Sunday, October 30, 2005

Diwali Updates

Over a month ago, Sepia Mutiny reported that New York City was considering issuing a parking holiday in deference to the Diwali holiday on November 1. While New York's Committee on Transportation unanimously approved the motion, it was rumored that New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg would veto the legislation. On October 28, as the 30 day time-limit for the veto was set to expire, Mayor Bloomberg vetoed it. From one of the organizer's emails: Because the mayor vetoed the bill so late,

"there is not enough time remaining before Diwali (Nov 1 is the date the city was planning to observe it) to override him and observe the holiday this year. Council Member Brewer is confident that the council will override the Mayor, but it will probably happen at one of the two Stated Council meetings in November (I believe 11/17 and 11/31). So the city will officially observe Diwali next year. This year November 1 falls on All Saints day, on which alternate side of the street parking is suspended anyway."
According to the same email, the Mayor is rumored to be planning a Diwali party at Gracie Mansion, a bit puzzling since he vetoed a bill which would highlight the holiday. Even if Bloomberg doesn't have the party, the City Council is having one on Wednesday, November 2, at 5:30 p.m. at the Council Chambers at city hall. RSVP by 12:00 Noon on Tuesday, November 1, 2005 here.

We were also informed that back in February of 2005, Representative Joseph Crowley of the seventh district of New York introduced a mostly symbolic resolution recognizing the Diwali holiday. The resolution's purpose is simply to "express the sentiments of one of the houses," and will not make Diwali a public holiday. Still it is nice to see some effort to recognize. See the text of the "simple resolution" here.

Lastly, Washington Post reporter S. Mitra Kalita continues her series of India-centric blog posts, entitled "India 2.0," with her most recent discussing her Diwali partying. Click here to peruse her latest, and click here to see the archives.

Still no word on the stamp.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

DESIBLOG is pleased to report that the upcoming James Bond Film Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as 007, will be including at least one brown actor on the cast, no not Aishwarya Rai, but Bollywood-villain Gulshan Grover. Grover, true to form, will be playing Le Chiffre, the villain, in Casino Royale, which is based on Ian Fleming's first James Bond book by the same name.

Shooting for the Bond film is due to begin in Prague in February 2006. Grover will be the first Indian to act in a Bond film since tennis star Vijay Amritraj and Kabir Bedi played important roles in Octopussy (1983). [link]
If I recall correctly Octopussy had many scenes filmed at the lovely Lake Palace, located on Lake Pichola in Udaipur (now a Taj-palace hotel).

Upon doing some research I was pretty amazed to find out that Grover has done (and is in the process of doing) several non Bollywood films, including Beeper, a thriller starring Harvey Keitel, Kaizad Gustad's really bad film Boom which had a really attractive cast including Padma Lakshmi, member of Salman Rushdie's posse, the forthcoming My Bollywood Bride, the Salman Khan starrer Marigold, and Tarsem Singh's The Fall.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Being Nitin Sawhney

When it comes to music in the diaspora, there a few names that of course come to mind (Talvin Singh, Panjabi MC), but one of the most consistent and visible musicians evolving from the South Asian diaspora, and who is not universally from the UK Bhangra or the Asian Drum and Bass scene, is without a doubt, Nitin Sahwney.  DJ, producer, musician, and activist extraordinaire, Sawhney whose most recent studio-album Philtre, which has to be listed amongst his best work, is now slated to score Mira Nair's remake of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, and is reported to be working as a producer on Indo-Canadian British transplant pop-star Raghav's unfinished second album.  In fact, Bobby and Nihal, on their October 12 radio show on the BBC offerred up a bit of a preview of the Raghav/Nitin collaborative work entitled "Seasons," which draws heavily on the heavenly 'Mausam', which appears on the Philtre album.  After having heard the original Mausam, the version featuring Raghav admittedly sounded a bit cheecky, but knowing that Nitin is producing some of the record makes me dizzy with anticipation.  Well, maybe not dizzy, but excited for sure.

Incidentally, Sawhney, who has also worked with Sting and Spanish collective Ojos de Brujo among others, seems to be in demand lately. Former Beattle Sir Paul McCartney, in an interview with Rolling Stone published earlier this month, said he initially wanted to make a record influenced by Nitin's sound, 

"I liked the idea of toying with a kind of Asian thing, a one-chord thing. There's an artist called Nitin Sawhney who I like -- he's a British-Asian guy. It was just a vibe I was into at the time

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Blogging India at the Washington Post

This past weeke the Washington Post began running an interesting piece by Staff Writer, author of Suburban Sahibs, and (former SAJA President) S. Mitra Kalita’s ongoing Washington Post blog, India 2.0, chronicling her eight week trip to India.  Accompanied by photographer Andrea Bruce (see her recent WP Photo Exhibit here), Kalita departed for her trip before the recent earthquake disaster in India and Pakistan.  The scope of her blog looks to be very interesting and falls very-much into line with some of the things we like to focus on here.  Since her departure, and subsequent arrival in Delhi, Mitra has blogged on the departure pangs that many of us go through before leaving for the country of some of our parent’s birth, especially post liberalization of the early 1990s. 

“Yet again I am surrounded by suitcases and piles of clothing -- the bright pinks and oranges and magentas of East and the tans and blacks and navys of West -- and engaging in the giving and taking that foreshadows the semiannual rite of my hyphenated life: a trip to India.  Will I really wear these jeans? Or should I pack another salwar kameez? What's the point of taking so many saris if I still can't wrap myself in them properly.  These are familiar questions, posed since I was a little girl spending summer vacations in the land of my parents' birth. But as I look around my bedroom, I am struck by a stark difference between then and now.  There are no Nikes. No Walkmans. No Tang. No Pringles. No Guess. No Gap. No Minoltas. No socks. No razor blades. No microwaves (I swear we took one once.) In fact, I am taking no gifts, just a few requested items for my husband's cousin's family, who are hosting me. Among them: a Bose iPod speaker and Livestrong wristbands. I do not have an iPod and didn't know what the heck those bands were. Already, this American cousin feels she has been living in the Dark Ages.”
 She has also blogged on the South Asian earthquake and, the burgeoning mall culture that has taken over, not just India, but from my recent travels to South Asia, Sri Lanka as well.  She writes of a recent mall opening,
“Make no mistake about the "mall" moniker. In India, that means marble floors and glitzy storefront displays. Like many conveniences taken for granted in the West, the Indian counterpart tends to be equally rooted in providing the customer experience. (McDonald's, for example, might have a worker who pumps your ketchup.) So the opening of M.G. 2 (named for its location on Mehrauli Gurgaon Road and because it is adjacent to M.G. 1) served up a heavy dose of pomp and importance alongside glasses of Coke and mineral water, with trays of tofu triangles and asparagus bruschetta circulated by waiters.” 

Monday, October 10, 2005

Water Has Finally Arrived

I blogged awhile back about the imminent release of the last film in Deepa Mehta's elemental trilogy, Water. The film, whose shooting was forced to relocate secretly to Sri Lanka, stars Lisa Ray (Bollywood/Hollywood), Seema Biswas (Bandit Queen), and Bollywood hearthrob (and Peta Spokesman) John Abraham, is finally making its way through the film fest circuit, playing to a full house at the 30th Toronto International Film Festival, and appearing at Washington D.C.s recent SALTAF. The preview screenings, and the audiences reactions' to the film must have been great because it turns out the film will be distributed in the in the Fox Searchlight (MongrelMedia has Canadian distribution and is set to release the film on November 4), the house that distributed wildly successful Bend It Like Beckham. What does this mean for us, the audience? We'll actually be able to see the movie without having to travel far and wide to find the one theater in our state showing it.

View the trailer for the film here. Incidentally, those of you lucky enough to have access to Canadian Bravo will have the opportunity to catch two special episodes of Scanning the Movies, which will focus on the making of Water with part one airing on October 28 and part two on November 4.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Love and Longing in 1225 Pages

Vikram Chandra, the acclaimed author of Love and Longing in Bombay, Red Earth and Pouring Rain, and co-author with Suketu Mehta of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir, has apparently been at the center of a vicious bidding war for publishing rights over his next novel, which according to his website is due to be released in the fall of 2006.

An untitled, 1,225-page epic set in India and billed as a combination of "The Godfather" and a Victorian Gothic novel will be released next year by HarperCollins after a bidding war involving six publishers. "It's an extraordinarily compelling page turner that also happens to be a major work of literature," HarperCollins publisher Jonathan Burnham told The Associated Press on Monday. A source close to the negotiations, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the deal was worth $1 million.
(It could be closer to 1.3 million.)

This novel, according to the AP story has been in the works for the past seven years. The officialy yet-to-be-titled novel centers on organized crime in modern Bombay and takes on "religion, politics, money, corruption, idealism, family, loyalty, and betrayal. All things near and dear to Mumbai.

I know, I know, another book on the Mumbai underworld. But I must admit, I am secretly very excited for this to come out for two reasons: I think there is still a lot to be written about the underworld, and it has been too long since I have read some good South Asian fiction.

Chandra's latest novel ranks among the longest fiction works in recent years, although a book published last summer, Paul Anderson's historical novel "Hunger's Brides," topped it at 1,300-plus pages. Fear not, South Asian fiction, much like Bollywood, can keep people holding on, even for thousands of pages as witnessed by the popularity of Vikram Seth's "A Suitable Boy," which is among the 1,000-page novels that have made the best seller lists.

Chandra used to teach an English class at GW when I was in undergrad there, and he gave a special presentation of Mission Kashmir to some students in 1999 or 2000. In the question and answer session that followed Chandra hinted that he was working on a novel about the Mumbai underworld with some friends that he collaborated on the film (Mission Kashmir) with (Suketu Mehta) . I had forgotten about this until Maximum City was published, at which point I thought this was the work Chandra was referring to. I guess not. From this story, it also seems like he and Mehta are no longer such good friends. Perhaps the effect of Maximum City?

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Dancing in the Streets (in DC)

The DC Arts Commission presents the Dance Festival DC 2005, which opens tomorrow with A Bhangra Dance Party: A children’s dance workshop celebrating South India at the Sitar Center on 1700 Kalorama Ave, NW. The free festival will feature performances and interactive workshops showcasing a wide array of folk and traditional dance forms throughout the city.

And yes, I noticed. While I am of course excited about the inclusion of South Asian dance forms in this year’s festival, I wish the description of the events would match the titles. Bhangra is indigenous to North India and Pakistan, so the correct title, if the folk dance in question was Bhangra, would be a dance workshop celebrating North India/Pakistan or Dancing in Punjab even. Yeah, it might not be as catchy or succinct, but accuracy should perhaps be more important. I know Bhangra is better known than say Kuchipudi, but Kuchipudi is actually represented in the second workshop, Global Fusion: A Kaleidoscope of dance, music, and song from around the world. Maybe they meant a children’s dance workshop celebrating South Asia? Alas, this is a minor quibble.

South Asia will also be represented by the Natyabhoomi School of Dance at a 2 pm performance on Saturday October 1, at the National Zoo.

View the entire schedule here, and watch a 30 second preview clip of the dance festival here.