The Other Salman

Glorious are the times when Mr Rushdie is the toast of Bollywood.

Beware Salman Khan, the real threat to your popularity this week isn't how many awards Shah Rukh Khan picked up for Jab Tak Hai Jaan, rather it's your namesake. For the past fortnight or so, Salman Rushdie has been filling our Page Ones as well as Page Threes in a marketing overdrive for the film of his opus Midnight's Children.

There he is: eyes half-shut and talking of interesting things like freedom and censorship (yawn) and other intellectual subjects. I suspect he is enjoying this tremendously, even though he may have seemingly smacked some disdain being ex-wife Padma Lakshmi's arm candy on the red carpets of Los Angeles and New York. Not only did Mr Rushdie give interviews to each newspaper, he also visited their offices, and hosted events at the PVR multiplex and the NCPA. You'd be forgiven for thinking he's the film's director too, and poor Deepa Mehta only the producer. In New Delhi, he was garlanded and showed great flamboyance for the cameras. One newspaper cut out Mehta's image from the frame. Rushdie is also the hero.

Sometimes he wore a jacket, other times a kurta. But always, he made heads turn and hearts heave. Eat your biceps Mr Khan, Mr Rushdie's brain is where the sexy is at.

There were few private parties during this visit, Rushdie is clearly here for publicity. Society women, Rushdie's archangels in Mumbai, were fretting. It was easier to meet the international celebrity at Parmesh (Godrej)'s or Sheetal (Mafatlal)'s. How do we get to the PVR premiere? Should we get to the PVR premiere?

A superstar's wife, aching to be taken seriously, was eager to attend the premiere. But her husband wasn't any part of the film, and we all know that only those who are cast in the film or those who wish they were attend movie premieres here. It is, after all, only for the shutterbugs.

Another Juhu socialite worked her phones. Getting on the guest list of Tom Cruise's Mumbai party was a cakewalk, how does she find her way to Deepa Mehta? Ask Dolly Thakore, Gerson da Cunha, Shyam Benegal and Sudhir Mishra.

Why do women love Rushdie? His prose titillates the imagination and teases the tongue. But the world is divided into those who read and those who don't, and let's face it it is the most unequal divide of all. Meeting Rushdie is a fashionable pursuit these days. It is not only our desire to be perceived as highbrow and scholastic, Rushdie is one of the most famous Indians in the world. Rushdie is celeb-dom's Birkin and Bottega, rolled into one.

In his genteel white dinner jacket, beaming from ear to ear, he emerges from a swanky white car at his premiere's red carpet. Mr Rushdie is suddenly all things: accomplished, lettered, refined and incredibly au courant.

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