The one constant, toxic element in all nationalist-nativist movements across the world is the obsession with racial purity. Inter-community marriages—harbingers of compassion and understanding—are anathema. The kerfuffle over ‘love jehad’ is just an example. The one Bollywood star who has been damned roundly by trolls—torchbearers of an ugly new India—is Urmila Matondkar, for her marriage to a Kashmiri man, Mohsin Akhter, in 2016. The staggeringly handsome Mohsin was termed, Urmila now reveals, ‘Pakistani’ (a newly-charged slur), then ‘terrorist’, while some deviants invaded Wikipedia and sprayed nuisance. All this, says Urmila—so content here in the arms of the man she loves—created unbearable strain. The party she recently joined, however, has had little qualm in encouraging nationalist hatred. Or is the alliance with the Congress bringing about a change in the stripes of the Shiv Sena?
A situation out of an eyebrow-raising Hollywood script: A young man, stuck in a foreign land during a great crisis, is sheltered in the home of his girlfriend, who is the daughter of a famous man, dauntingly intelligent, articulate, charming, also one of the world’s most powerful in the recent past. But Barack Obama, who slipped through this delicious bit in a podcast promoting his bestselling memoir, Promised Land, is also the coolest chief executive in modern history. Rory Farquharson—Briton, Malia Obama’s beau and fellow student at Harvard found refuge with the Obamas when “he was sort of stuck because there was a whole visa thing” and spent the pandemic’s quarantine months with the former first family. Card games, arts and craft projects, excitement and boredom followed. “I didn’t want to like him,” says Obama with a toothy grin. “But he’s a good kid.”
We see the slightest crease furrowing that fine forehead, a wee narrowing of the eyes—or is it the sunset that casts its kind light into them?—and a barely perceptible pursing of the lips. Otherwise, everything about Italian actress-model Giorgia Andriani is up to our exacting standards: the hair, the pastel-printed bikini, the pleasing undulations and, somewhere nearby, the whispering sea. Giorgia, who’s dating actor-producer Arbaaz Khan, will debut in Bollywood with Welcome To Bajarangpur. The good folks of that imaginary town will, we’re sure, move heaven and earth to cut a passage to the sea for her.
Akbar, the greatest Mughal, and his son Salim have had their young love stories celebrated in Bollywood. It’s time for the next padshah to glory in and mope about his love. Enter…Akshay Kumar, as Shah Jahan. Akshay predictably took to the Taj Mahal, armed with a solitary rose, dressed in royal garb and prancing about with that boyish grin plastered all over his face. The one person pining for the pleasure of Akshay’s company on the sets of Atrangi Re is Arjuman Bano, aka Sara Ali Khan. Understandably, everyone is thrilled at the resumption of shooting after the long Covid intermission. But won’t Akshay sport a beard, in conformity with all the miniatures we have seen of the builder of the grandest mausoleum ever? Use your fertile imagination, pals, and visualise him in a theatrically classical beard, and how it might clash with that grin.