| Delhi debut: Waris Hussein
India to behold the wonder of Waris
The film club at the India International Centre (IIC) in Delhi has had a proud tradition of showing the best in cinema since it was established in 1966.
As it boasts, “retrospectives have included the works of directors such as Ingmar Bergman (Sweden), Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Takeshi Kitano (Japan), Fritz Lang, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders (Germany), Jean Renoir, Francois Truffaut and Jean Luc Godard (France), Vittorio de Sica, Pier Paolo Pasolini (Italy), David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock (UK), Andrei Tarkovsky (Russia), Krzysztof Kieslowski and Andrzej Wajda (Poland), Pedro Almodovar (Spain), Wong Kar-Wai and Zhang Yimou (China)”.
To this can be added my good friend Waris Hussein, a British Indian director who will be in Delhi showing a selection of his films between September 12 and 24.
Waris was born in Lucknow in 1938, came to Britain with his parents when he was nine — his mother was the novelist Attia Hosain — and began working for the BBC after reading English at Cambridge.
“It was not easy choosing from a plethora of productions so I settled on what would be interesting as well as entertaining in a two-hour slot,” Waris tells me.
This restriction means samples of some of his wonderful mini-series for television, such as the earliest Dr Who episodes (1964), The Glittering Prizes (1976) and Edward & Mrs Simpson (1978) cannot be included. I would urge the powers that be at the film club to have another think on the subject.
The films picked are “an eclectic mix”, says Waris. Three are based on books — Sixth Happiness (on the life of writer Firdaus Kanga), A Passage to India and The Shell Seekers.
He calls Henry VIII and his Six Wives, starring Keith Michell, Donald Pleasance, Charlotte Rampling, “quintessentially British”. Melody is also “very much a London-based Brit piece”, while Copacabana got him an Emmy for Best Musical.
I have an informal suggestion for those who are not members of the IIC — bribe the peons to sneak you in or simply gatecrash the screenings.
| London lady: Moni Mohsinbolly vein: Keith Vaz (left) with Amitabh Bachchan and Amar SinghSex pest? Hitchcock with Tippi Hedren
In many ways, radio is a more powerful medium than television. Returning to London from Stratford-upon-Avon late at night, it was fun listening on the car radio to a reading from comic Pakistani writer Moni Mohsin’s book, Duty Free.
I am a great admirer of Moni’s attempt to portray the happenings in Lahore high society and especially of her principal creation, the snob Lahori Begum.
Duty Free, chosen as the Book at Bedtime on BBC Radio 4, was being read by Meera Syal, whom I had seen barely half an hour earlier playing Beatrice in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new production of Much Ado About Nothing.
Judging by the laughter, the readings from Duty Free had been recorded, unusually, before a studio audience.
One dreads to think what Moni’s Lahori Begum would make of Calcutta and especially of the chief minister’s refusal to spend money on designer clothes and Louboutin spikes. She would also probably object to old books cluttering the pavements.
Moni herself enjoyed her trip to Calcutta earlier this year.
She wrote to say: “I LOVED Calcutta. I thought despite its dilapidation and shabbiness it was a staggeringly beautiful city. I so enjoyed meeting the people as well. They were cultured, warm and charming.”
Possibly as an antidote to the feel good Duty Free, Sudha Bhuchar has been reading extracts from Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers for BBC Radio 4. It is a grim account of life — and death — in a Mumbai slum.
“One of the most powerful indictments of economic inequality I’ve ever read,” American feminist writer Barbara Ehrenreich has said. “If Bollywood ever decides to do its own version of (gritty US drama) The Wire, this would be it.”
Slums would be the last thing Karan Johar would want to do. But the BBC more than makes up for Indian lack of interest.
| Bolly vein: Keith Vaz (left) with Amitabh Bachchan and Amar Singh
Keith Vaz has been Labour MP for Leicester East for 25 years, just one example of the enormous changes the city has experienced over the last four decades.
It is said to be the first British city where ethnic minorities constitute the majority.
Leicester is currently marking the 40th anniversary of the arrival of Indian refugees in 1972. Idi Amin, then Ugandan President, imposed a cruel 90-day deadline for Indian expulsion, making tens of thousands leave behind all their property and possessions.
One exhibition in New Walk Museum & Art Gallery is called From Kampala to Leicester: The Story of Leicester’s Ugandan Asian Community, 1972-2012.
The celebrations are a trifle ironic because 40 years ago, the authorities in Leicester undertook a campaign to stop Ugandan Asian refugees coming to their predominantly “white city”. Now, the authorities are celebrating the achievements of the very people they tried to keep out in 1972.
“Using original film, personal testimony and rare artefacts borrowed from Leicester’s Ugandan Asian community, the exhibition tells a powerful and important story of survival, sacrifice and adventure,” says the museum.
“The project profiles how Ugandan Asians adapted to life in the UK and how the community has influenced the development of the city over the last four decades,” the museum adds.
“The exhibition looks at the background to the Asian community in Uganda, settling in Leicester in the 1970s and their continued social, cultural and economic impact on the city,” it says.
Thanks to Vaz’s powers of persuasion, Leicester — over 100 miles from London — has welcomed a string of Bollywood stars, among them Dalip Tahil, Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, Shilpa Shetty and Sanjay Dutt.
Who would have thought 40 years ago that the local MP for Leicester, a dull, even dying city then, would be dubbed the member for Bollywood Central?
The latest Twitter trend is that celebrity Twitterers are leaving Twitter because of the amount of abuse they attract.
First, a man was arrested for sending “threatening Tweets” to British Olympic diver Tom Daley for failing to win gold. Then a Welsh Premier League footballer, Daniel Thomas, was suspended for sending homophobic Tweets to Daley.
Now, Helen Skelton, the presenter of a popular children’s TV programme, Blue Peter, has sent out her last Tweet: “Turns out I don’t have very thick skin after all so I am closing my twitter account. Enjoy the games. Signing off, skelts x”.
| Sex pest? Hitchcock with Tippi Hedren
Which is the greatest film of all time — and, no, it’s not Aamir Khan’s Delhi Belly?
The British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound magazine has just “announced that the winner of its hugely anticipated and world-renowned Greatest Films of All Time poll is Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, ending the 50-year reign of Orson Welles’s mighty Citizen Kane. 846 film experts participated in the poll.”
Personally, I prefer North by Northwest but no matter.
The reputation of Hitchcock himself is being shredded. According to Tippi Hedren, now 82 but his leading lady in The Birds in 1963, the great director was an “evil”, “deviant” sexual predator. She alleges Hitchcock ruined her career because she rejected his sexual demands. She paints him as little sort of a “psycho”.