| AWESOME TWOSOME: Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar
Hello! Is it OK! to join the party'
The surprise is not that Hello! is launching in India — which it is this weekend — but that it has taken the glossy magazine with its focus on celebrities so long to get round to doing so. After all, its rival, OK!, started its Indian edition in summer last year.
I must say I am impressed that Elizabeth Hurley, who agreed to an exclusive deal apparently worth, at least, £1 million with Hello! over her wedding coverage, managed to prevent sneak pictures from leaking out from either Umaid Bhavan or Mehrangarh Fort. The Hurley-Nayar wedding, Part One, had 57 pics, if you remember, in last week’s Hello!
I now have before me “World Exclusive Part Two”, which features the Indian celebrations, with 96 pics, mostly from Jodhpur — “Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar. In India for a week of spectacular celebrations at their very own ‘Monsoon Wedding’. ”
The dominating colour is red — that of Hurley’s wedding sari and possibly Hello! bank balance.
Make what you will but Gaj Singh, erstwhile Maharajah of Jodhpur who was banned from carrying his mobile phone, is conspicuous by his absence.
Juliet Herd, features editor of Hello!, says the glossy’s UK circulation of 412,807 doubled when it featured photographs of Angelina Jolie’s new baby. It expects a repetition with Hurley.
Juliet tells me: “The Indian issue launches this weekend with the Elizabeth Hurley Indian wedding on the cover and including the English wedding inside. It will have a print run of 25,000 and go on sale in Calcutta, Mumbai and New Delhi as a monthly. It is being published in partnership with BBC Magazines. We are very excited about our latest launch, which is our 10th territory, including Spain and the UK.”
In the current issue of Hello!, Hurley’s friend, William Cash, has acted as the embedded reporter, as he did last week.
But is he wise to reveal that in the cricket match played on the floodlit lawns of Umaid Bhavan, “unfortunately the groom was bowled out for a golden duck”'
May be Arun Nayar was practising to take over from Sehwag.
| STORM CATCHER: Aishwarya Rai in Provoked
Friend, not foe
Jagmohun Mundhra feels he is no longer the target of a (metaphorical) “shoot on sight” order in Delhi. The director had a special screening of his film, Provoked, at the I&B’s Mahadev Road auditorium where guests included Manmohan Singh’s wife, Gursharan.
“She loved it,” says Jag modestly.
So apparently did Meira Kumar, minister of social justice and empowerment, who even spoke a few words in support of Provoked.
The film is based on the real life drama of a Sikh wife in Britain, Kiranjit Singh Ahluwalia, who torched her abusive husband in bed, was given life for murder, but was eventually released after a heroic campaign by the Southall Black Sisters. Her case led to a change in the British law on provocation which now shows greater understanding of victims of domestic violence.
Kiranjit is played in what I think is her best role by Aishwarya Rai, who will be in London on April 3 to launch Provoked, prior to its UK release two days later.
Jag is amused that even lawyers, who had earlier threatened to kneecap him (metaphorically speaking), when he had wanted to make a biopic on Sonia Gandhi (“she came to India for the love of a man but stayed for the love of a country” etc etc), shook his hand.
I like Jag and am glad that for the time being, at least, his legs seem safe. This summer he starts filming Shoot on Sight, a tale of a Muslim police officer at Scotland Yard who has to open fire on a Muslim terrorist, who happens to be his own newly arrived nephew from Pakistan. Naseeruddin Shah will, I am sure, do an excellent job in the lead role, which Amitabh Bachchan considered but turned down.
Do unto others
It is worth comparing and contrasting the attempts to extradite Ottavio Quattrocchi and Maninder Pal Singh Kohli.
The latter is wanted for questioning over the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year-old girl, Hannah Foster, who was abducted near her home in Southampton on March 14, 2003. He was arrested in India in 2004 and has appeared in court 100 times since then but his extradition to the UK seems no nearer. Though the evidence against Kohli certainly seems strong enough to justify extradition, Hannah’s distraught parents, Hilary and Trevor Foster, have had to travel thrice to India in a vain effort to expedite the Indian legal process.
In comparison, Quatrocchi’s alleged misdemeanour — taking a Bofors kickback worth a few million dollars — appears relatively minor. Malaysia turned down an extradition request for lack of evidence. The Italian government, too, is not impressed and intends defending their national in Argentina where he is currently out on bail. Let’s also not forget that at India’s request, his London accounts were unfrozen last year and immediately cleared out. The Bofors business is legally dead and buried, however much the BJP wants to use Quattrocchi as ammunition against Sonia Gandhi.
Although Argentina does not have an extradition treaty with India, its government will want to be helpful. However, in the absence of a “smoking gun”, its courts will have no option but to let Quattrocchi go. Perhaps he will appear in court 100 times.
The CBI team, now in Buenos Aires on government expense, should drag out its stay for the city of Maradona is one of the most agreeable in the world. It so happens I know it well, having spent nearly a year there, covering the Falklands War, and then returning when the Indian ambassador-cum-author, Lakhan Lal Mehrotra, wangled an exclusive interview with the new president, Raul Alfonsin. This is also the city where Tagore, when he fell ill, was looked after by fellow poet, Victoria Ocampo — I bumped into her great-granddaughter who told me the two had become close.
More to the point, the shopping in Avenida Florida, a short walk from the Sheraton (where Quattrocchi stayed briefly), is especially good for leather. And as V.S. Naipaul notes in The Return of Eva Peron, the restaurants in the fashionable locality of Recoleta exude a rich decadence. The beef in baby onions is not to be sneered at — I am assuming they won’t be orthodox Hindus when travelling abroad.
Buenos Aires is indeed seductive and we must all be sympathetic if the CBI fellows tell their bosses back in Delhi: “Sir, we need a few more months to sort this out — and would you please wire us some more money'”
Women on top
|FIRST SHOW: The poster of the Namesake on the London tube
Mira Nair’s brilliant The Namesake, which has opened the Tongues on Fire Festival in London, is being advertised on the London Underground before its March 30 release.
Deepa Mehta’s excellent Water also gets a release, thereby illustrating that Indians make the best films — provided the directors are women and live abroad.
After Pakistan’s defeat by the West Indies in the World Cup opener, an agency here had added insult to injury: “Inzaman: Batsmen could not Haq it.” Haq for hack, get it' The question is, is this the worst pun of the year'