Thursday, October 28, 2004

Jay Sean: The Asian Prince of Pop?

Quick Update: Reuters is reporting that Jay Sean's single "Stolen," has entered the UK charts at number four. Big up.

The Telegraph (UK) has run a nice arts feature on Jay Sean, the next big British Asian pop star to make the rounds from the Rish Rich Project. The article, and perhaps it has merit, makes it appear that Jay Sean can be the first Asian to really break into the mainstream on a consistent level. Sure Panjabi MC had a hit, and Raghav was quite close to doing it, but Jay Sean's continuous success in the charts with the singles he has released thus far suggest that he could indeed be the first consistent Asian pop star. His most recent single, "Stolen" which released on the 25th (I had it wrong in my last Jay Sean post) is rumored to be hovering in the top 5 on the mainstream British charts.

From the article:"Jay Sean has become an idol for every Asian guy or girl who wants to do something in music," says Atik Rahman of the Club Asia radio station, which launched last year with a Sean live session. "I used to go to clubs, look around and think: there's 80 per cent Asians in here, dancing to R&B and hip-hop, and not one of us is actually doing it. The first person who does it is going to make an impact." With an excellent debut album, Me Against Myself, due next month, part of a reported £1 million deal, and a single set to crash the top five on Sunday, Sean is about to make Rahman's prediction come true. When I meet him some time after the Mela, he seems to have taken well to the demands of his new career.Sean's real name is Kamaljit, "but everyone calls me Nicky - it's a Punjabi thing, having thousands of names". He still lives at home with his family, although he is looking for his own place. "The family's behind me - if they weren't, I wouldn't feel happy doing this," he says.
A massive Big Up and congratulation from Desiblog to the Rishi Rich project and Jay Sean.

click here to purchase Jay Sean's "Me Against Myself" cd from

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

More Bollywood to Hollywood--Mallika Sherawat

While I was in South Asia, I had a chance to catch a couple of Bollywood Films. One of which was one entitled "Murder." Creative, right? Anyway, the heroine in the film, is one Mallika Sherawat, who not only added a sizzle to the Bollywood thriller, but as I recall, was one of the first Bollywood stars to officially be solicited for a posing in Playboy. Sherawat, of course refused the offer after all, "due to her morals and upbringing."

Anyway, Sherawat, I guess based on the success of her performances in her films (a total of three) will also be joining the ranks of Bollywood stars trying to catch a break in Hollywood as she will be joining the Jackie Chan-led cast of The Myth, taking up the role of the Indian Princess who falls in love and is rescued by Jackie's character.

According to IMDB, Sherawat's racy image in Bollywood, rumors circulated that she landed the role over many other Indian actresses ( Aishwarya Rai, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra) because she was willing to do full frontal nudity in this film. When these rumors were spread, Stanley Tong and Jackie Chan held a special press conference in India to say that they picked Mallika over many others because of her great charm and genuine acting talent, and that the film didn't even have a kissing scene, let alone full frontal nudity. I guess we'll see.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The NY Times on Caste in the Indian Diaspora

The New York Times (free subscription required), in its Sunday edition has run an interesting take on the role of the Indian/Hindu caste-system in the Indian diaspora in America. I use a hyphen because followers of non-Hindu faiths found in India (Sikhism, Islam, and Christianity etc.) continue to have remnants of the caste system as part of their cultural traditions as referenced in the NYT piece's example of Pinder Paul, who the Times describes as a

"spirited 50-year-old Punjabi Sikh (the Sikh faith absorbed some caste distinctions) who came to New York City in 1985 and worked as a dishwasher at Tad's Steaks. Now he and his wife spend seven days a week running the Chirping Chicken outlet he owns in Astoria. He could cite no instance of outright discrimination, but said looks and gestures sometimes betray upper-caste condescension. "Our friends who came here from India from the upper classes, they're supposed to leave this kind of thing behind, but unfortunately they brought it with them," he said. Yet in a paradoxical demonstration of the stubborn resilience of caste, Mr. Paul is active with a local Dalit group and said he would prefer that his son marry a Dalit. "We want to stay in our community," he said."
The Times use the story of Dr. Bodh Das as their lede, a "silver-haired cardiologist in the Bronx," who they compare to Tivye from Fiddler on the roof, and his attempts to ensure that his three daughters marry into the same familial caste they were born into.

As Dr. Das's experience shows, the peculiarly Indian system of stratifying its people into hierarchical castes - with Brahmins at the top and untouchables at the bottom - has managed to stow away on the journey to the United States, a country that prides itself on its standard of egalitarianism, however flawed the execution. But the caste system, weakening for a half-century in India, is withering here under the relentless forces of assimilation and modernity. While it persists, its vestiges today often seem more a matter of sentiment than cultural imperative. Sometimes, the caste distinctions, recognizable by family names and places of origin, linger as a form of social snobbery. Keerthi Vadlamani, a 23-year-old chemical engineer from an affluent Brahmin family in the south-central Indian city of Hyderabad, said, "Some people are stupid enough not to mingle with a Dalit, to cold-shoulder them. "You won't invite them home, you won't go over to their home," he said. Other upper-caste Indians here say that they do not bother to probe someone's caste and that most compatriots will do business with anyone. Few Indians would admit to such behavior as refusing to eat in a restaurant because its food was cooked by an untouchable, something many upper-caste Indians might have done 50 years ago. Mostly caste survives here as a kind of tribal bonding, with Indians finding kindred spirits among people who grew up with the same foods and cultural signals. Just as descendants of the Pilgrims use the Mayflower Society as a social outlet to mingle with people of congenial backgrounds, a few castes have formed societies like the Brahmin Samaj of North America, where meditation and yoga are practiced and caste traditions like vegetarianism and periodic fasting are explained to the young.
The Times has an interesting take on the whole thing, but kudos to them for exploring a facet of the Indian diaspora that has remained, at least to my knowledge, relatively untouched by mainstream journalism.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Conan O'Brien Show's Take on Outsourcing to India

Prashant Kothari has a link to the Conan O'Brien Show's hilarious take on outsourcing. Conan's assistant calls NBC tech support to rid his computer of mutliple pop-up ads. Instead of just dealing with the issue over the phone, the assistant decides to take his computer to the tech. Click here and enjoy!

Banana Republicans

I couldn't stop laughing at this issue of jest magazine. I don't think I can look at Banana Republic clothes or catalogues the same way again. Below are three of the better images. Click on the Jest link above to see their clothing commentary.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Arundhati Roy to be Awarded the Sydney Peace Prize

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Booker Prize winning Author Arundhati Roy will be awarded the Sydney Peace Prize on November 3. Roy will deliver the City of Sydney Peace Prize lecture on the same date, while also launching her newest book, "The Chequebook and the Cruise Missiles: Conversation with Arundhati Roy."

While many disagree with Roy's politics and her foray into journalistic activism, I have to admit her ability to move minds through her amazing prose is quite impressive.

As a result of her activism, she is now probably better known for her critiques of the coalition of the willing in Iraq, for criticising the giant US corporation Enron for exploiting and sacking Indian workers, and her critique of globalization, which she has called "a process of barbaric dispossession which has few parallels in history," than for her prize winning novel, "The God of Small Things."

My iRiver playlist --India Edition

I guess this is a little late coming, but here are three additions to my iRiver playlist straight from the sub-Continent.

The first is Sun Soniye by Shael, on his album Jhoom (Times Music)

The next track is Pyaar Ka Naasha--The Sharabi Catwalk Mix which is available on the compilation entitled SuperModel mix (Sony India)

and the third is Falguni Pathak's Dil Jhoom Jhoom Nache on her on the album of the same name. (Times Music)

I know the last track is corny, but nonetheless, it made the list. enjoy!

Monday, October 18, 2004

How Brown is White Britain?

I find it terribly relevant that this is actually a question being posed by the BBC in a magazine piece with the same title.

If you could measure integration of the UK's different peoples and cultures - how would you do it? For decades politicians and sociologists have talked about how Britain integrates its minority communities - but how much does integration go the other way? Asian culture is big in Britain at present. Asian beats and rhythms are in the charts - Britney Spears recently got herself some eastern riffs thanks to UK record producer Rishi Rich. And the Anglo-Bollywood, all-singing and dancing Bride and Prejudice, directed by Gurinder Chadha of Bend It Like Beckham fame, is proving a box office hit. But does this count as integration into Asian culture? Or does Britain want to go further than tucking into its modern national dish of chicken tikka masala?
Click here to read the full article. But don't get too excited. The article, while raising some important issues doesn't really, in my opinion anyway, come up with any groundbreaking conclusions.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Namesake Casting Call

Mira Nair's Next venture, the making of Jhumpa Lahiri's Namesake onto celluloid, is holding a casting call for Bengali/South Asian actors.

Shooting in Calcutta and NYC December/February 2004 - 2005.

Seeking the following roles:
GOGOL - 4-7 years old to play 4. Born in the United States, his parents are
from Calcutta. Speaks English and Bengali

GOGOL - 16-21 years old to play 17. Born in the United States, his parents
are from Calcutta. Speaks English and Bengali.

SONIA - 12-15 years old to play 13. Born in the United States, her parents
are from Calcutta. Speaks English.

MOUSHUMI - 15-20 years old to play 16. Plump and intelligent. Has a British

If INTERESTED IN BEING CONSIDERED FOR THIS FILM, please send snapshot and letter (non-returnable) to:
Cindy Tolan
"The Namesake" Casting Search
145 Sixth Avenue, 7th Fl.
New York, NY 10013

Jay Sean's Stolen Video

"Stolen," British Asian Pop-Star Jay Sean's next single drops on October 18th. This will be followed by Jay Sean's full length album entitled "Me Against Myself." The video for stolen made some headlines in India, as it features Bollywood Hottie/Provacateur Bipasha Basu.

Click here to see the video

Monday, October 11, 2004

Return from Abroad

I have just returned to Washington from a month in South Asia. I hope to start posting again soon--probably tomorrow. Visiting the sub-Continent is always an interesting thing for me. For one thing, it is always a neat feeling, just to be where everyone looks just like you, speaks just like you, eats just like you. More than that, the place breathes life into me in a way that no place I have been ever has. Just watching, smelling, hearing and seeing makes every polluted day there amazing for me.

Anyway, kind of quickly, I picked up a few books and cd's while I was gone, and am currently engrossed by Suketu Mehta's (so-far) excellent work, Maximum City: Bombay: Lost and Found. I haven't really been able to put it down since I began reading it a couple of days ago.