The public relations pitch of Vogue BFFs, the chat show on the Colors Infinity channel, promises “intimate moments and secrets of your favorite stars with their favorite people”. The view from the sidelines looks inviting: celebrities show up with their best friends, professional collaborators and family members, and share confidences.
A closer look, however, reveals a half-baked attempt at unmasking celebrity lives. The show is hosted by Indo-Canadian model and actress Kamal Sidhu on a set that resembles a loft and is replete with extravagant knick-knacks and yellow lights. Then it is time for the celebrity to knock on the door and be bombarded by rapid-fire questions. The second guest comes in a little later, so to bide time, Sidhu asks question after question as the celebrity walks around the set, taking in the view.
Friendship is loosely defined on the show. The pilot episode featured Deepika Padukone with her stylist and, surprise, surprise, show sponsor Vogue magazine’s fashion director, Anaita Shroff Adajania. (Details on Padukone’s look from the episode were later posted on the Vogue site.)
The episode on Kajol was with one of her oldest friends, makeup artist Mickey Contractor. Arjun Kapoor was accompanied by his uncle, Anil Kapoor. Another episode included Kareena Kapoor and designer Manish Malhotra. (Sample: “My husband always tells me, ‘I don’t like size zero,’ he likes the more curvy, rounded kind of women, the typical Indian, Kamasutra-ish kind of woman.”)
The setup feels rather jumbled, as the charming Sidhu makes earnest attempts to establish a deep conversation while including random games to test the friendship and questions posed by fans. There is sometimes a lot happening, and the show barely scratches the surface in its attempt to cover too much ground in a short period.
Some elements feel staged. Kajol expresses her desire to see Contractor and hopes that he is the guest who has been invited with her. There are revelations about the actress that will not be new to hardcore Kajol followers. It was Contractor who played a pivotal role in retaining Kajol’s signature unibrow look at the beginning of her career. Audiences are also told about what the actress has been up to lately and her decision to get married in her early twenties. However, we never hear much about Contractor, and he is asked absurd questions, including “How much does he charge for bridal makeup?”
The answer: “Priceless.”
The two Kapoors, on the other hand, have a little fun with each other. Arjun discusses how his uncle is always the centre of attention. There is no room for genuine insights or difficult conversations on say, Arjun’s big shift to the movies. He does talk about the one pet peeve that so many people have with star kids’ privileges, and explains that many of them wither away over the years.
Compared to other talk shows that have been popular, such as Rendezvous with Simi Garewal or Koffee with Karan, Vogue BFFs fails to leave its mark. One reason might be that Johar knows his guests a lot better than Sidhu. There aren’t enough memorable anecdotes or insights into the lives of the celebrities, and rushed segments such as the one tracing their fashion evolution do not help.
From catching Goan dances in Lisbon to sampling langar in Munich
A guide to the surprising Indian connect in Lisbon and Munich.
For several decades, a trip to Europe simply meant a visit to London, Paris and the Alps of Switzerland. Indians today, though, are looking beyond the tried and tested destinations and making an attempt to explore the rest of Europe as well. A more integrated global economy, moreover, has resulted in a more widespread Indian diaspora. Indeed, if you know where to look, you’ll find traces of Indian culture even in some unlikely cities. Lisbon and Munich are good cities to include in your European sojourn as they both offer compelling reasons to visit, thanks to a vibrant cultural life. Here’s a guide to everything Indian at Lisbon and Munich, when you wish to take a break from all the sight-seeing and bar crawling you’re likely to indulge in.
Lisbon is known as one of the most vibrant cities in Western Europe. On its streets, the ancient and the modern co-exist in effortless harmony. This shows in the fact that the patron saint day festivities every June make way for a summer that celebrates the arts with rock, jazz and fado concerts, theatre performances and art exhibitions taking place around the city. Every two years, Lisbon also hosts the largest Rock festival in the world, Rock in Rio Lisboa, that sees a staggering footfall.
The cultural life of the city has seen a revival of sorts under the current Prime Minister, Antonio Costa. Costa is of Indian origin, and like many other Indian-origin citizens prominent in Portugal’s political, business and entertainment scenes, he exemplifies Lisbon’s deep Indian connect. Starting from Vasco Da Gama’s voyage to India, Lisbon’s historic connection to Goa is well-documented. Its traces can be still be seen on the streets of both to this day.
While the Indian population in Lisbon is largely integrated with the local population, a few diaspora groups are trying to keep their cultural roots alive. Casa de Goa, formed in the ‘90s, is an association of people of Goans, Damanese and Diuese origins residing in Lisbon. Ekvat (literally meaning ‘roots’ in Konkani) is their art and culture arm that aims to preserve Goan heritage in Portugal. Through all of its almost 30-year-long existence, Ekvat has been presenting traditional Goan dance and music performances in Portugal and internationally.
Be sure to visit the Champlimaud Centre for the Unknown, hailed a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, which was designed by the critically-acclaimed Goan architect Charles Correa. If you pay attention, you can find ancient Indian influences, like cut-out windows and stand-alone pillars. The National Museum of Ancient Art also has on display a collection of intricately-crafted traditional Goan jewellery. At LOSTIn - Esplanada Bar, half of the people can be found lounging about in kurtas and Indian shawls. There’s also a mural of Bal Krishna and a traditional Rajasthani-style door to complete the desi picture. But it’s not just the cultural landmarks that reflect this connection. The integration of Goans in Lisbon is so deep that most households tend to have Goa-inspired textiles and furniture as a part of their home decor, and most families have adapted Goan curries in their cuisine. In the past two decades, the city has seen a surge in the number of non-Goan Indians as well. North Indian delicacies, for example, are readily available and can be found on Zomato, which has a presence in the city.
If you wish to avoid the crowds of the peak tourist season, you can even consider a visit to Lisbon during winter. To plan your trip, check out your travel options here.
Munich’s biggest draw remains the Oktoberfest – the world’s largest beer festival for which millions of people from around the world converge in this historic city. Apart from the flowing Oktoberfest beer, it also offers a great way to get acquainted with the Bavarian folk culture and sample their traditional foods such as Sauerkraut (red cabbage) and Weißwurst (a white sausage).
If you plan to make the most of the Oktoberfest, along with the Bavarian hospitality you also have access to the services of the Indian diaspora settled in Munich. Though the Indian community in Munich is smaller than in other major European destinations, it does offer enough of a desi connect to satisfy your needs. The ISKCON temple at Munich observes all major rituals and welcomes everyone to their Sunday feasts. It’s not unusual to find Germans, dressed in saris and dhotis, engrossed in the bhajans. The Art of Living centre offers yoga and meditation programmes and discourses on various spiritual topics. The atmosphere at the Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha is similarly said to be peaceful and accommodating of people of all faiths. They even organise guided tours for the benefit of the non-Sikhs who are curious to learn more about the religion. Their langar is not to be missed.
There are more options that’ll help make your stay more comfortable. Some Indian grocery stores in the city stock all kinds of Indian spices and condiments. In some, like Asien Bazar, you can even bargain in Hindi! Once or twice a month, Indian film screenings do take place in the cinema halls, but the best way to catch up on developments in Indian cinema is to rent video cassettes and VCDs. Kohinoor sells a wide range of Bollywood VCDs, whereas Kumaras Asean Trades sells Tamil cassettes. The local population of Munich, and indeed most Germans too, are largely enamoured by Bollywood. Workshops on Bollywood dance are quite popular, as are Bollywood-themed events like DJ nights and dance parties.
The most attractive time to visit is during the Oktoberfest, but if you can brave the weather, Munich during Christmas is also a sight to behold. You can book your tickets here.
Thanks to the efforts of the Indian diaspora abroad, even lesser-known European destinations offer a satisfying desi connect to the proud Indian traveller. Lufthansa, which offers connectivity to Lisbon and Munich, caters to its Indian flyers’ priorities and understands how proud they are of their culture. In all its India-bound flights and flights departing from India, flyers can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options, making the airline More Indian than You Think. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalised by Lufthansa to the extent that they now offer a definitive Indian flying experience.
This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.