Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Panjabi MC Does the Dew

Panjabi MC Does the Dew

Fresh off the heels of the Newsweek Article extolling that Desis have changed the way we eat, dress, work and play, Mountain Dew is apparently trying to capitalize on this trend. I just saw a Mountain Dew commercial featuring Steven Segal in an Indian run convenient store where he puts the inadvertent beatdown on everyone in the store while Panjabi MC's huge huge huge crossover hit (yes, it was a hit way before Jay-Z got on it) Mundian to Bach ke plays in the background.

Who would have thought that one day Bhangra would be the music of choice on soft drink commercials in America?

Raje Shwari

Timbaland Speaks on Raje Shwari

There was a lot of heat in 2003 about Raje Shwari, the desi songstress who appeared on almost every American hip-hop tune gone-mainstream that featured desi lyrics. Raje was working with Beatclub, and was apparently in the process of working with Timbaland and the Neptunes on her solo album, when all of a sudden, Timbaland's fan site indicated that Raje had parted ways with Timbaland and Beatclub. Rumors were abound re the why's and hows of the split, with many suggesting Raje left the Timbaland camp because she was sick of being used as a sample. We never heard much from Timbaland on the split, except that he was looking for another desi singer, until now.

Last night on Panjabi Hit Squad's radio show, PHS played a bit of an interview that Timbaland gave to Rodney P & Skitz, in which Timbaland, when asked about Raje, indicated that Raje wasn't ready to go solo, b/c "she couldn't connect the dots." He made it seem like she was premature in thinking that she was ready to take on the music game and go solo. The clip ended with Timbaland suggesting that while he built up her career, like other up-and-coming artists he has used on various records, he could just as easily burn it down.

What happenned with Bubba Sparxxx--he stuck around the Timbo camp, and well, his career has yet to take off.

Anyway, I give Timbaland a lot of respect for what he has done to hip-hop, and for helping bringing the Desi sound to the mainstream. But, he was rinsing Raje for a sample, and I think she has loads of talent, so I am glad she mutinied and left the situation. While I hope she can be a successful solo artist, I don't know enough about the game to say whether or not she has what it takes. Although now, after hearing Timbaland on the radio, I really hope she can do her thang.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Fauja Singh in deal with Adidas

92 Year Old Marathon Runner to feature in Adidas Commercial

According to this story from rediff.com, 92 year old British Asian Marathon runner Fauja Singh has signed a deal with Adidas to be a part of a media campaign that also features David Beckham and boxer Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali.

Fauja's face will adorn billboards in cities across the United Kingdom as part of a campaign called 'Impossible is Nothing'.

Four years ago, after a 53-year break from running, 89 year old Fauja lined up for his first Flora London Marathon. He took six hours and 54 minutes to reach the finish, and the following year ran the same time to set a world record for 90-year-olds. Last year, aged 92, he ran almost an hour quicker than he did on his debut at the 26.2 mile distance, finishing the Toronto marathon in 5 hrs 40 min, the fastest time yet recorded by someone of his age, and defeating the conventional wisdom about age being a barrier in sport. I don't think I could even finish a marathon, and I am only 25.

More Diasporic Desi Comings and Goings (Mostly Desi Anyway)

Here is another miscellaneous post of just random happenings.

My friend Jason Gross, who will be running across the United States is having his first major fundraiser this Saturday night in Baltimore, MD at the Royal Baltimore. Dubbed "The 2004 Jam For Diabetes," the concert wil feature Black-Eyed Susan, Mile69, Woodswork, and Written Prisms! Tickets are only $10 and available now or at the door…

In other news of cross country happenings, my friend Vishal Kanwar, who has help set up an amazing organization called Race Against Domestic Violence (RADV), will be partaking in a cross-country drive to promote this charity. RADV was formed to help fund the fight against the growing national epidemic of domestic violence. Stay tuned to their website for updates about the charity.

Ella Enchanted
In other news, Ella Enchanted, featuring Parminder Nagra opens on April ninth, and I believe Nagra will be on many of the talk shows this week--including The Today Show (March 29), and Live with Regis and Kelly on the 30th.

Apache Indian Tune to appear in the Scooby Doo Sequel "Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed."
It turns out that Scooby Doo 2, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, will feature an oldie (but goodie) Apache Indian tune in the movie. Yes folks, Boomshakalak is to be included in the film (and the soundtrack). Click here if you want to hear an mp3 of the tune.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

After Centuries, the Vegetarian Feast of India Finally Arrives

The Vegetarian Feast Has Arrived...According to the New York Times

A crispy dosa (crepe made from rice flour) typical of South India, with sides of sambar (lentil soup), coconut chutney, and potato .

I am really glad that this story on vegetarian Indian food has run in the New York Times. I guess the food writer has finally discovered that Indian food is (1) not just the heavy Punjabi curries and South Indian dosas that most non-Indian connoisseurs of Indian food in the United States are familiar with, and (2) that there is a plethora of diverse vegetarian Indian food options, outside of the standard generic "vegetable curry." I don't know about you, but I am kind of bored of the generic "vegetable curry," the vegetables in really buttery gravy that is typical to most of Indian food available in the states.

Sorry, I digressed.

While I do think the article could have done more to highlight the numerous and distinct regional styles of cooking available in India, the article is a good starting point for people who have love for Indian food.

From the article:

Indian restaurants outside India have rarely reflected the central role of vegetarian cooking in Indian life, or its varied flavors. Where Americans see "vegetable curries," Indian cooks distinguish among dry and sauced, southern-style (flavored with mustard seeds and curry leaves) and Northern-style (cooked in tomatoes and onions), chili-hot and creamy-cool dishes. To one who eats this way from birth, Mr. Rathnam said, "a dish that is spicy and sweet tastes completely different to one that is spicy and sour. Religion, economics, demographics and geography conspired early on to make India one of the most prolifically cultivated regions on earth. Today, there are about 220 million strict vegetarians in India, according to the Anthropological Survey of India. Indian Hindus, Buddhists and Jains all aspire to an ideal of ahimsa, or nonviolence, that prohibits the killing of anything living or with the potential for life (hence, Indian vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs)."

"Traditionally in India, cooking is intimately entwined with purity, spirituality and caste. "It's almost impossible to generalize about a country as diverse as India," said Rathi Raja, executive director of the Young Indian Culture Group, in Manhasset, N.Y. "But this much is true: although many of the old ways of religion and class are breaking down, eating vegetarian still has a big place in Indian culture." As New York's South Indian population has swelled, the lighter, livelier foods of those regions are being added to the mix. Gujarat, where many of New York City's Indian high-tech workers come from, has a particularly high percentage of vegetarians. "They are bachelors, these guys," said Sridhar Rathnam, the chef and an owner of Madras Cafe in the East Village. "So they don't know how to cook. And they need restaurants."

Believe me, I understand the craving for good Gujarati vegetarian food, and if you cannot get veggie Gujarati food, any veggie Indian will have to do. I know New York has some good vegetarian restaurants, and now thanks to the people behind the "Indian Delight" fast food Indian restaurant in The Old Post Office Pavilion here in DC, people craving or wanting to try Gujarati food, in addition to other Indian regional cooking can eat at their new K Street establishment Nirvana.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Bollywood on Broadway

Time Out New York Catches Bollywood Fever

Those of you living in New York need to check out the most recent issue of Time Out New York (see cover above featuring actresses Ayesha Dharker and Anisha Nagarajan), whose cover story, 14 pages in all, focuses on South Asians in New York and Bollywood coming to Broadway. Dharker and Nagarajan are both starring in the musical Bombay Dreams which is set to open on April 29 in New York, where it will be the biggest Indian-themed musical ever seen on Broadway, as it was in London. Preview performances begin March 29.

Incidentally, the British production of Bombay Dreams, according to this AP story in the Miami Herald, will be shutting down for several months in London while it is revised along the lines of the American production soon to open in New York, the show's producer Andrew Lloyd Webber said Wednesday.

"Having been in New York and seen some of the rehearsals for the show, I think that the exciting developments that have been made in terms of the book, the score and the set designs mean that this is the show I would like to see in the UK," Lloyd Webber, who composed "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera," said in a statement.

His office said the show will close June 13 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Changes will be made to the story line, score and set before the musical goes on a national tour late this year that will last several months. Only then will it return to London - to a smaller West End theater - toward the middle or end of 2005.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Now, Gurinder Chadha will bend DreamWorks, too!

Gurinder Going Strong

Here is a nice story from rediff.com about the many new films that Bend it Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha has signed on to do. By the way, all three films are with major studios--and leads me to beleive that Manoj Night Shyamalan better bring his "A" game on his next film, b/c Chadha is going to challenge him for the spot as the biggest diasporic desi filmaker. And I guess you can never count out Mira Nair from this race contest either.

From the rediff.com story:

Chadha, who is slated to direct I Dream Of Jeannie for Columbia Pictures, Nine Wives for New Line, will also direct the remake of a Korean epic, called Sassy Girl. The film focuses on the story of a young man who falls in love with a headstrong woman who moulds him into what she wants and then ditches him. Sassy Girl will be directed for DreamWorks SKG.


The Voice of America on International Interest in Bollywood

Interesting story from the VOA discussing new global attention being received by India's film and television industry.

"A recent conference in Bombay brought together hundreds of foreign delegates to explore business opportunities offered by India's entertainment sector. India's film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, produces nearly 1,000 movies a year, the largest number in the world. And more than 40 million Indian households have access to cable television, including foreign channels.
Television and film producers and directors from nearly 20 countries, as well as representatives from companies such as Walt Disney, came to Bombay recently to tap the potential of this huge entertainment industry. Some participants came to encourage Indian film producers to shoot movies in Britain. Bollywood movies are often shot overseas, making this a lucrative revenue-earner for some countries. Other delegates wanted to explore the possibility of doing more business in India. Andy Bird, president of Walt Disney International, sees great opportunity for animation production in India, because of the country's large English-speaking work force with technology skills."

Thursday, March 18, 2004

American Masala, now what?

After re-reading the Newsweek article, it struck me, now that Newsweek has recognized the Desi contributions to the U.S., does this all of a sudden mean that South Asian American's are now the "it" minority group. Is that all it takes? Does a group just need media recognition to actually arrive? I hope not.

DESIBLOG's media rundown:

The blogosphere, especially the desi blogosphere has been discussing at great length the south asian takeover in American media, which started off I guess with Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding--Nair is set to release Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon.

I think another big stepwas Panjabi MC's musical crossover hit Mundian to Bach Ke (BTW PMC has recently given an interview to Bobby Friction of the Bobby Friction and Nihal show on BBC 1) which became a mainstream hit, much like Gurinder Chadha's feel good movie Bend It Like Beckham--Chadha is set to release Bride and Prejudice in late 2004. All this stuff, when combined with the rising desi population numbers has really made the Desi massive strongly impact advertising, and in turn Hollywood.

As a result we now have a slew of tv shows in the works featuring desis. Check out Manish Vij's and Turbanhead's posts on Nevermind Nirvana, a new pilot being directed by Friend's David Schwimmer, and starring Kal Penn, for NBC. In addition to Mira Nair's planned sitcom pilotthat Carsey-Werner-Mandabach was behind for ABC revolving around an upper-middle-class Punjabi family that runs a chain of motels in New Jersey, rumor around the block has it that her Monsoon Wedding Co-writer Sabrina Dhawan is penning a script for a Desi show on HBO which will focus on what it means to be American to immigrant Indian families as they make the transition from first-generation immigrants to second-generation Americans.

In other news, make sure to check out Desi DNA on BBC 2. Currently there is an interesting clip of Jay Sean, the British Asian med student turned pop star.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

MSNBC - American Masala

Newseek Represents for Desi Americans

Awesome article in the most recent Newsweek Magazine entitled "American Masala" discussing something that DESIBLOG has been writing about for the past couple of years: the growing influence of South Asian Americans in the States.

The header reads "They've changed the way we eat, dress, work and play. South Asians come here from many places, and they succeed by blending East and West."

Here is a snippet, but make sure to check out the entire article. It is a must read.

"It's the most visible ethnic breakout since Ricky Martin let Americans know that Latinos were living la vida loca. In this case, having money has helped. According to the Census Bureau, the median income in Indian-American families is more than $60,000, compared with the national average of $38,885, and experts estimate that more than half of the 2 million South Asians in this country are college graduates. South Asians are highly visible on all of the nation's most elite campuses and are garnering an impressive share of the top academic prizes. They were critical to the Silicon Valley boom, and now many are resettling in cities like Bangalore as entrepreneurs in the booming outsourcing industry. Parmatma Saran, a sociologist at New York's Baruch College who studies South Asian immigrants, says they succeed because they balance modernity with old-world values. "South Asians are following in the footsteps of Jews," says Saran, who came from India in 1967 at 24. "They're following the Jewish model of penetrating the structural arrangement of society—economics, politics—without losing their cultural identity," he says."

Also in the Newsweek issue, a list of some of the up-and-coming South Asian-Americans. This list is by no means exhaustive, there are only so many names a magazine can print.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Random Updates

Desi Sprawl

Here are a couple of interesting Desi tidbits I thought I would pass along to the DESIBLOG readers.

First, who knew that IKEA, the world-famous store where budget conscious yuppies furniture shopped catered to South Asian's? Well I didn't.

Thanks to nice guy hemanth, I, and now you can check out IKEA's Diwali catalogue (in .pdf format) here.

I don't know if any of you watch the Soprano's, but there were a couple of Desi connections in the season 5 opener. The show, which in the past has had Desi actors, and even highlighted Desi involvement in calling-card scams (I think out of Jersey City), not only featured an Indian reporter Sukanya, played by Sukanya Krishnan (I slow-mo'd the credits), I think it also had Meadow, listening to some sort of Desi beats in her car--but cannot be positive.

And Lastly, what random DESIBLOG post could be complete without some music tidbits. A new hip-hop single is out featuring a collaboration between Method Man and one of my favorite rappers, Busta Rhymes called "What's Happenin?" The tune features as its background melody, none other than the guitar riff from the classic Bollywood tune, Dum Maro Dum. This track is going to feature on Method Man's upcoming LP Tical 0: The Prequel. If you register, you can here the song on the Wu-Tang website.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Opening Files, Indians Find Scams (washingtonpost.com)

Transparency and the Right to Know at the Grass Roots Level

Great article in "Today's Washington Post by Rama Lakshmi on the role Freedom of Information Laws are playing in village life in India.

A man called Rawat's name. "Did you buy 77 pounds of wheat every month from your local ration shop?" he asked. "I did not," Rawat answered. "But the register says you have been buying wheat every month," the man said, pointing to a copy of the government food register, which he had obtained under a state law that grants citizens access to government files. "How can the records say that? The ration shopkeeper in my village said there was no wheat supply from the government for the last six months," Rawat said, as the crowd of about 600 villagers shouted, "No wheat, no wheat!" As ration shopkeepers tried in vain to disrupt the public hearing convened by the Workers and Peasants Empowerment Organization, a grass-roots advocacy group, the names of 30 more impoverished villagers who had been cheated out of their wheat entitlements were read out.

The group that Laskhmi refers to is Rajasthan's MKSS, a grassroots movement advocating for greater transparency at the local level. My boss here at the Archive was at this meeting, along with a couple other meetings that the MKSS held this past January and February. What is quite interesting about Right to Know laws that are being passed all over the world, is that not only does it give ordinary citizens the ability to play a greater role, it really seems to help in empowering people.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Scotsman.com News - Features - 'I don't want to be a Jill of all trades'

Meera Syal... I don't want to be a Jill of all Trades

Excellent article from The Scotsman on Meera Syal, one of the women behind Bombay Dreams, the author of Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee, and one of the high-rising Asian women creating a inclusive multicultural Britain.

Excerpts from the article:

In the 1990s she [Syal] turned to screenplays (Bhaji on the Beach) and novels, although the sharp analysis of the immigrant experience in her books was arguably overshadowed by the runaway success of Goodness Gracious Me. Now, though, there is another novel germinating at the back of her mind, another series of the Kumars in the pipeline and meaty acting roles in Bad Girls and The Bill coming up.

She is a household name, thanks to the hit TV comedies Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42, but her best gags involve her disguising her undeniable good looks to appear absurd, even grotesque. "I have shied away from the more glamorous parts," she says. "If you are worrying about how good you look, you aren’t doing your job properly."

But there is still a glass ceiling. Where is our Bill Cosby, our Whoopi Goldberg, the person who can carry a series?" Has she personally made a difference? She shrugs. "If I have, it’s just by being around. The previous generations opened all the doors."

Friday, March 05, 2004

WASA Criticized Over Lead Response (washingtonpost.com)

Washington D.C. Water and Sewer Authority Crticized Over Lead Response

For those of you living in Washington, or curious about the level of lead in the Capital's water, check out this Washington Post article indicating that DC water officials are lazy and incompetent.

"In early 2001, tests began finding lead levels exceeding 15 parts per billion in thousands of homes served by lead service lines in the district. The 15 ppb is an action level established by the EPA, which triggered the need for WASA to take certain steps including stepped up testing, consumer notification and line replacements.

The fact that lead levels were so elevated only became public to DC residents maybe a month ago.

It's clear that the (District of Columbia) Water and Sewer Authority was highly ineffective at informing the public of the magnitude of the problem," said Donald Welsh, regional administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

I will drink a bottle of Bisleri to this, especially since I live in D.C.

For many of you who have no clue what Bisleri is, it is one of the first, and most popular mineral waters available in India.

To sign a petition to register your concern over the dangerous levels of lead in DC water, click here.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


Badmash, A Weekly South Asian Comic Strip

You have to check out the latest Badmash comic, it is brilliant. The have created a nice spoof of the famed American tv show, the Simpsons.Click here to check out their take on the Simpson's--The Singh-sons.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Op-Ed Contributor: Hurray for Bollywood

Hurray for Bollywood--Pankaj Mishra Opines in the NY Times

Check out Pankaj Mishra's latest opinion piece on Bollywood that was published in the New York Times on February 28, 2004.

From the Article:

BOMBAY — Last week this city's film industry, called Bollywood, held its own version of the Oscars. There were well-rehearsed jokes and solemn speeches, and somewhat more spontaneous hugs and tears. Soon after it ended, most of the prize winners left for Dubai to attend yet another awards ceremony, their fourth in less than a month. Bollywood tends to congratulate itself even more frequently and fulsomely than Hollywood. And, perhaps, it has good reasons for doing so: India makes around 800 films each year, more than any country in the world. Bollywood produces up to 200 films in Hindi and Urdu alone.

Little of what comes out of this $1.3 billion-a-year industry is of much quality, and few films make a profit. Yet India, where approximately 12 million people go to the movies every day, remains culturally a world unto itself, immune to the films emerging from Hollywood, which have captured only 6 percent of the largest domestic movie market in the world.

Moreover, Bollywood's films reach up to 3.6 billion people around the world — a billion more than the audience for Hollywood. Egyptians, South Africans and Fijians joined Indians in electing Amitabh Bachchan — a name unknown to most people in Europe and America — as the "actor of the millennium" in a BBC online poll.