Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Ahilyabai and Hillarymumbai Updated: Mar 17, 2018 17:17 IST
Richard Holkar with Hillary Clinton and American entrepreneur Susie Buell at Ahilya Fort in Maheshwar, MP.
If there’s any more evidence that Hillary Clinton found her soul in India here it is: following her high-profile appearance at a mega Mumbai talk fest this weekend, the former US secretary of state and presidential candidate flew off for some quiet R&R to Maheshwar’s spectacular Ahilya fort, run by erstwhile royal scion and conservation aesthete Richard Holkar. She was accompanied by her long-time aide Huma Abedin and the enigmatic entrepreneur Susie Buell, founder of clothing brand Esprit, widely described as her mega donor and soulmate.
“HC spent two lovely two days with me at Ahilya Fort,” said Holkar when we spoke. “She was very impressed to hear of Ahilya Bai’s history and she visited Mandu, too,” he said, adding, “even though she had unfortunately twisted her ankle, she attended our weekly Palki pooja.”
As is known, the Holkar dynasty was a Hindu Maratha royal house in India, which had ruled the Central Indian kingdom as Maratha Rajas. Richard, who for many years worked as a textile revivalist, championing the heritage Chanderi textile of the region, now runs a high-end boutique hotel along with his son Yeshwant Rao Holkar. Clinton, from all accounts, displayed all the warmth and joie that had been witnessed earlier at her Mumbai outing. “A very approachable person, she chatted with some of our staff who spoke English and was happy to have her picture taken with them.” said Holkar. “It was very memorable for them to be with a person who almost became president of the USA.”
Of course, given their shared interest in India’s great textile and craft heritage, it was not all play and no work: Holkar, Clinton and Buell also found time on the sidelines to discuss how to market handloom textiles.
A TRIBUTE TO SHASHI AND SRIDEVI
This year’s New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) will include a screening of ‘English Vinglish’ as a tribute to Sridevi and two Shashi Kapoor films — ‘Shakespeare Wallah’ and ‘Heat and Dust’ directed by Oscar-winning film-maker James Ivory.
“It was natural for us to show a couple of Shashi Kapoor’s classic films this year. We were able to get recently restored prints of Shakespeare Wallah and Heat & Dust. Both those films show a different facet of Shashi, the actor. And then there is the New York connection as both films are Merchant Ivory productions,” said one of the festival’s founders, film critic and author Aseem Chhabra. “Then after Sridevi died tragically, many people asked us if we would also do a tribute to her. Many films were suggested, although I thought ‘English Vinglish’ would be the best choice as it is also set in New York. But because it is a recent film and getting good quality prints is a challenge, we were not sure it would happen.”
As it happened, a certain magic saw everything fall in place. Acting swiftly, Chhabra managed to contact the film’s director, Gauri Shinde, and she loved the idea of screening the film at the festival. She immediately connected Chhabra to the film producer’s London office, who in in turn connected him with its operations in New York. “All the contacts were made within 3-4 hours,” he said.
In addition to its regular new films, the NYIFF has a side bar — or a retrospective — every year. To mark 100 years of Indian cinema, it showed restored prints of three classic films — Uday Shankar’s Kalpana, Garam Hawa and Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron — each film representing a different time period and mood of Indian cinema. Last year, it screened a tribute to Om Puri and showed A Death in the Gunj.
“Many people in New York are excited about the English Vinglish screening. One friend wrote on Facebook that she will have to carry a pack of tissues for English Vinglish,” said Chhabra.
But it’s not going to be nostalgia alone to look forward to: “We have confirmation from James Ivory that he would also be present at the post-screening discussions. And as he’s just got an Oscar, we have added a third Merchant Ivory film in the mix — Autobiography of a Princess.”