No, this is not a stock photo from a Chanel catalogue from circa 1955, nor is she a flamenco star owning the stage in Francoist Spain. It’s actress Aahana Kumra—hands joined in a photographic pose, chiseled back twitching under the strain and stilettos clattering clumsily on the stone floor. But the gown Aahana has chosen—the chiffon outer layer of the skirt; the exquisite, bold floral embroidery on it—must have appeared once in every girl’s wishlist. Aahana is currently in London with a movie team to shoot a crime thriller, where she promises to appear in an exciting role. The girl is excited about it, and about the city where the action unfolds. We’re sure there would be fast cars, faster women, black, boxy taxis, red buses, snarling villains and their implacable pursuers. But will it have the shabby-genteel, grimy feel of noirish London? It ought to work better in the shades Aahana has been shot in. But we mustn’t get our hopes up.
It’s a singing reality show that has so much razzmatazz, glitzy sets with shiny surfaces that spill light, so many notables who offer such guarded criticism and so much fulsome praise and, lastly, such a line-up of singing talent desperate to come good through flawlessly identical renditions of the original songs that, by the end of the last episode, it’s all rather cloyed. On Independence Day, at the finale of Indian Idol 12, judges Himesh Reshammiya, Anu Malik and Sonu Kakkar—bless the talent through which they have tortured us—had the task of picking the top finishers. The deserved winner of the title, a car and Rs 25 lakh was Pawandeep Rajan of Uttarakhand, who now would plan a playback career. The beautiful Pahari cap and the ghastly jacket make for mismatched taste, but that champion’s smile on Pawandeep can inspire the opening bars of a hundred melodies.
To write about Indian sporting achievements is to write about hardship, often poverty. Running the gauntlet of ill luck and meagre resources needs the iron, inflexible belief of a crusader. Lugging huge bundles of firewood back home in Manipur came as easily to Mirabai Chanu as fussing over dresses and dolls’ houses were to others. Two decades later, she took silver in weightlifting on the very first day of the Olympics. In Mumbai, Salman Khan, a Manipuri uttariya around his neck, is glad to be on the same podium with Mirabai. The champion, of course, can’t contain her glee at being with Salman who, truth be told, should have done better on Twitter than the ho-hum “happy for you” and “best wishes always”. In Tokyo, Mirabai, weighing 49 kg, managed to lift a humongous 202 kg. Could she have demonstrated her skills on the person of Salman and elicited a warmer response?
It’s a common, quirky rule of the arts that the expression of innate talent has little correlation with one’s ideology or inclination, or mad bouts of vituperation. Kangana Ranaut—who has had vicious run-ins with politicians, fellow actors and sundry industry people, and had made public affairs of all of them—wears style as gut feeling. Teams of fashion stylists may work on others, but can’t come any closer to Kangana, who seems to snatch up things at a whim, and then look like a vivid figurine from a perfumed dream. In the grand squares and cobbled streets of the twin city of Budapest, our trespassers from Bollywood were shooting scenes of the film Dhaakad, starring our Kangana. At the ‘wrap party’, Kangana, wrapped herself in the halo of the setting sun, appeared thus on the balcony. The lace corset and the high-waisted trousers with its startlingly askew fastener might bewitch you, but Kangana’s masterly touch lies the stranglingly strange rings of that necklace and that workaday top knot. Works, doesn’t it? Remember, the ability to take risks marks out an artist.