Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A. Roy--A Superstar of the Left

Znet has an interesting interview, dated August 31, 2004, with Booker prize winning author turned-global activist, Arundhati Roy here. And then here is a link-filled article about her recent talks on the Left coast.

In person, Roy is soft-spoken and nothing like a rabble-rouser. She seems to save her sharpest words for the printed page. For her public speeches in the United States, Roy usually reads essays she has written. In fact, Roy says, her onstage comments are really written for herself. That many people (especially liberal thinkers) agree with her statements is but a kind of bonus.

"I think what probably drives me as a writer is a curiosity to understand and to keep understanding," Roy says. "When I write, I write for myself, not just in order to let people know, because the writing clarifies things to me."

Both make for interesting reads.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Gurinder Chadha on Her "Bride and Prejudice"

Gurinder Chadha, director as everyone should now know of Bend it Like Beckham and the forthcoming Bride and Prejudice spoke to recently spoke to rediff.com about her recently completed film.

How would you define Bride And Prejudice?
It is a British film made by British finance, obviously because I am British.
But it is a homage to Hindi cinema and to Hollywood musicals. My friends in the West, who have seen it, have compared it to Grease. They don't know the musical references from Hindi films. There are very deliberate references to the cinema of Manoj Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Yash Chopra and Karan Johar.

Do you think post-Bend It, Bride And Prejudice might be over-sold to the public?

I don't think so. I know audiences will go to the theatres with a lot of expectations. But they will enjoy it. I don't think it will be a huge 100-week 'House Full' film in India because it's in English...What I hope to do with Bride And Prejudice is make the Hindi language familiar to the world. After all, Bollywood is much bigger than Hollywood. Hopefully, it will work both ways. It will spur Westerners to watch more Hindi movies and also inspire Bollywood filmmakers towards better narratives.
Click here to read the full interview. Click here to read a review of the film from worldmovemag.com (UK).

The film opens in India and the UK on October 8th, and during the very busy Christmas movie season in the states.

Incidentally, it is quite amazing to flip on my cable, and in one channel sweep find Monsoon Wedding on IFC, Bend it Like Beckham on HBO, and commercials for Mira Nair's forthcoming Vanity Fair throughout. From eating chilled monkey brains and snake surprise to this. How far Desis have come!

Friday, August 27, 2004

Amitava Kumar--A Husband of a Fanatic

From the Author of Passport Photos and the (IMO) brilliant Bombay London New York, (see my rather long review of it from the Satya Circle)comes Husband of a Fanatic, "fiercely personal essay on the idea of the enemy," according to the British Council website. The Council recently sponsored a book reading for Kumar, while he is on a book-tour in India.

More from the Penguin website:
In the summer of 1999, while the Kargil War was being fought, author Amitava Kumar married a Pakistani Muslim. That event led to a process of discovery that made Kumar examine the relationship not only between India and Pakistan but also between Hindus and Muslims inside India.
Written with complete honesty and with no claims to journalistic detachment, this book chronicles the complicity that binds the writer to the rioter. Unlike both the fundamentalists and the secularists, Kumar finds—or makes—utterly human those whom he opposes. More than a travelogue which takes the reader to Wagah, Patna, Bhagalpur, Karachi, Kashmir, and even Johannesburg, this book, then, becomes a portrait of the people the author meets in these places, people dealing with the consequences of the politics of faith.

The book, which was released by Penguin India will be published in the States by the New Press in January 2005. Click here to go to the authors homepage.

Luckily, I am headed to South Asia for work in a couple weeks and can pick it up early.

Of Course...A Desi Doc on Dr. 90210

I guess it isn't that surprising that one of the plastic surgeons featured on the ever-popular E! reality show-- "Dr. 90210" is a desi, Raj Kanodia. Hailing from Calcutta, India Dr. Kanodia did his schooling at the University of Illinois and specializes in the face, head and neck. And, for all you ladies Dr. Kanodia is single and enjoys gardening and traveling in Europe. That might sound like crap, but that is what is says under his bio on the show's website. His quote is even better:
"I don't have the luxury to fail, because I must deliver perfect results 100 percent of the time."

In case you haven't had a chance to catch Dr. 90210 yet, a marathon will air this sunday August 29--check your local listings.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Panjabi Hit Squad and Raghav Nominated for MOBOs

BBC Radio one reports that British Asian DJ's Panjabi Hit Squad (PHS), and Indo-Canadian pop phenom Raghav have both been nominated for the British Music of Black Origin (MOBO) awards.

Raghav was nominated for his single "So Confused" with 2Play alongside Juxci in the Best Collaboration category, where he is going to have some heavy competition (the other nominees are Brandy & Kanye West - Talk About Our Love, Marques Houston & Joe Budden - Clubbin', Twista & Kanye West - Slow Jamz, Usher & Ludacris - Yeah) while PHS was nominated in the category of Best UK Club DJ.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Immigrant Patterns-Edison

Immigrant patterns are such that newly arriving immigrants often flock to locals in which many of their former country-men have settled. As a result, various ethnic ghettoes are created--Chinatowns, Little Italies, and of course Little Indias. One of the more well known Little Indias is in Edison, NJ, the home of Oak Tree Road, Sukhadia Sweets, and the Subzi Mandi grocery store that my mother drives three hours to frequent. Anyway, somewhat along these lines, The New Jersery Star Ledger has run an interesting peice on the desi community in Edison.

The Asian population in Edison climbed 1,175 percent over two decades: from 2,245 residents in 1980 to 28,634 in 2000. In Woodbridge, the number of Asian residents increased by 1,025 percent over the same time frame, from 1,251 to 14,078 residents, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Magan Patel, a 64-year-old Edison resident who immigrated to New York 33 years ago, trekked home after the parade yesterday with an Indian flag swinging beside an American flag. Patel said he carried both flags to signify the synthesis of his Indian values with the job and educational opportunities he has discovered in America. "I am a U.S. citizen since 1978," Patel said. "My family's here. We live good here. I consider (myself) American."

Takin Hits from the 80's

The samples aren't all exactly from the Bollywood of the 1980's, but Raghav,theIndo-Canadian pop-star, who is climbing to enormous fame in the UK, is certainly riding the wave of Bollywood sampling and modern production (a la puff daddy) to make hit records. Let's work it out, his second solo single, released today in the UK, is the fourth single featuring him since he arrived on the British scene this year, and the last to be released before his album "Storyteller" releases on September 6 (V2 Records).

Raghav has fared quite well on the mainstream British charts thus far. His first single 'So Confused' featuring dj/producer 2 Play went as high as number 4 on the British charts and his debut solo single 'Can't Get Enough' entered the British charts at number 8, the same spot as the last collaboration single with 2Play 'It Can't Be Right', featuring Naila Boss.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Aishwarya Graces the Cover of Hello Magazine

Aishwarya Rai, the Bollywood Bombshell, and L'Oreal Covergirl graces the pages of the most recent issue of UK's HELLO magazine (subscription only)in various Armani designed "red carpet gowns."

Read the Radio Sargam Online article.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Washington Post Finds Sikhism

Well, not really, but they did find the recently created Sikh contribution to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Part art history, part anthropology, it provides an opportunity to view 19th-century miniatures alongside contemporary pictures. Much of the 20th-century work, particularly Arpana Caur's self-taught oils, is heartfelt schlock overly indebted to Western kitsch. But the English tag team of Amrita and Rabindra Kaur Singh achieves a pungent synthesis of East and West, old and new. The twins' gold-dusted 1998 gouache "Nineteen Eighty-Four (The Storming of the Golden Temple)," which commemorates the slaying of hundreds of Sikh nationalists by Indian troops that year, melds Punjabi traditions of detail and decoration with the significant gesture of Giotto and the satirical intent of British wartime realism.

"Sikhs: Legacy of the Punjab" at the National Museum of Natural History, 10th Street and Constitution Avenue NW. 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. daily through Sept. 6, 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily thereafter

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Desi-American Spearheads Gymnastics Silver

Desi-American Mohini Bhardwaj, who made headlines because of her hard work, age, and patronage by Pamela Anderson, has led Team USA gymnastics to a silver medal in athens. Congratulations go out to her and the rest of the team from DESIBLOG--this is a a truly outstanding accomplishment, and to my understanding the first time a desi has won a medal for team USA.

From the Reuters story:

Bhardwaj, the U.S. captain performed solidly on the vault and floor and also stepped in for the injured Courtney Kupets at the last minute and performed creditably.
Bhardwaj, who spent several years out of top class gymnastics after abandoning her sporting aspirations to pursue a college degree, said Pamela Anderson's donation covers about half of her expenses over a six-month stretch.

Monday, August 16, 2004

A Night Not to Be Missed

For all of you in LA into the Sounds of the Asian Diaspora--this is an event not to be missed.

"One Night for India" will benefit treatment of other social and economic maladies in India, its primary purpose is to help battle the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Artists scheduled to perform

DJ Cheb I Sabbah
Nitin Sawhney (semi-acoustic DJ set)--as those of us in DC recently witnessed.
Karsh Kale
Tina Sugandh--the new desi female phenomenon--also check out her spread in stuff magazine

Lili Haydn
Reggie Benjamin
Matt Malley of Counting Crows with accompaniment from Steve Day
Michelle Branch
Kimberley Locke

defintely a not-to-be-missed event.

Five Trips That Can Change Your Life

I can attest to the validity of this article published originally by Budget Travel magazine (reprinted on MSNBC.com) on how a trip to India can change one's life. I spent seven months in South Asia the summer after my Sophomore year, working, studying, travelling, but always learning and observing. The storie's lede says it best:

"There’s no going to India in half measures, and there’s no foretelling how it will effect you." My feelings on the place are you either love it or you hate it, and as Mark Tully has written, "There are no full stops in India." You have to read the book to understand the phrase--and Tully's work is one of the better travel-writings that I have read on India.

From the article:
I hadn’t come to India on any kind of Mission Enlightenment, but the funny thing about change is how it creeps up on you when you’re busy acting like a brat. As soon as we left Delhi, the little kindnesses started: When I fell sick in the Lawrence of Arabia–worthy desert town of Jaisalmer, a restaurant owner named Rama became my temporary mother, easing my stomach pain with “desert cures” and my loneliness with long, intimate talks. In the whitewashed lakeside city of Udaipur, Nick and I met a pair of teenage art dealers, who, after selling us miniature paintings, discovered my love of Bollywood films and offered to take me to several, where they explained what was going on when the plots got too convoluted. I also mentioned my Bollywood obsession to the functionary who ran the 17th-century castle-cum-hotel in the village of Orchha; the next morning, a famous actor who lived nearby was waiting in the lobby for me. Such acts occurred almost daily, and their generosity took my breath away.

The article is a nice read--click here to read the full article.

Dope Desi Site--Sepia Mutiny

A brief note to alert you to a rad new website that I am taking part in--www.sepiamutiny.com--it is a group weblog that focuses on various desi issues.

Here are a couple interesting stories from the blog--
1. Obama and Keyes meet face-to-face at the India Day Parade in Chicago

2. Kal Penn interviewed in 'Playboy'

Bombay Dreams for the RNC

Even though many have speculated that the Bollywood-influenced Braodway show Bombay Dreams is standing on its last legs, Republican National Convention delegates will at least have an opportunity to check out the Desi marvel.

Apparently eight Broadway shows have been approved for viewing by the host committee depending on where the delegation is from.

Every delegate, alternate, party official and elected official will receive a ticket based on where they are from to a show on Broadway. So will it be the Edison delegation or the Silicon Valley delegation that will have the pleasure to view the Bollywood drama?

Only half of the shows that wanted to be on RNC's list were selected. Emanuel Azenberg, producer of one of the rejected shows, Movin' Out, a Tony Award-winner set to music by Billy Joel, complained it was passed over because it deals with the unpopular Vietnam War. Hmmm. I wonder if the host committee has seen BD--why would they allow a show that shows the Poor overcoming the Rich—very un-Republican!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Jay Sean to Open for N.E.R.D. in the UK

British Asian pop-star in the making Jay Sean will be one of the two opening acts for American Hip Hop Producer/Musician extraordinaires, N.E.R.D. for their upcoming fans only London show reports nme.com.

Sean, whose latest single "Eyes on You," entered the British charts at number six, is one of the many rising British Asian stars "making tings happen" for desi music in the UK. Others to look out for are, Jay's record label mate and fellow Rishi Rich project member Juggy D and Indo-Canadian phenom Raghav (V2 Records), among others.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

Naveen Andrews--The Next Mainstream Desi Star?

Naveen Andrews may be one of the most familiar desi actors (along with Kal Penn after Harold and Kumar) to American audiences, but it seems as if no one really knows who he is. I remember him first in Mira Nair's Kama Sutra: A tale of Love, but I think he made it into the mainstream furthest after his portrayal of Juliette Binoche's boyfriend from The English Patient. Now, he will be hitting the Big Screen once again in Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice, and also in the new ABC series, Lost as Sayid, A former Iraqi soldier from the Gulf War. (That is an issue for another post.) Anyway, congrats and best of luck to Naveen from DESIBLOG.

Just in case you didn't know, Andrews has starred in "Chippendale Murders" the BBC's "The Buddha of Suburbia," for which he was nominated for Best Actor at the San Remo Film Festival. He also starred in the BBC's "Peacock Spring," "Double Vision," opposite Kim Cattrall, "The Frontier" and Mira Nair's "My Own Country."

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Fortune Magazine on MTV's India Venture

Fortune Magazine has written an interesting piece on MTV's India venture, which began in 1991 before many companies had taken the risk to do business in South Asia. It is an interesting read, and really quite interesting to see how successful MTV's brand has become globally.

To read the full article, you are going to have to purchase the magazine or click here. Here is an excerpt:

Seen from afar—say, from the executive suites atop Viacom's building in Times Square or NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters or Disney's base camp in Burbank—India looks like a great place to be in the television business. More than one billion people live in India, and while most remain poor, the middle class is expanding rapidly. The economy grew by 8% last year; advertising grew faster. Consumers are getting their first credit cards and buying mobile phones, motor scooters, CD players, and of course TV sets. What's more, unlike China, where the central government tightly controls television and print, India enjoys a robust democracy, a boisterous press, and a vibrant film and music industry. So it's no surprise that every one of the global entertainment giants, whose businesses are maturing in the U.S. and in Western Europe, have journeyed to India—and to the rest of Asia—in search of growth.

What they have found upon arrival is a media landscape unlike any other—as noisy, chaotic, overcrowded, and impossible to navigate, at least for a stranger, as the streets of Mumbai, the nation's entertainment capital. Here the past, present, and future live side by side: Shiny new Mercedes swerve around the three-wheeled taxis powered by motorcycle engines and known as autorickshaws, whose drivers honk impatiently at men pulling ancient wooden carts piled high with mangoes and bananas. Roadside billboards advertise reality TV shows (The Search for India's Smartest Kid) and cable networks (cricket coverage on ESPN). You can almost see money being made. But each time my taxi stops at a traffic light, scrawny children cluster at the windows, tapping on the glass and pointing at their mouths, begging for money to buy something to eat.

I've come to Mumbai to see MTV India. Why MTV? Two reasons: first, because MTV has been doing business here since 1991, before most of its competitors arrived; second, because MTV has done better than any other global TV network—better than CNN or anything owned by Rupert Murdoch—at spreading its brand and programs into every nook and cranny of the globe. MTV Networks, a division of Viacom, operates 72 international channels, including versions of Nickelodeon and VH1, that reach 321 million homes in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Canada, and Australia, and generate nearly $1 billion in annual revenues from outside the U.S.

Click here to read the full article.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Email yourmaninindia.com to give your Mom in India a Hand

Here is an interesting story from Scott Baldauf in the Christian Science Monitor on the increasing nuclearization of the traditional extended Indian family, in the age of outsourcing.

So, you're an Indian living in the United States, making megabucks in Redwood City, Calif. A big shot. But your aging parents are back home in India, alone. What should you, as a good Indian son or daughter, do? Call or send an e-mail to yourmaninindia.com, who will do everything from paying the family bills to just sitting down and being your mom or dad's new best friend. These days, people don't want distant relatives to get involved. So you get a professional service to do it, and that's where we come in," says P. Sunder, chief operating officer of yourmaninindia.com, in Bombay (Mumbai).

Five or 10 years ago, a company like yourmaninindia might not have worked. Many Indians abroad would have still preferred to travel to India to complete jobs themselves, or relied on relatives to get odd jobs done. But now, many young expatriate Indians - often several in the same family - are moving abroad and deciding to stay there permanently, adding long-distance complications to family relationships that only work when members are physically close.

"It's a real dilemma," says Dipankar Gupta, a sociologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. "People have to be equally committed both to the traditional commitments to family and to their individual futures in a more modern society." For Indians living abroad, "you have to have a surrogate," says Gupta. "It's almost like you've outsourced your responsibilities."

click here to read the full story.

More on Desi Cinema

I know I have been writing a lot on Desi Cinema, but it isn't very often that you have two movies with major desi contributions --Harold and Kumar and The Village--in the top 10 of American movies. While some say Harold and Kumar was a flop, I think its take was not bad for the type of movie it was. And I heard that Harold and Kumar go to Amsterdam is already in the works.

Also, here is an intersting piece on Harold and Kumar from MTV.com.

Kal Penn and John Cho appeared on Leno last week, and I think if the film can continue getting the media attention it is currently receiving, and its financial take stays steady, Penn could be the first Desi to host SNL. Well I think that would be cool anyway.