Janina Gavankar: “Indian women—we have a fight in us and we will not stop”


13 JANUARY 2021

From vegan tampons and shellfish-free nail polish to cruelty-free skincare products and fur-free false eyelashes—this is your ultimate guide to giving your beauty routine a vegan-friendly overhaul

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When Janina Gavankar signed onto BAFTA winner Michael Pearce’s upcoming sci-fi thriller Invasion, starring Octavia Spencer and Riz Ahmed, the first thing she did was text the latter: Do you want to name our babies together? “Riz and I play exes in the movie and we have two sons, Jack and Bobby. We had a long chat about our characters and decided to keep Bobby (because it works as a desi name) but change Jack to Jay. It is my job to go in and represent where I come from, in all its nuance and beauty. You’re only helping a project by bringing to the table every aspect of you,” Gavankar tells me from her home in Hollywood, Los Angeles, as her sphynx cat prances across the piano (she is a trained pianist, vocalist and orchestral percussionist) that frames the background of her Zoom window, beside a wall trellised with her sketches and drawings (she’s also an artist). 

Over numerous Zoom calls through the second half of last year, I have gotten to know Gavankar and the various corners of her home (which also serves as the set of her much-buzzed-about, Oscar-qualifying horror short Stucco, which she co-wrote, directed and starred in). First, as Gavankar planned everything from the lighting to the lilt in her voice when she hosted the special virtual edition of Vogue India’s Women Of The Year Awards 2020 from her backyard. And more recently, for the shoot of her first digital cover and interview for Vogue India. Conversation after conversation, be it midnight or the break of dawn, the one thing that sticks is Gavankar’s ability to always show up in full form as a consummate creative collaborator who brings all of herself into everything she does and knows exactly who she is. 


The 40-year-old triple- (more like quadruple, times a few) threat actor, musician, producer and filmmaker has worked in Hollywood for 15 years, but claims her space hasn’t been an easy ride. Gavankar arrived in Hollywood pre-The Mindy Project, Tan France and his signature French Tuck, Priyanka Chopra Jonas crossing over for Quantico, and even the early years of Hasan Minhaj’s The Daily Show days. One of her first auditions was for a pilot called Mindy And Brenda. “You know, Mindy [Kaling] was so kind to me when I first moved to LA. I didn’t even realise this then, but I auditioned against Mindy to play Mindy! Neither of us got the call, but she wrote a character for herself and she was made to audition, only for it to be given to someone else. I wasn’t wise to what was going on in Hollywood then, but the fury I feel for her now is overwhelming.” 

Between auditioning and waiting in the wings for work, Gavankar wound her way into becoming one of the first few actors of South Asian origin to become a ‘series regular’ way back in 2005, as lesbian lothario Papi in The L Word. “It was the first premium cable show that served gay women, and it gave me perspective by giving me early access to women in Hollywood over 40. It made me zoom out and look at the entirety of what I wanted to do.” And she did. Gavankar refused to settle and quit roles that didn’t promise character development. She says of Grey’s Anatomy, where she played intern Lisa in two episodes in 2008 before walking out: “They hired a lot of overqualified actors to come on set, say zero words and just stand around. Every day I was there, I wasn’t auditioning for something that would lead to something else.” She decided early on that she was not there to play the token brown girl as part of the required multicultural background scenery. Her conviction has paid off. Gavankar has recently shared screen space with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon on The Morning Show (she’s currently shooting for season two) and Ben Affleck in The Way Back (2020). She explains, “Being a brown woman in Hollywood is not just about you, it’s about everybody you represent and everyone who benefits from you winning. Each of us here do that, and I take my small part very seriously. My role is that of a truth teller in rooms where people are afraid to speak.” 


But Gavankar hasn’t just been part of the evolving narrative of South Asians in Hollywood. If Timothée Chalamet and Harry Styles are rewriting the rules of modern masculinity, Gavankar is part of the rising tide of women artistes who have been upending the conformist gaze into something diverse, feminist and actively subversive. She sees her art as self-expression, a way to exorcise her demons, be it on screen, in the writers room or even in her fashion choices that she defines as ‘Tom-boy glam’—where she’s most likely to take something from the boys, cinch it at the waist and call it fashion. Gavankar is all about the subtext. “I love it when someone walks up and goes, ‘I love your jumpsuit. Where did you get that?’ And I say, ‘The army’. Most think of the 4,000-dollar high-fashion version, but it’s nice to remember where that came from,” she says. 

Gavankar’s star power is in her vision and ability to use every form of art, be it fashion or film, to Trojan-horse her convictions and beliefs. “I feel like I’m part of a special-ops SEAL team, trained to infiltrate and change culture,” she says. Her next step is establishing herself as a filmmaker and getting closer to India. She has already signed on with 108 Media for a feminist monster film that’s currently in the scripting phase. “I’m writing a movie not just for North America but for India to see itself. My job is to communicate what’s happening in this cultural moment. India is looking at the patriarchy and it is the perfect time to carry on that dialogue,” she says. The film is based on the various legends of the rakshasas, and will be a culmination of all the ideas and goals that she has spent the last decade and a half honing. “My motherland doesn’t really know me because I’ve been on the other side of the globe trying to forge a path for girls like me. There were many of us and we all did it together—and it happened. Lilly Singh is the first queer woman of colour to get her own late-night talk show, Kamala Harris is the first female vice president and Gitanjali Rao is Time’s first kid of the year. It’s not arbitrary; Indian women, I’m telling you, we have a fight in us and we will not stop.”

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Sushmita Sen’s daughter Renee Sen on her acting debut with Suttabaazi

renee senBY MIHIKA AGARWALConfined at home, bickering with those you live with and with your mental health on edge, is Suttabaazi in a nutshell—a short film highlighting an average family’s lockdown experience, that is so relatable it hardly seems fictional. The 15-minute slice-of-life family drama also marks the acting debut of Sushmita Sen’s 21-year-old daughter, Renee Sen. Directed by the young filmmaker Kabeer Khurana (known in festival circles for his award-winning shorts), the youth-powered film sees Renee portraying a rebellious young adult as she navigates being stuck at home with her conservative family, played by Rahul Vohra and Komal Chhabria.

Renee’s character Diya, a gen-Z social media influencer, is done to death with online schooling, struggles to overcome a massive generational gap with her boomer parents, and is a stressed out chain-smoker. Diya’s mum is always inundated with household chores and perpetually appalled at the domestic incompetence of her daughter and husband, while her dad—a likely member of WhatsApp University—believes that COVID-19 is a conspiracy theory. The film serves up a dose of reality layered in humorous exchanges between the nuclear family.

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The Craziest Celebrity Moments in Met Gala History

You might think the Met Gala is all about fashion, but the guest list is just as important as the dresses going up those famous steps. Where else do you see the biggest names in fashion, Hollywood, and culture converge and let their hair down? Throughout the years, the star-studded event has been the site of some unforgettable celebrity moments—from Katy Perry’s larger-than-life angel wings to Rihanna’s riveting performance on top of a dinner table. And who could forget when Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston were first caught dancing flirtatiously with each other, kindling the Hiddleswift phenomenon?

Here, we take a look back at the archives and share the craziest and most memorable moments in Met Gala history. Continue reading

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Liva partners with FDCI to showcase India’s first Green Heart Fashion Show

Delhi, March: Liva, the leading ingredient consumer brand of the AdityaBirla Group announces its partnership with Fashion Design Council of India’s (FDCI) to showcase India’s first Green Heart Fashion Show with a thought leading initiative to promote the concept of sustainability through their collection and products. This initiative by Aditya Birla was the reflection of their commitment towards breaking the myth about eco-friendly materials and also educates the users about the need for utilization of sustainable materials to avoid environmental hazards in future.

(L-R)Designer Shalini James, Sahil Kochhar, Rina Dhaka, Samant Chauhan

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FDCI goes the whole six yards for the Lotus Make-Up Grand Finale

A symbol of ‘forever’, the sari and its multiplicity, its candour and its personality will be celebrated by top designers from all corners of the country 

New Delhi, March 8, 2019: The Lotus Makeup India Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2019, in association with Liva, at the JLN stadium from March 13-17, will witness a coalescence of heritage and modernity, on March 16, for the Grand Finale.

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Oscars 2019: Everything you need to know about Hollywood’s biggest night

From the venue and time to the nominations and where you can watch it in India, here’s a quick refresher on the Oscars, Hollywood’s most sought-after awards night

Image: Getty Images

Image: Getty Images

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Best dressed this week: Kangana Ranaut and Alia Bhatt

This week, saris won several votes amongst Bollywood’s leading ladies. All set for the release of her next film Manikarnika, Kangana Ranaut met fans in a shimmering pastel Tarun Tahiliani sari that’s perfect for a grand cocktail party, while Malaika Arora went with a simpler sari in a striking shade of red by Misha Lakhani. Also favouring dark hues was Vidya Balan, who made an appearance in a deep brown and rani pink Raw Mango drape. If you love soothing pastel hues, however, Alia Bhatt was the actor you needed to check out this week.

Best-dressed-this-week-Kangana-Ranaut-and-Alia-Bhatt-866x487Joined by beau Ranbir Kapoor and friends including Ranveer Singh, Karan Johar and Vicky Kaushal, Bhatt flew to Delhi this week for a very special meeting with PM Narendra Modi in an elegant Manish Malhotra kurta set that’s perfect for your next family puja. Another star who gave us major festive dressing inspiration this week was Sonam K Ahuja. Not one to blend in with her sartorial picks, the actor recently stepped out for a celebration in a Good Earth sharara set that was anything but basic. Kapoor Ahuja wore her satiny champagne-coloured sharara pants with a metallic choli, topping the combo off with a sheer kurta in a matching hue.

Among the Bollywood actors who opted for Western silhouettes, both Bhatt and Deepika Padukone went with a similar look this week. In case you missed it, neon is making quite the comeback this season, and both actors attended events recently wearing all-white outfits with shockingly bright footwear. While Bhatt launched the trailer of Gully Boy in an ivory Jonathan Simkhai number and orange sock booties, Padukone stepped out in a quirky white Kanika Goyal outfit, which she added a pop of colour to with acid coral pumps.

Overseas, the big moment of the week, of course, was 2018’s edition of the Golden Globes. Like every year, the annual awards ceremony had some of Hollywood’s favourite faces serving up some unforgettable red carpet looks. Amongst the most beautiful of the evening were Lady Gaga’s periwinkle Valentino, which matched perfectly with her new hair colour), Lupita Nyong’o’s beaded royal blue Calvin Klein gown, Saoirse Ronan’s slinky silver Gucci maxi. Catch up on all our favourite looks from the week below


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Evening with Cover Story hosted by renowned artist Bahaar Dhawan Rahtogi

Cover Story by Future Style Lab, a subsidiary of the Future Group, hosted a fashion filled evening session with renowned artist BAHAAR DHAWAN RAHTOGI in Delhi at Cover Story Store, DLF Promenade Mall recently. The evening was filled with styling tips, fashion forward conversations and design stories revolving around Cover story’s latest A/W collection.

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Need party dressing inspiration? These celebrities will have you covered

Right in time for NYE

Image: Getty

With a little help from the fashion folk, here’s your party style pinned down in four tribes. Whose team are you on?


The smooth operators

Image: Instagram.com/bellahadid

We may have spent the first half of the year obsessing over every permutation of plastic but for the party months, satin, in all its sensuousness, is staging a comeback. There’s the buttery and bright version that cues memories of Kate Hudson in How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (Naomi Campbell wore an almost-identical slip dress to the CFDAs after-party). Then there’s the Barbie pink, vintage Jean Paul Gaultier rendition spotted on Bella Hadid. And let’s not forget the modern update on the material as seen on Queen Bey in ‘Everything is Love’, where a glossy Peter Pilotto pantsuit was anointed the new night-out hero.


The street-style set

Image: Instagram.com/rosie.huntington

It’s safe to say the fanny pack has severed its tourist ties and officially made the transition from micro trend to mainstay. No longer belted to the waist but casually strapped across the chest, fashion insiders have been, quite literally, keeping it close to their heart. To make it after-hours-appropriate, trade in nylon for nappa, straps for chains (cue Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s Alexander Wang number) and logos for embellishments—the It bag of the fanny phenomenon, a butterfly-laden Gucci Marmont, has our vote.

The matchmakers

Image: Instagram.com/kimkardashian

We’ve all found ourselves in this all-too-familiar scenario: you’ve scored the perfect party pants but don’t have a top to match. Taking the stress out of styling are co-ords—yes, matching is now on the mandate. The coolest take on conscious coupling comes courtesy the Kar Jenners—Kim matched her ride with a highlighter hued two-piece and Kylie Jenner’s #mirrorfie featured a red-hot latex set. For those still loco for logos, Olivia Culpo’s Fendi find is the way to go.

The glitterati

Image: Getty

So, here’s what’s been flashing on our feeds: Priyanka Chopra’s form-flattering gown as she arrived at Ralph Lauren’s 50th anniversary celebrations, Kendall Jenner alongside Bella Hadid in a one-shoulder Alexandre Vauthier dress and blogger Chiara Ferragni’s custom made Prada for her rehearsal dinner. What did these looks have in common? They all came covered in crystals of the splashiest kind. Our advice is to not stop at a mere smattering or trimming but go all out—there isn’t a trend more optimistic and uplifting to ring in the new year.

Scroll ahead for our edit of the best party outfits and accessories you need to add to your closet before NYE.

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Buy now: Blouse, Fendi; Skirt, Fendi

2 / 15

Buy now: Dress, Galvan

3 / 15

Buy now: Dress, Rotate

4 / 15

Buy now: Dress, Khaite

5 / 15

Buy now: Dress, Alessandra Rich

6 / 15

Buy now: Top, Nanushka; Trousers, Nanushka

7 / 15

Buy now: Jacket, Sara Battaglia; Trousers, Sara Battaglia

8 / 15

Buy now: Belt bag, Gucci

9 / 15

Buy now: Sling bag, Saint Laurent

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Buy now: Sling bag, Givenchy

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Buy now: Dress, Rouland Mouret

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Buy now: Dress, Ultràchic

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Buy now: Dress, Dundas

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Buy now: Dress, Galvan

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Buy now: Crop top, Balmain; Skirt, Balmain

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The sweetest pictures from Bollywood’s Diwali 2018 celebrations

All the love, light and happiness

Image: Instagram.com

Given that our favourite celeb crew loves to party, it should come as little surprise that the past week has played host to a series of grand Diwali shindigs, from Shah Rukh Khan’s big blowout at Mannat to Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla’s house party. And after all the party-hopping, it was time to go back to family, as A-listers took to Instagram to allow fans a peek into their homes on the auspicious eve of Diwali.

Mindful of the new regulations on the use of firecrackers, Bollywood’s best instead chose to spread the light and warmth in different ways. Alia Bhatt collaborated with a team of volunteers to feed over 500 dogs across seven cities, before winding up the night with Karan Johar and his fresh batch of ‘students’: Ananya Panday and Tara Sutaria, from the cast of Student of the Year 2. The proud daddy, himself, was spotted twinning with his toddler in coordinated Manish Malhotra kurtas. Elsewhere, celebrity It-couple Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma made for an elegant portrait in their traditional garb against the backdrop of their brightly-lit home in Mumbai.

The glamorous Bachchan clan chose to keep their celebrations family-only, and stepped outside after the Lakshmi puja to introduce young Aaradhya to the joy of sparklers. The proud mamas of the Kapoor clan, Kareena and Karisma, dolled up with their kids, with Taimur sporting a regal black kurta for the occasion. Bride-to-be Priyanka Chopra also spent some time off with her family in Mumbai before her nuptials, while Lisa Haydon ushered in some festive cheer against the glittering Hong Kong skyline. Second time parents, Mira and Shahid Kapoor snuggled up to make for a cosy picture on Instagram, and she was later spotted bonding with her brother-in-law and Bollywood debutante, Ishaan Khatter.

Scroll onwards to see how your favourite celebrities lit up the night with their families during Diwali 2018.

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Image: Instagram.com/aditiraohydari

Diwali means so much to us all… New beginnings, love, family, laughter, prosperity, happiness, partying, and also peace!!! May all this and more light up our lives 🌞 And most importantly let’s make it a happy and safe Diwali not just for us but for the animals too… they are also god’s creatures ❤❤❤❤❤🤗😘 #HappyDiwali

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Image: Instagram.com/kajol

Colourful night……. #diwali #happylife #family

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Image: Instagram.com/aliaabhatt

जन्मों के साथी ✨

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Image: Instagram.com/aliaabhatt

Yesterday the amazing @Motopaws volunteers joined us in saying yes to the pooch and no to the pataka. Together we were able to feed over 500 street dogs across 7 cities! This Diwali, let’s think about the animals and celebrate responsibly. Choose #PoochOverPataka

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Image: Instagram.com/saraalikhan95

Happy Diwali and a prosperous New Year!!✨🎉💫🌟💥 #likemotherlikedaughter#gotitfrommymama

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Image: Instagram.com/amitabhbachchan

Diwali brightness ever ..

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Image: Instagram.com/malaikaarorakhanofficial

Happy Diwali from us to you ….. wish u love,happiness n prosperity 🙏🙏♥♥#diwali2018#festiwaloflights

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Image: Instagram.com/karanjohar

The students!!!! #soty ❤❤❤

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Image: Instagram.com/officialraveenatandon

With all the bachas I’ve seen grow up @ananyapanday @anshulakapoor@shraddhakapoor #shanayakapoor ♥😘

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Image: Instagram.com/arpitakhansharma

With my lovelies @theshilpashetty @jacquelinef143

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Image: Instagram.com/athiyashetty


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Image: Instagram.com/athiyashetty

A very Happy Diwali, spread the light, be the light! 🙏🏼✨🌝💖 with lots of love, cheer and happiness, Team #MotichoorChaknachoor #woodpeckermovies@viacom18motionpictures@nawazuddin._siddiqui@debamitra_hasan @iammeghvrat

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Image: Instagram.com/diamirzaofficial

Happy Diwali! Love and light all ❤✨

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Image: Instagram.com/dianapenty

This Diwali, light a diya for love and peace ✨♥ #शुभदीपावाली

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Image: Instagram.com/dishapatani


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Image: Instagram.com/egupta

This is why we take so long to get ready… Happy Diwali guys #shotoniphonexr

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Image: Instagram.com/mira.kapoor

Nice to you today 🤪

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Image: Instagram.com/manishmalhotra05

Farther and Son Twinning 💕 @karanjohar little Yash 💕fabulous in #manishmalhotralabel#manishmalhotramenswewr #Diwali#celebrations #blessings #family#karanjohar #styling @nikitajaisinghani@mmalhotraworld

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Image: Instagram.com/katrinakaif

हैपी दिवाली ❤🌟love and light to us all

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Image: Instagram.com/kiaraaliaadvani

Twinning with the namesake @aliaabhatt 💥👯‍♀️

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Image: Instagram.com/kritisanon

Red Hot! Twinning in red with the one and only @karanjohar !! ♥️♥️ #aboutlastnight

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Image: Instagram.com/lisahaydon

may the Festival of Lights ignite us all! ✨✨ Happy Diwali! 👗 @simratmarwahatelier

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Image: Instagram.com/madhuridixitnene

Happy Diwali 💛✨

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Image: Instagram.com/mira.kapoor

Only love 💕Happy Diwali!

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Image: Instagram.com/neetu54

Happy Diwali from NYC 🌟

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Image: Instagram.com/nimratofficial

♥and✨from my home to your’s… 📸 courtesy my mommy @avinashsethi.10 (rare breed of a photographer who smiles more than the subject) #BestDiwali #Blessed

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Image: Instagram.com/hegdepooja

A Diwali Kiss for all you lovelies ❤😘 Happy Diwali!!!! Muahhhhhhhhh

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Image: Instagram.com/officialraveenatandon

Putting on smiley faces ! No pouts this time 😂 @junochopra reveals all 😁

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Image: Instagram.com/priyankachopra

Happy Diwali. So good to be home to celebrate with my loved ones. I wish for the world to be bestowed with love, light and happiness. 💥✨

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Image: Instagram.com/sonamkapoor

Happy happy Diwali folks.

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Image: Instagram.com/sushmitasen47

#duggadugga ❤

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Image: Instagram.com/amitabhbachchan

Happy Diwali

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Image: Instagram.com/twinklerkhanna

When two is company and three would be one too many:) #happygirls #accidentallytwinning#diwalidoubledhamaka

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Image: Instagram.com/twinklerkhanna

Happy Diwali! May your world be filled with love and laughter #diwali2018

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Image: Instagram.com/anushkasharma

Happy Diwali from our home ✨ May you all find the light in you this Diwali …. 🕉✨🙏

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