images

2019 saw the introduction of the Model Tenancy Act 2019 as part of the first budget of the second term of the Narendra Modi government. Like its earlier reformist counterpart, RERA, introduced in 2016, the Model Tenancy Act 2019 too reads great on paper, but has yet to step up on accelerating the implementation of the same. I see an Air Quality Act being passed in 2020 but then again, it’s the implementation of it that looks hazy, just like the Mumbai and Delhi skies right now.  

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on December 13, 2019

Thank you AD Kilachand, Bina Ramani & Tarun Tahiliani for your time and thoughts. 

©Rubina A Khan 2019

India Gets An Updated Model Tenancy Act 2019 | Gulf News

India’s rental housing market, trammelled by archaic laws and ambiguity, is adapting to the pragmatic ameliorations outlined by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her inaugural Union Budget 2019 speech. Sitharaman’s proposed regulations in the Indian realty market have since made way for the Model Tenancy Act 2019, drafted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, that addresses the relationship between the lessor and lessee realistically and fairly.

The new tenancy law limits the security deposit to two months’ rent and lists heavy penalties for tenants overstaying and not adhering to the contractual terms of their rental agreements. An overstay will cost a tenant twice the rent for the first two months, that quadruples in the subsequent months. However, during such a period, the landlords are not allowed to cut off essential utilities like water and electricity. The Act also talks about creating special courts to deal with disputes between tenants and landlords and puts the obligation of carrying out repairs, maintenance and upkeep of the property like painting on the owner. While the landlord can’t increase the rent during the middle of the tenancy contract, the tenant can’t sublet the premises without prior consent of the owner. The Act aims to increase accountability in alignment with the government’s equitable development plans in the housing sector. The Centre has left it to the states to implement the Act or to amend it in accordance with their existing rental laws.

Mumbai | Rubina A Khan

Bandra-Worli Sea Link | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Maharashtra government has decided to enact it for new constructions and introduce an amendment that protects properties governed by the Maharashtra Rent Control Act 1999. Landlords have domineered the rental business in India, and how, for far too long, especially in Mumbai, the only Indian city to feature in a top 20 list of expensive prime residential markets in the world recorded in Knight Frank’s Wealth Report 2019. In Mumbai, a real estate agent’s opening and closing has always been about what the owner wants, demands rather, barely skimming the surface of what a tenant wants, barring the monthly rent and astronomical security deposits. The broker is almost always submissive to an owner’s preferences, despite the tenant being as much a paying customer as the landlord. This parti pris dynamic needs to change along with the Act towards a balanced equation between tenants and landlords. Tenants need to rent and owners need their money – it’s a simple business deal and it’s about time it’s conducted like one.

The realty business in India is inescapably going to change with the Act, giving impetus to luxury rentals at the expense of buys. The biggest incentive in the rental sector is the security deposit being restricted to two months’ rent, allowing a tenant to utilise and invest the money for herself/himself, rather than blocking it with a landlord that earns interest off it. The Mumbai rental market stands to gain the most from the new Act.

Luxury rentals are far more fiscally appealing and viable with the new Act coming into play than ever before. The Act increases the confidence and security for both, landlords and tenants, getting into rental agreements aligned with the new norms, leaving minimum room for legal discord. Landlords will have to desist from imposing delusional demands on a tenant like sky-high security deposits and maintenance of the property and tenants will be legally bound to pay the weighty fines for overstay and misuse of a rented property.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on August 3, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

India’s Property Market Rides Election Wave | Gulf News

The triumphant win of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of the Indian subcontinent for a second term, in the world’s largest election, has lent maximal credence to the country’s realty business in a manner most exceptional. The ruling government’s first term, contentiously driven by infrastructural development and financial realignments like Demonetization, RERA (Real Estate Regulation and Development Act) and GST (Goods & Service Tax) hit the cash-rich realty business particularly hard. Predictably, it was met with uproarious dissent. But, luxury realty seems to have taken a real turn since the legalized reorientations in the business, with antagonism giving way to smarts.

The luxe life is an addiction like no other. As long as there is human desire to live like royalty and be an in-your-face show-off, luxury real estate in India is headed forward. It stands at a profitable vantage point today, espousing all three acts, advantageous to both, builders and buyers. Indian realty expects investments to double to $10 billion in 2019. The paper trail and financial transparency accorded to the business is dominant, making it a streamlined, and somewhat trustworthy experience today. But there’s no denying that the business is devoid of the robustness and speed it once basked in, languishing ever so often in protracted sales.
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RERA seems to have had the most impact so far, not so much on newer developers as it has on the bigger players with large, unsold inventories, given it is now mandatory for 70 percent of the money to be deposited in bank accounts through cheques, restricting unaccounted money being flushed into the realty business. Aside from its financial transparency, a RERA requisite that’s very conducive to prospective buyers, is that builders are obliged to quote prices based on carpet area (inclusive of usable spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms) and not super built-up area. Having said that, RERA needs to hasten the pace, and frequency, in providing aggrieved buyers who need long overdue compensations from unscrupulous developers across India. The clean-up in the business has only just begun. It is anything but cleaned up, as far as realty racketeers are concerned, despite the new regulations and progressive revamps of archaic Indian property laws like Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code and the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act being in place. For the business to regain the implicit trust of consumers and hit immediate sale highs, compensating buyers for their losses is vital, and it should become a regular occurrence as compared to the rarity it is today.

Luxury residences and serviced luxury residences make for accelerated buys and sells in India, and rightly so, as time is a luxury the wealthy can’t afford to indulge in. Newer developers in Mumbai like Aditya Kilachand, Partner at Innovation Estates LLP, seem to be on the right beach of luxury realty, building villas by the sea in Alibag, a mere three-hour drive from Mumbai. Tapping into Alibag’s infrastructure, the improved connectivity and proximity to Mumbai, its existing community and fairly undervalued land prices is just realty forethought and judiciousness. Seven luxury serviced villas called L’Hermitage, custom-designed by Sussanne Khan of The Charcoal Project, will be ready for some serious selling upwards of 10CR by Sotheby’s International Realty India, come July 2019.
villWith all the luxury constructions and developments, there is a new shift in the market of late, that of “aspirational luxury” residences that aren’t remotely luxurious, barring their price points. Priced at 7CR upwards for a 3BHK in the business suburb of the Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai, these residences allude to a luxurious lifestyle with cleverly scripted and assertive marketing hype. The insides of these residential towers are at most basic, with a garden path, a swimming pool and some semblance of a gym thrown in, with views of the city’s under-construction skyline off a balcony, masquerading as luxury amenities. Needless to add, it’s a “white elephant” investment for owners as resale inventory is at its lowest and unrealistic rentals dictated by the builder’s team, with few takers, stand testimony to the “mimic luxe” gimmick it’s established on. These kind of constructions need to be reined in, as these will lead to a catastrophically high, over-priced, unsold inventory in the country that will affect consumers far more than the builders.

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on June 9, 2019

©Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | A VERY FASHIONABLY YOURS APRIL

India’s couturier extraordinaire, Sabyasachi’s nonpareil fashion métier makes him an exalted being in the world of fashion. Today, the enviable designer ceases to be just about khaki, silks, embroidery, jewellery and his L’Oréal Paris x Sabyasachi Calcutta (a non-negotiable term when it came to his historic collaboration) makeup line. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, of the eponymous label Sabyasachi, is a vibe, and a very desired one at that.

NEW DELHI, NEW DELHI – MARCH 04: Indian fashion designer and couturier extraordinaire, Sabyasachi, opened his first flagship store in the capital, and his fourth in the country, spread over 13,500 square feet with two separate wings housing bespoke bridal wear, jewellery and accessories for women and men at Kutub Serai, Mehrauli on March 5, 2016 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

From Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma and cricketer Virat Kohli’s wedding in Tuscany in 2017 to Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s ceremonies in Lake Como in 2018 to Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’ coupling in Jodhpur in 2018 to the Ambani twins – Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal in Udaipur in 2018 to Akash Ambani and Shloka Mehta in Mumbai in 2019, the fashion artistry at all these extravagant weddings was designed and orchestrated by Sabyasachi. In a country where bridal wear, our equivalent of the West’s haute couture, is of supreme importance when it comes to the big spend, all these celebrated brides and grooms from diverse worlds of film, sport, music and business wanted Sabyasachi to “do” their clothes and jewellery on their big day. And that’s saying a lot because there certainly is no dearth of designers doing bridal collections in India. For someone who is on a no-sugar health plan, he sure is taking the biggest bite from giant wedding laddoos, India’s sweetest business!

Sabyasachi celebrates 20 years of his fashion story this year, with Kashgaar Bazaar – a runway presentation, in collaboration with the world’s most famous red-soled cobbler, Christian Louboutin on April 6th in Mumbai. The fashion extravaganza has international guests flying down especially for it and it’s already blowing up everyone’s minds with expectations of Sabyasachi’s grandiloquent style. Mumbai’s temperatures are soaring, but the anticipation of what Sabyasachi’s bringing to the city in April is taking it to another level of fashion heat!

NEW DELHI, INDIA – JULY 29: Indian fashion designer and couturier, Sabyasachi checks in on models and last minute fittings just before his opening show for the Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) Amazon India Couture Week 2015. Sabyasachi and Lebanese shoe designer Christian Louboutin collaborated on the couture line together with his famous red-soled shoes adding glamour to the shimmering regality of the couturier’s designs at the Taj Palace Hotel on July 29, 2015 in New Delhi, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Pharrell Williams makes the world a very happy place with his music, but he wants to make it happier with his fashion and design aesthete with a colourful collection for Parisian fashion house, Chanel. Williams is the first ever guest designer for the fashion house, having collaborated on it with the late Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s creative director for 36 years. It was Lagerfeld who named the collection Chanel Pharrell.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – FEBRUARY 24: Pharrell Williams arrives at the 91st Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood and Highland on February 24, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

To coincide with the launch at Chanel’s flagship in Seoul, Korea on Friday, March 29, the Grammy winning artiste released a behind-the-scenes video of the collection. In it, the multihyphenate talks about gender-fluidity, meeting Karl Lagerfeld and the importance and influence of the number 5 in the collection as well as Akira and motorcycle gangs.

Yellow bathrobes, brightly-colored hoodies and embroidered graffiti sweatshirts, terry-cloth bucket hats, sunglasses, T-shirts, opulent diamond jewellery and the double C bags make up the Chanel Pharrell collection, dedicated to both men and women. And, sneakers with hand-drawn text and doodles, but of course, and loafers and sliders. After the Seoul launch, the complete Chanel Pharrell collection releases worldwide on April 4.

A very fashionably yours April indeed!

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 2019

I Don’t Play Games: Ajay Devgn #Bollywood #Throwback

Back in 1991 when a tall, dark, and not really conventionally handsome man stand-riding two bikes (a foot on each) made an entry on screen with Phool Aur Kaante, India sat up and took notice. And we’ve been noticing ever since as Ajay Devgn morphed effortlessly from mean action hero to the intense, brooding loverboy to the comic caper king. In an industry dominated by camps, he’s managed to hold his own against the Khans and Bachchans and Kapoors and Roshans. On the eve of his big Diwali release, the much-married Mr Kajol Devgn tells Rubina A Khan how much he dislikes the ‘I-me-myself brigade’, making omelettes with daughter Nysa and the intriguing spelling change in his surname.

Ajay Devgn

All The Best releases this week, your first film in almost a year. Why did you choose to produce this film? 
I loved the script of All The Best and felt it was a sure bet at the box office, which is why I decided to produce it. It’s releasing now as planned, but due to the theatre strikes and the congestion of films ready for release, I have London Dreams with Salman Khan also coming out on 30 October, though it was scheduled to release much earlier. Not an ideal scenario, though, but it’s all good. Salman and I worked in London Dreams after Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam in 1999, a decade ago.

You changed your name from Vishal to Ajay when you debuted in Phool Aur Kaante in 1991. Recently, you changed your surname from Devgan to Devgn. Why?  
Back then, when I was being launched, there were three other Vishals debuting at the same time and I had no choice but to change my name to Ajay so I wasn’t lost in the crowd. My old friends still call me VD (yeah, I know it sounds weird) and I changed the spelling of my surname at the behest of my mother, Veena, who has asked me to do it for many years. It makes her happy.

Despite Golmaal Returns being a top grosser last year and you being one of the highest-paid actors in the business, you keep a very low profile and prefer to not club yourself in the Top 5 or Top 10 categories like your contemporaries… 
I’ve been accused many a time of not promoting myself enough, but it’s not my style to scream and shout about my achievements. Even though I want to change from my reticent nature and be more ‘out there’, I find it cumbersome. The media knows my worth and what business which film of mine did, but even then, they choose to ignore that and write what they want. I am doing my job as an actor and I expect them to do theirs in all fairness. I don’t want to learn how to play these games and schemes just to get noticed, or be bestowed with some fancy title. It’s too late, anyway. I have no desire or inclination to waste my time over self-proclamations of greatness. I look down upon those who do and I feel far superior to most actors. I am very satisfied and extremely proud of the work that I do and the success that I’ve achieved subsequently. I live by own code of conduct that deters me from singing my own hosannas and I would hate myself if I did and I’d much rather not get into that space.

Your cold war with Shah Rukh Khan—fact or fiction?  
It is not fact at all. But just because Shah Rukh and I are not the best of friends doesn’t mean we are enemies either. Both of us are fed up of answering this question time and again. My wife, Kajol, is friends with him and Karan Johar for a very long time, and I respect them as her friends as she does mine. I am not a very social person and stick to home and work largely.

Do you and Kajol influence each other’s film choices? 
We always talk about our projects and seek each other’s advice, but we do what we individually want in the end. There is absolute freedom for both of us. We don’t take each other for granted and understand each other completely. 

You are very traditional and conservative when it comes to family… 
My sense of family is very strong and if that means I’m traditional, then I am. We all live in one house, and despite it being a four-storey bungalow, which we moved into about two years ago, my parents, Kajol, Nysa and I live on one floor. All our bedrooms and family rooms are on this floor and it stems from the fact that I feel everyone should try and keep the family together, if they can.

You have been married for a decade now and have a daughter, six-and-a half-year-old Nysa. Are you planning another child? 
I have balanced my life between work and family perfectly, but I still feel I am losing time since Nysa is growing up so fast. I want to spend as much time with her before she gets too busy with her friends to hang out with her father. Kajol wants another child, but I am still thinking about it.

You are a closet chef of sorts too… 
How did you hear about that? I only cook for my family and Nysa loves everything I make. I like to experiment with world cuisine. My daughter actually makes the best omelettes in the world, albeit under supervision, for her parents. And the best part is Kajol can barely boil water. So, Nysa takes after me in this regard.

Your looks don’t exactly constitute a stereotypical ‘sex god’ tag for you, but your reputation as a great lover, has been resoundingly endorsed by women over the years… What do you have to say about the latter? 
What can I say except the obvious, that it is every man’s dream to have such a ‘sexy’ reputation among women. I’m flattered.

There haven’t been any romantic link-ups with your heroines of late… And boy, am I glad. And that’s because I am not having any affairs. Earlier, when such reports would do the rounds, Kajol never reacted to them because she trusts me implicitly. My life is work, office and home, no detours on the way.

This feature first appeared in OPEN on October 17, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

©Rubina A Khan 2018

I Am A Remote Addict: Amitabh Bachchan #Bollywood #Throwback

Towards the end of the 1990s, Amitabh Bachchan’s fortunes were at its lowest ebb. His venture, Amitabh Bachchan Corp Ltd, stared bankruptcy in the face. Worse, his films were flopping. India’s greatest superstar’s days appeared numbered. The public, who had worshipped him for over a quarter century, seemed to be tiring of him. And then Kaun Banega Crorepati happened. Both television and Amitabh’s fortunes changed irrevocably with the quiz show. A decade later now, he returns to the living room of India as the host of the reality show Bigg Boss. His pay cheque for the laity series is rumoured to be Rs 1.5 crore per episode. Aside from being on the tube on a daily basis, by way of peddling designer threads to cars to hair oils, to the infinite reruns of his 70s smash hits to the controversies that make him national news today, Bachchan actually likes watching television. Back in Mumbai after spending time in Singapore with friend Amar Singh who was recuperating from a kidney ailment, Bachchan talked to Rubina A Khan about the small screen, friendships, relationships and his blog which terrifies journalists.

KBC changed TV dynamics forever. You are now back as pop philosopher on Bigg Boss. What do you expect from the show? 
I expect nothing more than being able to do the job assigned to me in as efficient a manner as possible. ‘Changing dynamics’ are for the producers of the show to assess. I am not aware what they mean. It will make me happy if the show does well. When the fruits of your labour taste good, it is a fulfilling experience. 

If you had a choice, whom would you put inside the house from the film industry? 
No one!

KBC prompted many film stars to follow suit. There was Govinda, Shah Rukh Khan and now, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar. Whose hosting style do you like the most? 
Stars from film hosting shows on the small screen gave the viewing audience an opportunity to see and hear their favourites as they were in real life. They were not playing an assigned role written for them by someone else. People liked what they saw and applauded them. So for the viewing audience, each host was appealing, because they were able to see a facet of the actor hitherto unknown. Govinda, Shah Rukh, Salman, Akshay are known to me. I know what they are in real life away from the sets and camera, and they are all very appealing to me. Asking whose style of conducting a show I like, would be asking me to categorise their appeal to me. That would be wrong and unfair. They have all worked with me and have always shown me immense respect. Tell me, how does one give marks to respect?

You are an ardent follower of the international series, The West Wing. What do you like about it? Which character would you have liked to play in the show, if you were asked? 
I have liked the very concept of the format. Who would have imagined that the office of the President of the United States of America would be material for a TV serial! The whole excitement of being able to position yourself inside those hallowed portals is enough to keep one glued to the proceedings. Then as the events unfold, the speed with which incidents occur and are addressed, is an education in screenplay writing and performance acumen. Each situation, each performer is so perfectly crafted that it is impossible to find even a minuscule flaw. It’s absolutely brilliant! Just observe the camera movements on shots. It is incredible how they have operated them with such finesse and élan. The timings of the artists, the entries and exits, the lighting and the steady cam movements are done to perfection… And what of the artists! They are all simply brilliant. Each chosen and performing to such perfection that it is ompossible to imagine any other in their place. I would have been happy to play an ‘extra’, or ‘junior artist’ as we address them respectfully here in India, in the background, making my ‘passing shot’ on the odd cue, just so I would get an opportunity to watch and observe how magnificently each episode was recorded.

How many hours of television do you watch in a day? 
Depends what kind of show I am watching. A sporting event would occupy me for the entire duration of the game, a serial perhaps for the duration of the episode or not even, news and debates till the topic is over and horror shows not even a few seconds!

Which Indian show is your favourite? 
I like the debates and panel discussions and sports activities. On occasion, the History Channel and National Geographic are of great interest to me.

Do you stick out a whole show or are you a channel surfer and a remote addict?  
I am a remote addict. Though if you were to disturb a sporting event that I was watching, you’d be in serious trouble.

What’s your favorite TV dinner / snack? 
Popcorn, wafers, chura, chikki, cranberry juice, khakra..

The media dreads your blog in case they are next on your flog list. What do you make of that? 
 This is a most exaggerated assumption. The media dreads no one, and most certainly not someone of my insignificance. The media is the conscience of the nation. It would be a sad day for any nation if their conscience lived in fear. My blog is not a flog destination. It is a medium that allows me to talk to myself, with a few listening on. If I have found inaccuracy in the reported media, I correct it. If I have found merit in their writing, I have applauded it. The media has always been the one that asks the questions, and in doing so has the ability to put the one that gives the answers on the defensive. Observe Prabhu Chawla, Barkha Dutt, Rajdeep Sardesai, Prannoy Roy, Arnab Goswami, Deepak Chaurasia and a host of other most efficient interviewers on television. Their entire body language and demeanour is one of great authoritative superiority. Pan the camera now at their ‘meal for the day’ sitting opposite, and you shall find all of us quivering there like rats soaked in water, ready to be devoured. My blog gives me an opportunity to ask the questions and for the media to answer them. This is a reversal they have not faced and are therefore wary of it. But why should they? In a free and liberal society, I have equal right to question. And I now have a medium where I can be heard without the intrusion or the tacit permission of the Fourth Estate. If you are not afraid to question, be not afraid to answer too. For far too long, the celebrity on interview has almost pleaded with the interviewer ‘I hope you are going to write something good about me’. I will not hesitate to admit that there is a sense of poetic justice now, when I hear from some rather prominent journalists who come to interview when they say, ‘I hope you are not going to write about us in your blog, we’re very scared of what you will say!’ Let the media be the watchdog of society. We must welcome that. But who’s watching the dog? Or does the watchdog not deserve to be watched?

Bollywood’s a place of fickle friendships and pseudo relationships. But you have been with your friend Amar Singh for months while he was being treated in Singapore. For an extremely busy person, how do you juggle it all so well and make it seem so effortless? 
I do not know the meaning of ‘fickle friendships’ nor do I have any knowledge of what ‘pseudo relationships’ mean. Someone is either a friend or not a friend. What are fickle and pseudo doing there? There is no room for them. I also do not like the word ‘juggle’ that you have used. It conveys a manual physical act, deployed to manoeuvre a condition, which in my reckoning requires nothing more than heart. I do not see any reason for me to justify my desire to be with Amar Singhji. To me, he is not a friend, he is a member of my family. I was aware of his medical condition and was aware of the amount of time it would require for him to heal. I therefore finished all my work by end June and came to Singapore to be with him for as long it would take for him to get back. I have not taken on any work and I have no films on hand. Only recently, on seeing his progress and his possible discharge, have I taken on a TV programme that requires my involvement from October. I have been by his side for almost three months now and not moved out for a single day. You say I have made it ‘seem so effortless’. Dear lady, the day I shall have to make an effort in friendship, it will be the end of the relationship!

Abhishek and Aishwarya shot for the Oprah Winfrey show recently. Will we see you and Jaya on her show sometime soon? 
How’d I know? Ask Oprah!

This feature first appeared in OPEN on September 26, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

©Rubina A Khan 2018

If They Tell Me To Kiss, I Ask How Long: Akshay Kumar #Bollywood #Throwback

Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia once lived in a small house with 18 relatives in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. He was just one of the many handsome young men then leading an unremarkable life. Until he suddenly became Akshay Kumar in what was then called Bombay. In an industry where stardom is usually a favour of the genes, Akshay Kumar somehow managed to find spectacular success. There have been murmurs that he is the highest paid star in the country. It is tempting to publish his astronomical fees, but then most Bollywood figures are unworthy of print. What is true, though, is that he is right there at the very top.

In conversation with Rubina A Khan for Open, he describes the world according to him, and why he doesn’t think highly of critics who have panned his latest film Kambakkht Ishq. Excerpts:

Critics say that Kambakkht Ishq is a vulgar and cheap film. It’s making money at the box office, though. How do you see this situation? Let me put this as politely as possible: people who can be paid to say bad things will [say whatever they are paid to say], but at the end of the day, the audience proves us all right or wrong. Film lovers number in millions versus a handful of negative critics. In my life, never have I let someone else make my decisions for me. If a random person tells me something is bad, I’m not going to listen to him or agree with him. I’m my own person, we all have different tastes. I like tea without sugar, but my sister likes it with sugar, no problem. If we all didn’t have our own tastes, all the men in the world would be married to the same woman, wouldn’t they? Reviews have never changed my decision to want to see any movie, Indian or international. I have my own opinion and that’s enough for me and it should be for you too.

Was Kambakkht Ishq supposed to be your ticket to Hollywood? Sylvester Stallone, Brandon Routh and Denise Richards are in the film. 
It is nowhere near a ticket to Hollywood but by the sound of it, they [Hollywood stars] wouldn’t mind a ticket to Bollywood. We are all in love with our own industries. I’ve no agenda when I star in a film. I can’t exactly plead with my producers to spend huge amounts of money to sign great international stars just so that I can satisfy my whim to go to Hollywood. Hell, no. We just want to show that we are as big and as capable as anyone in the world in the business of cinema, and have fun in the process.

Akshay Kumar

You’ve kissed Denise Richards and Kareena Kapoor a lot in the film. Did the script demand it or were you inspired on your own? Denise even went on to say that she was left in no doubt that you were Bollywood’s hottest man and a great kisser. 
AI had to kiss these wonderful ladies not only because my character demanded it, but also because a red-blooded, hotheaded stuntman can’t exactly be frigid now, can he? But more importantly, I’m an actor and I do what my director asks me to do. If he says ‘jump’, I ask ‘how high’, if he says ‘kiss’, I just ask him ‘for how long’. Simple. We are human beings and we have been kissing since birth. It’s strange that people are so amazed at its existence in our country. In the film, they weren’t rude kisses or anything like that. They were kisses in character and were in sync with the story line.

Before every film release of yours, a slew of malicious and scandalous rumours make the rounds like the one involving your trainer Jennifer or one of your co-stars like Katrina Kaif, or about your box office collections being poor. How does that happen? 
A lot of people out there don’t like me getting a fair chance in life or my fair share in the big Bollywood pie. They get scared and possessive of their territory and react in the only human way they know—create a war to make themselves feel better. All I can say is I’m sorry you guys have to read and hear this kind of negative and false stuff. Just think of it as light entertainment. I’m glad everyone has noticed the pattern finally, the fact that there are only bad things said when I have a movie releasing. This has been happening to me for a while now. But I still stand tall and say never mind and go on with my business. Who said show business was easy anyway?

Which Hollywood actor or personality would you like to be associated with in a future film? 
Meryl Streep. She is an actress who sweeps clean the floor with any actor she works with. On second thoughts, maybe I’d be too scared to share a scene with her since she is so very talented and fabulous. Also, I would love to work with Quentin Tarantino as his movies are so outrageous, so radically different.

How has the slowdown of the economy in India affected you?
AMy asking fees in the recession is half of what it was when our country’s economy was booming. We are all only what our country can give. If we run low on rice, I will have rice only once a day, if we run low on money, I can only charge what the country can afford. I have no work if there is no money in the banks. I’m not a money grabbing thief as I am painted out to be. I do have morals you know.

You are becoming quite a style icon, aren’t you? Your films too are creating a lot of fashion trends. 
Well, thank you very much Rubina, but I don’t think you have ever seen what I look like off screen. I deliberately make an effort to look like I don’t own a wardrobe so I can walk around looking like a tramp in the hope that no one recognises me. But on screen, I try and make a huge effort to look presentable for my fans and audiences. Otherwise, my wife Tina would kill me.

Khatron Ke Khiladi has lured you into hosting the second season too. When does it hit the television screens? 
AAh ha. It is coming out sometime in September-October. Even I can’t wait to see what all these girls went through, again. I am still feeling sorry for them—it was that khatarnak (dangerous). If you thought the first season was crazy and had you on edge, this one has to be seen to be believed.

This feature first appeared in OPEN on July 25, 2009 and is a part of my #Bollywood #Throwback series 

©Rubina A Khan 2018

Chivas Regal India Launches Limited Edition | Mumbai

Chivas Regal India launched a Limited Edition festive pack designed by Ashiesh Shah at the Architectural Digest Design Show on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai. The metallic, steel grey packaging of Chivas Regal 12 draws inspiration from one of India’s greatest glories – architecture, with stepwells and arches in congruence with the inherent blending expertise and definitive taste of the world’s first luxury whisky.

Balkrishna Doshi or BV Doshi as he’s more commonly known, the first Indian laureate of the most august award in architecture, the Pritzker Prize 2018, kicked off the design show with a conversation as poetic and mellifluous as his works. Having worked with Swiss architect Le Corbusier in the 50s in his atelier in Paris and with Louis Kahn subsequently, the celebrated Indian architect is an international proponent of low-cost housing. Doshi’s Aranya project in Indore accommodates 80,000 people with houses and courtyards connected together by a maze of pathways. “As architects we’re supposed to be social, economic and cultural designers. But really we are exclusive, when we need to be inclusive,” is what Doshi thinks of the essence of architectural world. Watching Doshi celebrate life infinite size at age 91 was enchanting for me, and speaking to him was even more momentous than shooting his photographs in the Chivas Lounge.

In pictures:

Chivas Regal 12

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal 12 at the launch of Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Balkrishna Doshi

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Celebrated Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, the first Indian to win the Pritzker Prize in 2018 at the Chivas Regal India lounge on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Chivas Regal

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack, made from metal, an ode to Indian stepwells and arches, designed by Ashiesh Shah launched at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sabyasachi

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Indian couturier Sabyasachi Mukherjee at the Chivas Regal India lounge on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Chivas Regal 12

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack, made from metal, an ode to Indian stepwells and arches, designed by Ashiesh Shah, launched at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sabyasachi

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Pulkith Modi, Chivas Regal India Head and his wife Teena Modi at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Amrita Arora

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Ashiesh Shah and Amrita Arora at the launch of Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack designed by him at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Sussanne Khan

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Sussanne Khan at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Homi Adajania

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Filmmaker Homi Adajania at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Gauri Khan

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Gauri Khan at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Chivas Regal 12

MUMBAI, INDIA – OCTOBER 26: Chivas Regal India’s limited edition festive pack, made from metal, an ode to Indian stepwells and arches, designed by Ashiesh Shah launched at Dome on October 26, 2018 in Mumbai, India. (Photo by Rubina A. Khan/Getty Images)

Getty Images

©Rubina A Khan 2018

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.

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 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | NAME AND FAME SHAMING IN INDIA

RUBINA’S RADAR

India’s Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, a former political journalist and editor of The Asian Age, is currently in Nigeria, Africa on a business strip, I mean trip. Akbar’s editorial chamber of sexual secrets has flooded the news belts, which ironically, he once controlled. That he tormented women beyond human comprehension, an unabated abuse of his power and gender, in and out of his newsroom for decades, has been brought to light and recounted by journalists Priya Ramani and Ghazala Wahab and many others who are coming forward with their sexual predation stories at work. It hasn’t shocked the men (because they always know) as much as it has the women reading these bone-chilling accounts of sexual perversions and life-altering acts. The Indian government hasn’t yet issued an official statement on Akbar or on the very pertinent and pressing issue of women (and men) being sexually harassed in the work place since the stories broke.

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MJ Akbar | Credit Unknown

A deafening silence is rather typical in our country wherein conditioned, controlled and cautious responses to things that really matter are the norm. Akbar’s grave transgressions as an editor were definitely not a secret when he was appointed minister, but yet he was given governmental charge. Akbar’s editorial harem stories are restricted to making headlines for now but I sincerely hope they don’t get relegated to just that. Corrective, legal action must be taken by the Indian government. An exposé of Akbar’s encounters of the sordid kind is not going to be enough – what happens after by means of unbiased investigations is what will set the tone for all Indians in the future. This is what’s wrong with our Indian sensibilities – we get all amped up about an issue and join conversations online and offline, but then, the momentum peters out. Why? Sexually harassing and tormenting women, or men or anyone, of any gender, race, caste, colour and religion at work or play is NOT OK and this has to stop now.

It is equally disturbing to think that we live in an India that allows a famous figure, a Bollywood one at that, with a well-entrenched public imagery based on celluloid histrionics, far removed from reality, to vilify a man’s believability in a trice. On October 10, 2018, the Bombay High Court quashed the charges levelled against industrialist Ness Wadia by Bollywood actor Preity Zinta with an in-chamber hearing before a division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Bharati Dangre in Mumbai.

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Ness Wadia | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The case involved an altercation the former lovers had at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium whilst their co-owned IPL team, Kings XI Punjab was at play on May 30, 2014. Visits to the Marine Drive police station by Zinta to lodge an FIR against Wadia, a letter to the then police commissioner of Mumbai, Rakesh Maria, stating: “I (Zinta) just want him (Wadia) to be kept away from me so I can live in peace, otherwise one unfortunate day, in a fit of rage, he will kill me and that really scares me,” Facebook posts by her made for sensational headlines, believed all too easy by the country’s populace that vicariously feeds off Bollywood stars’ lives. After such a strongly worded statement to the Mumbai police, one would think Zinta would seek the fastest exit from such a “scary” situation with a court verdict on the case, but it dragged on for four years, and not because of the oft-criticised speed of the Indian judicial system most definitely. Since 2014, it was a case-in-progress, during which Wadia was judged in public for alleged charges that never got off the media carousel, till he was cleared by the Bombay High Court on Wednesday. Can the public defamation, mockery and well-documented humiliation endured during this period ever be quantified in the same measure? I would think not as the internet lives on forever. Not to undermine anyone’s truth here, but does a more visible celebrity’s truth make it the absolute truth?

The current climate in the world is all about speaking your truth, but I fear that’s turning into a dangerous social media sport, an extreme one at that – a name and fame shaming game. The face and voice of India’s Me Too movement, Bollywood actor Tanushree Dutta’s claims of sexual harassment by a senior actor, Nana Patekar in 2008 are being questioned just because she’s vociferously speaking up about it a decade later. Not that she hadn’t reported it to the authorities in 2008 to no avail. As is writer and director Vinta Nanda’s horrific account of being brutalised by actor Alok Nath on Facebook being mocked for her intentions, which is shocking to say the least. Patekar is more famous than Dutta as is Nath versus Nanda and that is where lies the real perpetrator – the fame scale. The blinding imagery of the bigger celebrity in such situations dominates the conversation, even to the extent of determining its outcome, undermining the reality of the lesser famous person in the fray, which is what is happening to Dutta, Nanda and everyone who is outing their perpetrators. It is their choice to speak when, how and about what they want; it’s a fundamental human right. There’s nothing extra about that.

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Tanushree Dutta | Instagram

Why is Dutta’s authenticity of being sexually harassed by men at her work place – a film set – the very means to her livelihood and chosen career path, questionable but Zinta’s stadium fracas with Wadia and her subsequent allegations against him in 2014 are not? Could it be because Dutta’s celebrity is less than Zinta’s, not that Zinta holds any ranking in Bollywood’s top order today? Or that Dutta speaks firmly and consistently, without intimidating media persons? Or because Zinta’s verbosity was more entertaining than Wadia’s passive quietude? Not that Dutta’s case is anywhere similar to Zinta’s, but it does make the visible fame game very questionable, albeit not the issues raised. Dutta lost her career because of Patekar’s gender power play at work and had to reluctantly move to the United States. As author and columnist Shobhaa De rightly said, “I believe Tanushree. She’s not a commodity that comes with an expiry date. There is no expiry date to speak your mind. It is her individual right to speak up, as it is everyone’s else’s too. And I truly think everyone, be it a famous person who has a platform or not, can and should condemn assault.”

How does a version of what happens, or happened to a person, become the holy truth, or not, that defies all legalese and the laws of the land against the other? Elementally, anyone can “post a truth” at any time and take anyone down in this digitally-powered world today and that is not comforting at all. And, if you’re in the million-plus followers club, paid or unpaid, it is a digital assassination of the person that is being mentioned in the post, the repercussions of which are irrevocably damaging and fatal. Worse still, if the person mentioned is not on social media, then they’re damned before they even have a chance to grasp the situation and speak in their defence. And that’s wretchedly unfair. They should be heard, and not vilified instantaneously by one-dimensional versions on social feeds. But that’s tragically lost in the cacophonous web of “whoever is the loudest and more visible face wins”.

To relay and report voices in the media is as important as the material those very voices choose to put out on social platforms, without any investigations on anyone’s part, including the authorities, save the lone voice letting it all out. By the time investigations come about, it’s already too late to do any kind of damage control for the other person, given everyone loves a story more than the truth today. Access to social media should not turn it into an armed weapon of human destruction by the user or make it an accomplice in their digital crimes and vendettas. That is so very wrong for victims who have but that voice to help them speak up, which is what is happening today. It’s not just about the Me Too movement worldwide, but all aspects of a tell-all in today’s digital era spiralling out of control, leaving an irreversible trail of hashtag insta-deaths. In a world that’s still struggling to drink responsibly, is it too much to tell our truths honourably?

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 2018