Interviewing Naseeruddin: The Lion Roars

Well, he was really incredibly nice…but he certainly had little patience for stupid people asking stupid questions, so the possibility that he would lose his temper lent a certain charge to the proceedings.


I’m talking about Naseeruddin Shah, of course. The yin to Big B’s yang, the iconoclast, the evergreen, the lion of Indian cinema with over 150 films to his credit. From Umrao Jaan to Monsoon Wedding to Omkara, he disappears into a role so thoroughly, I usually have to check IMDB frequently to make sure it’s really him.

It’s just so refreshing when famous people turn out to be intelligent and really engage in a conversation. All too often it’s just rote PR fluff. Many mutineers seemed to like the Vik Sahay interview for that reason, so I thought I’d bring over these two Naseerudin Shah interview clips: Continue reading

Glee’s Principal Figgins aka Iqbal Theba

When my next-door neighbors decided to throw a raucous party this past Friday night that included (terrible) karaoke versions of N’SYNC, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, I went to Twitter for some relief. While scrolling down the page, I noticed the television show ‘Glee,’ was among the top ‘Trending Topics’ on Twitter. I’d heard much about Glee, which features Matthew Morrison as Will Schuester, a Spanish teacher at McKinley High School in Limo, Ohio who coaches a bunch of misfits as the director of the school’s glee club. Now’s a better time than any to start watching a new show that’s all about singing, I thought to myself as the neighbors burst forth into a fresh rendition of Jay Sean’s Down (That they precluded by saying “Oh man, I didn’t know that dude was Indian.”)

Ever since Glee came out on Sept. 9, my friends have been obsessed with it. I’d resisted till Saturday, because who really wants to see another High School Musical except for my tween cousins? (I didn’t mention I spent the better part of high school singing acapella, did I?) Much to my surprise, the show, despite the occasional annoying stereotype (the sassy black diva singer, the stupid quarterback, the fashionable gay guy), was entertaining. I didn’t much appreciate its approach to teen sexuality (there’s much celibacy-lambasting that parents of high school youth will most certainly take offense at). But by the show’s end, I was loving the character of Principal Figgins played by Iqbal Theba. Continue reading

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Q&A with Himanshu Suri of Das Racist: Part II


When we left off on Friday, Himanshu Suri, one half of the group Das Racist, was dishing on The Cosby Show and Taylor Swift. And now for more substantive questions…

Q: Das Racist has been labeled blipsters. Also hipsters. What’s the huge fuss about? In other words, why does everyone hate on you guys? And were you really a sk8ter boy growing up?

A: That blipster thing was weird. Those types of classifications of people don’t do anything positive. It was an article on black people dressing like white people that dress how black people dressed in the ’80s but didn’t address the cyclical nature of it and basically stood to further alienate an already alienated group. And I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not black. I was told it was an article on cross-cultural fashion and I made a shit ton of points that were ignored for a quote on skateboarding. (Yo I don’t even skateboard!). And Daggggg. I wouldn’t say everyone hates on us. Certain publications have taken quite a liking but any time that happens in this age of fickle internet fandom you have backlash and that’s something any artist has to deal with. Like I said we’re not making music that’s instantly appealing. We dabble with nonsequitors, dadaism, repetition, repetition. We make dance music while talking about not-dancey things. We say things that on the surface can seem pretty dumb but it’s a mask on some Paul Laurence Dunbar shit for actual discontent with a lot of shit in the world. Further, not a lot of people want to hear rappers talk about Dinesh D’Souza being a punk, Eddie Said, Gayatri Spivak being dope or even know who they are. A lot of people hear Pizza Hut Taco Bell and then have preconceived notions about our entire body of work that fall prettty flat if you ask me. But yeah, we seem to be pretty polarizing. Continue reading

He’s Your Polish Dancer, Your Brown Actor for Hire

d.pudi.jpg“Most of the roles you get are not Polish…You don’t seem like a typical Pole,” Jimmy Kimmel joked while interviewing comic actor Danny Pudi on his late night show. The lanky Chicagoan and Polish-Indian American Pudi was sitting in a chair autographed by Rod Blagojevich.

And indeed, his role on the new TV series “Community,” is not Polish either. He plays Abed, a half-Palestinian character.

Pudi, whose mother immigrated from Poland and his father from India, acknowledged that portraying Polish characters was not his “wheelhouse.” Playing South Asian characters is.

“I played three Sanjays…Haven’t played any Polish characters yet.”

You can watch his Kimmel interview after the jump. Continue reading

Interview with Vik Sahay

Do you watch “Chuck”? That TV show about the secret, CIA-protected life of a tech dork who works the Nerd Herd desk at a Best Buy like electronics store? The first season was cute, the second sort of lost me, then they got Scott Bakula to play his dad and I’m hooked again. (Quantum Leap forever!)

One of the more amusing aspects of the show is that Chuck’s real world life at the Nerd Herd desk is as drama-filled as his intelligence/espionage secret life — courtesy of a scheming nemesis, Lester, played by desi actor Vik Sahay. vicsahay3-200x200.jpg

It’s a small role, but Sahay really owns it, milking every line for humor and dimensionality. So when MTV Iggy interviewed him, we vaguely thought he would be this, like, funny cocky guy and we’d edit it down to the best 2-3 bits. We certainly had no idea it would turn out to be one of the most searching, intelligent, thought-provoking interviews I’ve seen in years.

We ended up cutting something like 14 segments because all of it was interesting. That’s a ridiculous number, by the way. No one’s ever gotten that much play. Six clips were aired while we try to figure out what to do with the rest. Continue reading

Q&A with Himanshu Suri of Das Racist: Part I


Remember Abhi’s post on hip-hop duo Das Racist back in May? He said, and I quote “This track is going to become a favorite of desis of all ages.” (Not sure about all desis, but these little girls certainly enjoyed it.) During the summer, Das Racist received heaps of attention, both positive and negative, from fans, magazines, blogs, etc. I chatted with Himanshu Suri of Das Racist to ask him what all the fuss was really about. Continue reading

30 Mosques in 30 Days

amanbassam.pngAman Ali and Bassam Tariq are taking a journey through New York City’s Muslim communities by visiting a different mosque in the city each night of the Ramadan month. They are documenting the experience in writing and with photos at 30 Mosques in 30 Days.

musala.jpgNYC has over a hundred mosques and the project offers an interesting peek at their diversity, their histories and the communities that gather at each place of worship. It has also caught the attention of TV, news and blogs, but Tariq’s mother wasn’t really into it at first.

“She was like, be careful, the FBI is going to follow you,” he recalls. “I said, ‘don’t worry, mom. Things have changed. We have a black president now. Things are going to get better.'” (NY1) (As it happens, the most recent update on their site notes that someone at a Bosnian mosque asked Tariq for his ID because of an “incident with the FBI.”)

Tariq also told TV network NY1, “sometimes we’re the only ones that are South Asian, and the place will be all Indonesian or all African American, and we’ll walk in and everyone will be very happy.” Continue reading

Affordable healthcare essay contest

Just a quick note for our loquacious readers (many of whom also enjoy blogging): the Asian American Action-fund blog is sponsoring an essay contest centered around the healthcare debate. Specifically, how do we fix our system? Given the number of healthcare professionals in the South Asian American community I am guessing there are a lot of thoughts out there. Have at it:

AAA-Fund proudly announces its 2009 Healthcare Blogathon. Please send us your blog post on the following topic

How can we fix our healthcare system so that everyone can get access to quality, affordable healthcare? Please share your thoughts and personal stories on why we need healthcare reform now (500 words or less).


Send your entries to Richard Chen (rchen [at]

But hurry! The deadline: Friday, September 25, 8 pm ET. [Link]

I think I will end up being one of the judges. Prizes are as follows

First Place: One Hundred Fifty Dollars ($150), 2 free tickets to the 2010 AAA-Fund Gala (a $200 value), and an exclusive invitation to become a featured AAA-Fund Blogger

Second Place: 2 free tickets to the 2010 AAA-Fund Gala (a $200 value), and an exclusive invitation to become a featured AAA-Fund Blogger

Third Place: Lunch with a AAA-Fund leader, and an exclusive invitation to become a featured AAA-Fund Blogger [Link]

Good luck SM-ers! Continue reading

It May Only Be A Board Game But He Can Strike Fear Into Your Heart

Do not tell me you thought the Agarwalla brothers were the only brown in town on the Scrabble board! Witness Mehal Shah, he of the deceptively friendly face and evil Scrabble strategery. (H/T to my awesome webmistress, who sent me this link to an Ignite talk, which she got via mentalfloss. They rightly dub Mr. Shah “Jedi Master.” Because of his Jedi mind tricks.)

Watching “Fighting Dirty in Scrabble: How To Beat Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere, and At Any Cost” will take only five minutes of your life! Your living room competition will never be the same! (This is an important note: these are not your Stefan Fatsis-level tips; these are for people who, like Shah, “love to play Scrabble and really, really hate losing.”)

What won’t he do? No cheating, no stealing tiles–but I’ve gotta laugh when I hear Shah talk about aggressively making up words. I haven’t forgotten that a certain British relative of mine made up T-R-A-X a few years ago when I wasn’t looking. (“It means… You know. Trax,” she said when I looked again.)

I will admit, I am part of the Scrabble Rabble. With the demise of Scrabulous, I took to Scrabble Beta over Lexulous, and I play “live” whenever time permits. (As fate would have it, this week I am teaching Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to my contemporary political fiction class at the University of Michigan. Scrabble even makes a fateful appearance in that novel! It’s a good board game for some literary analysis.)

Now, how much of what Shah says is applicable beyond the board? I tremble in fear. 🙂

Follow Shah on Twitter

Previous word nerd coverage here. Continue reading

There Once Was a Man From Tajik

Whaaaaat! Watch and be amazed.

Who is this Tajik Jimmy from Russia?

The rise of Mr. Allaberiyev, widely known as Tajik Jimmy, a migrant worker in a provincial Russian stockroom who delivers astonishing renditions of Bollywood musical numbers, is one more testament to the strange power of the Internet. A little more than a year after one of his performances was filmed by a co-worker with a cellphone and posted online, Mr. Allaberiyev cannot walk through a crowd in the Russian capital without being stopped by fans.nyt

I once had an older Vietnamese colleague sing me a Bollywood song, a remnant from her childhood of being raised in Vietnam before she escaped. I was stunned that Bollywood had reached so far in such a restrictive country. Seems like Bollywood to Russia took a similar path. Continue reading

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