About Lakshmi

Lakshmi Gandhi is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

Tagore makes a (uncredited) Congressional cameo

Actor Martin Sheen (The West Wing, Apocalypse Now) spoke before a Congressional briefing last week in favor of funding for drug courts.

The Washington Post’s Reliable Source column singled out this section of Sheen’s “heartfelt, yet grandiose oratory”:

“A dream that helps lift up this nation and all its people to a place where the heart is without fear and the head is held high and knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls where words come out from the depths of truth and tireless driving stretches its arms towards perfection where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way to dreary desert sands of dead habit.”

Sound familiar? As the Reliable Source pointed out in a follow-up column, Sheen forgot to note that he was quoting from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali.

It looks like the mistake was inadvertent. Sheen quoted the same Tagore excerpt during a 2008 speech at Notre Dame and promptly devoted the next paragraph to explaining who Tagore was.

Sheen first became familiar with the poem while filming the movie Gandhi in 1981.

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Sanjaya returns to the stage

Good news, American Idol fans! Sanjaya Malakar, Sepia Mutiny’s alltime favorite contestant, is back. Sanjaya, a 2007 Idol finalist, is currently starring in the off-Broadway musical Freckleface Strawberry. Based on actress Julianne Moore’s children’s book of the same name, the play follows the title character and her friends as she learns how to accept her freckles and individuality. Sanjaya plays Danny, a friendly athlete who is one of Freckleface’s closest friends.

“This is the first time I’ve done professional theater,” said Sanjaya when we recently spoke over the phone. “I love the challenge of really taking on a character.”

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Happy 70th Birthday, John Lennon!

Like many of you, I spent part of today blasting my favorite John Lennon songs in commemoration of what would have been his 70th birthday.

The official John Lennon YouTube channel has been collecting tributes from fans around the world for the past couple of days. Here’s one submitted by Bollywood playback singer Suraj Jagan. (He’s best known for the song Give Me Some Sunshine from the 3 Idiots soundtrack.):

And because I strongly believe that no South Asian-themed John Lennon tribute would be complete without a link to the Bollywood version of “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, here’s that as well:

What are your favorite John Lennon songs? And have you noticed any other South Asian tributes to the Beatles? Continue reading

King Khan Comes to Times Square


We get a lot of press releases here in the bunker. Sometimes one comes along advertising an event that looks like too much fun to pass up.

That’s how I felt when I heard that Madame Tussauds New York would be unveiling of their newest addition- a life-sized statue of Shah Rukh Khan. So last Thursday I headed to the museum’s Bollywood Zone to see the statue for myself.

As costumed dancers from Bollywood Axion performed to a medley of songs from Om Shanti Om, photographers quickly snapped photos and fans patiently waited for the area to be opened to the public. According to Rosemary del Prado, the museum’s director of marketing, Khan’s fans are the reason Madame Tussauds commissioned the statue. “Visitors just started to ask right after the Bollywood Zone opened last year,” she said. While the museum doesn’t keep track of how many tourists from South Asia visit each year, they do know that half of all museum guests are international tourists.

Some more fun facts about the statue: It takes about 3-4 months to create a figure after the celebrity has a sitting. All of the hair is individually inserted, and the eyes are created using silk thread. Shah Rukh Khan is the second Bollywood star to be displayed at the New York Museum. He joins Amitabh Bachchan.

Of course, none of these facts would matter if the statue didn’t look like Khan. I thought it looked quite realistic and the fans I spoke to agreed. “I think it looks really nice. It looks better than the one in the UK,” said Sanchari Ghosh, a 16-year-old fan from New Jersey.

Her brother Saurabh Ghosh, 18, agreed. “I think that Madame Tussaud would be proud,” he said.

Do you agree? And what other celebrities would you like to see at the Madame Tussauds Bollywood Zone? Continue reading

Caption Contest: Mark Zuckerberg parties it up, desi-style


Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a break from rewriting his company’s privacy policy last winter to attend the wedding of two of his employees in India. Facebook’s Principal Project Manager Ruchi Sanghvi and Director of Engineering Aditya Agarwal were married in January.

Fast Company reported these details about the ceremony back in February:

…Zuckerberg and more than a dozen past-and-present Facebook indispensables — including now-departed cofounders Adam D’Angelo and Dustin Moskovitz — trekked to a beach in Goa, India, for a week-long family celebration. Everyone dressed in costumed splendor; Zuckerberg looked fetching in a maroon silk sherwani. Women flashed henna tattoos. The groom arrived on horseback.

The photo above was one of five pictures from the wedding that were recently submitted to a photo contest on the Indian IT news site Techgoss. Receiving the photos was a big coup for the site, as they had unsuccessfully tried to photograph Zuckerberg both while he was in India for the wedding and during his 2008 trip to the country.

Of course, the first thing I thought when I saw this photo was that it was the perfect entry for a caption contest. So have at it, Mutineers. Leave your wittiest and most creative captions below.

(Via Valleywag)

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Somebody’s feeling a little snippy

Looks like all of the recent criticism of his work has gotten to the notoriously sensitive M. Night Shyamalan. At the Mexico City press conference promoting The Last Airbender, Shyamalan went on the defensive after a questioner pointedly noted that “the audience has lost its faith in [his] work” and asked whether Airbender was his attempt to reinvigorate his career.

Shyamalan’s response? “If I thought like you I’d kill myself… Your impression of my career is not my impression of my career. It’s something you read on Google.”

He goes on to make the dubious claims that Unbreakable was a better film than The Sixth Sense and that his favorite film was The Village. (Editorial note: The Village?! Really, Night? Really?)

Watch the whole clip below:

Perhaps worst of all for Shyamalan is the fact that this isn’t the worst story that’s come out about him this week. IFC reports that moviegoers have been “audibly recoiling” at the sight of the filmmaker’s name during the trailers for the movie Devil, which is due out this fall. (Devil is directed by Drew and John Erick Dowdle, but the plot comes “from the mind” of Shyamalan.) Continue reading

My coffee name is…


For those of us who absolutely hate hearing mangled versions of our names, the simple act of ordering coffee at a certain ubiquitous chain can be unnecessarily stressful.

It turns out that we are not alone. The Village Voice’s Shefali Kulkarni recently had this revelation:

…I realized that I wasn’t the only one who had tired of being asked how to spell a name that people find difficult to handle, at least in the super-busy moment of a Starbucks line.

So, like other people, I came up with a “coffee name.” Something simple that a coffee jockey can scribble on a cup without thinking. And, after taking a survey of the local scene, it’s clear that many others have come up with a similar solution.

At the Starbucks on Eighth Avenue, a grande iced caramel macchiato for “Sean” was really meant for “Chan,” short for Chandani.

“I never, ever give out my name,” Chan says. “And they still don’t get it right, but, hey, it’s what everyone calls me.”

Is anyone surprised that both the author of the article and the first person quoted both have desi names? And do any readers use a nom de cafe while in coffee shops or restaurants? I never do, primarily because I am afraid that I will forget my alias and never get my $4 drink. Continue reading

Liz Phair Takes a Trip to Bollywood

Oh, Liz Phair. Has it really come to this?

Seventeen years after the release of her debut Exile in Guyville– an album Blender considered the 35th best indie rock album of all time– Phair is back with a new album called Funstyle.

“Bollywood”, the album’s lead single, is downright bizarre. Phair raps about the close-mindedness of the music industry over a tabla and sitar-driven track. Sample lyric: “Let me tell you how it’s done here in Hollywood/Maybe you was thinking you was in the Bollywood.” Ugh. Hopefully a music video featuring Phair dancing around in a lengha isn’t inevitable.

You can listen to the song below. (Warning: it’s a bit painful.):

(Via Vanity Fair, EW) Continue reading

Aarti Sequeira Brings her Paarti to The Next Food Network Star

Attention, foodies! There’s a contestant who specializes in Indian food on the current season of The Next Food Network Star (Sundays 9p/8c.)

Aarti Sequeira is a Los Angeles-based food blogger and the host of Aarti Paarti, her own Internet cooking show. After working as a journalist for a few years, Sequeira’s life took a Julie and Julia-esque turn after her marriage:

A few years later, a freshly-married Aarti moved to Los Angeles, with no job prospects. Cooking dinner for her husband, actor Brendan McNamara (director and cameraman on Aarti Paarti, as well as fellow popcorn jig-er!) became the highlight of her day. She worked her way through both The Joy of Cooking and her mum’s carefully typed out recipes, each dish turning out just a little better than the last. She began to fantasize about each night’s dinner, usually as soon as she had finished her lunch, which she had fantasized about when she finished breakfast, which she’d fantasized about since going to bed the previous evening (seeing a pattern here?).

(Here’s an interesting fact about Sequeira’s journalism career: she was the co-producer of Sand and Sorrow, the 2007 documentary about Darfur that was produced and narrated by George Clooney.)

Watch a clip from the season premiere below. During her introductory package Sequeira said that her goal is to “simplify Indian cooking and make it easy for the average person. I cook rustic family meals with a lot of specific Indian spices: garam masala, turmeric, cardamom pods.”

It gets a bit emotional at 1:48 as Sequeira describes what winning would mean to her parents, who live in India:

I am very curious to see the kinds of recipes Sequeira will come up with over the course of the season. The first dish she made on the show was a very simple rasam. You can find the recipe she used here. Continue reading