14 June, 2021

The Art Of Being Radiant

Unlike Leela Naidu, Gayatri Devi’s appeal rests on more than mere pulchritude

T.S. Satyan
The Art Of Being Radiant

Diana Vreeland, an influential editor of American Vogue, once described allure as “something that’s around you... like a perfume or a scent...it’s like memory...it pervades.” Vreeland was probably the sort of editor who helped conjure up yearly lists of famous beauties, an idea now regarded as both politically incorrect and passe. But even outmoded labels have a habit of sticking; they have recently resurfaced with the passing away of two Indian women, Gayatri Devi, the erstwhile Rajmata of Jaipur, at 90, and the actress Leela Naidu, 69, in the same week.

The media, particularly the Internet, is overflowing with image galleries of both for millions to gawp at the “memory of allure” as captured in portraits, photography and film. After decades, I watched a DVD of the 1963 Merchant-Ivory film The Householder, their first feature, based on a Ruth Prawer Jhabvala novel, and found it fresh as paint. The film’s charm relies chiefly on the youthful appeal that Shashi Kapoor and Leela...

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