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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Remembering The Princess

cities Updated: Sep 24, 2019 01:14 IST
Malavika Sangghvi
Malavika Sangghvi
Photo: Himanshu Pahad Studio
Photo: Himanshu Pahad Studio
         

“The Rajmata of Jaipur enjoyed her French chiffon sarees and we at Bodhi have specially hand printed a limited edition of pure silk diamond and platinum chiffons,” says Mala Sinha, textile revivalist and founder of the Baroda-based textile design studio, whose work will be showcased at Vasutra, an exhibition at the Coomaraswamy Hall early next month. The theme for the show is “Remembering the Princess”, an apt title in the birth centenary anniversary of the late Maharani, Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, who, in spite of being celebrated later in her life as the very grand ‘Rajmata of Jaipur’, will forever remain etched in people’s minds as the swan-necked, chiffon-clad princess of her autobiography, ‘A Princess Remembers’. And charmingly, Sinha informs us there is a story that weaves its way from her legacy in to our times: “I was keen to have our chiffons photographed and then, as if in a flash, I heard myself say, ‘Who better than Radhika Raje of Baroda herself?’,” she says, referring to the graceful erstwhile Maharani of Baroda descendant of the illustrious clan of Gaekwads. “The connection and close family ties between the Jaipur Royal family and the Gaekwads of Baroda are too strong to be ignored. Rajmata Gayatri Devi’s nainihal was Baroda and she spent many memorable summer holidays of her childhood there,” said Sinha, an alumni of NID Ahmedabad, who had started her textile studio in Baroda in the early 1980s. “The best part of the story,” she continues, “is that I messaged Radhikaji with the request and soon after received her positive response and the details were worked out. When we reached her residence, Laxmi Vilas Palace, at the appointed time, she was waiting and ready, and within minutes she was draped in the chiffon, perfectly accessorised with a string of pearls.” The result, of course, is this winning portrait of the modern day Maharani imbued with a sense of déjà vu nostalgia. “With no fuss at all, we completed the shoot within an hour,” says Sinha, who post-shoot, had messaged to convey heartfelt thanks to its graceful subject. “She wrote back saying ‘My Pleasure. This is for Baroda!’ How cool is that!” says a delighted Sinha. What’s more, the Rajmata would have approved. Like a true aristocrat, she was nothing, if not extremely gracious and well-mannered.
All the best ones are.

Tweet Talk
“What is Akshay Kumar’s next film called? Howdy Rathore.”
- Tweeted by @appadappajappa

WTSWTM
What They Say:
“India captain Virat Kohli on Monday was reprimanded by the ICC after being found guilty of inappropriate physical contact in the 3rd T20I in Bengaluru on Sunday.”
- Newspaper reports yesterday

What They Mean:
“Why on earth has this censure not been exercised in other walks of life too?”

The Man On The White Steed

Feroze Khan with son Fardeen and daughter Laila.
Feroze Khan with son Fardeen and daughter Laila.

Like everyone else, our suitcase of memories includes vivid scenes from the mythology of our childhood, from times when the world seemed almost magical. One such which has endured, is witnessing the swashbuckling actor-producer-director Feroze Khan trotting past our home wearing a Stetson hat on a white steed sometime in the 1960s. India’s Clint Eastwood had sat stylishly, his back erect, both legs on one side, female pillion rider-style, holding the reins in one-gloved hand.
Highly improbable and fantastic as this vision sounds, the facts behind it are more mundane. We were residents of Juhu and Khan – an avid horsemen who lived down the sandy lane leading to the beach – had instead of cantering along its shore, chosen this mode of transport, when we had happened to spot him. Tomorrow will be Khan’s 80th birth anniversary. He died at the relatively young age of 69, having forged a dazzling career in films in Mumbai. Way before the Bandra Khans came on the scene, there was Feroze Khan and the glamorous parties he hosted with his wife Sundari, to which everyone who mattered – A-list tycoons and their wives, air hostesses, expats, and ever-glamorous heroines – flocked. But it was not only for his stylish persona that Khan had them in his thrall. As a producer-director, his films broke many a new path and were slick and forward-looking for their time. Apradh, which was the first Indian film to be shot in Afghanistan, was also the first Indian film to feature the sport Buzkashi. His blockbuster Dharmatma marked the appearance of actress Hema Malini for the first time in a glam avatar. The 1980 Qurbani with Zeenat Aman launched the singing career of Pakistani pop singer Nazia Hassan, among others. “My father came to Mumbai at the age of 14. Fatherless, homeless and without any godfather, where through sheer hardwork, intelligence, perseverance, courage and ambition, he achieved stardom and fame nationally and internationally. My childhood was filled with memories of us in our farmhouse in Bengaluru with his race horses and beautiful cars,” says his daughter, the artist Laila Furniturewala, adding, “He was a man who lived very honestly, lived life king size on his own terms.” As for our own magical childhood memory of Khan on his white steed, good to know that magic realism is alive and kicking. Yesterday, apropos of nothing whatsoever, this memory of Khan had popped in to our head only a few hours before we received word that it would be his 80th birth anniversary this week.
Which only goes to show that a bit of magic realism does exist however old we get. Perhaps, we just have to look harder for it.

First Published: Sep 24, 2019 01:13 IST

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