The iconic star's impish smile and vivacious screen presence wowed Lt. Gen. Baljit Singh like never before. Find out how...
The November 07, 2011 Time magazine arrived with a 20-page Supplement, (more pictorial than textual) showcasing “Life’s Legends, 20 Who Shook The World.” The cover belonged to a charming photo-portrait of Audrey Hepburn by Allan Grant. A few months later, there appeared the news that a casual evening gown worn by Audrey Hepburn for the filming of ‘Roman Holiday’ had been acquired by an admirer, for 80,000 dollars! And now Discovery Channel plans to profile 20 Extraordinary Women from the last Century, beginning with the life of who else but Audrey Hepburn!
A new symbol
To my generation of senior citizens, Audrey Hepburn was synonymous with ‘Roman Holiday’, not just because it was a box-office hit but that it ushered in a paradigm shift in the genera of entertainment movies. For, here was Hepburn, who with a mixture of un-tamed vivaciousness, innocence, impish smile, boyish hair style and exquisitely tailored trousers and shirts (as opposed to pleated skirts and frilly blouses), became a symbol of the new, alluring feminism.
There was something in the manner she kick-started her Vespa Scooter, accelerating it to 80 kmph within seconds from a cold start and head scarf fluttering wildly, which made her also the harbinger of a certain subtle aspect of women’s emancipation, the world over. But there were no scooters in India then, so a handful of bold Indian women took to bicycling, for a start!
A few years after its premiere, ‘Roman Holiday’ was screened at the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. By then, such was the Audrey Hepburn spell over young and old alike that the cinema management was prevailed upon to have three consecutive screenings of the movie, post the lunch hour on a Sunday afternoon. But what especially caught my fancy this time was the hoarding over the cinema wall. In the background was the picture of the famed Trevi Fountain in Rome and superimposed over it was a life size image of Audrey Hepburn, from waist upwards.
It looked a copy of that stunning studio photograph of the actress made by Karsh of Ottawa I had seen published in the book titled ‘Portraits of Greatness.’
This was also the time that I had graduated to a state-of-the-art, single lens reflex (SLR) Rollieflex camera.
So what better opportunity to test out the camera than photograph Audrey Hepburn from the cinema poster. I exposed an entire film-roll of 12 frames, with varying combinations of aperture opening and shutter speed. The results were better than my wildest hopes and the photo processing studio could barely cope with the rush for copies! The largest blow-up that the studio could handle was 14” by 12” and one such, under a cut-mount frame, went up on the wall facing my bed. For several days, there was constant coming and going to my room till the lights-out bugle.
What a crime!
During a routine tour of the rooms one day, the inspecting officer noticed the framed portrait. To this Gentleman Officer, the portrait was synonymous with the forbidden display of glam-girl pin-ups!
So the next day, in an atmosphere of general gloom, I was arraigned before the Company Commander, charged with “an act unbecoming the conduct of a Gentleman Cadet.” While reading out the offence report, the Company Commander held aloft the framed photograph as an ‘exhibit’ linked to my ‘crime’.
Fortunately, this being my first act of misdemeanour, I was administered a mere warning and promptly marched out of the office. I could have dropped dead with relief having feared relegation by six months or even expulsion from the Academy, altogether.
Sadly, the Audrey Hepburn portrait was confiscated and it went up on the wall facing the bed, of the Company Commander!!