Ashoke & Ashima at an Exhibition

(Tabu being interviewed by NDTV’s Sarah Jacob.)  

On Thursday night at the Sepia International Gallery in Chelsea, Mira Nair, Tabu and Irfan Khan were in attendance to open a six-week photo exhibition called Namesake/Inspiration.

With 45 photographic images of Calcutta, as well as of the U.S. and Japan, the small catalogue for the group exhibition cites the “in betweenness” of living alternatively in two lands as the unifying theme of the black & white and color images by the late, wonderful Raghubir Singh, as well as Adam Bartos, Raghu Rai, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Derry Moore, Alison Bradley Dayanita Singh, Saul Leiter, Mitch Epstein, Jun Shiraoka, William Gedney, Osamu James Nakagawa, and in closest ties to the film itself – The Namesake – one photograph by Frederick Elmes (cinematographer on the movie), and even two by the director herself.  

The crowd at the reception were an interesting mix.   There was a Japanese contingent, a New York arty/hip crowd, maybe 20% desis of varying ages, and a man carrying a smallish dog that was wearing  a white sweater.

As I stepped off the elevator and through the glass doors, I almost ran smack into Irrfan Khan, looking nothing like the pater familias Ashoke Ganguli.   The man is strikingly tall and slim, and reminds me of the totally hip and rangy (sadly, now departed) James Coburn from his prime, the Duffy days.

Khan was elegant in a grey pinstripe suit, white shirt, and dark tie with tiny pinpoint dots on it.   On his right hand he wears three rings, at least two with stones.   Like his current celluloid namesake, he also nips out every now and then for a smoke.   (Frivolous sidenote: He was also wearing a delicious cologne, but it seemed rather inappropriate to ask someone you’ve just met “Who are you wearing?”)

When he returned we chatted for a little while and (sadly, without the benefit of a recorder) I asked him about the same scene I had asked Mira Nair the week before, and how he had approached it (the scene where the now-adult Gogol tells his parents he’s legally changing his name to Nikhil).   In it, in one of Khan’s most powerfully understated scenes, says, with a gesture not quite a shrug, “Do as you wish” and exits the kitchen for a cigarette.

He replied (and I’m paraphrasing here) that he was reacting, thinking, imagining that kind of hurt if it were his own two-year-old son all grown up and saying that to him, yet Ashoke, being the way he is, realizes it’s not the time to create a fuss.   In his own life growing up, Khan admitted to being a very rebellious son.

Irrfan Khan’s next release is UTV’s Metro, which is due to open in April.   He has already completed shooting for A Mighty Heart, the Angelina Joli starrer, directed by Michael Winterbottom, about the hunt for kidnapped Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, in Pakistan.     For me, the book was a heart-rending testament to couple’s love for each other and also a tale of the great empathy shown by the Pakistani police captain, played by Irrfan Khan.

He remarked that Winterbottom “makes films so fast” and the movie is due out in the fall.   Khan also mentioned that he had a part in an upcoming YashRaj picture, quickly adding “No, no, I won’t be singing and dancing; it’s just a guest spot!”

As the evening wore on, Mira Nair appeared, in a navy salwar kameez.   Her deep red churidars coordinated with the color of the print on the navy.

And last was Tabu.   The tall Hyderabadi woman quickly embraced people she recognized from the film team.   Her clothes, more like those of someone attending a function in Bombay, gave no inkling of the icy wind outside.   She wore bootcut jeans over strappy silver high-heeled sandals, topped off by a brown, beige and baby blue belted short-sleeved kurti, and a few diamond bangles.   She wore little make-up and her hair was long and straight, parted in the center.  

It’s quite something to see both her and Irrfan Khan up close, and marvel at how realistic their make-up was in The Namesake, and how young they looked last night.

More about the photographs separately.

3 thoughts on “Ashoke & Ashima at an Exhibition

  1. Indianoguy, hi, yes, a friend introduced us. She is indeed, and even more so in person.

    Krishna, now that you mention it, the only southern film I’ve seen her in is Kandukondain. Must look for something else… And yes, in the dim recesses of my mind, I had heard that a long time ago, but forgotten it, until I saw it mentioned somewhere else recently. Her aunt was on a very interesting panel recently on Bakha Dutt’s We the People, talking about the status of women nowadays.

  2. Tabu’s managed to hold her own in general with everyone- she’s even done her share of potboilers(hardcore variety) – down south as well:D
    Can’t imagine her there after seeing Ashima’s photograph on top!

    Did you know she’s Shabana Azmi’s niece?

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