Malavika’s Mumbaistan: A Balmy Friday Night

This weekend, a grateful citizenry flocked to NCPA’s auditoriums to partake in the multi-genre festival marking its milestone anniversary
Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and his wife, Neerja.
Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and his wife, Neerja.
Published on Dec 01, 2019 11:54 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByMalavika Sangghvi

For half a century, the Tata-funded National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) at Nariman Point has given Mumbai some of its most cherished art and culture experiences, illuminating the lives of its denizens with theatre, music, dance and the written word, while carving for itself a special niche in the heart of the city, and of course, becoming one of its most famous landmarks.

No surprises then that this weekend, a grateful citizenry flocked to its auditoriums to partake in the multi-genre festival marking its milestone anniversary, which featured the best of the very best of artists, including maestros Zakir Hussain, Birju Maharaj, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia and Arturo Sandoval (the legendary Cuban-American jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer).

Expectedly, when we arrived at the Tata Theatre on Friday evening, it was packed to the rafters with jazz buffs for Sandoval’s concert. We spotted photographer Farrokh Chothia; legal eagle and poet, Jimmy Avasia; restaurateur AD Singh; and artist Jaideep Mehrotra among the well-informed and wildly applauding audience. But alas, its many requests for an encore could not be met: The auditorium had to be cleared for the next feature of the evening — a stand-up comedy act by the affable and urbane Amit Tandon, slated at 10:30 pm.

And even as the crowd poured out, onto the pavement looking for its cars, in the scramble, we spotted billionaire industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, accompanied by wife Neerja, both in casual jeans and slip-ons, entering.

One of India Inc’s most celebrated icons and his wife, devoid of fuss of popping flashbulbs and heavy-handed security, arriving unobtrusively and on time, just like a regular middle-aged couple out for some post-dinner light entertainment, on a balmy Mumbai Friday night.

That’s when it occurred to us that perhaps this was a sign that an older, wiser, more graceful Mumbai, one that we thought we’d lost and would never see again, the one defined by its good manners, understated elegance, interest in the arts and community spirit — was on its way back again.

“Date night?” We’d said to the Birlas, on our way out, and they had nodded shyly.

Scorpion King

Manish Mehrotra eating his Scorpion chaat.
Manish Mehrotra eating his Scorpion chaat.

It’s been a busy couple of months on the road for India’s celebrated chef, Manish Mehrotra. The shy chef, who helms the kitchens of the Anand Mahindra-Rohit Khattar-backed Indian Accent in New Delhi and oversees its branches in New York and London, has been living out of a suitcase for the last couple of months we hear. “Manish has been taking his signature Indian flavours around the world and its heartening to see packed halls and people lining up to get a taste of his modern Indian cuisine” informs a source. “It started with him being invited to cook at the prestigious James Beard Foundation House in New York, after which he took part in a pop-up in Auckland, New Zealand. Then, in November, he spent two weeks cooking in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at an al fresco venue, and last week, he was dishing it up for 400 people each day for three days in Mexico City.”

Interestingly, we are informed that Mehrotra is said to have experimented with a new dish — Scorpion-chaat — during his time in Mexico, which involves frying scorpions and serving them up with lime juice, cumin and turmeric. “New recipe today, how to make scorpion chaat and how to eat it. My god, how I did it, I don’t know. Sometimes you do crazy things in life,” Mehrotra had shared .

It is safe to say that this ‘predatory arachnids-chaat’ will not be making its way to India anytime soon.

Tweet Talk:
Uddhav Thackeray: I never thought I will become CM one day.

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Everyone a VIP

Alex Kuruvilla with wife Namita.
Alex Kuruvilla with wife Namita.

At the entrance of Alex Kuruvilla’s 60th birthday celebrations on Saturday night, his wife Namita had organised an impish send-up of Mumbai’s all pervasive ‘celebrity culture’. Guests were handed wrist tags, emblazoned with the letters ‘VIP’ — and every guest got one; a wry comment of a city filled with big egos where everyone is a legend in their own lunchtime.

What’s more, this set the tone for the intimate and glamorous evening. For his special day, the soft-spoken alumnus of St Stephen’s College, whose successful helming of MTV and Condé Nast in quick succession in India had placed him at the very centre of the fashion/designer/model/Bollywood media world, chose instead to be surrounded by family, old friends and colleagues, the people he’d grown up with and cared for, and who held him in affection, regardless of his corner office or his job title.

It was a party in the way things used to be, harking back to wholesome good times, with fond and funny speeches, poignant songs, much dancing and even a guitar-shaped cake! AND with not an aspiring ‘influencer ‘ or perspiring Bolly star in sight.

Oh yes, one more thing: We noticed people actually spoke to each other and no one was seen shooting selfies — or God forbid — pictures of the food on their plates!

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022