Tag Archive: india


Jaya Biswas

Film: Band Baaja Baaraat
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh
Rating: Very Good
There is a lot to like in this new Yash Raj venture. The story about two wedding planners, Shruti Kakkar (Anushka Sharma) and Bittoo Sharma (newcomer Ranveer Singh), has a natural charm and sweetness that’s been missing from YRF movies for a long-long time.
Debutant director Maneesh Sharma, who has also written the story, takes us out of the artificial studio settings into the lanes and by-lanes of the national capital. The dialogues and screenplay have been written by Habib Faisal, who directed the charming Do Dooni Chaar.
Set in Delhi, Band Baaja Baraat (BBB) is all about two 20-years-old young graduates set to enter the real world. Shruti and Bittoo are as different as chalk and cheese. Shruti hails from a middle class background. She is ambitious, determined and focused and has set goals for herself as she reaches final year of college. On the other hand, we see Bitto as a freeloader with no aim in life. He is more interested in having fun with friends than attending classes.
This rom-com revolves around these two characters as they meet by chance and happen to become business partners. No, BBB has nothing to do with Jennifer Lopez starrer The Wedding Planner.
At first they hesitate to work together considering the complications, as Shruti aptly puts it, Jisse wyaapar karo usse kabhi na pyaar karo (you shouldn’t fall in love with someone you do business with). But they can’t resist taking the plunge, however, pledging that they would never mix business with pleasure. Will they or won’t they is for you to find out…
What makes BBB worth a watch are believable characters and a milieu exuding authentic Delhi texture. When Bittoo speaks of reaping sugarcane in Saharanpur, he plays the character to the tee. The actor is just perfect as an uncouth but good-hearted small-town loafer, who doesn’t have any qualms speaking with his mouth full or pronouncing business as ‘binness’. But when it comes to managing business deals and convincing his clients, he is better than many. As a newcomer, Ranveer is not at all camera conscious.  In fact, at times he reminds us of Ranbir Kapoor in Wake up Sid!!
The first half, in which Bittoo and Shruti set up their company, Shaadi Mubarak, is great fun. In terms of performances, Anushka, who has been ‘okay’ in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi or Badmaash Company, finally comes into her own as the ambitious Delhi girl, who can take on the world.
Unlike other Yash Raj films, the music is average in this one. Save for the song Ainvayi Ainvayi, sung by Salim Merchant and Sunidhi Chauhan, rest have little recall value. Ainvayi is pacey and totally ‘Punjabi’ in essence. This song is sure to have you tapping your foot.
Sadly, the second half drags with too much of altercations between the protagonists, stretched-out wedding sequences and even an item number where Bittoo and Shruti fill in for Shah Rukh Khan!! Can you beat that?
Overall, Band Baaja Baaraat is entertaining. It’s definitely one of the best films you’ll have in theatres this weekend.

ALSO READ:  REVIEW: Watch it for Ranbir-Priyanka’s awesome chemistry


Stars shine down on Shahapur

Jaya Biswas

After a lengthy week of sheer monotony at office, one couldn’t even think of staying at home doing nothing, especially when you were staying alone in a city like Mumbai. Thankfully, my weekend trip to Shahapur turned out to be an entertaining jaunt. We still had a sliver of twilight left as I set out with two friends to this less-frequented village en route Nasik. Having wrapped up work early, on a Saturday evening, we headed for the Big Red Tent, a camping ground in Shahapur. The Mahauli mountain range made a splendid appearance on the left. But we had more interesting view on the right as ‘the three idiots on the run’ giggled at any handsome guy who passed by on his bike. We sang tacky Bollywood numbers and clicked pictures much to the delight of our driver, a smart aleck, who was so amused by our antics that he had conveniently switched off the radio. Realization hit when he requested if we could also take a picture of him driving. Though irritated, we obliged. And it did the trick. Our cabbie turned out to be the best possible entertainer-cum-guide taking us to the best possible dhabas and chai stalls during our three-hour-long drive. The milestone indicating Shaha­pur brought us to reality. There was a stunning change in the view around with welcoming lush green trees of unknown varieties. The mud road meandered through brinjal, corn, potato and tomato fields. The orchid garden with freshly made flower beds and pollution-free air breathed in an added energy. We screamed in delight as we alighted from the car. Having paid the driver who would have rather stayed and was keen on taking us back the next day, we had to bribe him with extra tip and send him packing. To our surprise, a young woman in her late twenties came forward and introduced herself as the co-owner of the vast acres of land that assembled the camps. She took us around the campground flanked by a plant nursery on the serene banks of the Bhatsa River. The highlight of course was the private, zipped-up tent well-equipped showers and loos, complete with toilets, washbasins and every typical bathroom appointment, right down to the toilet paper. The next steps were learning how to build our own tents and light a campfire. We were taught how to make our little habitat complete by hanging sheets. To prevent the sheets from flapping, we had weighed them down with our hunter shoes filled with stones. Oh yes, we were supposed to prepare our dinner on a small clay oven provided to us by our hosts. Our barbequed potatoes, tomatoes, mushrooms and cottage cheese, with generous dollops of butter and salt and pepper sprinkled over, the food turned out to be edible, probably because of all our hard work that went into handling the mini clay oven. Post dinner we resumed our chat session. As it was late October, the cool night breeze was bothering us. But we were certainly not in a mood to waste our time inside our tent. We bumped into a wildlife photographer on a shooting spree, an ad man looking for solitude and a bunch of interns on their first camping trip. As we strolled further we saw two more groups camping on the ground. A big telescope camera placed exactly in the middle of the lawn caught our attention. When probed, our hostess informed that camp next to us belonged to a group of students studying astronomy. They had come to capture the meteor showers predicted by the meteorological department late in the night. We were thrilled at the prospect. However, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of vulnerability sitting on the lawn surrounded by tall stalks of grass and black silhouettes of hills around. Was anyone watching? Would some creepy-crawlies dare to come out of the grass to investigate us? I was scared. We waited with baited breath; it was like being privy to a secret world that most people don’t get to experience. Tired after our night walk, I lay on the ground admiring the green grass and blue sky; I burst out singing the Hutch song. Suddenly, I saw a flash in the sky. I had never seen another shooting star of such brilliance and magnitude, which kept getting brighter as it crossed from one corner to the other. We were in awe of what we had just witnessed. I had never seen anything like that before. What I felt was inexplicable. The streak lasted less than a second, bright and dramatic like nature’s Roman candle. The meteor shower continued for hours and by the end of it, we lost count of how many each of us had spotted. The night was all about contemplating things we so rarely see and how we had been lucky to be at the right place at the right time. Perhaps it was the overwhelming episode that kept steaming through my subconscious as I sat there, trying to relax and enjoy the night sky. By then, the temperature was freezing outside … so we decided to retreat into the cosy comforts of our sleeping bags.

The EX – Factor

Is it possible to stay friends with a former lover? Read on to find the answer


Supreeta Singh

This person knows all your secrets. You are comfortable together. You have shared almost everything. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as you expected. Once, you two were lovers. Now, your relationship is a matter of the past. But does that mean everything is over? Just because you are not lovers anymore, is the friendship that existed between you no longer important? Whether you had a tough breakup or a mutual separation, an ex-lover can become a great buddy once the initial discomfort settles down. Or perhaps not?

Priyanka Chakrabarti
| student: YES If you had a nasty break up, it becomes difficult to be friends with your ex. But as both move-on in life, I think it is possible that your ex might become your best friend because both of you know each other well. I have seen that a lot of times the best advice comes from your ex. So, try being a little more forgiving towards each other and forget all your differences. It will work wonders!

Soumya Rao | student: YES I believe that one can be friends with one’s ex, but the process is not an easy one, and will take a great deal of time and maturity on the part of both of them to settle the matter. First and foremost, you need time to be able to let go of the relationship and truly get over the person. You also have to be willing to realise that as friends, you will not have the same degree of influence or insight into the other person’s life. Most of all, if as a girlfriend /boyfriend you were used to a great deal of importance in the person’s life, you will have to have the maturity to accept that you will no longer have the same and should also be able to see your ex move on.

Riya Gupta | student: NO I don’t think it’s a good idea being friends with your ex. They are like those dark experiences that we wish to forget and if we want to move on in life, we have to erase them completely from our memory. Friendship with them will only invite a troubled state of mind. So I believe it’s not a great idea to be friends with one’s ex.

Debapriya Goswami | marketing professional: NO It’s not at all possible to be friends with your ex. This is not a real friendship. This kind of “friendship” isn’t good and will just make everyone feel awkward and uncomfortable. The worst possible situation to be in when you are friends after a break up is to still hold a grudge against each other but to be passive and aggressive about it. 

Sarvesha Karnani | public
relations professional: YES You can be friends if you give it a gap of a few years after your break up and then see each other again. It gives you adequate time to move on with your life. But immediately after the break up? I think it’s too soon to swap an intense relationship for a mere friendship. You need a transitional phase especially when deep emotions are involved!!
Souradeep Raul Dutta
| singer/songwriter: YES Cconsidering you were in a relationship you would probably know this person really well and vice versa. So I think it’s possible to take your ex as your friend. Moreover, I would consider it a precious relationship since nowadays everyone can be anonymous, thanks to social networking sites. As far as residual emotions are concerned, that depends on the realtionship and the people concerned. There can’t be a general answer to that.

Anupam More | businessman:
YES I think it is possible to be friends with your former girlfriend. Every relationship has both good and bad moments. If for any reason it doesn’t work out between two people, there’s no reason to be bitter about it. One should be realistic about life and try to accept it in a more graceful manner rather than ending it in a fight. Life is too short to bear grudges. One should remember the good times and move on with life.

Indroneel Mukherjee | fashion designer and stylist: NO To get over an ex-lover, the first step is to completely cut off all ties or else you can really never get over. There is too much familiarity between the two people and you end up making up again and again. So if it’s over, make sure it’s really over! I tell my friends all the time, to get over a man get under another man! And that can’t happen if your ex, even as a friend is around.

Film: Eat, Pray, Love
Cast: Julia Roberts, Javier Bardem, James Franco, Richard Jenkins, Billy Crydup
Director: Ryan Murphy
Rating: Good

Shauli Chakraborty
True to its title, the film is definitely about eating, praying and loving. After her divorce and a quick relationship on the rebound, Liz (Julia Roberts) finds herself losing the ability to feel and sets out on a quest to rediscover balance in her life.
The rest of the movie is about her journey, what she discovers along the way and the realisation that ruins can lead to transformation. Her first stop is Italy whose language and culture influences her deeply and begins the healing process inside.
Some scenes shot in Naples and other small eateries are memorable. Like the one where a hairstylist is surprised at Liz’s zest for the Italian language and says she will never learn the language without using her hands. This is followed by a couple of scenes that show people on the streets conforming to the observation. There is another scene where Liz digs into a plateful of spaghetti and rediscovers her appetite. Spaghetti has never looked this sexy before.
After Italy she goes to India and decides to live in an ashram. But here too peace eludes her. She finds a friend and critic in Richard Jenkins and confesses she still misses her boyfriend. Richard snaps back, “Miss him then! Send him a gift whenever you see something that reminds you of him. After that, drop it!” Rushita Singh as Tulsi fails to impress. She plays a typical 16-years-old Indian girl who is being forced into wedlock. Her dialogue delivery is pathetic and emotive abilities better left unsaid.
The next stop for Liz is Bali where she meets her guru and rediscovers love and life. This is where the crux of the movie lies. It is here she deducts what she calls the physics of the quest. There is one dialogue that hits you hard. When her guru tells her to smile Liz exclaims, “I can do that. Its easy.” “No its not,” replies the medicine man from Bali, adding, “Not when you have to smile with your heart, with your brain and even with your liver.”
Javier Bardem as Felipe is suave and impressive. If Julia Roberts is your primary reason to watch the film then Javier Bardem should be your second. Such actors, my dear, are a rare breed these days. He has one beautiful line, “Sometimes to find that balance in life you have to lose all your balance!”
In terms of technique and cinematography the film is brilliant. Director Ryan Murphy sure has lived up to the book. It’s a great movie with some philosophy thrown in — at all the right places.

The comic hero: Vidur Kapoor

Sudipta Dey

He makes fun of his own sexuality and the consequences he had to face when it finally came ‘out’ that he was the first gay Indian stand-up comedian. But that doesn’t deter Vidur Kapur from laying himself bare before his audience to amuse them. Vidur performed at Roxy, for The Park Festival, with a bit of apprehension that the Kolkata crowd is ‘a bit too intellectual’ but in the end he left the crowd in splits.
Being a stand-up comedian is anyways a difficult proposition but Vidur gave up his white-collar job to take up what he calls his true calling. “Comedy is a means of self expression. Through it I make an attempt to express myself to the world and share my thoughts, feelings and emotions through the medium of jokes and laughter. Laughter breaks barriers. Stand-up comedy is an ideal way to address controversial issues that might be very difficult to hear otherwise,” says Vidur, adding, “You can actually say anything and get away with it making your audience laugh at the same time.”
Vidur has managed to tickle the funny bone in the audience, in his treatment of social issues. “In India, as well as in the US, being gay is still an issue. So I talk about it, I talk about my sexuality, and I talk about my personal relationships as well,” says Vidur, who makes fun of himself, his partner’s Jewish family, as well as his own Punjabi grandmother. Though most of them are not true, some of it is truly hilarious. “The trick is to take real-life characters and make them larger than life,” he adds.
A graduate from London School of Economics, Vidur went to University of Chicago. But he was never at peace doing a recruiter’s job in one of the top notch companies in New York. He took stand-up comedy classes as a hobby, but in 2007 took the “most difficult leap and became a stand-up comedian.”
He has opened for Russell Peters, did shows for the Indian communities abroad, took part in Just for Laughs in Montreal. The MTV awarded him the Brink of Fame award — just to name a few of the accolades he received. But what changed his career was one show at a university, which had nearly 3000 students as his audience. After the show, he received 150 bookings, which sustained him for the rest of the year.
It was never an easy thing to choose. “Being an immigrant, that too in New York, you can’t be unemployed, not receiving regular paychecks at the end of the month. But I took that risk, and it has paid off,” he says. “However, I have managed to overcome the challenges. The advantages of the honesty and openness are that it makes me stand out and be unique,” he adds.
After touring the country, Vidur will be off to West Asia, where he will be performing for the first time, as well as another six shows in Trinidad. “I don’t even know what I am going to put on there,” says Vidur, who has realised after touring almost half the world that all jokes don’t make you laugh.

By Nasreen Khan

First things first. This is not a book by Sidney Sheldon. It’s a series inspired by his writings or rather an effort, looking obviously at commerce, to continue with the legacy of the bestselling author. The author Tilly Bagshawe is a British freelance journalist and writer based in Los Angeles. She had been a big fan of Sidney Sheldon’s and after his death she was personally chosen by the Sheldon family to carry on writing in his indomitable style.
So if you pick up this book looking for the Sidney Sheldon drama, suspense and thrill, I suggest you pass it. But that is not to say that the book is a let down. The beginning is a tad slow. Then, it picks up pace and comes up with twists and turns that mark every Sidney Sheldon novel. But its the end that leaves you cold, perhaps even in a state of mourning for the deceased author who excelled in the thrill-a-minute, explosive climax in most of his novels.
Grace Brookstein is the prised wife of the king of Wall Street Lenny Brookstein, a true sugar daddy. Billionaires many times over, the Brooksteins have estates around the world, a fleet of yachts and a fantasy life. Lenny is the financial wizard who made billions with hedge funds and then apparently lost it all.  Grace remains the pretty, angelic little daddy’s girl who is guileless and trusting. And she suffers because of that.
When Lenny disappears and billions go missing, Grace finds herself behind bars. Locked up with criminals and facing the wrath of the world, Grace sets out to clear her dear husband’s name. The real drama and suspense begins to unfurl once Grace is in jail.
The book deals with contemporary subjects without delving unnecessarily. There is mention of the Wall Street’s collapse, reminding of the recession. Then there is same-sex love, sibling jealousy and incest. Yet they fail to shock or justify the plot. This is mostly because, overnight, Grace transforms into a bold woman undertaking a dangerous journey.
All through the story you are supposed to feel sorry for Grace and you do. But only at the surface. Underneath you wonder why is she being made to appear as if she is daddy’s little girl. Neither is Grace’s pain convincing nor is her transformation and you might find your interest waning as you near the end. And though the author intends the end to be dramatic, you get a nagging feeling that you knew it was coming. 
The plot feels like a long-running soap opera and the main characters straight out of Danielle Steel novels. There are elements of Mills & Boons too. The characters are one-sided, though Bagshawe tries to add colour through the characters. But in the end they all seem like dummies put out there to highlight Grace’s innocence. Grace is the least convincing, particularly toward the end.
You expect the plot to thicken but no such luck. There are dramatic escapes and sudden accomplices, and friends turn into enemies out of the blue. The storyline is hackneyed and lacks surprise. The author has tried to fit into Sheldon’s shoes but she leaves a clear imprint of her gender. It is good for those looking for light reading. For those looking for thrill, better you re-read some of Sheldon’s earlier novels.

Fashion designers Shantanu and Nikhil will complete 10 years in the fashion industry this year. A tete-a-tete with the designer duo…

Supreeta Singh

Say Kolkata and they blurt out Rosogolla! On a more serious note, they are bowled over by the city’s commitment to heritage and traditional art. Fashion designers Shantanu and Nikhil Mehra may be brothers but they are as different as chalk and cheese. If Shantanu is articulate with a subtle sense of humour, Nikhil is playful and fun.

Recently in the city to participate in the Blender’s Pride Fashion Tour 2010, the duo had only appreciation for Kolkata as a fashion conscious city. “Unlike other places in India, here you can really splurge because fashion is cheaper here. We have loads of clients from Kolkata who come to us in Mumbai. The state’s craftsmen and rich bank of embroidery and fabrics is unmatched. But the city is also ready to try out new things. We have done many weddings here where the bride was ready to try out gowns and drapes instead of sarees and lehengas,” said Shantanu.

The collection that they showcased at the tour was called Play Right, which drew its inspiration from heroines of director Woody Allen’s films. The colour palate consisted of black, white and red capturing an element of mystique. Duchesse satins and silk jerseys looked alluring when combined with brilliant jewel-like crystallised Swarovski work. “Our collection is for a woman who wants to experiment with her life. Although she is individualistic, she would not mind bringing exciting changes into her life. She will want to wear our clothes not just now but carry it with aplomb many years later,” said Nikhil.

The brothers are known for their exotic fusion wear. According to them, this is a trend that is here to stay and may become a classic. Nikhil said, “Even six years back, India was more traditional. But now the country is opening up to global influences and thus the concept of fusion was bound to strike a chord. This reflects the amalgamation of various cultures which is inevitable.”

Sport is a passion for both brothers. In the field of cricket, they have designed for Mumbai Indians jersey for the Indian Premier League. Interestingly, Shantanu was a tennis player and had represented Delhi at the national level. No wonder sports personalities like Sania Mirza, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Glen McGrath, Stephen Fleming and Serena Williams have endorsed the brand. Their penchant has also made them the first ever designers from India and third ones from all over the world to tie-up with sportswear giant Adidas after Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto. Ask them about it, and their faces light up. “Oh yes! It was challenging as well as stimulating to bring together the practicality of sportswear and the finesse of fashion. Our first range was inspired by New York taxis and the garments were in black and white. Our latest collection is inspired by Goth. The theme is adventurous meant for the age group of 16 to 21 years. It’s ready-to-wear affordable luxury. The mainstay is the silhouette which is comfortable and chic,” informed Shantanu.

What’s next for Shantanu and Nikhil? “We are in expansion mode. We plan to open our sixth store in Hyderabad after opening one in Delhi. There is a desire to be more committed to our signature lines and make Shantanu Nikhil a better brand,” signed off Nikhil.

Nasreen Khan

The setting is Kolkata. The time is late 1950s. A young and handsome Briton working in an insurance company meets an attractive American woman working for the US diplomatic service in India. With only the cursory “hello” there is no conversation though the man’s eyes keep travelling to this pretty woman. The couple meets again at Tolly Club over Independence Day dinner. He walks up to her and says, “It’s been a long time!” She replies, “Yeah, right!” and walks off with a huff typical of a heroine. He pursues her and by the end of the year they are married at the St Paul’s Cathedral.

The plot is so striking similar to a Mills & Boons (M&B) romance that you wonder why it did not get written about. “Well, it could be,” smiles Clare Somerville, general manager, India, UK, Mills & Boon, sharing the reason behind her visit to Kolkata. Her parents met and married here and Claire and her brother were born in this very city. Though they shifted when Claire was only three, the lady came back to capture her roots through the lens. And she clubbed it with her business interests as well. “The city has a long tradition of literature and India is a growing market for books,” she shares.

On the agenda is to have more Indian authors writing because worldwide the Indian female population is looking for romance from the Indian basket. With M&B selling in over 100 countries and 30 different languages there are chances that soon there will be some in Indian languages as well. A whopping 50 new books are launched every month.

Though they have been importing to India since 1950s the Indian company was launched only in 2008 and it is expanding rapidly. In fact the growth rate is more than double. The content too is evolving, reflecting the changes in the role of women today. And even though the story talks about the contemporary woman, the basic premise of the M&B romance has remained the same.

There are 14 new M&B books for India every month targeted at young working women with disposable income. This is unique to India alone. “Before marriage these young women get hooked to M&B so despite the lull for a few years when they are busy with the new environment they come back after some years. Marriage does not shatter the illusion,” laughs Claire. The reason she says is that in M&B you get very special exclusive relationship between the man and the woman. After marriage the Indian women crave more peaceful time with their partner so M&B fulfills the aspiration. “Single working women are the easy catch as far as our marketing strategy goes. It is followed by the younger generation. For them we would like to introduce the nocturnal and paranormal,” shared Manish Singh, country manager, Mills & Boon India.

Probably the only publishers who ask wannabe authors to submit manuscripts directly to them; M&B is in expansion mode. An Indian hero hasn’t made the mark yet. But the hero, be it an Englishman or a Sheikh has remained irresistible, rich and sexy.  “The kind we want to meet since we are three and we never grow out of it. That is why they are read by all from 18 to 80,” Claire laughs. The first book to be written by an Indian is going to be Love Asana by Milan Vohra which speaks of love conquering all in a yoga class. The release is awaited.

Fair and ghastly!


Natasha Kesh and Ananya Majumdar
Actors are all over the small screen and hoardings endorsing everything from shampoos and creams to cement. From Shah Ruhk Khan and John Abraham to Kareena Kapoor everyone is endorsing one of the fastest moving commodities in the market — fairness creams. But Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who is the brand ambassador of an international brand, declined to promote a fairness crèam of the same brand. Thankfully here is one person who is conscious of the fact that such advertisements are demeaning as they equate fairness with beauty.
Nevertheless, business enterprises are capitalising extensively on this fascination for fair skin and flooding the markets with fairness products. Every major brand has some kind of fairness product in its kitty. Name any Indian company that makes beauty products, and you have it. Foreign brands, which are banned from launching such products in their own land, are also making inroads with such products cashing in on the Indian obsession for fairness. They tempt consumers with promises of getting rid of the high melanin content responsible for darker skin within 15 days, 14 days, 7 days and some even claim results in only 5 days. Not only soaps and creams, a talcum powder is now playing on the psyche with a promise of ‘instant glow’ that is suggestive of fairer complexion.
No matter how tall their claims are, all these products have a market which only proves the craze to be fair. Do customers actually believe it’s possible to change skintone? Dr Shobha Sehgal, head of beauty, VLCC Health Care Limited said of the clients who come to VLCC for skin care treatments, almost 60 per cent want skin lightening treatments, which also includes tan removal, skin radiance treatments or the perfect skin whitening treatment. Those coming in for pre- bridal packages, almost 80 per cent want skin lightening treatments in the package. “It’s not just girls who want to become fair. There has been an increase in the number of men who come to the center demanding skin lightening treatments. We have to counsel our clients to focus on their holistic wellness so that they don’t just look good but also feel great,” said Shobha.
The figures show many put blind faith in such creams. Paromita Nandi, a TV presenter in Kolkata swears by such products.
“I am obsessed with fairness and prefer to use anything to give my skin a lighter tint. I did turn a few heads once I started using Fair and Lovely consistently and I am happy with the results. After my programmes I get as many emails from people saying they love my skin colour.”
She is not alone. Gargi Choudhary, a 25-year-old college student says, “I’d like to have a glowing skin and therefore keep trying various products in the market. Though I don’t like to discuss it with friends. I feel shy.”
Not everybody shares the prejudice as Ria Saha, an Economics student from Goenka College says, “I don’t have a hangover for fairness, but I know some people do. I’d rather have glowing skin to having a fairer skin.”
Do we still turn a blind eye to the harmful after-effects of creams packaged in glossy tubes? As Rituparna Gupta, a microbiologist exclaims, “It is our right as consumers to know what is going into these creams. It’s time they stopped touting these creams as having no side-effects.” Dr Subrata Majumdar, a scientist who has dealt extensively with skin-related issues said most fairness creams have a high percentage of hydroquinone, which blocks melanin secretion. Mercury and a new derivative of Vitamin C, Kogic Acid are used too, which even peel the skin. The harmful after-effects, opines Dr Majumdar, are skin cancer and kidney problems.
Over the past few decade feminists have scoffed at the propaganda of ‘fair is beautiful and successful.’ A feminist activist in Delhi, Sabeira Pereira is surprised to know how much of an impact a cream can have on the psyche of people. “Brands such as Fair and Lovely are running campaigns to say they fulfill a social need. They say 90 per cent of the women use creams to lighten their skin tone because it is aspirational in a way. A fairer skin is like an educational and social step up. I suppose everybody likes to believe that success is easy to get using this commodity.”
A dark-skinned pride movement has been growing in recent years. Women across the web have been writing about their heartfelt acceptance of their skin colour, just as it were, including Ruchira Sengupta, who has written a doctoral thesis on the topic. “My mornings used to involve at least an hour of skin routines, just to see if I could look a bit fairer. But now no more,” she says.
But it’s a long way to go before the fairness bubble is busted.


Supreeta Singh
There was a time when younger men dated older women openly only in the West. In India it was mostly unheard of or best kept under wraps. Even the ones that surfaced were quickly hushed up.
But at a time when shifting gender roles are laying down new rules in the game of love, the age difference is also put on the back-burner. Men are comfortable being with women who are years older than them and women too are reaching out to  them.
Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher redefined the dynamics of such relationships when they got married. You have seen similar instances in movies such as The Good Girl, Harold and Maude, Class, Notes On A Scandal, Prime, The Graduate and others.
It is often said that men never grow up. As they age, their need for emotional succour and dependence continues to escalate in equal proportion. Whether such relationships are successful or approved by society is no concern for them.
Amit Dhar (name changed on request), a successful professional is in his late 20s. Currently, he is living in with his girlfriend at her house in south Kolkata. She is in her early 40s and a senior marketing manager.
There are certain factors that determine the strength of a romantic and committed relationship between men and women. Emotional maturity and worldly experience are two such qualities that have always been important.  They influence the core factor of dependability of one partner on the other. This, in turn, makes the bond between them stronger and deeper.
Amit says, “We met at a party thrown by a common friend. Initially, we started out as friends. However, as time passed I realised that she was a mature and independent woman. Unlike girls of my age, who always look up to you for protection and care, here was someone who could take care of herself. This attracted me to her a lot.”
Amit’s partner is divorced. His family is yet to come to terms with the relationship. But he is hopeful and says that once they see that they are together for good, they will come to understand and accept both of them. “We want to get married and settle down. I know for many this situation is not comfortable, but I believe in our relationship,” says Amit.
 Some may reason that an attraction such as this comes when a guy has been brought up by a sensitive mother who is very close to him. Or perhaps an aunt or teacher who had made a strong impression at an early age.
Niladri Dutta pooh-poohs such notions. He says that when it is a matter of love, the heart has its own reasons. “My ex-girlfriend was almost seven years older to me. We had great chemistry but for some reason the relationship did not work out. In my case, I can say that age had got nothing to do either with my falling in love with her or our breaking up. I liked her personality and sense of values irrespective of her age. And when we decided to discontinue our relationship, it was not because of our age difference but some other personal reasons,” says Niladri.
From a psychological point of view, there is no hard and fast rule that marks such instances as ‘out of the normal’. Dr Srimanti Chowdhury says that there has been no research based data that can tell whether these relationships are successful or not.
“It’s a matter of personal choice. Age is just a social construct. If two people are happy being together, then let’s not add special dimensions and connotations to make it more complicated,” she says.

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