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The importance of being Liz (Hurley); Summer art; Great lives; Royal feast; Fashion hub; Tittle tattle

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AMIT ROY Published 14.06.15, 12:00 AM
AGEING ROYALLY: Elizabeth Hurley at 50

The importance of being Liz (Hurley)

Queen Elizabeth II has two birthdays. Her real birthday is April 21, 1926, which means she has turned 89, and her "official" one, which falls this year on June 13, was marked, as always, by Trooping the Colours.

The papers have given much more coverage to an even more important birthday - that of Elizabeth Hurley who turned 50 on June 10.

At one stage on The Daily Telegraph , we carried so many stories on the actress and model that the paper was christened The Daily Hurleygraph.

Although Hurley and her Indian husband Arun Nayar (who had one wedding ceremony at Umaid Bhavan in Jodhpur) are now divorced, she does seem to retain a fondness for things Indian.

She told a travel magazine recently that she was off to India "to source for my beachwear collection: it's a country that can really fire the imagination as they use colour and embroidery so beautifully".

She also said she enjoyed buying "simple things" such as "tunics in India"; her favourite shops included Lucknow Chikan in Mumbai; and the most glamorous room she has ever stayed in is "without doubt the Maharani suite in the Umaid Bhavan Palace in Jodhpur, India. The palace is home to the Maharajah of Jodhpur and is exquisite in every way."

The British media's fascination with Hurley has not faded even though acting is not considered her strength. That said, in an American television drama series, The Royals , Hurley has been playing Queen Helena, a fictional queen consort of England.

"If anyone was born to wear a crown and furs, it was Hurley," noted one American commentator. "Her role in The Royals is the part she was destined to play. Part Kate Middleton, part Princess Diana, part Dubai. More cleavage than one generally sees on monarchs."

"When it comes to being a hot 50-year-old, Elizabeth Hurley rules," the commentator added.

She recalled: "Back in 1994, she was a small-scale actress and the girlfriend of rising star Hugh Grant when she showed up on his arm at his Four Weddings and a Funeral premiere wearing a dress (Versace, low-cut, safety pins) so memorable it made headlines around the globe."

According to The Daily Telegraph , "at 50, Elizabeth Hurley is still every man's ultimate fantasy woman".

Summer art

STEP-TACULAR: Jim Lambie's work

Summer's lease may have too short a date, according to the Bard, but I will say what I always say after going to the Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

We should have something similar in India.

A "hanging committee", headed by co-ordinator, Michael Craig-Martin, picked 1,200 entries from 12,000 submitted. As always, I loved the small watercolours and oils of people's back gardens or conservatories.

A little old lady gripped the rails as she came down the stairs - and no wonder.

The "kaleidoscopic stairs" are the work of Jim Lambie, who "has selected strips of colour, working from the outer edges of the stairs into the centre, creating a distortion of our perception of the architecture". There's a warning note by the stairs: "Please take care when using the stairs and use the handrail if required."

The stairs may represent great art but the colour scheme is not one I would recommend for the tall Salboni complex in Belgachia.

Great lives

Academic Sunil Khilnani, best known for his book, The Idea of India , has followed the example of the British Museum director Neil MacGregor, who presented A History of the World in 100 Objects in a series on BBC Radio 4.

Khilnani has chosen to tell the entire history of India, also on Radio 4, "through the lives of 50 phenomenal people". His series is called Incarnations: India in 50 Lives .

The first lot of 25 names has already gone out, at the rate of a 15-minute biography per day, with the remaining 25 personalities due to be covered early next year. The first series has received a glowing review from Gillian Reynolds, TheDaily Telegraph's radio critic.

Selecting his 50 names had been "incredibly difficult", Khilnani told BBC History Magazine .

He has included Mohammad Ali Jinnah but left out Jawaharlal Nehru.

"The first figure is Buddha, the last Dhirubhai Ambani," he said. "All are from history, none are living today."

Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Raja Rammohan Roy, Subhas Chandra Bose and Satyajit Ray reflect the glory that has been Bengal.

"I'm sure everyone will have their own list of 50, and that's great because I want there to be an argument about this," he said.

"I am currently working on the book, which Penguin will publish later in the year," I was told by Khilnani, Avantha professor and director of the King's India Institute, King's College London.

Royal feast

SOFT POWER: Presidential mango

In writing about Pranab Mukherjee's state visit to Sweden, I should have mentioned a crucial part of India's soft power - mangoes.

The Alphonsos, tagged "Visit of the President of India", travelled safely in the cabin, rather than in the luggage hold.

Unlike the tale in Mohammed Hanif's A Case of Exploding Mangoes, the journey was uneventful.

In Stockholm, chef Dheeraj Singh, who runs his own catering business, Indian Street Food, used the Alphonso to make Mango Cheesecake.

Dheeraj's feast, hosted by the President, included Tandoori Platter; Rogan Josh; Bengal Style Salmon; and Punjabi Dhaba Style Chicken Tikka Masala.

Someone warned chief guest King Carl XVI Gustaf: "Your Majesty, don't touch that - it will be too spicy."

"I like my food spicy," declared the king and tucked in.

Fashion hub

RETAIL QUEEN: Raishma Islam

Pakistani and Indian designers combined to put on an innovative fashion parade last week at the Saatchi Gallery in King's Road last week.

I was lucky in sitting next to Raishma Islam, Britain's best known Asian designer. She pointed out the finer points of fashion to me for what I know would not cover even the back of the proverbial postage stamp. However, I had enjoyed the Sehyr Saigol-organised Pakistan fashion week in Lahore in 2001.

Raishma said that apart from Anamika Khanna and Ali Xeeshan, the designers - Hira Shah, Areeba Asif, Rani Emaan, Seher Tareen, Syeda Amera, REMA, RoseRoom Couture (founded by Usha Rajpal and Namrata Rajpal) and Jyoti Chandhok - represented the most promising of the new crop.

Raishma recently won the Best Online Retailer accolade for her website at the fourth annual English Asian Business Awards, sponsored by Lloyds. Her clothes have been worn by, among others, Mel B, Juliet Stevenson, and Prince Andrew's daughters, Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice.

Tittle tattle

Narendra Modi was, no doubt, trying to compliment Sheikh Hasina when he said the Bangladeshi Prime Minister had stood up to terrorism "despite being a woman".

But The Guardian has picked up the comment and given wide publicity to women, mostly but not exclusively Indian, venting their feelings, using the hashtag, "despite being a woman".

I noticed a tweet from Sharmistha Mukherjee: "PM's statement reflects a mindset that is parochial, condescending towards women with typical gender stereotypes."

Is this the person I once met and found quite engaging - Pranab Mukherjee's dancer daughter?

At Uppsala University, poor Pranab da sat between two powerful women, one of them Sweden's "feminist" foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who spoke tellingly about equal rights for women.

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