“Their eyes give it away. Chris Perry wears a slick black jacket, the sleeves of his crisp white shirt revealing the glint of dark cuff links. His fingers clasp a gleaming tenor saxophone with a lover’s gentleness. Arms crossed coquettishly above her waist, Lorna Cordeiro is chic in a bouffant and a form-fitting gown that shows a flash of ankle. They stare into each other’s eyes, mesmerised. Behind them looms a giant camera aperture borrowed from the opening sequence of the Bond films.
You couldn’t miss the poster as you sauntered down Jamshetji Tata Road in downtown Bombay. It hung outside the Astoria Hotel, across the street from the octagonal Art Deco turret of Eros cinema, inviting the city to Chris and Lorna’s daily shows at the Venice nightclub. It was 1971. India was savouring its newfound place on the world’s stage. The country’s armed forces had decisively liberated Bangladesh and the idealism of Independence had welled up again. India’s middle classes were capturing their polyester memories on Agfa Click IIIs that cost 46.50 rupees (taxes extra), aspiring to the lifestyles of “The Jet Set Air Hostesses” described in The Illustrated Weekly of India (price: 85 paise), and being encouraged by newspaper ads to “Go gay with Gaylord fine filter cigarettes”.
As the City of Gold bubbled through its jazz age, Lorna and Chris enthralled Bombay with their shows at Venice each night. Remo Fernandes, who would go on to become the first Indian pop musician to record an album of original English-language tunes, was among those locked in the spell. “Two artists sometimes ignite a creative chemistry in each other which goes beyond all logical explanation. Mere mortals can only look and listen in awe,” he rhapsodised. “In such duos, one plus one does not make two. It makes a number so immeasurable, it defies all laws of calculus.”“