Turban slur optioned for film

An Egyptian-American novelist has sold film rights to her Lolita story, Towelhead, to the writer of American Beauty and HBO’s Six Feet Under (via Moorish Girl). The celebratory article doesn’t even mention the fact that ‘towelhead,’ like the term made famous by Louisiana Congressman John Cooksey, is an ethnic slur. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Sand N–.

Set during the Gulf War, the book is a coming-of-age story of a 13-year-old Arab-American girl who must navigate a sexual obsession with a bigoted Army reservist under the oppressive eye of her Lebanese father.

Hari Puttar in Calcutta

A local … extension of the Harry Potter series has been shut down by JK Rowlings lawyers.

“Immediately after the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry gets onto his Nimbus 2000 broom and zooms across to Calcutta at the invitation of young boy called Junto,” … [where] [t]hey come across a whole bunch of literary characters from earlier Bengali fiction.

No word as to whether they encounter Pavitr Prabhakar along the way.

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‘Shwas’ chosen as India’s Oscar entry

Shwas, a Marathi film, was chosen as India’s official entry for the Academy Awards next February (thanks, Prakruti). It sounds like it hits the same themes as Roberto Begnini’s Life is Beautiful; it has a great shtick based on a real-life story:

It tells the story of a young boy stricken with cancer of the eyes… an operation will save the childÂ’s life but will rob him of his sight forever. The grandfather follows helplessly, unable to save the child from a lifetimeÂ’s darkness. At the door of the operation theatre, they are informed that the operation has been cancelled and will take place the following day… the grandfather takes the child out for the day to show him all the sights he will never see again…

Wonder if Shwas will be ‘Indian enough’ for the judges. I haven’t seen this film, and the eye operation angle usually invites screechy, soapy melodrama. But the one-day-to-truly-live setup can work well: an ice palace in a desert, ‘tell me something that will make me love you.’

Speaking of loss, I also hear Khamoshi did well by the deaf. No surprise, it’s by Sanjay Leela Bhansali.

Dueling film festivals in Manhattan

The Indo-American Arts Council is opening its annual film festival with a swank cocktail party and a Bride and Prejudice screening at Lincoln Center on Nov. 4.

SAIFF.gifBut, an upstart challenger with a slick Web site and little by way of details, the South Asian International Film Festival, is also opening with that film on Dec. 1.

Be still my beating heart, ’tis desi indie overdose. And that’s not even including the regular Third I screenings. But can anyone shed light on the SAIFF: does it have a different mission than IAAC’s film fest, is it a desi version of the Asian-American one? Or is this yet another internecine schism, like the duplicate, competing Indian Independence Day celebrations all over the country?

Update: I emailed the SAIFF organizers. Heard back from Soman Chainani, who used to work for Mira Nair’s production company. He says the festival is focused on films about South Asia, while the IAAC focuses on the diaspora.

Indian Leaves

Vinod asked me to expound on my art; a task I have to confess I find terribly difficult to do. I balk at even calling it art, actually. So questions like “why” somewhat irk me. I could be a real smart ass and say – “because it was there” but that doesn’t help you any.

I was in India last November and as I waited for my then fiancee to get her clothes stiched by a tailor, I walked around the gardens and found these exotic leaves poking into the afternoon sky. I got a simple reading off of the leaves and by that I mean I exposed only for the leaves and assumed the sky which was pretty darn bright would go to white light. Machines don’t disappoint. Sure enough the sky went white and the leaves punched through.

I am reading a book by Robert Adams called Beauty in Photography: Essays In Defense of Traditional Values. In it, Adams states one way “beauty” can be defined in photography is by the form it takes. I think I must subliminally subscribe to this point of view. Do all photographers have their brains wired this way? I can’t really say for sure.

What I liked, more than the photograph, was the actual experience of photographing the leaves. Process over results. I think that’s really the key to just about anything in life. Enjoy what you are doing and you will end up doing it well. It’s a mantra I keep repeating to myself for it is so easy to forget. And didn’t the Bhagwad Gita say something similar? And therein lies my desi hook to this week’s photograph submission. Enjoy!


You will have to trust me when I say that there was very little manipulation to this image. Just a bit of sharpening in Photoshop, but otherwise the image is as-is. I really don’t like fussing about or tweaking my images; even more so when people are in my frame.

The next U.N. Sec Gen??

Kofi Annan, it is fair to say, is a thorn in the side of President Bush (liberals like me find satisfaction in this of course). But the Nobel Peace Prize winner, originally from Ghana, who has been the Secretary General of the United Nations since 1997, won’t be the U.N. Sec Gen forever. Who will replace him in 2007? The New York Sun reports:

The early scramble to see who will fill the shoes of Kofi Annan has begun, with states and regions vying to bring one of their own into the position of secretary-general of the United Nations and all the bully pulpit privileges that come with it.

The latest Iranian attempt, floating the candidacy of President Khatami for the position, was seen, at Turtle Bay, as a diversion. But it also stirred the pot in the hallways, and as world leaders gathered here for a week of meetings, some wonder whether it is too early to ask: Who will be Mr. Annan’s successor?

More than anything, the early maneuvering for the position, which will become vacant at the end of 2006, underlines the chaotic method of selecting someone for the high-powered position. To be successful at this stage of the race, one has to feed the rumor mill.

Well hell. I feel like Sepia Mutiny is obliged in that case to feed the Rumor Mill, so I will take it upon myself to do so.

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Meet your Cab Driver

Thought I’d forward out this old-ish story where folks interviewed a series of cab drivers in NYC to find out about their lifestyles, motivations, etc. – A World Connected – Cabdriver Confessions

At aWorldConnected, we asked ourselves what kinds of people have the most intriguing perspectives on globalization? And what do they see? To begin to answer this question, we sent our cameras to New York City and talked to cab drivers. All the cabbies we spoke to grew up in developing countries and immigrated to the United States. In making these risky, life-changing decisions, they left behind family, friends, and a familiar culture for the chance at a better life.

Of course, several of the folks were desi -

Kawsar from Bangladesh Making money in America has opened up new opportunities for this driver. Hop in for a ride as he tells his story.

Monkey mayhem arrested in Patiala

Because itÂ’s unacceptable to kill an animal referenced throughout Hindu mythology, miscreant monkeys in New Delhi and Punjab are sent to a monkey jail and locked away behind monkey bars. Oh darling, yeh hai India.

At Baljeet Kaur’s house, when the monkey demanded food, it was given cut apples and peeled bananas. Kaur, once bitten by a monkey, said she was happy this monkey was gone…. jailers refer to them by where they were caught: Sanam Monkey or Jalandhar Monkey. “They are so notorious, why should we give them a name?” Atalia said. “They don’t listen anyway,” added Surinder Singh, who is in charge of the Motibagh zoo.

Damn those non-Punjabi-speaking monkeys… How to generate a book title in the South Asian lit category: 1. Come up with a tropical fruit. YouÂ’re done! ItÂ’s The Guava Thief. Call Granta and B&N and ship that sucker.

“He used to eat our guavas,” said Bhagwanti Devi, a neighbor who was harassed by the monkey…

…A friend of mine once noted that the monkey god Hanuman was clearly modeled on Punjabis, because heÂ’s funny, loyal, muscular, hairy, and always spoiling to dish out some whup-ass. And given his vertical leap, heÂ’d make a hell of a baller.

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