That an old, timeworn style and an old, time-honoured posture can appear to be freshly minted is proven by this B&W photo featuring Nora Fatehi—an ‘item girl’ who is making a bid for a substantial dekko by us. A wide-hemmed skirt splayed on the floor, hair parted by jewelled wings that fall in thick strands on to her waist, a full-sleeved jet black blouse crowded on the wrist with a thicket of metal and shell bracelets, hands that coyly draw attention to a face lovelier in its look of distraction—all come together fabulously, except that we have seen it before. Cousins, there’s art in this. We are aware that this is a stratagem to draw us into the widening circle of interest in Bhuj: The Pride of India, where Nora plays a nautch girl in Pakistan, but who is actually a RAW agent. That, too, if you know the story of Mata Hari, is not original. But you’d probably like it.
There are things in the rarefied air of Hollywood that don’t exist in the philosophies of wage earners like us. In that celebrity saturated Disneyland, divorcing star couples can, to protect their privacy, appoint ‘private judges’ to conclude their partnership away from prying eyes. Such was the case with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, a golden power couple, who filed for divorce, inevitably, in 2016, which went through in 2019. The problem with their man of choice, Judge John W. Ouderkirk, arose with the custody of the five minor children. Jolie appealed for his dismissal, saying Ouderkirk didn’t disclose business relationships with Pitt’s attorneys, and disallowed the couple’s children to testify in court. After being turned down, her re-appeal was upheld by the California appeal court. The custody fight, say pundits, can now begin in earnest with an impartial officer of justice. For visual relief, we use a Brangelina photo where they are still sharp and glamorous but the strains, we now imagine, show in Brad’s limp grip around Anjelina’s waist, and the latter’s unradiant stare.
In the ’90s, Bollywood film music was still stuck in the powerful gravitational pull of the abhorrent ’80s, a time when furious orchestral riffs jangled the nerves, curdling whatever little freshness there was in whichever overused tune. If you bought one cassette, the rule went, you actually bought five soundtracks. Then came A.R. Rahman, with Roja and Bombay, a soothing salve for our abused eardrums. That he pushed the industry towards newer grounds—like R.D. Burman in the late ’60s—is indisputable. But success spawned imitators and, in long Bollywood tradition, lifters of tunes. Rahman has now spoken out about these people, cutting a magnanimous figure. “In a way it was flattering for me…,” he says. “At the same time, I did not want to waste my time going after people…. My goal was to go forward, and never let negative things get into my mind….” Rahman, who artfully borrowed the theme from the opening movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 for an ad, knows that people with talent to spare don’t cavil about small matters.
In every endeavour, if you try too hard, disdaining the liberating dimension that comes from a whiff of natural freshness, the effort ‘does not take’. The same rule obtains for glamour photography. One can be ‘styled’ is as sensuous a manner as possible, writhe and pout and contort well enough, but if you aren’t inspired enough, you look like photos torn and preserved from an old edition of Femina by your aunt 40 years ago. That very fate has befallen Krishna Shroff in this snap. The black sneakers and socks look amateurish, and so is that horrid, truncated shorts (or is it something else?) from the waist of which Krishna pulls out a cummerbund with the air of a magician conjuring a strip of coloured cloth. The deadpan expression, too, doesn’t work. To ensure that this ghastly effort isn’t repeated, Krishna needs to fire her stylist and then, through the good offices of brother Tiger, to consult Disha Patani. Else, she can just hire the guy the Kapoor sisters go to.