The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A Bollywood movie in Bradford

Whatever she may have said elsewhere, I did not get the impression that Meera is about to sell up and move home from Lahore to Mumbai.

“Lahore is my home,” the Pakistani actress said, with just a touch of pride, when I mentioned I had enjoyed visiting the historic city.

For her part, Meera had enjoyed visiting the historic city of Bradford, where she had been the star turn at a film festival, now in its 11th year, called Bite the Mango. The controversy caused by “that kiss” had helped pull in the crowds.

Thanks to the festival’s director, Irfan Ajeeb, I managed to get a quick sound bite from Meera as she drove to the airport to fly back to Lahore via Dubai.

The Yorkshire city of Bradford, once a mill town, is not a favoured tourist destination but she had picked it as the location for one of her future movies.

Actually, it’s not such a bad idea. I asked whether she had found differences between Pakistanis back in Pakistan and Pakistanis in Bradford.

“Bahut fark hai (there are big differences),” she responded.

What she meant was the lives of Pakistanis in Britain were heavily influenced by having to cope with a foreign culture.

“I am coming back to make a social drama,” she revealed.

Mahesh Bhatt would be involved in what would be a Bollywood production, said Irfan, who was also keen to be part of the team.

When Meera had been “in conversation” with him on stage during the festival, there had only been a couple of sour notes. One man had expressed doubt whether film collaboration would help win many political concessions for Pakistan from India but the interview itself had gone down well with the “very diverse” audience.

On the reports that Meera was about to quit Pakistan for India, Irfan was dismissive: “Those reports are rubbish.”

HAVING A BALL: (From top) Lakshmi Mittal (centre) with wife Usha and friends; Malaika Arora; Simi Garewal and Kapil Dev; Lady Shreela Flather, Aamir Khan and fianc'e Kiran Rao

Peace pact

They have metaphorically kissed and made up in public in the past. However, heads wiser than mine nod and warn: “Ah, yes, but how long will it last'”

There have been e-mails 2,300 words long ' in some cases even longer ' with supporters of one side questioning the other’s fitness and mental ability. The opposing camps are now locked in a virtual battle unto death. It is ironic, of course, that the two men had once been close friends ' in fact, one would not be where he is today without the support that had been given at a critical stage by the other.

“I staying ’cos I’m the boss,” was the message from one. “There is no chance I am stepping down.”

The other hit back with his equally blunt rejoinder: “No, you are not, ’cos you have had your day. Now, it’s someone else’s turn to take over.”

“I want four more years at the top. I agree my recent form’s not been great but I have convinced myself I’ll soon be back to my best.”

“You are such a liar. You promised me you would go.”

“The country needs me.”

The country is indeed gripped by this drama, aware that an earlier “patch-up” between Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, and his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who is desperate to take over from his former friend, was shortlived. At the Labour Party conference in Brighton last week, the two men were made to agree to a peace pact behind closed doors by party elders but this time they would not shake hands in public for the cameras.

Dress rehearsal

The dress code for the Pratham Ball in London last week, which raised an invaluable '300,000 for the education of poor children in India, was “black tie or national dress”.

Some concerned Indians are considering having a whip round for Lakshmi Mittal, who turned up in a suit ' he has obviously exhausted his funds on buying steel mills around the world. However, Mittal was not the only one not to observe the dress code for these occasions.

“Many Indians don’t bother or don’t know what black tie means,” says the event’s main organiser this year, Surina Naruna, who favoured a black sari by Sonu Nilibar, a Ludhiana designer.

At a more serious level, Surina says that without the glamour, people just wouldn’t come or donate money to charity. It helped that Aamir Khan (who was accompanied by his fianc'e Kiran Rao), Simi Garewal, Kabir Bedi, Waheeda Rehman, Malaika Arora and Kapil Dev, among others, were there in the Grosvenor House Ball Room.

Surina, whose main concern is the welfare of street children ' “there are a million in Delhi alone” ' gets very angry when the uncaring in India tell her (as one did last week) that “we don’t need money from abroad, the poor are doing much better in India, in fact, our poor are better off than the poor in America”.

To which, she says: “Have you recently been to a slum in India'”

Creative edge

Who says Patliputra doesn’t produce great artists' The installation artist, Subodh Gupta, who graduated from the College of Arts and Crafts, Patna, in 1988, is one of eight people shortlisted for a prestigious international award, the '40,000 Wales International Visual Arts Prize. Gupta, who now lives in Delhi, represented India this year at the Venice Biennale. This is the event where another Indian, sculptor Anish Kapoor, first burst forth on the world scene.

Tittle tattle

Ahead of England’s tour of India next March, there are reasons for being optimistic that success will go to the heads of the English players. The “prince of Sheffield”, Michael Vaughan, has just splashed out on a luxury private villa in Barbados. Next thing the man will be saying, “Jaldi, jaldi, chhota peg,” as the Brits do in the old movies. We already know that in his autobiography, Being Freddie, Ashes hero Andrew Flintoff has written disparagingly about Sourav Ganguly’s 2000 season with Lancashire (it was always a bad idea for Sourav to go).

“Ganguly just didn’t work out at all,” says Flintoff, who adds that in a curry restaurant where they had gone to eat together, Sourav went over to chat with umpire Venkat and abandoned him for 20 minutes.

There is a reason for keeping Sourav, if only to get under Flintoff’s skin. Perhaps Flintoff can be encouraged to toss for England so he can be kept waiting.

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