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Malavika’s Mumbaistan: Two Men

Impassioned dance critic and cultural provocateur Sunil Kothari was a close friend of the late Bhupen Khakhar.

mumbai Updated: Jun 17, 2019 01:11 IST
Malavika Sangghvi
Malavika Sangghvi
Hindustan Times
Malavika's mumbaistan,Bhupen Khakhar,Sunil Kothari
Bhupen Khakhar

Impassioned dance critic and cultural provocateur Sunil Kothari, who circumnavigates the globe at a dizzying speed in search of outstanding instances of the performing arts, was a close friend of the late Bhupen Khakhar, whose painting ‘Two Men In Benares’ had fetched a staggering ₹22.5 crore at a Sotheby’s auction in London last week. We asked the iconic critic mid-flight, on his way to Kuala Lumpur for a dance festival, about his response to the news. Painted in 1982, its theme had been same-sex love and it featured two naked men locked in an embrace, with the older man bearing a resemblance to the painter himself.

Sunil Kothari

What did Kothari make of this latest instance of his friend’s genius? “I just heard about it,” said Kothari, who we used to see often in the company of the artist, at the Samovar. “When Bhupen had painted the two men with their erect penises, of course, some of us were scandalised. But, he was adamant about displaying it,” Kothari recalled, adding, “I remember we were in a gallery in Delhi when two milk vendors had dropped in out of curiosity. When they saw the painting, they had laughed a lot, made crude remarks about the erect penis, winked at the two of us and left…I was embarrassed, but Bhupen was very pleased that the two had liked his painting.” About the artist’s penchant for celebrating his homosexuality through his art, Kothari says, “I marvelled at Bhupen’s ability to translate into art his complex feelings for old geriatric men. He used to tell me that he used to get excited by the sight of ordinary men off the streets and this was his way of resolving his fascination for them,” said Kothari, signing off with, “But who would have known then that this painting would fetch such a price?”

The Stork visits the Deols

Dr Kiran Coelho with Hema Malini and all three of her grandkids.

“The baby arrived on the night of the storm with all the thunder and lightning and the first rains,” says one of the city’s leading gynaecologists, Dr Kiran Coelho, about the birth last week of baby Miraya, daughter of Esha, and granddaughter of iconic Bollywood star couple Hema Malini and Dharmendra. With this latest addition to the Deol clan, Coelho, who was introduced to Malini by Shilpa Shetty (whose son she also delivered) has delivered all three of Hema Malini’s grandchildren, including Darien, son of her younger daughter Ahana, and Radhya, sister to Miraya. “Hema Malini says Miraya is an exact picture of Esha as a baby and she loved spending time in the hospital with the mother and the new-born.” The hospital was also witness to a high-profile visit of Miraya’s proud star grandparents, and even with the incessant flash bulbs and clamour, we are informed that the couple managed to spend some quiet time with their family. “Dharmendraji reminded us of his visit here exactly four years ago when Ahana had delivered Darien on the very same day. In fact, they were on their way to Ahana’s house to celebrate his fourth birthday,” said Coelho. As for the mothering instincts of both of Hema Malini’s daughters, Coelho, who, for all her professional success and expertise is still the quintessential Bandra girl, with her heart firmly in the right place, says, “Both Esha and Ahana are wonderful hands-on exemplary mothers and do everything for their kids…”

Tweet Talk:

“Anand...I had gifted 25 machines to BMC and a truck to them...the machines were given to individuals, the truck to BMC…a company in Aurangabad makes them...never publicised it because that is not the reason for the gift...it’s horrifying to learn of this day in and day out.”

-Amitabh Bachchan, in response to Anand Mahindra’s tweet propagating the adoption of an automated scavenging machine developed by students that could alleviate the problem of sanitation workers, seven of who had died recently in Vadodra, while cleaning a septic tank.

Love without a story

Arundhathi Subramaniam

She’s been described as ‘one of the finest poets writing in India today’, by no less than renowned poet Keki Daruwalla, and her previous volume of poetry ‘When God Is a Traveller’ was shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize; so no surprises that last Friday, when the Coimbatore-based Arundhathi Subramaniam released her newest book of poems, ‘Love Without A Story’ with a reading and a discussion with acclaimed author Jerry Pinto, the Kitab Khana at Fort was overflowing with friends and fans, despite the rains. Remarking on the pleasure of spotting a room full of old friends and familiar faces, Subramaniam kicked-off the evening with a rendition of her ‘I grew up in an age of poets’, a delightful and fond recollection of the city’s particular eco-system that had produced the likes of Nissim Ezekiel, Eunice de Souza and Arun Kolatkar and a time when poets and poetry had mattered; a theme she visits in another poem in the book called‘ Missing Friends’:

‘I remember the times we ordered /

our brun maskas,/

ran fingers over Formica tables sticky/

with kolatkar pound almodovar..’

Full of vivid allusions, references and images of her years growing up in Mumbai, ‘Love Without A Story’ makes for agreeable reading for anyone interested in the city, regardless of whether they are readers of poetry at all.

But it was Pinto, a fellow poet and old collaborator of Subramaniam’s, who articulated best what her fans and readers most feel about Subramaniam’s work. “Arundhathi’s poems are so rich and fertile that one feels one can grow vegetables in them,” he remarked during the course of the evening.

First Published: Jun 17, 2019 01:11 IST