She means business

She is one of the few first ladies who managed to make a mark on her own. Cherie Blair, wife of former British PM, Tony Blair who also set up the Foundation for Women, was in Mumbai recently to speak at the “Women Mean Business” conference. Blair, who has since been a frequent visitor to the city, said she loved “the tremendous energy that Mumbai had and believed that the city women could be at the forefront of the women’s movement in India.” Blair admitted that the city faced challenges in terms of affordable housing and sanitation, but all that almost “paled in comparison to what the city has to offer.” If women were empowered economically, she said, they could make significant changes and progress towards reaching the millennium development goals.

She added that, to many, her presence here - she a barrister from a developed country comparing her experiences to rural Indian women - seemed strange, but “technology was a great equaliser. There is no reason why prejudices in the real world should translate into the cyber world, why we should be judged by gender status or where we live. We can come together on a level playing field,” she said.

Role call

At a time when every ‘phirang’ is used as a prop in Bollywood item numbers, actor Kalki Koechlin managed to steer clear of that trap. Known for her offbeat roles, she says, “I never made a conscious decision not to go into mainstream cinema; neither have I used offbeat cinema to gain a foothold into the other one.” For Koechlin, all that matters is the role and the script. “If it is interesting, then I’m likely to go for it.” She is also aware that her unconventional looks may never get her the heroine’s role. “I may not fit that mould but today there is no mould whatsoever. It’s all about characters and not heroes and heroines,” said she. Does she have any qualms about ending up in Bollywood? “No,” smiles Koechlin, “Bollywood does spoil you. I’m an actor but they make you feel like a star.”

Fifty going on 75

His candid remarks are disarming. But that’s Dharmendra for you. After 50 years in the film industry, this 75-year-old actor is still raring to go. As a befitting tribute to his screen presence, he has been cast in a movie with his sons. “I’ve had exceptional luck. I was a school teacher’s son who wanted to be liked and admired, who wanted a flat and a Fiat car. I wanted to be seen in film posters. Today I have much more and though my heart tells me not to work, my brain refuses to listen,” said he. Dharmendra admits that working with his two sons in his recent film helped break the wall they had built around themselves. As he puts it, “We feel for each other. But when we sit together, we don’t speak. I want to give them a hug but I stop myself. I don’t know why,” said the actor. “There is an awkwardness between us,” he admits. However seeing himself before the cameras again, Dharmendra is happy. “God has been extra kind to me,” said he. “I am on my feet and in front of the camera. I feel blessed.”

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Sunday MagazineJune 28, 2012