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Being Tina Ambani

Tina Ambani flagged off the yearly Harmony Art show in Mumbai recently. Meet her in a chat fest with Khalid Mohamed.

art and culture Updated: Apr 01, 2008 16:29 IST
Khalid Mohamed

Every morning, she scans her appointment diary. Art awareness, care for senior citizens, dissemination of education, household errands and clockwork family maintenance—are her beat.

So, hush no tangy talk about the movie days that were. Envied by show town for quitting at the right time and never looking back, she has just flagged off the yearly Harmony Art show at the Nehru Centre, on till April 6.

Crowds swirl around the large-as-life canvases. Over to Tina Ambani in a freewheeling conversation with Khalid Mohamed.

It’s exactly a year since we met. The Harmony Art show, the largest and the most consistently curated event of its kind, draws throngs of connoisseurs, students, parents and hopeful artists.

A jolly-ho dad pulls his waist-high child towards Tina Ambani to hector, “You must remember my son.” Affectionately, she ruffles the boy’s hair and says, “Of course, how’re you bachey ?” <b1>

A 50-something woman seeks her autograph, a nervous trio of teenaged girls wonder how they could send their artworks for next year’s show. And my time’s ticking. She has an hour before she drives off to the deep suburbs. At least 15 minutes have already been chiselled away, as in a spindly stone sculpture.

I hope to catch Mrs Ambani, parenthesised at one end from the Miss Munim I once gabbed with at a very wintry movie shoot in Shimla.No close parenthesis yet.. or fingers-crossed ever. After imbibing tea from a doll’s house
cup, I ask:

It’s been a year.. have you changed?
No.. I don’t think so. You’ve lost some weight though. I hope so. Now how don’t ask me how much. I feel happier and healthier.

What’s your first thought on waking up?
That I can do my little bit.. something interesting, something, meaningful, tomake a difference.. a little difference to thisworld.

You’re sounding very Mrs Ambani.
I hope I’m sounding like myself, I’m the same Tina who grew up, matured and is focused. (Looking at her beige-khaki kameez with a hint of bling). You do like a touch of bling in what you wear. Oh this! Actually it’s a bit too blingy for my taste. But it’s the weekend. Harmony has just opened.

(Laughing) Maybe I just wanted to look like a piece of art today. Do you get annoyed when you are asked about the movie days?
Not annoyed. It’s just that I broke away 20 years ago, we’re in the 21st century now. There’s so much more to do.. the past is over.

Ulp, still tell me about the three of your movies which you really care for and then no more movies. Karz, Baaton Baaton Mein and Souten.

Okay, in the last year have you seen any major dramatic changes in the art world?
Clearly, there’s much more public involvement in art.

The Harmony Foundation strives to support upcoming artists.. we also had an artist residency in January this year. I would say art is the most intuitive of the visual mediums. In terms of writing, there has been (the magazine) connect to reach out to senior citizens.

Our parents and grandparents made us what we are, they held our hand at every stage of our lives. Yet we don’t give themtheir due respect. It’s compassion that they need, not sympathy. So often we don’t say the simple line, “I love you so very much”.. and then sometimes it’s too late.

What were your grandparents like?
I was the youngest of nine siblings.. I lost my father when I was just 13. For me, the elders have been my gods. Listen, why aren’t we talking art?

Oh, it’s okay to be freewheeling. Tell me when did you first get interested in art?

When I bought my first painting. I must have been 17. There was this exhibition of paintings by a young lady.. one of the canvases gave the impression of awoman’s face with just a touch of red to symbolise the sindoor. It’s still with me.

Why doesn’t the Harmony show have a certain theme every year?

Simply because it features diverse works by new as well as by the established artists. I don’t believe in themes. The show has a nonpolitical, democratic approach.

Aren’t you being too politically correct.. er. boring?
(Laughs) I may be boring but that’s okay, I don’t want to hard-sell myself.

In the event, very little is known about your human side..what are your sons like?
They’re at a fantastic age right now. Anmol is 16 and Anshul 13.

Does Anmol have a girlfriend?
No, I don’t think so or he would have told me, he’smy buddy.

Do they have any specific aspirations?
Subconsciously, they mustwant to be like their father.. and grandfather. But it’s far too early for them to take any serious decisions.

And what’s Mr Anil Ambani like?
How can I tell you about my husband in a one-off interview? Where did you first meet? We first met at a common friend’s wedding.

How would you describe the marriage?
We’ve been married for 18 years and it’s been absolutely wonderful.. absolutely rocking.

Any ups and downs?
Isn’t that normal?

Have you ever accompanied him on his long daily morning runs?
There was a time, I’d walk for the same length.. and he’d run. Then I stopped. By the way,why are you making me run all over the place with your questions?

Old habit. Right, right, tell me about the choice of Dhruva Mistry as Harmony’s artist in focus this year.
It’s because of his diverse work – in oil, brass and steel sculpture, his etchings.

There’s a wonderful variety with a contemporary look and feel. His expressions are unusual and original. Similarly Krupa Makhija and Dilip Chobisa, both from Baroda, have been chosen by the jury as the show’s best newartists.

Personally, how do you relate to art?
By instinct, never as an investment. There was a time when I could only relate to happy works. With time my taste has evolved. I can take in all moods, the strong and the powerful works, even if the colour red has been used to signify violence.. blood.

Whose paintings do you have in your living room?
The paintings are quite calming ones actually.. by Atul and Anju Dodiya, Jehangir Sabavala,Akbar Padamsee, Raza.. and pichwais .

Which world museums would you say are a must-visit for art students and lovers?
The Louvre, the Victoria and Albert, the Guggenheim, the MOMA and the Tate.. the wonderful Peabody museum in Boston.. oh somany.

Ever thought of opening a gallery yourself?
Please, why should I want to become a gallerist?

A museum?
(Taken aback) Chhote se museum mein mazaa nahin hai . Who knows? Some day, it would be thrilling to build a grandmuseum with a high quality collection.

Will you be participating in the new entertainment expansion plans of Mr Anil Ambani?
No, not at all. And I don’t know why you say new plans. His Adlabs investment took place nearly five years ago. It’s only nowthat it has been officially announced that Adlabs has changed hands.

Okay, now let’s talk movies, movies, movies.
Keep quiet. No one ever asks me about the movies.. except you.

Old habit, Tinaji.