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

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