India

Rani, Abhishek, and SRK

    Bollywood Stars 008.jpg Much has been made about a possible link-up between Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan, two of Bollywood’s biggest stars of the moment. As I’ve mentioned before, Rani is on a hot streak, having had hits with Black (a remake of the Miracle Worker) and the recent Mangal Pandey, as well as lighter fare like Hum Tum. Until recently, Abhishek has really only been known as Amitabh Bachchan’s son. But, he too has become an actor in his own right, most notably (for me, at least) in Bunty aur Babli, a Bonnie and Clyde-type caper that paired him with Rani. Their on-screen chemistry is incredible, a fact that has tabloids squawking about an off-screen romance between the two. (They haven’t even admitted to dating and already the film rags are discussing their marriage. Ah..the world of Hindi cinema…in which the only goal in life is to get married.)
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    The Raj of Wankaner

      Gujurat and the Raj of Wankaner 076.jpg As Indian states go, Gujarat has a long way to go before becoming tourist friendly. It may be the homeland of many a global Indian (the Patel clan comes from there), but it’s lacking in some of the things that draw tourists, namely the Taj Mahal and alcohol.

      Nevertheless, as Gujarat borders on Maharashtra, we decided to pay a weekend visit. Mind you, we didn’t go to the cities like Ahmedabad (home to Gandhi’s erstwhile ashram) or even to Surat. Instead, we flew into Rajkot and drove an hour to the village of Wankaner, a dusty, but bustling village and home to the Wankaner Palace.

      Like most former Raj palaces, Wankaner has tried to position itself as a heritage hotel. A friend of ours had stayed there sometime back (“I’m personal friends with the Raj,” she said), so we figured we’d book. The idea sounded quirky enough, and we were under the impression that we’d be staying in the Ranjit Villas – in a real Maharaja’s palace! When we arrived, however, we found we were the only guests at the Motiwadi Royal Oasis, the summer residence of the Wankaners, just 2km away. As we would also discover, no one (other than, perhaps, close personal friends) is allowed to stay in the actual palace – the former Maharaja, Raj, and their family still live there – and no one even stays at the Royal Residency, as parts of it are still under renovation as a result of damage from the Bhuj earthquake.
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      Mangal Pandey: The Rising

        No matter what the raging controversy is about the new film about Mangal Pandey, whether it was too harshly anti-British or that Pandey, India’s first so-called freedom fighter, was blasphemously portrayed as a having a relationship with a nautch girl, the picture was a pleasure to watch. I went to the film with approximately 20 other Hindi learners last night, and was really pleased with the quality of the film, from the costumes and acting to the fight scenes and the dialogue (even though I wasn?t able to understand the poetry of the Hindi ? mein seekh rahi hoon!) True, the dance scenes probably have no business being in a film about such a serious subject, but I found that they were a welcome break from the tense dialogue. Plus, how can you hate a movie in which Rani Mukherjee plays the nautch girl? Her raspy voice is cool and she’s got more substance to her than most of the other Bollywood actresses.
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        I’m Not Bajirao

          I’ve often mused at the title of “I’m Not Rappaport,” the play-then-film about two men from varying backgrounds coming to terms with the ravages of old age. Even though I’ve never seen the play or the film, I was always tickled each time the phrase was used as the punchline of any dumb joke. After yesterday, however, I can kind of say I know what I’m talking about.

          I’m Not Bajirao” is the Bombayite take on the play, wherein an aged Parsi and his Marathi counterpart drone on about old age, the good old days, jokes, family, etc. The play has been running off-and-on for years in Bombay – Anthony likened it to the Shear Madness of Bombay, and thus something we should probably see. So, last evening, we caught a performance at the Tata Theatre, part of the NCPA, an arts complex I’ve lauded before.
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          The Rainfall and the Fallout

            Drowned Water Buffalo Three days after record-breaking rains brought Bombay to a halt, I’m finally beginning to hear about my friends’ and colleagues’ unbelieveable journeys. South Bombay, as I’ve mentioned before, got hit with 7 inches of rain on Tuesday, but, save for the lack of bustle, it looked pretty normal on Wednesday. On the other hand, the suburbs saw a lot of death and destruction.
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