Asha Puthil, a cover of her album, and Andy Warhol.
Asha Puthil, a cover of her album, and Andy Warhol.

Malavika’s Mumbaistan: The oracle of cool

By Malavika Sangghvi | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 23, 2018 02:34 PM IST

At its peak, it was known as the oracle of avant-garde cool, defining Manhattan’s in-your-face savoire faire like no other, while it tossed socialites and starlets, porn stars and poets, into a delicious salad reflecting the decadence of the inner rooms at Studio Fifty Four, and NYC’s edgy insidious art circles. To be sure, there was a time when, to be featured in Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine was your passport to celebrity and glamour. But, all good things must come to an end, and this week, the iconic magazine shut down after its 50-year existence. But, what an existence it had been: featuring David Bowie and Grace Jones, William S Burroughs, Lou Read and the Velvet Underground, in long-winded interviews eccentrically edited and laid out with the whimsy that so defined everything Warhol did. Interview had many India connections, amongst Indians and Indophiles like Koo Stark, Sunita Pitamber, Oscar de La Renta, Mick Jagger, and Maura Moynihan, as contributors or subjects. One such instance is of the Ahmedabad-born phenomenal blues and soul singer Asha Puthli, who had burst upon New York and Warhol’s factory scene like a meteor in the seventies.

“It was the only magazine to write for or be featured in,” said Puthli who had done both in the ’70’s. “My first interview was with Bob Collacello, and was photographed by Peter Beard,” she says, naming the two outstanding talents of the era. “Years later, I was interviewed by Penelope Tree and photographed by Peter Lester,” she added. Warhol, she says, had asked her to do some interviews with her glam Indian friends “to be on the other side of the couch”, so she had chosen someone she was very comfortable with — the glamorous Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur, known as Ayesha Jaypo’ to her friends. We had not read the piece, but for years, we had heard from others in that circle of the scintillating encounter, when the funky Goddess with multi-colored locks clad in worker’s overalls, and the internationally celebrated Maharani of Jaypo’ had talked and laughed together like teenagers.

Truly, those were the days…

WTS WTM

What They Say: “After the train had pulled out of Wadala station, it moved towards Bandra instead of heading in the direction of Panvel.”

— Railway official commenting on a commuter train that ended up on the wrong route yesterday

What They Mean: “We then thought the only way out of the mess we’d landed ourselves in was to fine all the passengers for not carrying valid tickets, but then we just joined the motorman and engine crew for another smoke and forgot about it all...”

THE FAMILIAR AND THE FAMOUS

(LtoR) Farrukh Dhondy, late Khushwant Singh and Imtiaz Dharker.
(LtoR) Farrukh Dhondy, late Khushwant Singh and Imtiaz Dharker.

As one who had been present at the festival’s very inception, we were delighted to learn that the first one-day Khushwant Singh Literature Festival, London edition, went rather well at the tony May Fair Hotel in London last week. The theme, The IndoAnglian, resonated well with the mix of Indians, Pakistanis and British in the audience, we are told. The audience was dotted with faces of the famous and the familiar: erstwhile Mumbai residents Doria and Robert Green, who now live between London and Mauritius where Robert heads the Banyan Tree bank; Firooza Rizvi, Christianne and Domenico of Milan India Chamber of Commerce; Dr Rashmi Poddar of Jnanapravaha, historian Dr Zareer Masani, and author Farrukh Dhondy, amongst others. “At one point, we even found four Parsis sitting in a row in the audience!” said Niloufer Billimoria , the moving spirit behind the festival, adding, “Which is when we really knew that not just Kasauli, but Bombay too was in London for the fest.”

The notable Parsi quotient regardless, the highlight of the festival according to many, was eminent London-based poet and ex-Mumbai girl Imtiaz Dharker’s ode to Khuswant Singh — ‘Not a Nice Man to Know’ — especially composed for the KSLF London. “Acid-tongued mischief-maker, spotlight stealer, story-stalker, salt-in-the-wound piss-taker, punchline-grabbing headline hogger,” it began.

Nice!

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