Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Finesse and Fun

The Momayas are a well-heeled and popular SoBo clan and the reception and dinner spread over the two iconic banquet halls of the hotel saw guests drawn from the city’s business, social, artistic and entertainment worlds.
Chhaya, Nirmal and Dheer Momaya.
Chhaya, Nirmal and Dheer Momaya.
Updated on Oct 16, 2019 07:25 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Malavika Sangghvi

All roads led to the Taj Mahal Palace, Apollo Bunder, on Saturday night for the wedding reception of up and coming filmmaker Dheer, son of Chhaya and Nirmal Momaya, and the award-winning director Daria Shylina from Ukraine. The Momayas are a well-heeled and popular SoBo clan and the reception and dinner spread over the two iconic banquet halls of the hotel saw guests drawn from the city’s business, social, artistic and entertainment worlds.

Daria Shylina enters on a peacock.
Daria Shylina enters on a peacock.

Attracting favourable comment were the elements of personal detailing in the sumptuous arrangements made for the occasion; Chhaya, a well-known lifestyle guru, celebrated for her keen eye and attention to detail, had gone the extra mile, ensuring that the food, ambience and décor were extra special. From the elegantly designed invitations featuring an artistic rendering of the young couple, to the soulful live performances by musicians from both India and Ukraine, to the portions of the Taj’s famous camembert soufflé (served at the erstwhile Zodiac Grill), to the Burrata and Asparagus delicacies in the banquet, along the outstanding desserts, guests were heard commending the finesse in the arrangement. We spotted former police chief AN Roy with wife Mona, industrialist Mahendra Sanghi with wife Madhu, actor Rahul Khanna, writer Shobhaa De, Conde Nast head honcho Alex Kuruvilla and theatre impresario Lilette Dubey, amidst the throng.

The reception had been preceded by an all-out sangeet the previous night, the highlight of which is said to be the dance performance by the groom’s overjoyed mother, who’d been trained by Mumbai’s famous wedding choreographer Masterji, for the occasion.

The Art of The Understatement

Russell Mehta
Russell Mehta

It’s being reported as an instance of subtlety and understatement, in a city that is not often noted for it. On Friday evening, when Russell Mehta, the Mumbai-based head of one of the world’s largest diamond corporations, Rosy Blue, was called upon to introduce his long-time friend and industry colleague, celebrated jeweller Viren Bhagat, at Saffronart’s ‘Mapping a Legacy of Indian Jewels’ at the Four Seasons, his speech was replete with warmth and admiration for his associate. Addressing a slice of the city’s art and social cognoscenti, the soft-spoken Mehta noted how Bhagat had been a close friend of his wife Mona and his, and the mutual respect and affection went back many decades.

Then, alluding to Bhagat’s well-known commitment to perfection, which has often resulted in the world-renowned designer spending years crafting a single piece of jewellery, Mehta laughingly addressed Bhagat directly and alluded to “those bangles you were supposed to have made, which we are still waiting for…”

“My wife and I had ordered some bangles for my daughter’s wedding,” Mehta explained to the audience. “And the wedding has taken place and we are still waiting…” he quipped affectionately.

Of course, what he chose not mention, but what insiders knew, was that the wedding he referred to was his daughter Shloka’s to none other than Akash Ambani, which had taken place this March, which would easily qualify as the wedding of the decade and which featured some spectacular jewels.

Going by Bhagat’s repertoire and the occasion they were meant for, one can only imagine the beauty and value of “those bangles” that Mehta had casually referred to in his understated, off-hand remark.

As they say, refinement whispers.

Keeper of the Scotch

Riyaaz Amlani
Riyaaz Amlani

Chancing over this photo of restaurateur Riyaaz Amlani, we were thinking what you were thinking. But no, Amlani is not channelling his inner Ranveer Singh and making a fashion statement. The former president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) was spotted proudly dressed in a kilt (a cultural outfit worn at formal occasions in Scotland) this weekend at Blair Castle in Perthshire, Scotland. Amlani was there to attend a formal ceremony at which he was inducted as a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’, an exclusive international society that recognizes those that have shown outstanding commitment to the Scotch whisky industry, we are informed. “Deeply honoured to be made a Keeper of the Quaich”, shared Amlani, after being awarded a medal and certificate by the new Grand Master Peter Gordon in a ceremony that included traditional bagpipe music and was attended by the who’s who of the whisky world, including an Indian contingent that featured spirits lord Aman Dhall and others, as well as the Duke of Argyll.

Mumbai’s Theatre Police

Kaizaad and Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal
Kaizaad and Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal

“What a day that was. The opening night of ‘Agnes Of God’ under the protection of over 100 policemen! No other play must have had an opening like that,” recalls Kaizaad Kotwal, producer of the venture, which had opened four years ago and had starred his mother, the thespian Mahabanoo Mody-Kotwal, along with Anahita Uberoi and Avanti Nagral.

“It was almost exactly four years ago that we started receiving grotesque threats of harm to ourselves and our property,” says Kotwal, whose passion for theatre (he along with his mother run Poor-Box Productions, producer of the long-running ‘The Vagina Monologues’) is matched only by his commitment to humanitarian causes.

“It started with the Sophia College pulling the plug on our opening show just a few days before we were to open in October 2015,” says the Emmy award-winning Kotwal. “A group of people had started to protest the play’s very existence and were ready to cause us grave harm,” he says, recalling those fraught, tense days.

“While we should have been knee-deep in the artistic aspects of the show and intense rehearsals, we were going from police station to police station, trying to seek protection for ourselves and our freedom of expression,” he says.

Mercifully, as he tells it, the play did open, but only under the watchful protection of a police contingent at NCPA’s Tata Theatre.

“The irony is that 30 years prior to our production, Mumbai had seen a very powerful version of the same play open to no protests and no threatened bans,” says Kotwal.

“It seems the protests were manufactured for political gain in an upcoming local election and to try and extort money from us.”

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Thursday, October 21, 2021