Faking It
Get Art! Get Duped! Get Even!

Summary Tara Malhotra, an NRI professional from Washington DC, has come to live in Mumbai. Despite reverse culture shock, she embraces swish Mumbai life with gusto and turns from an art collector to gallery owner. Tara buys a painting by legendary artist Amrita Sher-gil from charismatic dealer Roy Jordan. Thena critic doubts the authenticity of Tara’s trophy art, and Tara finds her finances drained, her marriage crumbling and her reputation as a gallery owner at stake. She must expose the ring of forgery, tracking the rogue dealers, fake artists and framers across India, to regain control of her life.

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I enter the polished dark wood and glass interiors of Amaya in London’s Knightsbridge, barely registering the hushed glamour of the discreet chandeliers and the press of its hip crowd. Still in a daze, with Gul propping my elbow for support, I walk towards the table where Apurva Mehta is waiting for us.

Gul’s friend, Apurva, art advisor to galleries and independent curators, and specialist in South Asian art, rises grimly to greet us. There is a stern pity on her face. One look at her and all the arguments that have been burbling in my head for the past week die, unarticulated. An enlargement of a photograph of the Amrita Sher-Gil painting I have purchased lies on the table; no doubt from the picture I have scanned and emailed Gul. Read more

‘I...uh...have…the authentication certifcate somewhere at home…’ I blurt without preamble, forgetting all niceties. Gul lays a warm palm on my arm. ‘Hear her out  rst, Tara.’
‘The style, the style is totally Sher-Gil,’ I protest. ‘The intensecolours, this midnight blue, this red…’

Apurva shakes her coiffed head. ‘Of course, I should see the actual painting  rst, but it’s just that several elements seem all wrong to me. Look at the central  gure, for instance...’

Ah. The Woman in Red! I steal a glance at the enlarged print of my treasured purchase, the trophy item in my collection of contemporary Indian art, an untitled painting by the Indo-Hungarian legend, Amrita Sher-Gil! At once strong and poignant – a slight  gure draped in red robes looking with intense eyes straight at the viewer; utterly alone in the market crowd around her.

I identify with her completely.
‘She’s a typical Sher-Gil. What about her?’ I have grown obsessed with Sher-Gil’s life before buying the painting. Tales of her  amboyant and troubled youth have appealed to me as much as the long lean silhouettes, the elongated limbs and the open-eyed candour of the brooding  gures she painted.

Apurva takes a moment to sip her Scotch. ‘Exactly. This style is reminiscent of Amrita Sher-Gil’s early phase in India. Doesn’t it remind you of the  gures in The Bride’s Toilette or The Brahmacharis or even Hill Women?’
I nod furiously.

‘Now look at the backdrop,’ Apurva continues. ‘The detail of the market scene is typical of her later period, when she became inuenced by the miniature style, and her  gures became less prominent. These thick black outlines – Sher-Gil did not use them. The painting is really a clever juxtaposition of different elements from her work, with some add-on bits.’

‘It could be an intermediate phase…’ I try again. ‘And the nd was so well publicized. A huge Amrita Sher-Gil found in a derelict haveli in a small town in North India, that sold forcrores...’

Apurva says, ‘Wasn’t the hue and cry about another, bigger canvas?’
‘Yes,’ my voices curves upward, appalled by how unreal I sound. ‘Mine was found in the same haveli, just weeks after.’ Apurva is kindly. ‘I will give you the names of some friends in India who can evaluate the painting for you. I strongly suggest you meet them.’

My heart sinks at this point and I fall back into the thickly cushioned chair.
And my mind goes back to where it all began.


A socialite thriller with diamond-dripping and Birkin-bearing ladies

- India Today

A cross between chick-lit and crime thriller

- DNA India

A perfectly enjoyable read that focuses completely around Indian art

- Bangalore Mirror

A fast-paced thriller in the dizzying backdrop of Indian art; the engrossing crime tale is deceptively woven around a frantic chase for trophy art

- The Arts Trust

Set mostly in urban India, the fast-paced entertainer is a reverse-migration story. It gives an insider's view of the art world and takes you through the world of elusive artistes, gallery owners, art auctions and explores art writing and criticism in true settings.

- The Hindu

All about art and crime in high-end society. The drab world of brushes and strokes springs to life, mainly because of the energy levels of the now-confused-now-determined protagonist Tara

- Deccan Herald

Written in a fluid yet literary language, it is about the scintillating, almost-glass world of the Mumbai elite and the glitterati. At a more macro level, it is a commentary on fast-changing India and about the multiple realities in our lives

- New Indian Express

The racy tale tracks down a fake Amrita Sher-Gil painting, with exciting traps laid out for the leading character, a diamond-dripping lady of leisure

- Indian Express

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Blog (Madly Malabar)

You’ve got to love Tara Malhotra. She’s fun, she’s feisty, she’s opinionated. She is also a DCBA, a Desi Clueless Back from America. And, yes, she is suffering from extreme reverse culture shock. This is her e-diary.

Umm Yaa You Know...

Posted on Sunday May 29, 2011

The dainty young lassie gives an affected wave with her skinny hands, exhales a mini-sigh of uber-chicness and in the poshest of posh accents, says, 'It's like, you know, such a drag!'

She regales me with cache of stories about the latest art 'do' making waves in London and the best caterer of petits-fours the haute Paris-returned Mumbai divas are serving for their coffee get-togethers.

'Where did you study?' I ask, thinking Sorbonne or Warwick or Wesleyan.

'Jai Hind', she replies, smiling pertly and prettily.

'Then you went overseas?' I rally on, intrigued by the airy accent and throaty hesitations, this constant reference to London and Paris and New York.

'Summer program at LSE, you know. Just to get a feel for it!' She gives a shrug, her bony shoulders forming inverted Vs in the air briefly, then falling back to their lackadaisical stance.

Huh? I goggle.

'I got picked up by this investment bank after my summer program, you see.'

What? Move over brainista, move in fashionista. All it takes to woo high net worth lads to entrust their hard earned millions to an i-bank is a breathy, airy, babe-licious relationship manager.

'Overseas?' I ask, clearly flummoxed, trying not to show it.

'Oh here, in Mumbai', she trilled.

'My boss was so impressed with my work, I moved into the hedge fund side within the year. The hedge fund was based out of New York, of course.'

Oh, it gets better. No need to spend a lifetime of excellence preparing to get to Harvard or Wharton either.

'So you went to New York?' I ask, now needing to understand the genesis of this faux-phoren style.

'Oh no, I was in Mumbai, working with the team in the US. I am such a South Mumbai gal! I like it here.'


Blame the accent on pappa-sponsored summer holidays to London and DC, then! Or may be the gaggle of SoBo girls-school buddies.

'I did really well, got promoted within the year. But discovered I really liked marketing.'

Clearly, no one could ace the lass in self-marketing.

Who needs a two year grind at IIMA? What does Kotler teach, anyway, other than a load of bisecting and dissecting segments.

The real art of marketing, presenting this sublime vision, articulating with such affectation, clearly does not need PPPP mumbo jumbo.

She flashed perfect white teeth. 'So, umm yaa, here I am, you know.'

No, I don't know!!!

Spidering in SoBo style

Posted on Friday April 08, 2011

Just a delicate weave of the web, darlings, the connectedness and interconnectedness of folks, just an everyday moment of linking people, muttering through the who's who lists, mapping the dots and dashes...

Spidering... Tara mused

Forking out that scrap of white, that slip of heavy gsm, giving with one hand, receiving with another... mapping, jotting, chatting, sipping, flitting, flocking... Ah, another Mumbai day (or night)

Spidering... such a desi thing, darlings

Trotting out your wife's uncle's nephew's name or figuring out Mrs. Who's Who's friend's boss's ex-girlfriend and striking up chitter-chatter

Spidering... such an endless spate of it, babe

The automatic teller machines, the quick card Murugans, the weilders of imagined power, the flippers of the business card


Blues Clues

Posted on Friday April 08, 2011

The clue's in the color... from corporate czars to media honchos, everyone's seeking the success mantra in those that don blue. Valiant attempts at linking run getting to deadline management, avid fielding to stopping outflows from corporate coffers, and on and on... from starry eyed giggles of the gals to the fusty hot air squiggles by the lads. That's where all the clues lie, in the color blue.
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