Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Navroz Mubarak from Bollywood

Good morning, Mumbai — and Navroze Mubarak! The Irani New Year and first day of spring began at 11.02 and 13 seconds last night. But BT invited the ‘Bawajis of Bollywood’ (actually, two Parsis, two Iranis and one half-breed) for a pow-wow on Saturday morning itself to the Rustam Faramna Agiary standing serenely in dappled sunlight at the Khareghat crossroads of Dadar Parsi Colony (DPC).

By MARK MANUEL, TNN,

parsi_bollywood At 9 am sharp, Shenaz Treasuryvala arrived in a strappy floral summer dress, like a fresh gust of perfumed air rustling the dead leaves on the road, eager to do her bit and then catch a flight to Goa. “I started the year stressfully, I need a break — I’m an escapist, but I may come back on Navroze to have dinner with my family,” she said, the pout in place. Perizaad Zorabian Irani followed, the classic Yummy Mummy in a backless halter-neck lime green dress and golden stilletoes, showing pictures on her cell of daughter Zaha who is 2.4 years and son Zayaan who is four months only. “Life is insane, so much nonsense is happening,” she grumbled.

 

Nauheed Cyrusi, model and star of the DPC — whose mother is Parsi and father Irani (“I have the best of both worlds,” she claimed), swished down the road in a pinkish-red saree and sleeveless blouse, waving to residents gaping from nearby balconies like she was taking the red carpet. A car pulled over and Shiamak Davar, ever the star, danced out in blue tracks and sunflower-yellow sports jacket. “My jaans,” he cried, arms flung out wide like he was on stage, offering the pyaar ki jhappi copyrighted by Sanjay Dutt in Munnabhai.

Talking of which, Boman (the delightful Prof J. C. Asthana of Munnabhai) in blue jeans and a trendy purple check shirt came last, walking jauntily down the road because he lives two buildings away, calling out “Sahebji” to old-timers taking the morning air. “I feel like Charlie and his Angels,” he grinned wickedly looking at the girls. Then he spotted Shiamak. “Everybody’s cracked in this line-up,” he muttered, “except me, I’m not, I don’t think I am.”

Bollywood has always had Parsis and Iranis making up its ranks, right from the time Ardeshir Irani set up the first Indian talkies in 1931, and with artistes playing blustery and comic characters of the Zoroastrian faith in Hindi films ever since. Now, of course, there are stars within the communities who are making their mark in cinema.

Boman, for instance, has two films coming out on Friday in Hum Tum Aur Ghost and Well Done Abba, both in which he plays title roles. These coming hard on the heels of his outstanding performance as Prof. Viru Sahastrabuddhe in Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots. Shiamak, who has one foot in Canada and one in India, is Bollywood’s celeb choreographer. But he has no time for films now. His hands are full doing the Kingdom of Dreams musical in Delhi (“one show every day for a year”) and a workshop in Mumbai with international star dancers Tara Jean and Vincent, winners of Canada’s So You Think You Can Dance contest. “She’s cute, hot and lovely, sexy in the Britney way, you’ll die to see her,” he leered at Boman.

Of the three girls, Perizaad has had her share of Bollywood (remember Bollywood Calling, Ek Ajnabee, Morning Raga and Jogger’s Park?), but acting is still her passion, she’s longing to get back into shape (“look at me, after two babies my figure has gone for a toss”) and do theatre, films, a realistic and interesting talk or style show on television. “It’s a challenge, and I can do it,” she said with dogged Irani determination. Shenaz, after Ishq Vishk, Hum Tum, Aagey Se Right and Radio, is waiting for Aamir Khan’s Delhi Belly to release and real stardom to happen. “But I’m working on a documentary feature, an international travel show, hosting events, doing a comedy film in May, a naughty play in November, and writing a screenplay,” she poured out. And Nauheed, following her small but meaningful role in Kurbaan and stints in Lakeer, Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee and Main Aur Mrs Khanna, has decided to become picky about roles. “No chotta-motta, crappy stuff,” she declared, “I’d rather do a tiny role for a big banner and get noticed, or not at all. So I’m there in Bollywood — but not there, and I’m keen on hosting shows in television.”

They all intend to celebrate Navroze the traditional way (“the same way I’ve done for 50 years,” Boman said) with family — the traditional big Parsi lunch, washed down by tall glasses of falooda and tankards of beer, followed by the Sunday afternoon post-Dhansak nap, then perhaps a naatak in the evening. “But there are no Parsi plays being made nowadays,” grumbled Boman. However, there is cricket, the IPL tamasha — Chennai vs Punjab, put your money and your prayers on M S Dhoni or Yuvraj Singh. “Would you bet your grandmother’s ghara and jewellery on Preity Zinta losing again,” one of the gents asked one of the girls. “Not on Navroze,” she replied.