tv show

Chat show ‘Vogue BFFs’ falters as it tries to showcase celebrity friendships

There is not a lot on offer for those who are hoping to learn new things about their favourite stars.

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.

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Kajol and Mickey Contractor on ‘Vogue BFFs’.

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.”

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Arjun and Anil Kapoor on ‘Vogue BFFs’.

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.

Kareena Kapoor and Manish Malhotra.
Kareena Kapoor and Manish Malhotra.
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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.