Last Day to Make Your Voice Heard, Cali

CA Redistricting.jpgFor the Californians – you have only a day left to apply for the Citizens Redistricting Commission. You don’t remember? We voted on this change to legislation with Prop 11 in the Nov. ’08 elections. Instead of state government deciding on our district lines, it is now in citizen hands.

February 16 is the last day for applications to California’s new Citizens Redistricting Commission–a body that will have sweeping powers over the way state legislative and Board of Equalization district lines are drawn for the next 10 years. In other words, this commission of 14 ordinary Californians–5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 independents or voters from other parties–will shape California’s political future.

> What’s the big deal? Well…here’s what’s at stake. The district lines that are drawn could significantly affect election results for the next 10 years. In the past, states like Texas have redrawn the lines so that a majority of the residents in a single district hail from one party. As a result, in those districts there is no real competition in elections–which ultimately decreases the power of individual voters. [[nam](] I’m posting this up at Sepia Mutiny because according to the latest figures a low amount of AAPIs and women have applied and I would like to encourage our Californian readers to apply today. Though the data for South Asian Americans that have applied is not disaggregated,[ we do know that 4.47% of the applicant pool are Asian American and 31% are women]( In comparison to California’s state wide population according to 2000 census, 13% are Asian American and of that, about 10% are South Asian*. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Falls Into a Flaming Karahi


Proclaiming itself the “perfect date movie” Gary Marshall’s new film made me wonder what kind of a date someone had in mind when paying the film this compliment. A multigenerational family outing hoping for bland but pretty entertainment? A date impressed by big names and little substance? Maybe some of both. Valentine’s Day’s love stories are intertwined across generations, from puppy love (Megan Suri, Bryce Robinson) to high school sweethearts (Taylor Swift, Taylor Lautner) to senior citizen romantic saga (Shirley MacLaine, Hector Elizondo) plus at least half a dozen more. It could be fun to see how they ultimately connect, but it’s sort of sympathy-splitting to keep track. The movie spans several LA neighborhoods including Hollywood, Brentwood and bridge-envy inducing Venice. At one point an Indian wedding party adds comic relief to the mix, joining big-name stars in a Bollywood dance at the Golden Karahi. Continue reading

These Boots Are Made for Scene-stealin’

good-wife30.jpgIf you’re televisually predisposed to legal-drama addiction (I think it runs in my family), you may have heard of The Good Wife, which at first glance looks like a Law & Order-style star vehicle for Julianna Margulies, who recently won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her role on it. The series debuted last fall and SM blogged that Archie Panjabi would be on it. Her role is a supporting character, but I think Panjabi’s Kalinda Sharma, the tough, mysterious legal investigator, is a bit of a scene-stealer. Fans and critics can’t get enough of Kalinda.

“I’d also like to see Kalinda’s character developed a little bit more. Right now she just pops up a few times an episode, wearing kickass boots and generally being feisty. She drinks martinis, she flips the bird, she shows off her cleavage to get the job done. Archie Panjabi is a great actress (also, gorgeous) and I am glad she’s not an Asian stereotype — but I want to see more of her.” (LA Times)

Kalinda’s sexy trademark outfits with high-heeled boots and leather jackets definitely help her stand out. Most of the other cast members are conservatively suited up to blend in at a tony Chicago law firm. In a behind the scenes clip, the show’s costume designer mentions that everyone’s “mad” for Kalinda’s blogworthy boots.

Continue reading

Sundance – The Mutinous Round-up

As most of you know, a couple weeks ago I trekked out the snowy mountains of Park City, UT to take part in Sundance mayhem, Taqwacore style. I was there to blog on behalf of The Taqwacores motion picture – and you can read my full experience here. I ended up having one of the best (and most surreal) times of my life, hanging out with The Kominas, getting to interview celebrities (like in the video above of Gurinder Chadha and Sendhil Ramamurthy), and watching a ridiculous amount of movies. It was also a surprisingly mutinous adventure, and by the end of Sundance week I was literally introducing myself to every Desi person at Sundance. So, let me see if I can give you a celebri-Desi mutinous rundown of what happened at Sundance 2010.

The biggest highlight to my week was getting the opportunity to interview Bollywood movie star, Aamir Khan. He was there to promote the movie Peepli Live which was being released out of his production studio. With The Kominas as my hilarious Flip camera crew, we talked to him, first time director Anusha Rizvi and actor Omkar Das Manikpuri. Peepli Live is the first Bollywood movie to make it into competition in Sundance, and I really enjoyed the movie. It was an indie comedy with a Bollywood look, but without the cheesy song and dance numbers. And Aamir Khan was super normal, sweet and nice (as well as his wife Kiran Rao, who started talking to me in Bangla when Basim, Shahj, and Imran were talking to Aamir in Hindi). Check out the first part to the interview and visit MTV Iggy for the full run down.

I was also really excited about meeting Gurinder Chadha, who directed one of my favorite movies, Bend It Like Beckhem. Of course, it should be no surprise to the mutiny how drool-worthy I find Sendhil Ramamurthy, who plays the leading man in Chadha’s latest movie, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife. The interview was fascinating as the conversation revolved around the comparison of Brit Desi and American Desi film and cultures and I only lost my composure once – it was when Chadha talked about giving Mr. Ramamurthy a shirtless scene in the movie and all I could respond with was a “Thank you!” Continue reading

Hindustan Times copies SM’s homework

The “venerable” Hindustan Times newspaper had a very interesting article posted to its website earlier today titled “Brawn and Bikinis.” It briefly profiled two very unusual Indian Americans who will surely capture the interest and imagination of Sepia Mutiny readers:

In further evidence of their remarkable integration into the US mainstream, Indian Americans made their first mark in two facets of US popular culture: an iconic swimsuit calendar and the American football championship game.

A Harvard University student has become the first Indian-American to be featured in the magazine Sports Illustrated’s celebrated swimsuit issue. Sonia Dara appears in the 2010 issue that went on sale in the US on Tuesday.

Another Indian-American made immigrant history on Sunday by becoming the first from the community to be on a team competing in the Superbowl, the American football championship game and the country’s biggest sporting event. That was John Singh Gill of the losing team, the Indianapolis Colts. [Link]

Hmmmm. Those two items seem awfully familiar! Didn’t I just read about both these topics somewhere else on the internet this past week?? Oh. Right. I read about them in two of the last 5 blog posts right here on SM.

You see, Anirudh Bhattacharyya decided to simply take two of our latest posts and combine them into one of his original stories without mentioning or citing SM as the source for the idea. At SM we get ideas for stories from lots of places, including mainstream newspapers. But at least we always cite them. Let us fisk some more, shall we? Take the next paragraph:

The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, first published in 1964, is an iconic American publication. It has served as a launching pad for many future supermodels, including Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Heidi Klum. The issue attracts tens of millions of dollars in advertising.

This paragraph was paraphrased and spliced together straight out of the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for the SI Swimsuit issue. Everything else in the article seems to be lifted without attribution from other sources already published on the web. I hope the Hindustan Times isn’t paying for this mimicry. They should just pay us the money instead since our writers are doing the work. Shame shame. I know your name.

Update: The journalist’s name sounded familiar so I searched my email inbox. I had spoken to Mr. Bhattacharyya back in 2005. He wanted to interview us about Sepia Mutiny.

Hi Abhi,

I got your email from [name deleted]… I’m working on an article on desi blogs and wanted to look at sepiamutiny in that context. Is there a number you can be reached at? And what day and time is usually good for you?


Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Editor, mantram
Consulting Editor, South Asia World

So again, we are absolutely thrilled when someone wants to publish a “mainstream” story based on an idea they got from one or more of our posts. Just cite the fact that your idea came from here is all we ask. It’s only fair

Continue reading

Foxy Brown

Do you hear that? That’s the sound of the glass ceiling shattering. Yes, that’s right, there’s a desi model in the Sports’ Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Oh, and she’s a sophomore at Harvard, pre-med studying econ. Move aside Padma Laxmi, make room TMBWITW, here comes Sonia Dara.

I know I know, I can hear the objections from the nattering nabobs of negativism. Why is this photo shoot in Rajasthan? Who wears a swimsuit in the middle of the desert? Look, I’m not going to defend SI. This photograph, for example, is completely absurd. I can’t look at it without cringing.

However, what bothers me is the exotification not the objectification. I’m totally down with the latter. I actually wish desi men would get objectified in the media, instead of being portrayed as they were in the superbowl ad for Metro TV below. I mean, don’t you get tired of being appreciated for your mind all the time? Right now, even the desi sex symbols in the media are geeks first and eye candy later. I’m doing my part to try to bring sexy back, but there’s only so much I can do alone.

One day, perhaps, desis can be depicted three dimensionally by the American media. Until then. I’d rather see more Sonia Dara and less of Ranjit and Chad.

(Update) You may also be interested in Sonia Dara’s spread in Vogue India, which shows her in a different context.

Lastly, let’s keep this polite whether you like Dara or do not. If the language in the comments go beyond the bounds of polite conversation, I’ll shut it down because I don’t have time to prune uncouth comments while at work. So please don’t feed any trolls who show up.

Continue reading

Khan Signs Nude Pics of Self at Airport


What next? No, really. I want to know. What next? First SRK announces he’s releasing a movie called My Name is Khan that has to do with issues of terrorism post-9/11. Then SRK gets detained by guards at Newark airport. Now, days after SRK wraps up a publicity tour in NYC, we hear that our friend is once again in the news? Life imitating art? Stranger things have happened.

Claims on behalf of authorities that naked body scanner images are immediately destroyed after passengers pass through new x-ray backscatter devices have been proven fraudulent after it was revealed that naked images of Indian film star Shahrukh Khan were printed out and circulated by airport staff at Heathrow in London. Continue reading

Sean Panikkar: He’s an Opera Singer, But Back Then “Nobody Knew I Could Sing”

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Sean_Panikkar_-_Photo_by_Lisa_Kohler.jpgThis past fall, I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to begin teaching at the University of Michigan. One of the first people I met here was the opera singer Sean Panikkar, a University of Michigan alum who’s singing at the Metropolitan Opera in Ariadne auf Naxos this week.

I’m a bit of an operahead. (For those of you who have never been to the opera, if you want to try it affordably, I recommend my usual method: standing room tickets at the Met, which go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of the performance. But I’m going to Ariadne courtesy of Sean. Many thanks, Mr. Panikkar!) Sean was the second opera singer I’d heard of who had some Sri Lankan background. And his tenor has gotten great reviews from the likes of The New York Times’ Anthony Tommasini, as well as a host of others. I asked him if he’d be willing to do a bit of Q&A for the Mutiny. Here’s an edited and abridged version of our interview.

Can you share a little bit about your family background?

I was born in Bloomsburg, PA, which is a small town of about 12,000. My parents are from Sri Lanka and came to the United States in 1975. My mother is Tamil and my father is Sinhalese, which is why they left.

When and how did your striking voice first come to attention? What was it about opera specifically that appealed to you? How did your family feel about it?

I had always been involved in music from the time I was little. I played piano, violin, and trombone while also singing in choirs. I never considered myself musical, but it was one of the things my parents wanted us (my brother and I) to do along with sports. My parents often thought I was lip synching during choir concerts. They never knew I could sing.

When I was in middle school a Juilliard-trained soprano named Li Ping Liu moved into our area…. She had nobody to teach because opera isn’t something people in central PA really know much about. I thought it might be interesting to take voice lessons, but I wouldn’t do it unless somebody went with me so for the first few lessons my father and I had lessons back to back. At the time I was into Michael Jackson and Billy Joel so that is what I brought to sing. She made me sing it like an opera singer and I thought it was the worst thing in the world. Just imagine singing high pitched “hee hees” like an opera singer! Needless to say that didn’t last long. Continue reading

Q&A with @PorkAdventurer aka Abdullah Saeed


Three weeks ago, 25-year old Philadelphian and lifelong foodie Abdullah Saeed did something thousands of people around the world were doing that very minute – he wrote a blog post. The post, titled “What a strange new feeling” was the first for his blog, ‘Adventures in Pork: A Muslim eats various pork dishes for the first time in his life and divulges his thoughts.’ Over the next four weeks, Saeed, a DJ and freelance writer tried Wendy’s Baconator, Pork Vindaloo and BBQ pork ribs among other pork dishes. The reaction from the blogosphere was immediate. Phoodie, a Philadelphia food and drink blog had this to say about Adventures in Pork, “Saeed’s almost poetic prose and fresh perspective on swine merge like ribs and BBQ sauce that makes for a witty feast for the eyeballs.” Thrillist wrote, “a scrumptious blog from a guy who realized he could have his pig and eat it too.”

I first heard about Saeed a few days ago, when I asked Hassan from Sunny Ali & The Kid who ‘The Kid’ was in the band. He introduced me to Saeed’s blog and suggested I read it. I was immediately hooked. I simply had to interview my bacon-brother-from-another-mother (especially given my own current exploration of pork.) Saeed was kind enough to sit down and share his story with SM. Continue reading

A Gill in the big bowl

Bobby Jindal wants you to root for the Saints in the Super Bowl, but here’s a reason to root for the Colts: John Singh Gill, son of Ajit and Ann Gill, is a defensive lineman for the team (via Ultrabrown). He was recently elevated toGill.jpg the active roster, so he may see some playing time. Now I know what my friend meant when he said, “I’m looking for 69 during the big game.”

If the Colts win, Gill won’t be the first desi player with a Super Bowl ring. That distinction belongs to Bobby Singh, who won a ring while on the Rams practice squad in ’99. The Fiji-born Singh is the only player to win a Super Bowl, XFL Championship and a Grey Cup. Other active desi football players include Obby Khan, a center for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Brandon Chillar, who plays linebacker for the Packers and is perhaps the best desi football player ever (Baichung Bhutia not included).

Gill, a Los Altos, Calif., native, played college ball at Northwestern and answered some questions from

Q:If you could dine with anyone from any period in history, who would it be?
A: Ghandi (sic)

Q: If you could have a starring role in any film already made, which movie would you pick?
A: The Godfather

Q: What is the greatest lesson in life that you have learned?
A: Always do your best in every aspect of life

Q: Something people would be surprised to know about me is…
A: I am half Indian

Q: My ultimate SportsCenter highlight would be…
A: Returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown

Q: The person that inspires me the most is…
A: My parents

Q: My favorite food is…
A: Italian food

Q: My favorite pre-game ritual is…
A: Eating

Q: If you were to have your friends attribute one quality to you, what would it be?
A: Loyal

He wants to dine with Gandhi and he likes Italian food? Oh, I get it now: He meant Sonia Gandhi.

Continue reading