Mathai Rocks ‘The Voice’

Could an 18-year-old singer named Mathai be the next winner of NBC’s The Voice?

Billboard called Mathai’s performance on the show last week “awe-inspiring” and noted she was “one of the few [contestants] who understands nuance and power.”

I hope that as the season progresses we’ll get to see Mathai do more ballads. This 2010 talent show performance, in which a then-16-year-old Mathai covers Adele’s version of To Make You Feel My Love, is incredible. (You can check out more of her songs at her official YouTube channel.)

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy Wins Oscar For ‘Saving Face’

Journalist and documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became Pakistan’s first Oscar winner last night when her film Saving Face won best documentary short.

Saving Face tells the story of two women (39-year-old Zakia and 23-year-old Rukhsana) who were severely disfigured after becoming victims of acid attacks. According to the film’s website:

Every year in Pakistan, at least 100 people are victimized by brutal acid attacks. The majority of these are women, and many more cases go unreported. With little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are physically and emotionally scarred, while many reported assailants – typically a husband or someone close to the victim – are let go with minimal punishment from the state.

 

The film follows Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon who traveled back to Pakistan in order to assist Pakistan’s acid attack victims. During her acceptance speech Obaid-Chinoy dedicated the award to Dr. Jawad, Rukhasana and Zakia, and “to all the women in Pakistan who are working for change.” She added, “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Hopefully Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar win will mean that more people in Pakistan will have the opportunity to see the film. The filmmaker told the Wall Street Journal in November that she planned to show the film in private venues and recently told the Asia Society that “contractual restraints” prevented her from showing it to large audiences.

HBO will be broadcasting Saving Face on March 8. Mark your calendars.

Raza Jaffrey Stars in NBC’s “Smash”

Raza Jaffrey of NBC's SmashDid anyone catch the premiere of the new NBC drama Smash? It debuted on Monday after a multi-million dollar promotional campaign and many hope that it will be the hit show NBC desperately needs. The hour-long musical drama is about the creation of a Broadway show based on the life of Marilyn Monroe and is produced by Steven Spielberg.

British actor Raza Jaffrey plays Dev Sundaram, the live-in boyfriend of main character/Broadway actress Karen Cartwright (played by former American Idol contestant Katharine McPhee). Jaffrey’s best known for his role as Zafar Younis in the BBC drama Spooks.

From his character’s mini-bio on the show’s official website:

Devan “Dev” Sundaram was born in Wimbledon in the United Kingdom, but has split his time with relatives in Queens for much of his life and has lived in New York City for several years. With a B.A. in Classics and Political Science from Oxford University and M.A.s in Communications (from Columbia University) and International Relations and Journalism (from NYU), Dev has worked as Deputy Press Secretary in Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s office since 2010. He lives in Lower Manhattan with his girlfriend, Karen Cartwright.

 

Masters degrees plural. Of course. It will be interesting to see how the show portrays New York’s South Asian community and, since the show films in New York, to see if they visit any notable landmarks. I also wonder if there will be any subplots involving the character’s relatives in Queens. I only caught a few minutes of the episode, so I don’t have an opinion on the show yet. The entire pilot episode can be seen here.

Traveling with the Dewarists

The hunt for the perfect song never ends and I remember last time I was traveling South Asia, I was trying to connect with local musicians in every city I went. On today’s search for #MusicMonday, I found a online series that wasn’t just traveling and highlighting songs of India, it was documenting that beautiful moment when collaborations are made. The Dewarists is eight episodes in and I’m pretty surprised this is the first I’m hearing about it.

In this latest episode, we take a beautiful trip to Goa where Humble to Poet, Midival Punditz and the host of the series Monica Dogra create a song together, No I.D. Required. If you want to go directly to the song, it’s at 32:15, though the whole show is beautifully shot and I would recommend watching it fully through. I knew that Humble was traveling India, but I had no idea that he was pairing up with legends like Midival Punditz while there. It’s so out-of-the-box to put a hip-hop poet with a legendary electronic/dance duo, but I think it totally worked.

The series pairs Imogen Heap with Vishal-Shekar to sing a Tagore poetic classic in Rajasthan; classical singer Shubha Mudgal with folk rock band Swarathma in Mysore; and  Karsh Kale travels with guitar virtuoso Baiju Dharmajan in Kerala. Funded by StarWorld, this documentary web series is a brilliant idea and I’m excited to see what comes out of this project. Best of all, it’s all viewable on YouTube!

Meet the MetroPCS Guys: Q & A with Ranjit & Chad

The MetroPCS Tech & Talk ads are a long-running series (two years in December) featuring desi characters named Ranjit and Chad expounding upon the evils of contracts and benefits of MetroPCS’s phone plans and features. The characters are not a little zany, dressing up in colonial-style wigs to declare wireless independence, playing an intense guitar-riff set off by fireworks and using “Holy shishkabob!” as a catch-phrase, to give a few examples.

As I noticed in retweets about the ads posted by the characters @ranjitmetropcs and @chadmetropcs, some people found the ads hilarious, declared themselves fans of the duo, and wanted to dress up like them for Halloween. Others writing for business and tech sites found the ads cringe-worthy, racist and/or in poor taste.

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A conversation with Kal Penn: Harold and Kumar, the White House, NPH and more

Kal Penn and John Cho star in A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas

Kal Penn surprised many of his fans two years ago when he put his acting career on hold to join the Obama White House as a mid-level staffer. After a two year hiatus, Penn returns to the silver screen this weekend with the release of A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. I recently spoke to Penn about his new film, working at the White House, and Asian Americans in the media.

Tell us about the new film. This obviously isn’t your typical Christmas movie.

In a lot of ways it is a traditional Christmas movie. What was cool is that a lot of things you see are traditional. Santa Claus is in the film- Harold accidentally shoots him in the face. There’s family, friendship, and love [in the movie]. What’s different is that it’s in 3D, and it is vulgar.

This is your first film since leaving your job as an advisor to the White House. I just read this great quote of yours from an interview you did with the LA Times: “When you’re working there, you always think, ‘What is the best time to tell the president that you played a stoner who escaped from Guantanamo Bay?’ Did Harold and Kumar or any of your other roles ever come up in conversation while you were at the White House?

The nice thing about working in the White House is that almost everyone has put a private sector career on hold. There isn’t a lot of conversation about what people put on hold, it’s more about working together to push the president’s agenda.

Currently you are also guest starring on How I Met Your Mother, which means of course that you are working with Neil Patrick Harris again. Is working with him on HIMYM different from the Harold and Kumar movies?

Neil is incredible. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to see him on Broadway, but he’s a legit Broadway actor. He subs for Regis on Regis and Kelly. There’s really nothing that guy can’t do. Continue reading

Mindy Kaling on The Daily Show

There are no actual questions about her new book on the Halloween night episode of The Daily Show featuring guest Mindy Kaling. But you’ve probably already read excerpts and other slightly more substantive interviews if you’re interested in Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me. So sit back and enjoy a six-minute segment (I would embed it here in addition to the audio book excerpt above if WordPress allowed it) in which Kaling and host Jon Stewart joke about Halloween costumes, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and her FOX News-watching, Sanjay Gupta-loving parents.

Kaling also stops by The View this morning at 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. PT/C.

Young the Giant Rocks Out @ VMAs

Young the Giant’s lead singer Sameer Gadhia strutted down the catwalk and got the crowd going at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards tonight. The group performed “My Body.” Backstage before the show they talked about being the sole rock act to perform at this year’s award show. Watch their performance below.

Thanks for the tip Pravin Praveen!

Young the Giant canceled performances at Reading and Leeds festivals to make it to the VMAs. Gadhia explained why it was important for them to perform at tonight’s show in Los Angeles.

“We canceled Reading and Leeds [festivals] because of the VMAs,” frontman Gadhia shared. “I mean, we always watched them, ever since we were little … and we’re from Los Angeles, so we figured it would be a great opportunity. Hopefully people in the U.K. will forgive us. I know some people are already annoyed.” (MTV) Continue reading

KP & NPH: Together Again (Updated)

Actor/political liaison Kal Penn, who previously left his White House position to film A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas, will be making another trip back from the Beltway to Hollywood. TVLine reports that Penn will appear in a recurring role on the Emmy award-winning TV comedy How I Met Your Mother, set to premiere its seventh season on September 19.

The move would have Penn play Kevin, a possible love interest for Cobie Smulder’s character Robin Scherbatsky. Working on HIMYM would reunite Penn with a co-star from the Harold and Kumar movie franchise, Neil Patrick Harris (Starship Troopers, Doogie Howser, M.D.). NPH plays breakout character and hypocritical womanizer Barney Stinson, credited for much of the show’s success. The Washington Post’s entertainment blog Reliable Source comments on Penn’s unusual career path. Continue reading

Posted in TV

Is Suzy Singh the Next MasterChef?

masterchef.suzy.singh.jpg

Have you seen the Gordon Ramsay-produced cooking show that takes 100 amateur and home chefs and attempts to turn one into a…MasterChef? I watched a few episodes recently and thanks to comments here and stories from the news tab, realized that Chef Suzy must be [Suzy Singh](http://www.suzysingh.com/), a neural engineer from Chicago. Singh, who participated in a brief Q&A posted below, made it into the 100 with a [signature dish](http://www.fox.com/masterchef/recipes/signature-dish/recipe-16) of Tandoori Cod en Papillote with Chai- and Saffron-infused Couscous, and she’s still a contender for the title of MasterChef on the show’s second US season now that the pool of 100 chefs has been whittled down to fewer than 10.

Singh is interesting to watch on MasterChef because she has skills, brings a real enthusiasm for cooking, and wears her heart on her sleeve, leaving no doubt as to how she’s feeling about her chances, her competition or the judges’ comments at any moment. Her style is also on display in videos which introduce viewers to the world’s largest holy kitchen at the Golden Temple and Kesar Da Dhaba in Amristar, Punjab.

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