I guess it is cinema weekend here at Desiblog, because this post will discuss two more films, M Night Shyamalan's "The Village," which opens on July 30th, and Gurinder Chadha's upcoming release "Bride and Prejudice." I think this film opens on December 25, 2004.
Shyamalan's film, which is opening among some controversy, seems to have caught the fancy early of the Washington Post's Anne Thompson--Just read the opening of her story on Shyamalan's new film.
Hollywood's most precious resource is a writer-director who can create films that are original yet accessible, powerful but not off-putting, and in tune with popular taste but not pandering. Such artists are rare in no small part because the studios, paradoxically, tend to stifle the creativity of gifted filmmakers. But occasionally there arises such a talent as M. Night Shyamalan, who insists on doing it his way. The 33-year-old goes quiet for a time, then emerges with a movie that blends art and commerce in unexpected ways.
And then here is a early review from Asians in Media of Chadha's Bride and Prejudice. From the review, it seems the film is well produced and directed, and that Aishwarya's performance will not disappoint. If this is the case, it will definitely lead to some serious offers for her in international cinema and hollywood.
The Washington Post's Deneen Brown has written an interesting story focusing on gang violence in Vancouver. Surprisingly, or not, the article focuses on Indo-Canadians as it seems they are both the culprits and the victims of the violence.
What is weird is Canadians are not accustomed to seeing widespread gun violence mainly because the country has strict firearms laws. As a result Canada has lower levels of such crimes than does the United States. According to the government's Canada Firearms Center, the rate of murders committed with firearms in 2001 was 6.5 times higher in the United States than in Canada.
Anyway, it seems the desis in Canada are the anomaly.
In the past 13 years, police have reported 76 young men killed in the Vancouver area in gang-related violence. The authorities blame drug deals gone bad and local turf wars, mostly involving well-to-do young people of Indian descent. Immigrant community leaders in Vancouver complain of police inaction. Police say they have tried, but have been unable to develop leads that would stop the bloodshed. "They are Indo-Canadians killing Indo-Canadians," said Kash Heed, commanding officer of the 3rd Police District in Vancouver. "Seventy-six murders . . . mainly within one ethnic group. The cycle of violence, we've not cracked it yet." "One day suspect, and the next day victim," said Heed, the police commander. "One day you are the shooter. The next day you're lying in your coffin."
He said the killings can be traced to a dispute between Bindy Johal and Ron Donsanjh, two notorious drug dealers. First Donsanjh's brother Jimmy was killed in February 1994.
"Johal was the supposed suspect," Heed said, and Ron Donsanjh heard about it. "They challenged one another. 'Come get me! No, come get me!' " Heed recounted.
Two months later, Ron Donsanjh, 29, was killed in a drive-by shooting.
"The movie's apparently simple shifts of racial and generational emphasis — replacing the traditional white (or, in recent variants, black) teenagers or undergraduates with Asian-Americans in their post-college years — at once upend the conventions of youth-oriented goofball comedy and revitalize them. "Harold and Kumar" is as delightfully stupid as "Friday" or "Road Trip" or "Wet Hot American Summer," but it is also one of the few recent comedies that persuasively, and intelligently, engage the social realities of contemporary multicultural America.
In some ways John Cho and Kal Penn are broadening a venerable tradition of ethnic humor, trafficking in stereotypes and sending them up with equal verve. The stoners down the hall, for instance, are a pair of fast-talking former yeshiva boys who fire up a shofar for some Sabbath eve toking. On a pit stop in Princeton, Harold is dragooned into attending a meeting of an Asian-American student group, whose painfully earnest members pepper him with geeky questions about his investment banking job. Harold, confronted with the specter of his own squareness and conformity, manages to flee, only to miss out on the group's subsequent activity — a raucous, uninhibited party, with drugs courtesy of the geekiest kid in the bunch. (The spectacle of good students behaving badly presents a tamer version of the studious Asian-American teenagers gone wild in "Better Luck Tomorrow," Justin Lin's 2001 drama of honor-roll hoodlums, which featured Mr. Cho and which is name-checked in "Harold and Kumar.") The filmmakers are happy to laugh at Harold's buttoned-up careerism and cautious deference to authority, and also at the fact that Kumar's immigrant family, obsessed with the need for him to get high marks and make good impressions, seems to be composed entirely of physicians. But they also lash out — in remarkably good humor, it must be said — at the lazy, bigoted perceptions that bedevil Harold and Kumar in the course of their all-night odyssey.
The prejudice that Harold and Kumar encounter — expressed by a carload of extreme-sports headbangers and by doltish New Jersey law enforcement officers, among others — is more a matter of inconvenience, of moronic uncoolness, than oppression. And in fighting back against it, Harold and Kumar are motivated less by a sense of wounded pride or profound injustice than by a familiar individualist exasperation. They just want hamburgers (and sex, and decent weed and a good time) — which is to say they want what is theirs by birthright as young, affluent, reasonably good-looking American consumers. Though they are occasionally abused and insulted, they also carry with them assumptions of social privilege, intellectual capital and economic opportunity. They share a decent apartment in Hoboken. Harold has a spiffy silver Honda (at least until Doogie Howser gets a hold of it) paid for by his white collar, Wall Street job, while Kumar dawdles on the way to medical school, supported by his father while he indulges in a bit of late-adolescent rebellion."
For some reason, that sounds vaguely familiar. Anyway, go check out the film and support Asian-American cinema.
The Desi Gymnast who has been getting a lot of attention both b/c of her gymnast skillz, and because of her patronage from Pamela Anderson, Mohini Bhardwaj has been named to the U.S. olympic Gymnastic team. Congratulations go out to her from DESIBLOG.
"Mohini Bhardwaj and Annia Hatch, two of the nation's top vaulters, were named to the team in a live announcement made on an NBC telecast, along with Terin Humphrey and 2003 world silver all-around medalist Carly Patterson.
Bhardwaj, the former UCLA gymnast, followed up her strong trials performance with scores of 9.8 and 9.6 on vault in the selection camp competition.
"I didn't expect them to take both of us," Bhardwaj said on a conference call after the U.S. team was announced, referring to herself and Hatch. "I thought since January that they'd take one or the other.
"But to say we're specialists is selling it a bit short. We're also great all-around gymnasts."
While I haven't really enjoyed Deepa Mehta's past couple of projects, I was a huge fan of both Fire and Earth. Both films were creative, visually stimulating, and quite intuitive. I really thought Earth needed to be made, and the direction Mehta gave to the film really raised my expectations for her future film offerings, specifically the final portion of the trilogy, Water. And finally it seems, Mehta was able to finish filming the third portion of the series, not in India, but instead in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Here is a link to an interview she gave to sify.com a couple of days ago.
And here is an excerpt:
It's been a traumatic time for you? Water's journey has been traumatic and anguished, but finally very satisfying. In the last two years I came to terms with the tragic disruption of the film in Varanasi. I had to move on and yet make the film. My creative output wouldn't have been complete without finishing the trilogy. The last Indian film to be shot in Colombo was Mani Ratnam's Kannattil Muttamittal. That's right. I saw that and other films shot there. I thought of Colombo as the location for Water about a year ago. There were no hassles in getting permission for shooting. We made a film without politics coming in our way (laughs). I'd have loved to make the film in India.
But I couldn't. Anyway, I don't think my film suffers because of the transposition. I didn't have to look anxiously over my shoulders at who's shooting the next volley at my film. I could just focus on making the film. That fear is a real impediment to creativity.
Did you at any time think of shelving the project? I let all the fear and insecurity play itself out. I couldn't stop myself from doing Water just because some people would read political statements in it. I made the film because I had to make it. It took my time to get over the trauma in Varanasi. We shot in 45 days with John Abraham and Lisa Ray without any distraction.
What made you choose John Abraham and Lisa Ray? When things didn't work out with Rahul Khanna and Kareena Kapoor, I thought of actors who would be dedicated to my project. I had worked with Lisa in Bollywood/Hollywood. There's something lovely about her. I thought she suited my heroine Kalyani's character to perfection. Lisa cut her hair really short to play the widow. She didn't need to shave her head. Just have it brutally shorn.
According to theThe Mirror (UK), American Pop-Star Britney Spears is in the running for a part in a multi-million pound movie about four Indian students in the US. An insider says producers are desperate to sign up the 22-year-old. We're told: "It's about four girls adapting to life at Columbia University in New York. The Desi girls are rumored to be Aishwarya Rai, Preity Zinta, and Rani Mukherjee.
The New York Daily News is reporting that Time Warner Cable is going to offer Bollywood films as part of its On Demand feature for a trial run in July and August.
While on-demand services represent barely 3% of cable revenues, Time Warner said it's one of their most popular items. "We have such diverse audiences in our franchise. We recognize that not everyone is into Hollywood hit movies," said Time Warner Cable's Betty Campbell-Adams. Bollywood On Demand is part of a diversity initiative the country's second largest cable company launched three months ago, and the feature may return in October, just in time for Hindu New Year Diwali, and an Asian Film Festival may be on tap for next May.
The company rolled out a Bollywood service July 1 in all 31 of its markets nationwide. Like most on-demand films, the Bollywood offerings cost $3.95 for 24 hours of unlimited viewing. Time Warner said it ordered 10 Bollywood titles. Three are currently running — "Arjun Pandit," "Khoobsurat," and "One Two Ka Four."
Half the country's two million South Asians — including Indians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans — live in New York. For some, the Bollywood service is a convenience, while for others, it's a sign the community has arrived.
For all the years (ok, only a little over two) DESIBLOG has been pushing the Asian Underground sound, and it has been awhile since the movement has come to Washington. So DESIBLOG is proud to report that the underground is coming overground to Washington on Thursday July 22, in support of the Sikh Heritage Project, an amazing project that will highlight the wonderful and intriguing history of Sikhism, that will be displayed as part of the Smithsonian Insitution.
And yet another desi running for Congress. Again, while I am all for Desis atempting to achieve higher political positions in the U.S., it seems they are all running on a conservative platform. Fernandez is running in the the sixth district of New Jersey, a heavily populated South Asian area, against incumbent Frank Pallone.
I don't know if any of you saw the ABCnews program this evenine focusing on weddings, but if you did, I am sure you noticed the wedding that highlighted the India-Indiana wedding. It was of course the wedding that focused on "the girl from India who married the boy from Indiana." Nevermind that the girl was a desi-American, it is afterall, whatever will make the story sell.
The wedding was in fact the story of desi-American lawyer Rupa Goswami, and her all American husband from Indian Tim Searight, a fellow U.S. attorney in her Los Angeles office.
"I got my dream job, which was to be a U.S. attorney in Los Angeles," Rupa told ABC News. "So I wasn't going to let anything get in the way of doing this job."
An arranged marriage was out of the question, but that didn't stop Rupa's mother Shila from worrying.
Shila says she put her faith in the gods, visiting many temples. "There is no god left at Indian temples that I didn't go," she said. "Everywhere I went, and I said this is the last prayer I'm doing. Please give me that."
Then, as if right out of a Bollywood movie, her prayers were answered. Rupa met Tim
But had the gods misunderstood? Tim was fair-haired, blue-eyed and not from India, but Indiana.
Searight said, "We were literally and truly born on the opposite sides of the world. If you were to look at the map, you would see they're directly on the opposite sides of the world." At first, Rupa wasn't interested in him "at all," and she was very concerned about having an office romance.
They were also of two different religions. Tim was baptized in the Presbyterian church. "My parents then took me to the Methodist church in Indiana," he said. "And then I started attending an Episcopalian church." Rupa is Hindu. But Rupa and Tim started to fall in love. He took her to Paris. "I just felt really comfortable. It was very smooth and very easy and I thought very comfortable. Then I thought, 'Well, this might work,' " she said.
The couple actually co-starred in their very own home-made Bollywood musical. Tim fully embraced the Indian culture of Rupa — and especially her parents. "Tim so easily became part of us. So easily," said Shila. "Many Indian boys would not, they'll be stiff. Tim wasn't like that. Tim came in a very spontaneous way." When Rupa told her father Tim was Christian, he asked: "How Christian is he?" There was Rupa's advancing age to consider. "In my family it's all good," she said. "He's male, he's breathing, you know, no felony conviction."
Anyway, I am sure most of you get it. To read the full article from abcnews.com click here. I saw the show, and in fact enjoyed it even though I found it a little condescending, as if a desi Hindu marrying a white person is so out of the ordinary out of the days. It was almost as if the show was trying to find conflict. Too bad for the show, and good for Rupa and Tim, that there wasn't any. DESIBLOG wishes the couple well.
And here is story from the Washington Post on the nuptuals.
"The wedding -- which Christine described as "a theatrical production, like putting on a Broadway show" -- began with Tim riding a painted elephant down a street to the Pasadena Museum of California Art, where the ceremony was to take place. Members of his family, dressed in traditional Hindu outfits, danced in front of the elephant. When they reached the museum, the procession was led to the third floor terrace by a bagpiper that represented the Searights' Scottish heritage."
Quick question, does anyone know what a Hindu outfit is?
NY1 News reports on a huge gaffe made by New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg at a street renaming ceremony in Queens Sunday.
The ceremony was in honor of astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who was killed in the space shuttle Columbia disaster in February 2003. The mayor mentioned what he thought was his encounter with her at last summer's Indian Day Parade.
“Kalpana Chawla was a real nice person,” said Bloomberg. “I mean, I just marched with her for 30 or 40 blocks and talked to her.”
The problem is, Chawla died several months before the parade, and it was in fact another Indian American astronaut who he was walking with, Sunita Lynn Williams.
Williams is on the right of Mayor Bloomberg, on the left is Bollywood Actress Sonali Bendre.
The Times (UK) have written a well-done piece about up-and-coming desi MC, Maya Arulpragasm and her band MIA, which recently had their first mainstream single released by British heavyweight label XL (home to none other than Dizzy Rascal and The White Stripes).
From the Article:
Her sound is an explosive mix of bhangra, ragga, electro and hip-hop. But underneath her street style, the singer-songwriter behind MIA is a political animal
She has had more opportunities than most to have her eyes opened to the meaning of life, but for Maya Arulpragasam, the tipping point was surprisingly mundane. At the age of 10, the London-based MC was forced to flee her native Sri Lanka, where her father, a Tamil freedom fighter, remains to this day. Arriving in Britain, she and her mother and two siblings were housed on a notoriously racist council estate in Surrey. At school, the newcomer was dismissed as thick because she couldn’t speak English and labelled the Thing because her surname was too long.
The new arrivals were not exactly welcomed with open arms by London’s Sri Lankan community. “They used to say, ‘Your kids are not in private school, your husband’s chosen not to be with you,’” Arulpragasam scoffs. “They are really obsessed with impressing the British. They want to be doctors and engineers and go to Cambridge, buy leather couches to match their encyclopedias, have a sitar in the corner and whip their saris out once a year for a wedding. They’d look at us and go, ‘We don’t want them hanging round with our kids, they’re into rap, they think they ’re black.’” Which is precisely what Arulpragasam wanted to be when she went to stay with a cousin in California, partying with Eddie Murphy and Dr Dre, and very nearly moving there for good. “I thought, ‘F*** it, I don’t want to make art films that screen at the ICA to 30 people. I’ll go to LA and be black: it’s better than being in Britain and being brown.’”
Luckily, she didn't jump ship, and her debut single, last year’s white- label Galang, made a lot of ears prick up. Within weeks, the track’s exhilaratingly dirty mix of hard beats, street slang and distorted vocals unleashed the ubiquitous bidding war. XL, home to Dizzee Rascal and the White Stripes, won the day, and MIA was soon working with the likes of Richard X on her first album, which will be released this autumn. Her single, sunshowers released on the fifth of July. Check it, her website, and the article out. They are brilliant.
As I hope you have noticed, I have redesigned the blog. For now it looks like all the old comments are not initially available, but if you click on an entry, they do appear. Also, I don't think I am done tweaking with the template yet, so expect some other--hopefully, mostly minor--changes. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
I was going to write a review of Bombay Dreams, but since I have spent most of my weekend computer time focusing on the site redesign, I think will not write a full review. In the end, the play was really good, and I think it did indeed suffer from the "dumbing down" it received for the the American audience. And, perhaps the reason that it didn't receive the positive reviews from the likes of the Times, the Post, or most of the other papers is because the show is quite unusual for Broadway. Bollywood does not make for traditional theatre, and it seems to me, many of the mainstream reviewers still look for that Broadway formula. I do agree though, with the criticism that the book is weak. The dialogue, even though it is a musical, is not that strong, and while there are some funny lines (how could there not be), the book needs to be rewritten.
But in the end, Bombay Dreams is AWESOME and it is bringing a Desi to the theater, a population not well known for voyaging to Broadway. Anyway, here is an interesting story from the New York Post discussing the shows producers attempts at trying to get Janet Jackson to join the cast.
I think Ayesha Dharker, who currently plays the role of Rani, is one of the better aspects to the show, I think Janet would not only fill the theater, I think it would add a whole other aspect to the mainstreaming of desi cutlure in America.
A couple of music notes: Check out the live recording of the June 30 Jay Sean/Juggy D session from Birmingham's Glee Club (more Jay Sean than Juggy D), available in real audio, from Adil Ray's show on the BBC Asian Network. I gotta admit, I was pretty skeptical at the start, but Jay Sean and crew, including a live band, really tore it up. So check out the show.
Secondly, and big up to my boy Sank, starting this Thursday night (tonight), Ethnotechno will begin broadcasting through 89dot3 CNJ in Edison, NJ, USA from 12 am to 5 am every night at FM quality sound.
A new weekly prime time show called Nu Asian Soundz will premier on CNJ in the coming weeks, so if you live in Edison or its surrounding areas tune in!
By the way, WCNJ is America's FIRST 24|7 South Asian FM radio station.
To make the games crowd friendly, and I assume to lessen the stigma that Cricket is longwinded and stuffy, league matches will be shorter and consist of 20-overs a side matches and each side can include up to five overseas players. For those that don't know one over consists of six pitches. Instead of limiting each inning to 3 outs, in cricket, the entire team is slated to bat, either until all ten are taken out, or until all 20 overs are bowled (pitched). For further reference and bollywood entertainment, see Amir Khan's Lagaan.
The organisers claim have a number of international players signed up for the league including one Ajay Jadeja, the once super-promising Indian cricketer and actor in the making who was taken down due to the match throwing scandal.
Anyway, check out the site, and if you are into cricket go out and support your team. If you are not into cricket, well go out to the park and learn about it. Maybe there will be some good samosas and Vadilal ice cream.
The New York Times reports on a new study focusing on the people who drive New York City's taxicabs. The study paints a rare portrait of this harried work force and reveals that extraordinary numbers of the city's newest immigrants continue to flock to the industry.
Anyone who rides yellow taxicabs or livery cabs regularly knows that many of its drivers are immigrants, but no one had broken down the numbers using recent data. The previous study on the driver population, done by Bruce Schaller, a taxi industry consultant based in Brooklyn, used information taken from 1991. The new report, released yesterday by Mr. Schaller, analyzes 2000 census data and Taxi and Limousine Commission licensing records. Currently, 99,400 drivers are licensed by the commission to drive yellow cabs.
Among the reports findings:
Eighty-four percent of taxi and livery drivers in the city are now immigrants, up from 64 percent in 1990 and 38 percent in 1980.
The ranks of yellow cab drivers, however, are dominated by South Asian immigrants, who make up about 38 percent of drivers (14 percent from Pakistan, 14 percent from Bangladesh, 10 percent from India). The next largest group is Haitians at 9.6 percent.
Bangladeshi drivers have supplanted Pakistanis as the largest percentage of newly licensed drivers of yellow taxicabs. Of those who entered the business in the last two years, 18 percent were from Bangladesh, 15 percent from Pakistan and 9 percent from India.
The growing number of new Bangladeshi drivers, for example, reflects a sharp increase in Bangladeshi immigration to the city, from 400 per year in the 80's to 3,900 per year in the mid-90's. But beyond the general increase in their numbers in the city, Mr. Schaller said, there is also a word-of-mouth phenomenon among Bangladeshis.
"Certain immigrant groups have chosen to make taxi and limousine driving their niche business," he said. "Just as you have Korean grocers, you have South Asian taxi drivers.
But, when you add the livery cab drivers onto the yellow cab numbers, "drivers from the West Indies (Dominican Republic or Haiti) make up the largest portion of yellow cab and livery drivers, 23 percent, according to 2004 licensing data. They are followed closely by drivers from South Asia (Pakistan, India or Bangladesh), who make up 20 percent of drivers over all."
Incidentally, New York was good times. Bombay Dreams, I don't know what to say except the show was awesome--full review to come. But, GO SEE IT--DESI OR NOT! Seeing desis on Broadway, being Desi, with Desis in the audience. Very cool. A great instance of globalization, assimilation, and desi-American culture. And yeah, despite the English lyrics, I have the soundtrack.
Fantastic article from the New York Times on the importance of the Indian raita. Ever since I came back from study abroad (in 1998-oouch that was a long time ago) I have been addicted to the indian spiced up yogurt with nice bits of cucumber, onion, cilantro, and tomatoes. I think I first realized I was becoming an addict when I was given a side of raita to accompany fresh aloo-paratha. And then, mixing it with moong dal with a splash of lemon juice. But now I eat it iwth everything.
Anyway, from the article:
RAITA is salad, relish, dip and side dish in one, a terrific addition to the summer repertory. Served as a condiment in India, this cooling yogurt concoction requires no cooking and is quickly made with common ingredients. No one knows whether raita came about as a way to offset India's spicy dishes or to integrate yogurt and its valuable proteins into vegetarian meals. But what is important to us now is that raita is equally useful in meals with and without meat.
Nor should you employ raita in exclusively Indian ways. It is terrific as a dip for flatbread, or, when made extra thick, an alternative to potato salad or coleslaw.
The basic recipe here is usually not eaten as is but as the foundation for other raitas. There are sweet raitas, some that are downright fiery and many that are given more texture with the addition of chopped onion, cucumber or bell pepper, and a burst of flavor from fresh herbs like mint and cilantro. There are infinite variations, and you can take them in almost any direction you like.
I have found raita to be even good in burritos. Now that is food fusion.
I was just perusing Aishwarya Rai's page on IMDB. It seems she has signed a couple of new films. She will be starring in Roland Joffe's Singularity opposite Brendan Fraser, which will begin shooting in September of this year. It seems she has also signed on to do Mistress of Spices, a movie based on Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's novel of the same name. The screenplay for 'Spices' is written by Gurinder Chadha's husband Paul Mayeda Berges, also one of the writers for Bend it Like Beckham.
I predict that once Bride and Prejudice is released in the states, not only will Ash become the hearthrob for many an American male.