I just finished watching tonight's episode of the West Wing on NBC. Maybe it is John Wells (the producer of ER and The West Wing), or maybe NBC has simply discovered the Desi market in the U.S., b/c this episode of The West Wing featured who I thought was Pragna Desai (she starred in ER's episodes based in the Congo and The Ben Affleck flop The Sum of All Fears) as Leo McGarry's nurse.
In the episode, Leo has lost his appetite, and Desai, as his nurse--ok, so we still only play health care professionals (but it is a start!)--uses Indian food and her good looks to charm McGarry into eating.
Is a South Asian woman, dressed in her wedding best and bearing Indian food better than certain illicit substances at giving people the munchies?
Also interesting was some of the dialogue between Desai and McGarry. In the episode, McGarry was considering joining the board of some sort of corporate chemical company. The company seemed quite similar to Union Carbide, because at one point McGarry asked Desai if she was from Haryana, and that that the company was trying to make up for all of the damage it had done there in 1986. Perhaps this was a reference to the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal in 1984, and the upcoming 20th anniversary of this tragedy on December 3. The issue of a name-change was also discussed, a la Union Carbide to Dow Chemicals.
The New York Times is running an interesting series entitled "the Next Wave on what they call, "the transplanted New Yorker." Profiling the stories of 10 different transplants, obviously one had to be brown.
The brown portrait was written by photographer Sanjna Singh, who writes about the voyage she made one summer from her home on the Upper East Side to the man-made India in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. Sanjna's portrait is interesting as it contrasts the modernity, if you can call it that, of Indians living in India to the self-made constraints of tradition that many immigrants from South Asia bring with them into the diaspora. Sanjna, who immigrated to New York from New Delhi about eight years ago, labels her reaction to this phenomenon aptly, as "being in the grip of a bizarre reverse culture-shock."
She notes later,
"here in New York, I didn't think of myself as an immigrant, because for me, the door leading back to Delhi seemed wide open, and I could return anytime I chose. Yet as I entered my eighth year in America, I was forced to recognize that this open door grew more illusory with each passing year. As I drifted further from my own country, I started to feel the need to grant space to my Indian self, right here, in New York."
Click here to read the full profile, and click here to see all the profiles.
Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman's Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids, a documentary about children of prostitutes in Kolkata who try to start a new life, has been shortlisted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the contenders for the best documentary feature Oscar, according to rediff.com
A portrait of several children who live in the red light district of Kolkata where their mothers are prostitutes, Born Into Brothels, celebrates New York-based photojournalist Briski's efforts to change the lives of the youngsters. She gave them cameras and taught them how to take pictures, leading them to look at their world with new and hopeful eyes.
Earlier in the year, the 85-minute long film distributed in North America by THINKFILM was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival where it garnered top reviews. Winner of the Audience Award at Sundance, it has been shown at over 20 other film festival winning prizes at most of them. The final five nominees for best documentary will be announced along with the nominees in 24 other categories January 25, and the 77th Annual Academy Awards will be handed out February 27.
Some segments of the Indian media are reporting that Aishwarya Rai may be the next female to star in the Chris Rock and Jackie Chan starring Rush Hour 3. The India Abroad News Service (IANS) is reporting that Sheeraz Hasan, producer of a US entertainment show, has initiated talks between the actress and Hollywood director Brett Ratner (director of the Rush Hour films as well as the upcoming Salma Hayek/Perce Brosnan led "After the Sunset").
Hasan, who was feted at the Indian Telly Awards here Friday, recommended Aishwarya's name while interviewing Ratner for his show, Tinseltown TV. Ratner had told Hasan that he was willing to cast a Bollywood actress in his forthcoming project, but that he knew no one in the Mumbai film industry. Hasan immediately recommended Aishwarya as a possible candidate citing her reputation as "the world's most beautiful woman". The actress' secretary Simone Sheffield and Ratner have reportedly got in touch.
This could be yet another opportunity for Ash to continue her breakthrough into the mainstream, especially because the audience for a film like Rush Hour would most likely be quite different than the one for Bride and Prejudice. Or it could be just another one of those internet rumors.
The struggling Bollywood inspired Broadway show, Bombay Dreams, recently added some starpower to its lineup to gather more interest in the fading show, and to make some needed revenues to break even. In order to do so, the show replaced youngster Anisha Nagarajan, with American Idol/Boston Public star Tamyra Gray. Debuting in her first Broadway show, Gray will be a part of the cast for 12 weeks portraying the idealistic filmaker Priya.
The British Asian Pop sensation Jay Sean has been making waves in the UK in recent months, beginning a few months back with his hit collaboration Dance with You, and now with the release of his top 40 full length album, Me Against Myself, which debuted at 29 this week on the British Charts. Featuring the top ten charting hit singles, "Stolen" and "Eyes on You," Sean is tipped to be the British Asian to actually be the one that finally makes the crossover into the mainstream. Lets hope so.
[for many] the best tracks will be two hidden ones, from his earlier incarnation, including You Don't Know Me, about the difficulties of trying to make it as an Asian in the hip-hop arena. The title track sees Sean dissing himself for making music – presumably the poppy stuff – that "you pretend you are into". The intro skit has his producer-mentor Rishi Rich telling him, in a posh English accent, to cut out the conscious stuff, that UK hip-hop doesn't sell and he should write songs about girls. Clearly highly talented, and currently attracting the attention of demi-god producer Timbaland, it will be fascinating to see how Sean resolves his musical schizophrenia.
The Independent (UK) ran an interesting, yet cliched profile of Jay Sean, entitled :Betwen Two Cultures", about ten days ago. Click here to read it. Regardless I want to offer a DESIBLOG Big Up to Jay Sean!
Just an update: Apparently Jay Sean and Rishi Rich have been collaborating with Asian rapper and Ruff Ryders member Jin (of Learn Chinese fame) on a forthcoming track. Apparently Jin was in the UK in the beginning of November for a show, and prior to the concert, Jin and Jay Sean were penning some lyrics in Rishi Rich’s studio for a forthcoming Jay Sean track. The following day, Rishi and Jin knocked out another track .. rumored to be one of the 1st releases on Rishi Rich’s forthcoming album.
I wanted to wish all the DESIBLOG readers a happy Diwali. I also wanted to link to an interesting post on Sepia Mutiny regarding the White House celebration of Diwali. I don't know what to make of the controversey, but I do think we have arrived, when a popular internet bargain site features happy diwali messages on their message boards. Apparently, the post wasn't strictly for the holiday, but pointed to a DISH network free promotion, where SETMAX/B4U/TVASIA/ZCINE/SUNTV and Ztv/Sony were offerred for free.
The Independent (UK) is running an interesting story on the embedding of microchips inside of trees in the Indian state of Kerala, in order to curb illegal logging of the precious and aromatic sandalwood tree.
Forestry officials will then be able to use a satellite to monitor the trees. Not only will any attempt to cut them down be detected - the Forest Department will be able to trace the movements of any smugglers who try to take timber out of the area. The trade in contraband sandalwood is one of the most lucrative in India. The "bandit king" Veerappan, wanted for more than 120 murders before he was gunned down by Indian police last month, may have started out poaching elephants for their ivory, but soon moved on to the much more profitable business of sandalwood.
I do think the enforcement of illegal logging laws are important, but I am sure there are better uses for this technology/resource in India.
The Sunday New York Times had a few pieces this past week on Gurinder Chadha's forthcoming (yeah it has already released in the UK and in India) Bride and Prejudice. In one article, entitled "The Class Acts" NYT columnist Karen Durbin describes the film as a "gaudy, bawdy Bollywood musical" that has a lot going for it. But as Durbin writes,
"none of that would matter without Aishwarya Rai. As Lalita Bakshi, the latest and by far the most glamorous incarnation of Jane Austen's tartly independent Elizabeth Bennet, Ms. Rai doesn't just carry the picture. She also saves it from its occasional leaps into the taste void, as when she tosses off the lyric, "I just wanna man who'll give me some back/ Who'll talk to me and not to my rack!" with such deadpan aplomb that you almost don't wince. But she's more than just a knock-down, drop-dead gorgeous face. She's even more than a talented singer, graceful dancer and vibrantly confident actress in at least two languages.
I haven't seen the film yet, I am going to tomorrow, but Durbin's description sounds so good, I don't know if I have the heart to tell her that Rai doesn't sing. I especially don't want to tell her, b/c Durbin seems to think Rai's performance is Oscar worthy. She proclaims that Ash's performance in Bride and Prejudice is one of "five performances no one should miss. Especially not Academy voters."
The provincial Indian setting offers a dowry of matchmaking mothers, colorful scenery and extravagant song-and-dance numbers that can seem captivating or vulgar, depending on your level of pride and prejudice. Perhaps because in an interracial, cross-cultural romance those traits can come uncomfortably close to racism, the "Bride and Prejudice" script plays down its title attitude. Here, Darcy is less snobby than misunderstood. For example, he refuses to dance with Lalita (Aishwarya Rai), the Elizabeth character, not because "she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me," as Darcy tells Bingley in the novel, but because he hasn't mastered the drawstring on his Indian kurta-pajama suit, and his pants are falling down.
I am going to try and shop a review, but expect some-sort of DESIBLOG review of the film shortly.
The Washington Post has run an interesting piece on Retesh Bhalla, aka Sonjay Dhatt, the professional wrestler (yes WWF style) whose name-tag is "The Original Playa from the Himalaya," or more specifically from Northern Virginia. Retesh, a young desi, a student at Northern Virginia's George Mason University, wears jeans and sneakers by day, next to unsuspecting classmates, but by night, and most weekends, for that matter, he is Sonjay Dutt, "The Original Playa from Himalaya," a guy who flings himself off the ropes of pro-wrestling rings, performs dazzling twists and flips, and then lands -- with theatrical impact -- onto, well, big guys wearing spandex pants and too much baby oil.
"From India . . . " screams the announcer, as Dutt bursts out of the tunnel, struts down the ramp, then leaps onto the ropes, whipping the crowd into fierce applause. Dutt, now 22, was still pretty young when he got hooked. On Saturdays, he and his father would watch wrestling on television all afternoon. Ric Flair. Hulk Hogan. Dusty Rhodes. He taped the shows, bought the magazines, begged for the action figures. Then decided he wanted to grow up to be a wrestler, just like other little boys grew up wanting to be John Elway or Michael Jordan. At first, his parents thought it was amusing. Saw it as a phase. Assumed he'd grow out of it. Certainly didn't take it seriously. "My parents?" says Dutt, as he prefers to be known. "They laughed in my face, of course. They had the same idea that every Indian parent has for their child. Being a doctor or lawyer or something to that effect. I chose totally the opposite."
Sepia Mutiny oringinally ran the story of a 22 year old Desi American who was vying for an anchor spot on ESPN courtesy of ESPN's Dream Job contest. Anish, the 22 year old Yankees fan (and I think Gujarati) has made it to the finals, and could potentially be the first Desi anchor on ESPN. That is, if enough people vote for him. Click here to see his profile and then, if you feel he deserves it, vote for him (he is the one all the way to the left). Be forewarned he is a Yankees fan.