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Eye on England

Master class
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Passage to England

On Tuesday, the British Film Institute began its month-long season, Waris Hussein: Breaking Through, with a screening of A Passage to India. This was made in 1965 in black and white, and somehow reminded me of Twelve Angry Men because there is one man (Mr Fielding) who stands out against the rest of the English pack in E.M. Forster's novel and insists that Dr Aziz is not guilty of attempting to rape Adela Quested. Virgin McKenna, who played Adela, turned up for the screening at the National Film Theatre. After the screening, Waris was interviewed about his 50-year career by the BBC journalist, Samira Ahmed, who often presents the arts programme, Front Row, on Radio 4. Waris was born in Lucknow in 1938 and came to England with his parents in 1946. He was educated at Cambridge where he directed many plays featuring friends who would later become stars. Someone in the audience wondered whether Waris, who has directed many of the big-name actors and actresses in Britain (including Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor), would like to make a Bollywood film. "I have never been asked by Bollywood," replied Waris, who is one of the most accomplished Indian-origin directors in the world. "Because they don't know who I am." That said, he didn't think he would be the right man to do Bollywood but he would love to make a film or a series in India. Perhaps this is something that should be put right. Perhaps he should do a master class in Calcutta. He would be fantastic.

Soft power

This might be characterized as subtle British diplomacy or hitting below the belt but when Theresa May visited China recently someone back in London thought of a very clever gift to give to President Xi Jinping: a box set of the BBC's Blue Planet II.

This she handed over together with a handwritten personal message from the presenter of the series and all-round British national treasure and saint, Sir David Attenborough.

There couldn't have been a better way of making a point about the need to control pollution. It is estimated that five rivers in China are among the 10 waterways that send 90 per cent of the world's plastic into the oceans. Blue Planet II, which depicted a turtle choking from a plastic bag, sparked huge public pressure for action when it was aired last year. In China, it was watched by 80 million viewers.

What would be the Indian equivalent for Narendra Modi's next overseas trip? Perhaps a box set containing the 10 best Bollywood movies. They may or may not advance India's soft power but at least they would be watched.

Bargain book

When copies of Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House first appeared in London in selected bookshops such as Waterstones, they "flew off the shelves." At £20 a time. That is if you were lucky enough to get hold of a copy.

Recently, I found the book at my local supermarket branch of Sainsbury's, heavily discounted at £9.99. Such a book, which was sensational but essentially shallow I told myself, would have no lasting value so I decided not to buy a copy.

A couple of days later, I was dismayed to find all the copies were gone. Served me right. Then I discovered a lone copy nestling among the bodice rippers. I snapped it up, of course, to enjoy it at leisure. Fire and Fury, I mean, not a bodice ripper, although the last one I bought, Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies, was a very well-written tale of a passionate monsoon romance set in the 1930s between a visiting English woman photographer, Eliza, and Jay, an Indian prince (who had been educated at Eton).

Father and son

Apurv Bagri has been named 'Copper Man of the Year', a prize that has been given annually since 1962 by the Copper Club in America "to professionals who have made extraordinary contributions to the copper industry". Apurv, 58, is chairman and CEO of the global metals trading group, Metdist. Describing him as a "worthy recipient", Stefan Boel has spoken on behalf of the Copper Club, an institution founded in 1944: "This prestigious award recognises the leadership and commitment that Apurv has shown to the global copper industry." What is remarkable is that Apurv follows in the footsteps of his father, Lord Raj Bagri, who won the same prize in 2002 in his capacity as chairman of Metdist, a company he founded in 1970, as well as long-time chairman of the London Metal Exchange.

Lord Bagri, who began life in Calcutta at the age of 15 in the mail room, passed away in April last year at the age of 86.

One corner of the boardroom at the HQ of Metdist in Cannon Street, London, is occupied by the 'Copper Man of the Year' sculpture that was given to his father, while his own is on the other side. "It's the first time father and son have won the same prize," Apurv tells me, adding, "I miss my father."

Footnote

The late Enoch Powell may be honoured with a blue plaque in Wolverhampton, the city where he was a Tory MP from 1950 to 1974. Powell is best remembered for his prediction that non-white immigration would have dire consequences. But Powell's Wolverhampton is gone. Powell's old constituency, Wolverhampton South-West, was represented by a Sikh Tory, Paul Uppal, from 2010-2015, and since 2017 by a black woman Labour MP, Eleanor Smith.

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