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Sunday , December 18 , 2011
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More is Moore for Dev Anand

To the list of celebrities who have had their funerals at Putney Vale cemetery and crematorium in southwest London one more name, possibly the biggest, has been added that of Dev Anand.

“The ‘father of Bollywood’ would certainly be among our most famous people,” says a spokesman for Putney Vale, where there have been 1,00,000 burials since the cemetery was established in 1891.

The crematorium was added in 1938 at the scenic 47-acre site, nestling between the woods in Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park.

Like many, I, too, was initially puzzled by the choice of Putney Vale. The reason is that Golders Green in north London the venue favoured by many Hindus was not available.

Even a cursory trawl throws up numerous well-known names for example, Clement Attlee (died 1967), who was Labour Prime Minister when India gained freedom in 1947.

Then, there was Sir David Lean (1991) whose fourth wife, out of six, Leila Matkar, was Indian who directed several great movies, including The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago and A Passage to India.

There are many actors and actresses Kenneth Moore (1982), who epitomised the perfect English gentlemen and played a daring pilot, Douglas Bader, in the 1954 classic Reach for the Sky; Welshman Sir Stanley Baker (1976), whose credits include The Guns of Navarone; and New Zealand-born Nyree Dawn Porter (2001), who had a prominent part in the 1967 television period drama, The Forsyte Saga, based on the novels of John Galsworthy.

Among footballers, no one commands greater affection than Bobby Moore (1993), who was the England captain when his side beat Germany to win the World Cup at Wembley in 1966 glory days that have not returned.

Cricket’s illustrious names include Jim Laker (1986), Sir Len Hutton (1990) and Alf Gover (2001).

Howard Carter (1939), the English Egyptologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in November 1922, is buried here.

The spokesman seeks to resolve a mystery about the children’s author, Enid Blyton: “When she died (in 1968) her remains were cremated at Golders Green but then apparently scattered at Putney Vale. It’s said her family didn’t want her final resting place to become a shrine or for her fans to turn up at Golders Green and perhaps disrupt ceremonies or remove mementos of her final resting place.”

Had Dev Anand learnt of the A-list at Putney Vale, he would probably have declared: “Great, let’s make a film about it with me as the romantic lead. Can you beat it?”


India return

On December 12, 1911, King George V was in the new Indian capital, calling 475 maharajahs to his Delhi Durbar.

Exactly 100 years later, on December 12, 2011, it fell to me to invite his charming grandson, the Duke of Kent, to return to India for a little holiday.

His Royal Highness, who is the Queen’s first cousin, was inaugurating an exhibition of Durbar photographs at the Indar Pasricha Contemporary Arts gallery in London. The exhibition marked the publication of A Glimpse of Empire by Jessica Douglas-Home who tells of the visit to the Delhi Durbar by her adventurous grandmother, Lilah Wingfield.

Jessica herself has just got back home after exhibiting her photographs in Delhi and Jodhpur.

“I had the most wonderful time in India from beginning to end,” she said. “I have seldom enjoyed myself so much.”

Jessica introduced a descendant of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899-1905, and the Duke to me.

The Duke is best known for handing over the winners’ trophies at Wimbledon in his capacity as president of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

India, he said, was a favourite country though he hadn’t been there for 15 years “not since this economic thing started”. But what did I think of Bombay, Madras and other places having their names changed? (I suspect our views are similar.)

“I am proud to say that my family and its relationship with India was the most enlightened in the British establishment of those days,” said the Duke. “And my grandfather, George V, (was) perhaps most enlightened of all.”

George V had “no time” for colonial authorities who took a condescending attitude towards Indians and banned the word “native” from being uttered in his presence.

“Indians were seen as valued friends and the maharajahs were treated as equals whatever the size of their territory,” the Duke added.

Maybe there is a bit of rewriting of history here but the Duke’s heart seems to be in the right place.


Read it all

While most of the attention on the Man Booker judges this year has focussed on actor Dan Stevens he plays the dashing Captain Matthew Crawley in the TV drama Downton Abbey the academic Bharat Tandon is also worth a mention.


When Stevens studied English literature at Cambridge, Tandon was one of the tutors who taught him practical criticism.

Tandon, who later moved to the English department at Oxford, has contributed book reviews to The Times Literary Supplement, whose editor, Sir Peter Stothard, happens to be chairman of the judges this year.

According to the organisers, Tandon “has lectured on topics as diverse as Jane Austen and David Mamet, Charles Dickens and Don DeLillo, specialising in teaching British literature after 1700 and American literature after 1900. His first book, Jane Austen and the Morality of Conversation, was published in 2003, and his annotated edition of Austen’s Emma will be published next year.”

Being a judge is not an unmixed blessing Tandon will have to plough his way through an estimated 130 novels.


Bengal battle

An Irishman, Fergus Dodd, was so outraged by Madhusree Mukherjee’s book, Churchill’s Secret War, that he has started an un-Christmassy e-petition, which, if signed by 1,00,000 UK residents, will trigger a Commons debate. The petition demands that the British government “apologise for the Bengal famine in World War II”.


Docu drama

Actress America Ferrera, best known for playing the title role as a woman sorely lacking in fashion sense in Ugly Betty, has been in London doing an eight-week stint as Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago.

“I went to Calcutta for eight days to shoot a documentary, which was an incredible experience,” she said of her last overseas trip.

Why doesn’t it come as a surprise to learn America visited Calcutta’s red light district to do a documentary on child trafficking? She fell in love with “M”, a girl of 10.

The documentary is not going to do Calcutta’s image any good. But what is especially shameful is that it is M’s parents who appear willing to sell her to a brothel.



Tittle tattle

Christmas lunch at Claridge’s, the hotel where Indira Gandhi used to put up, costs 185 (plus 12.5 per cent gratuity) but for that a seven-course feast is offered. At the Savoy it’s 158.

Although turkey remains traditional fare, Indian restaurants are packed at this time of year, judging by two I popped into last week Gaylord in Mortimer Street and Quilon in Buckingham Gate. England has changed for Christmas isn’t Christmas without a good curry.