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Since 1st March, 1999
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Double trouble

Deepa Mehta has a new set of critics — and no, these are not the Trishul-wielding angry men who had a problem with the depiction of two lesbians called Sita and Radha in her film Fire. Mehta’s critics are academics based in the West who have written an open letter — currently being forwarded as e-mails — against her proposed project with Iranian writer Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran. The letter urges “artists, activists, scholars, and friends” to persuade Mehta to “rethink” the proposal to film the book. Nafisi’s book, widely feted in some circles, has been panned by a section of academics. Nafisi has even been described as a colonial agent. Trust Mehta to jump from Fire to the frying pan.


Hear hear

Maqbool Fida Husain has found a friend — in a Delhi High Court judge who on Thursday quashed charges of obscenity against the nonagenarian artist. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul’s judgement has also impressed those supporting the right to artistic expression. “We have been called the land of Kama Sutra, then why is it that in this land we shy away from its very name? Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and so does obscenity,” said Kaul. Kaul, it transpires, is an old Modernite who studied economics in St Stephen’s before branching out into law. The legal eagle referred to Picasso, too, underlining the fact that he has an interest in matters of art. “He is very passionate about music, painting and books and regularly visits concerts and exhibitions in Delhi,” says one of Kaul’s confidants. “He leads a rich intellectual life and is versatile.” There was a touch of poetry to his judgement too. “A painter at 90 deserves to be at his home — painting on his canvas,” Kaul said. Touché!


Filming farce

Only an old TV hand can think of filming a spoof based on India’s much loved idiot box. Not surprisingly, Sunanda Mitra’s Hindi film is called Idiot Box and is a take off on the world around melodramatic television soaps. It features a company called ‘Lalaji Telefilms’ which is headed by one ‘Anekta Kapoor.’ And there are a host of other known names who take on simple pseudonyms in the film starring Hrishitaa Bhatt. ‘‘The film will be a clean comedy without washing any dirty linen in public,’’ says Mitra, who was with the television industry for over a decade. ‘‘I have been itching to tell this story for a long time,’’ says the Calcutta boy now based in Mumbai. The film is slated for release in July. Now we have to wait and see if it manages to gather as many eyeballs as ‘Lalaji’ films’ soap operas do.


Reliance on art

Art for heart’s sake is the message. Christie’s is hosting an exhibition of works from Anil and Tina Ambani’s private art collection. The collection comprises 32 works of artists ranging from M.F. Husain, Tyeb Mehta and S.H. Raza to Atul Dodiya, Jitish Kallat, T.V. Santhosh and Riyas Komu. But 12 works will be auctioned in June, and the proceeds will go to Tina Ambani’s Harmony Art Foundation. The Ambanis, in a statement, express the hope that the collection will evoke greater interest in Indian art. “It gives us both enormous personal pleasure and pride to share this collection with art cognoscenti and connoisseurs,” they state. And now for the gavel.


Piano is her forte

Actress Diya Mirza is pressing all the right keys — these days she is learning how to play the piano. “It has been my wish since childhood to learn the piano,” says Diya. She is apparently spending eight hours every week practising western classical music. And her favourite composers are Chopin, Korsakov and Handel. Diya is confident that within a year’s time she will be proficient enough to give public performances if her filming commitments do not become a hindrance. If work dries up, she can always think of an alternative career. And that should be music to her ears.

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