By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: On Tuesday Hollywood’s pride and Bollywood’s envy actor-extraordinaire Robert de Niro was in Delhi, en route to Goa for a Tehelka enclave where he was to share opinions and thoughts with intellectuals from across the country.
But the lunch in Delhi was completely unexpected.
Says a source from the very special lunch at the Hotel Taj Mansingh in New Delhi, “It was a very exclusive lunch with de Niro. Only Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi were invited from Bollywood. De Niro was amazingly affable. There were no airs, no trying to create an I-am-one-of-the-greatest-actors aura. He was down-to-earth,warm, and very curious about the Indian film industry. He had a million questions for Shabana and Javed who had a zillion questions for de Niro. Shabana and Javed were seated next to de Niro at the lunch table. They spoke about Obama and Meryl Streep. De Niro had plenty of questions about the Mumbai film industry.”
De Niro is in India for Tehalka.com’s Think Festival in Goa which begins later this week. This is the superlative-defining actor’s first visit to India.
There were only 25 guests at the lunch for de Niro. Besides Shabana and Javed, who represented the Indian film industry, there was media baron Aroon Purie, Nobel laureate litterateur V S Naipaul, entrepreneur Sunil Kant Munjal, parliamentarian Sandeep Dixit, scientist Hari Bhartia and fashion designer Suneet Varma.
After the lunch I caught up with Shabana Azmi who said, “News travels fast. Yes, Javed and I just had an amazing lunch session with Robert de Niro. It’s crazy. I was at a general assembly meeting of Actionaid discussing poverty alleviation, and then I zoomed off to have lunch with de Niro. Now, if that is not a schizophrenic life, what is?”