Bigot Brother?

We reported earlier on Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty’s venture into the Celebrity Big Brother house in the UK. We thought things were going smoothly for her when reader Jai informed us that Shilpa was part of a reshuffle in the house where

“8 housemates voluntarily transferred into an adjoining, and significantly dodgier, “servants’ quarters”, with the intention that the 3 remaining celebrities would be treated like royalty by them. It appears that they all selected the lucky 3 on the basis of them having the highest status in the real world — Shilpa was one of them, along with Jermaine Jackson and a famous director called Ken Russell. So that’s an interesting indication of how they view her.”

Jai signed on again, despite starting a new job (congrats jai!), to let us know how things were progressing for Shilpa and the gang. It seemed she had bonded with the other major stars on the show, especially Jermaine Jackson and Dirk Benedict (Face from the A-team) who was crushing hard core on the Bollywood star. At the same time it seems, Shilpa was also the victim of a lot of bullying and even some acts of racism from some of the housemates (especially the ladies). Over the past few days, fellow participants have called Shilpa “dog, “”The Indian,” and have even mocked her accent. One of the Bullyers according to the Daily Mirror is previous Big Brother winner Jade Goody. Goody, who supports Act Against Bullying, an anti-bullying charity, was swiftly given the boot by the the charity because of her actions. Act Againts Bullyying called Goody’s behaviour “unforgivable”.

Jade’s mother Jackey too got in on the anti-Shilpa act. According to Caroline Malone, who was recently evicted, “Jade’s mum Jackiey hated Shilpa and constantly referred to her as “The Indian” which I found horribly insulting. Jackiey made life purposely difficult for Shilpa – shouting at her for no reason, criticising her cooking, attacking her for being bossy.” (link)

Hey, you don’t like someone? Call them names, use their race, ethnic origin, or anything that makes them different and mock that as well. Have your mom call them names, and have your boyfriend call them names too. That solves everything. It turns out Jade’s boyfriend Jack Tweed— who is also currently in the house, and was alleged to have called Shetty a “paki” when Jade’s mother was evicted last week; Channel 4, the channel on which Big Brother airs, has confirmed that Tweed didn’t call Shetty a Paki, but instead the clearly more civilized, “cunt.” Last night Shetty was in tears and is quoted as saying: “I’m the only one they are mean to, I don’t know why. Nobody is mean to anyone else except me.” (link)

Continue reading

Burger Raja

While growing up my mom would do ravivar, which translates into Sunday in Gujarati. This was a tradition passed down to her from her mother, and basically every Sunday my mom would only eat once during the day. When I was a kid, it sucked for Sunday lunch because it meant eating a full-on Gujarati feast, when all I really want to eat was a grilled cheese and some bugles. Things looked up for dinner though, when my sister and I were allowed to choose our poisons. This often led to a visit to Burger King for a Veggie Whopper and onion rings. The Veggie Whopper, for those of you that haven’t had the pleasure of having it is different than the BK Veggie which was only recently added to the menu, and is essentially Burger King’s signature Whopper without the meat patty. As ridiculous as it may sound, it was one of my favorite foods order. I know that for most vegetarians, a fast food burger joint doesn’t quite fit the bill as an ideal place to grab a bite, but my sister and I loved Burger King. And that Burger King presented some semblance of a vegetarian option set it apart from its competition. While I was always on the fence about allying myself strictly to Burger King or McDonalds – you never know when you will crave a McFlurry – when the news came out a few year’s back that McDonalds had been deceiving its vegetarian customers by incorporating that unnecessary beef tallow ingredient into its french fries, I moved completely into the Burger King camp.

So I was glad when I saw the news that fast food eaters in India would soon be getting a choice in where they can hang out and munch on American style burgers and fries. From this story in the Economic Times, it seems Burger King will soon be joining the burger wars in India as it begins to scout out locations and business partners with which to start its joint burger venture in India. And with its opening,

Burger King is likely to shake McDonald’s monopoly in India by launching its own brand of burger restaurants. The company, best known for its price war with Big Mac in the US, has mandated Kotak Mahindra to scout for a partner in what is a growth market for global fast food companies. Industry sources feel that even though McDonald’s is firmly established in metros like Delhi and Mumbai, Burger King’s entry is likely to start a burger war of sorts. Innovation in product offerings and location of outlets would play a crucial role in drawing customers in the long run. In the short term, McDonald’s would lose some customers to Burger King out of the sheer curiosity factor. However, this would happen only if both are located in the same catchment area,” said an industry source.

Continue reading

Like many desis, I love me some deals. I know I am playing into stereotypes here, especially because I am Gujarati, but come on EVERYONE likes good deals. The enjoyment for me isn’t just finding a good deal, but the whole process: it is the hunt, the chase, and the glory in opening the mail and finding that rebate check that you thought might not ever come. Suffice it to say, I spend a good percentage of my time on the internets perusing some favorite deal sites.

But while I like finding good deals, one of my pet peeves is really poor customer service and the feeling that I have been taken advantage of. So when I was visiting one of my new favorite deal/consumer rights blogs, The Consumerist, (part of the Gawker family of blogs) I was a bit dismayed to hear the tale of our desi brethren, Mahesh, who reported on his parent’s really poor experience on United Airlines.

Mahesh’s parents flew from Omaha, Nebraska to Colombo,Sri Lanka, but at LAX, United Airlines (UAL) refused to honor their tickets, saying that they had not “been approved, authorized and authenticated.” The family ended having to pay $2860 extra to complete their journey. Apparently, Sri Lankan Air Lines, a United code-share partner, could not find the reservation Mahesh’s parents made. Mahesh wrote three letters of complaint to UAL and so far his parents have only received two $300 coupons in return. When Mahesh scoffed at the sum, United wrote, “our policy does not permit us to respond with the generosity you had anticipated. (link)

It seems that instead of writing letters, which I am a big fan of, now when desis are wronged, we blog. So as a good South Asian, Mahesh has started his own blog detailing his battle with United Airlines’ Customer service at His story is really messed up and I hope the airlines eventually do the right thing and refund the extra three grand his recently operated-on parents had to hand over to get home.

Continue reading

Big Brother Watches Bollywood

If anyone in Bollywood needs a big brother to watch over her, one of my first guesses would be item-number girl extraordinaire, Shilpa Shetty. And lucky for her (and for us too), Big Brother will be watching her, and by Big Brother, I am referring to the UK television show’s ongoing celebrity version (thanks Jai).

The BBC reports yesterday that Ms. Shetty (31) was the sixth of eleven stars to enter the Big Brother house, wearing a pink sari. Because Shetty, who has appeared in over 30 Bollywood films, is an unmarried Indian female, attractive, and over the age of 30, it appears that they are going to focus on her love-life (you know, being single, desi, and over 30, the horror, the horror).

The film icon will reportedly have a dinner date with another housemate, in which she will be encouraged to flirt and reports say Ms Shetty – often the subject of marriage speculation – will dine at a later stage in the show with the housemate she finds the most attractive. Inevitably, Indian coverage of the show will focus on romance in Shilpa Shetty’s life.”

But it isn’t likely that any shaadi will result from the show. When responding to a love-life related query from one newspaper in the run-up to the show, Shetty kept it fashionably coy saying, “I shall marry but after three years. There is no-one in my life as of today. And, I am very happy living single, at present.” (link)

Correspondents, like always, are saying that Shetty’s appearance on Big Brother is bound to be hugely controversial in India where many would question its standards of morality. Maybe so, but these correspondents must then have missed some of her more risquescantily clad-and-in-the-rain dance numbers that Shilpa has participated. Morality, Shmorality, it is Big Brother, and by the look of things already, this season sounds like it is going to be interesting. I know I will be watching, and with Shilpa on, I bet many of the two million plus British Asians will be too. You can see videos of the show here, Shilpa’s page here, and Shilpa big brother news here.

Continue reading

It’s TMBWITW Time…Again

It has been some time since we’ve mutinied over Ms. Aishwarya Rai, the Bollywood bombshell who in her past couple of film ventures hasn’t had too much luck conquering the western film market. Rai, who made her Hollywood debut in the somewhat successful English ode to Bollywood, Bride and Prejudice and flopped in the poorly executed (yet visually exciting) Mistress of Spices, may have scored a nice role and hopefully a better foray into the west with her role as Mira, a sword-wielding warriorete, in Doug Lefler’s, The Last Legion. The film, which stars Sir Ben Kingsley and Colin Firth –Rai impressively receives third billing — is the story of twelve-year-old emperor Romulus Augustus, who in the midst of the fall of the Roman Empire, escapes to join up with a small band of survivors who make their way to Britain in search of the chotu ruler’s ultimate legion, one of which I take is Miss Rai.

“Dare to Be Daring”

I have to say after seeing the trailer (I know, it is just the trailer) Aishwarya’s performance looks quite good (link). The role is completely different than anything she has been in before, the cast is stellar (Ben Kingsley was Gandhi!), and Ash as an ass-kicking, sword handling fighter is a nice contrast to the usual, happy-go-lucky, Bhangra-circle dancing Ms. World that we are used to seeing. It can only be a good thing that she is moving away from doing the strictly desi themed film and towards playing a non-ethnic role. A well-received performance here, in an actual mainstream film, has the potential to really catapult her to the Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz levels, and on top of all that, Rai has extra incentive for this film to be successful, she bought the Indian rights. The Last Legion rated PG 13 is being distributed by MGM and the Weinsteins, and is set to release sometime in 2007 (I’ve seen both January 19 and April 27 as potential release dates).

Continue reading

The Office Celebrates Diwali

Who cares if there is no stamp commemorating Diwali when NBC’s Emmy Award winning comedy The Office has an episode commemorating the Hindu holiday. The episode, written by Mindy Kaling, born Vera Chokalingam, (also author of the Diwali song (link via nirali magazine)-, the Hindu answer to Adam Sandler’s Hannukah Song) airs tonight on NBC at 8:30 EST. Tonight’s episode, simply titled “Diwali,” has Michael played by Steve Carell, urging all the staff to support Kelly Kapoor, played by Mindy Kaling, and attend a local celebration of the Hindu Festival of Lights. As Ryan (B.J. Novak) nervously faces Kelly’s family at the event, Michael, his new girlfriend Carol, and the staff sample a range of Indian culture and cuisine. Since the episode hasn’t aired yet, we can’t say too much about the content, but the fact that the show is happening is pretty cool. I hope some YouTube links will pop up in the comments after the show airs. Check out Nirali Magazine’s blog for an exclusive look at the show.

Continue reading

Anita Delgado: Desi(red) in India

Maharani Prem Kumari aka Anita Delgado

While there may be no direct desi connection to the Desi(red) campaign featuring Penelope Cruz that Ennis wrote about below, Cruz certainly has at least one strong connection to the Des. It turns out Cruz in her directorial debut, will put on celluloid the story of Anita Delgado, the flamenco dancer from Andalucia who created a stir when she agreed to marry an Indian king –Maharaja Jagatjit Singh Bahadur– in 1908. The film, based on the the book Pasion India by Javier Moro is tentatively titled The Princess of Kapurthala, and much of the shooting will reportedly occur in the congested and oh-so-regal streets of Old Delhi and in the palaces of Kapurthala in Punjab. Cruz will play the part of Delgado, while the rest of the Indian cast is scheduled to be finalized when she heads to India in January to scout for locations.

Sounds promising, right? Well according to the IBNnews website, the film project seems to have rubbed the Kapurthala royal family the wrong way, even before casting has begun. The website reports that…

“The heir of the [Kapurthala Royal] family, Tikka Shatrujit Singh, is ready to go to court over the issue to seek an injunction on the movie, which is based on his grandfather Maharaja Jagatjit Singh.”

The wiki suggests the family opposes the film because they feel Javier Moro’s novel, on which the film is based, distorts the truth, especially the allegations of the Maharajah forcing Anita to have an abortion. I don’t know what is going to happen, but if you think about it, the screenplay almost writes itself. An Andalucían flamenco dancer, after refusing the advances of an Indian Maharaja, finally gives in to his charms and shifts from Spain to live in India in 1908, during the heyday of British rule. I really hope the film gets made. Just think of the potential of some wicked latin influenced bollywood dance sequences, a la Shakira’s Bollywood-influenced rendition of Hips Don’t Lie from the 2006 VMAs.

Related: India in Andalucia

Continue reading

Sunrise to Moonrise

It isn’t so often that South Asian cultural events happen in DC, but when they do, it reaffirms to me how much I love living here. Today is one of those days.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Charles Lang Freer’s gift (Freer’s money led to the creation of the Freer Gallery here in Washington) to the American people, the Smithsonian Institutions are putting on a day’s worth of Asian-American themed cultural events. Starting at 4 pm today, the Rudresh Mahanthappa quartet will perform on the Freer Steps, and because it is raining the show will likely be shifted to the Gallery’s Meyer Auditorium. The quartet is led by Saxaphonist extraordinaire and Pi recording Artist Rudresh Mahanthappa and will feature a blend of South Asian and Western Jazz improvisation.

If that isn’t enough FREE entertainment for you, starting at 8 pm, female Indian-American comedian Vijai Nathan, of “Good Girls don’t, but Indian Girls do” fame, along with Frank Hong, will be entertaining the crowds with their ethnic comedy at the Meyer Auditorium. And to make the night a bit more festive, there will be a sake tasting for two hours immediately before the show in the Freer courtyard.

So if you are in Washington D.C. today, and are willing to brave the first signs of fall here in DC, make sure you head out to the Freer today.

The Freer Gallery is located at Independence Ave at 12th St SW here in Washington D.C.

Posted in Uncategorized

Brownsploitation at its best

As much as I love Bollywood and the genre’s dance sequences, it is definitely important to recognize that Indian cinema encompasses more than just mainsteream Bollywood film. Not only is arthouse cinema on the up-and-up, but regional language film has always been a strong contributor to the entertaining of the masses. So, it is with great pleasure (thanks flats) that I present to you one of the coolest examples of a brownsploitation-film dance sequence EVER. It’s from a Tamil film entitled “Ellam Inba Mayam” (1981) and the song is Solla Solla Enna Perumai. Enjoy.

Click for the BEST. VIDEO. EVER.

Dolomite, eat your heart out. Can any of our Tamil speaking readers tell us what the song is about?

Continue reading

One Ocean View, Two Desi Sisters

I’ll freely admit it. I enjoy reality TV. The obsession began during summer vacation in 1992 when I would sneak peaks at the first installment of MTVÂ’s The Real World. My mom hated the show (she despised MTV), but I thought the concept of getting to watch Julie, Eric, Kevin, Norm, Becky, Andre, and Heather B, regular people live their daily lives was amazing. To my 13-year old eyes, reality tv was an easily accessible documentary.

Well, the genre has come a long way since then, and has even taken a couple of steps back, but tonight ABC premieres what I like to call network television’s homage to the Real World for people who actually grew up watching The Real World, “One Ocean View.” The show, produced by Real World Producer Jonathan Murray and Joey Carson,

“revolves around a summer share beach house where eleven, attractive, single, career-driven New Yorkers flee Manhattan each Friday to escape the soaring city temperatures for a different kind of heat. One Ocean View is a show about people old enough to have real jobs, issues and baggage, but still young enough to leave all that behind and have a great time. Fun, flings and nights filled with romance heat up as the days grow shorter and the pressure builds to make this a summer to remember”(link.)

More importantly, this show marks the reality tv debut of a couple of semi-professional soccer playing, organic-pizza eating, twin sisters, Radha (l) and Miki (r) Agrawal. From some googling (thanks tvgasm) and their bios, which conveniently read almost the same, we learn that the two were quite popular at Cornell, where they both played soccer and were in the stage version of Cyrano De Bergerac, and quit investment banking to open up an organic pizza parlor in New YorkÂ’s upper east side. Apparently, the pizza parlor, which has been featured on the food network, grew out of MikiÂ’s lactose intolerance. I canÂ’t say the show is going to be good, in fact everything I have read and seen about it indicates quite the opposite, but hey, it canÂ’t be worse than divya and priyaÂ’s sweet sixteen/graduation party. One Ocean View premieres tonight on ABC at 10 pm (EDT). Continue reading

Posted in TV