Best Bollywood Movies of 2016

Parched3
The year 2016 brought some new additions to the long list of great movies from the Bollywood cinema. Hindi films like Dangal and Pink took the front row and legitimized the importance of women’s voice in the Indian society. The movies based on true stories seem to capture more audience this year; maybe a sign of changing times where realistic dramas and stories are gaining momentum over the ‘formula’ films. Here are some of the greatest films of 2016:
1. Dangal: Based on a true story, Dangal is a biographical sports drama. The captivating film is directed by Nitesh Tiwari and stars Aamir Khan as Mahavir Singh Phogat who taught wrestling to his daughters Geeta and Babita and turned them into world-class female wrestlers. This inspiring movie showcases some brilliant acting, lively entertainment and equally good music. At the Filmfare Awards, Dangal won many awards, including Best Film of 2016.
2. Pink: Pink is a courtroom drama with Amitabh Bachchan in the lead role as a lawyer, carrying the burden of defending three young working girls in new Delhi, and proving their innocence in the eyes of Indian legal system. With the realistic urban and court-room settings and fantastic acting, the seldom exposed issues of sexual harassment and molestation take the center-stage in this epic production. Don’t watch this film just for entertainment values, but also for social education about the evils of male dominated Indian mentality. Oh, and by the way, don’t miss the closing credits, to watch the actual incident the movie is about!
3. Udta Punjab: Punjab produced some of the top sportsmen and wrestlers for India for a long time; and now, the same Punjab harvests some of the worst drug use of modern days. This is not a film you would want to watch for fun. The lead cast includes Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Diljit Dosanjh. The drug abuse by the youth population in Punjab and the surrounding conspiracies are painfully exposed throughout the movie. Agonizing songs like ‘Ikk Kudi’, written by Shiv Kumar Batalvi – the famous Punjabi poet, suitably fit into the heart wrenching scenes of drug addition and its lasting effect on today’s youth. The film is worth watching, even though many sad scenes are hard to watch.
4. Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: This is a lively and romantic drama written and directed by Karan Johar. The main cast features Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma.This is a beautifully told story revolving around personal relationship, their interactions and interpretation. Composed by Pritam and mostly sung by Arijit Singh, the music is one of the many strong suits of this well-rounded film.

5. Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921): If you are looking for an entertaining and comic family story with surprising twists and turns, this is the one to watch. Directed by Shakun Batra, the film has a star studded cast of Rishi Kapoor, Ratna Pathak, Rajat Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Sidharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt. The film is a story of two estranged brothers who return to their dysfunctional family after their grandfather suffers a heart attack.
6. Neerja: The flow of this interesting movie has the feel of a documentary at times, as if Neerja is narrating the story at her own pace. This is a historical drama based on the actual events centered around hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1986. The film features Sonam Kapoor as the title character along with Shabana Azmi, Yogendra Tiku and Shekhar Ravjiani in supporting roles.
7. Sultan: Sultan is a romantic drama with sports based story line. Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, the film stars Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma in the lead roles. The movie focuses on Sultan Ali Khan, a wrestling champion from Haryana with a successful career, and the success impacting his personal life. Very popular at the theaters, this is one the highest grossing Indian film of all time.
8. Airlift: Loosely based on actual events, this is a historical drama directed by Raja Krishna Menon. The film stars Akshay Kumar and Nimrat Kaur as the lead actors. Akshay Kumar’s performance as a Kuwaiti businessman is superb, leading the evacuation of Indians living in Kuwait during the Invasion by Iraq.
9. Parched: Parched is a thought provoking movie depicting the age-old evils of rural Indian beliefs and traditions, with women often on the receiving end of a male dominated society. This is a touching story of four women in a desert village of Rajasthan. The film portrays the innocent yet miserable lives plagued by age-old practices of patriarchy, child marriage, dowry, marital rapes, mental tortures and physical abuse. Written and directed by Leena Yadav and produced by Ajay Devgan, the movie stars Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Adil Hussain, Lehar Khan and Sayani Gupta. Continue reading “Best Bollywood Movies of 2016”

Indian Fashion Trends abroad

The Indian fashion trends abroad!

Jessica Alba in Desi Style
Jessica Alba in Desi Style

Indian fashion in western countries is mainly limited to the Indian population. There are quite a few Indian designers and many Indian models that support Indian clothing, but their popularity is largely within their own kinds – the Indians. The desi clothing styles from India have failed to cross-over into the western mainstream fashions.
During the 1970s, the Western fashion started to influence the elements of the Indian dress. Also, around the same time, Indian fashion began to infuse into of Western markets. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the trend of ‘East meats West’ became more and more popular. As a result, by the turn of the century, both Western and Indian fashion approach had intermingled, creating a unique style of clothing. For example, traditional Indian clothing such as the kurti (Indian shirt) has been combined with western jeans to create a casual attire.

But this unique style of inter-mixed fashion is more visible in urban Indian population or the NRIs living abroad. This fusion of western styles into Indian fashions is more limited among the Indian population. In other words, the traditional Indian fashion is far more influenced by the western designs. The same cannot be said about the traditional western fashion.

The biggest problem with Indian clothing is the complexity of dress-up. Perhaps, this is the main reason that Indian trends have not forged any meaningful impressions on western population. Sari, for example, is an elegant and beautiful Indian dress, a very popular formal wear among the women of Indian ancestry. As lovely as it may be, sari is not easy to ‘tie’ or put on. Compared to western clothing, dressing up in a sari is a project in itself and very time consuming by any measure. So, let us face it, sari is not going to be a popular dressing style even for the most sophisticated white fashion connoisseurs of western countries. Continue reading “Indian Fashion Trends abroad”

Indian names but English nicknames?

Overseas Living: The Trend of Americanized/European nicknames instead of desi names!
At a desi wedding parties or other similar functions abroad, you are bound to run into some guests with interesting names; I mean the English version of Indian names. If someone introduce himself as Gary Singh, you know right away that his parents did not name him Gary. Now, is his real name Gurdip, Gurjit, Gurdev….? That could be a good guessing game if you get bored of the party!

Nicknames are very common amongst American and European people, but those are often predictable. Jim is generally short for James, Tony is nickname for Anthony, Bob is probably Robert and so on…. White people are used to the nicknames. However, when Indians use nicknames, they are often questioned. “You are forgetting your root”, you grandma will probably remind you. Others will call you ABCD – ‘American born confused desi’, or even worse!

Also, if you introduce yourself with Americanized/westernized nickname, some people may get confused, or they want to know more. “So, what is your real name? You don’t look like ‘Gary’!” Now, don’t take it the wrong way, that could be a sincere question. They just want to know more about you; many people use such conversation as ice breakers.

The general question that many have: should we be using Americanized nicknames? Does that make you hypocrite or shallow amongst your hardcore Indian circle?
Continue reading “Indian names but English nicknames?”

Happy Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks

Happy Diwali to ALL – Home and Abroad!

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Over the years, while living overseas, the Diwali day has become just like any other other Indian festival day. You don’t really celebrate it, especially if it falls during a week-day when everybody is at work or school. So, what we do? We say ‘Happy Diwali’, just like we say Happy Holi, Happy Janmashtami, Happy Gurupurab…, but it doesn’t mean much. It is just like saying ‘Happy Holi’ instead of the exchange of the real colors during the Holi festival.
And sometimes, especially if it is on the week-end, we get together and celebrate with food and drinks. The fireworks are ‘optional’, mostly forgotten…

Everyone knows what Diwali symbolize; we say it all the times when we explain it to our ‘non-Indian’ colleagues and friends:
‘Diwali symbolize the victory of Good over Evil, Light over Dark…’ We have memorized it, just like little kids memorize the multiplication tables in the school, without paying any attention to the meaning.
The meaning of Diwali is not lost in translation; it is lost over time and over physical distance of countries far away from India! Continue reading “Happy Diwali – A celebration abroad…without fireworks”

Old Hindi songs and the subtle Punjabi touch

Listen to old songs from Indian Hindi movies (now called Bollywood movies), you will notice two things:
1. A lot of songs are written in pure Urdu,
2. There is a clear influence of Punjabi language/wording on a lot of old Hindi (or Urdu) songs.
To understand this influence, you have look at the history of Indian Cinema in early 1900s. Before the Indian Partition in 1947, even though the movie production was concentrated in Bombay, north India was a prime spot for shooting the actual film scenes. Lahore and Delhi were commonly used for urban settings; the Kashmir valley and the Himalayan foothills were the key spots for natural scenery and natural beauty.
The political and religious unrest in Punjab in 1940s played into the Punjabi infusion into Hindi cinema. Many Lahore based actors, directors and singers moved to Bombay to avoid living amongst the riots and the social divisions. The likes of B.R. Chopra, Mohammed Rafi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Verma Malik… were impacted by the Punjab Partition and all of them made their name in Bombay film industry sooner or later. Pran, our favorite ‘Villain of the Millennium’, started in Lahore in Punjabi cinema in 19040, his first film was Yamla Jat. After acting in several movies in Lahore, he moved to Bombay after 1947 partition of India.
In early 1900s, Punjab was one of the most prosperous region of India and Punjabi actors were preferred for the lead/main roles because of their fair complexion and taller/stronger stature. Starting with Prithviraj Kapoor (Kapoor family), Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt, Dharmendra… Punjabi dominance in Bombay film industry was very noticeable and they brought Punjabi culture with them. Even more is true about poets and song writers.
For example, if you listen to ‘Roti Kapda Aurr Makaan’ movie’s songs, there is a clear Punjabi influence. The song ‘Mehangai Maar Gayi’ starts with a mixture Urdu and Punjabi:
‘Usne kahaa tu kaun hain, maine kahaa ulfat teri
usne kahaa takta hai kya, maine kahaa surat teri
usne puchhaa chaahata hai kya, maine kahaa chaahat teri
maine kahaa samjhaa nahi, usne kahaa kismat teri…’ Continue reading “Old Hindi songs and the subtle Punjabi touch”

TED Talk: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian in a Qatari bar

The Iranian-American comedian Maz Jobrani delivers a comic piece to the TED audience in Doha, Qatar. This is an interesting take on some the most serious issues and perceptions surrounding Muslims and the Middle East.
Oh, and also included are some pieces of common advice to the people with brown skin when boarding an airplane in America!

Most of the time, as we can see from this comedy, even the most serious and touchy topics can be better addressed when wrapped in laughter!
Instead of politicians and religious leaders, we need more comedians talking about the cultural and religious differences! Continue reading “TED Talk: A Saudi, an Indian and an Iranian in a Qatari bar”

TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify

We often compare our Indian culture, values and traditions with the West. We always look at a culture through the values and the lenses of our own culture, our own definition of values and morality. There is no surprise, that we are often biased in our observations. This bias can be conscious or subconscious, our views are seldom neutral.
In this interesting TED talk, Devdutt Pattanaik takes an eye-opening look at the myths of India and the West. The speaker explains how these two fundamentally different sets of beliefs about God, death and heaven help us consistently misunderstand one another.

The speaker links the the business aspect to our culture and our myths. How we look at our business and operation is through the eyes of our own culture. The best ways to deal with dynamic and diverse markets is through the culture of our customers.
So, what is the ‘right’ or ‘suitable’ way to approach a situation or a business problem? It depends. It depends on the situation and it depends on the ‘eyes’ of the culture and mythology. Continue reading “TED Talk: East vs. West — the myths that mystify”

A vegetarian Thanksgiving feast – The Indian Style

An Indian Thanksgiving for the vegetarians!A vegetarian dish
So, you don’t eat turnkey, or any other meat dishes! However, with Thanksgiving approaching, everybody is talking turkey. Thanksgiving menus are built around turnkey and meat entrees; without turkey, it is not really a Thanksgiving dinner, right?
Wrong!
If are vegetarian, you have a big dilemma at your hands – what to cook and what not to make for this holiday family feast! There has to be something in your dinner menu that stands out!

Don’t feel left out, there are millions of vegetarians out there facing the same question. Of course, we all take this challenge differently or underplay it, like….
“Thanksgiving is not really our holiday; we don’t celebrate it!..”
“We will just make one extra dish,… and a desert….that should do the trick!”
“Have to sleep early for Black Friday shopping next day, we will do something special for Christmas…”

If you are looking for an excuse to avoid thanksgiving dinner, there are plenty of them out there.
But, Why? Why pass on the chance to get together and have some fun with your family and friends! the Thanksgiving is all about showing the appreciation and thanking your loved ones! So, go on; celebrate! Put something together for the feast! Something that you are good at, something that is filling and ‘festive’!

The menu does not have to be American style or Indian style; it can be either, or a combination of the two. Pick out the dishes that you really enjoy; talk to your friends, build a menu in advance! Believe me, it is not that hard! You can start with something common.

Here are the suggestions for an Indian thanksgiving menu: Continue reading “A vegetarian Thanksgiving feast – The Indian Style”

Why not ‘Made in India’?

Can India replace China as world’s manufacturing hub?made-in-india
The question is often asked, but seldom answered. The reason: there is no good answer; no one knows if this is possible in the near future. There is a wishful thinking and a hope, but no clear proof so far.

China has established itself as a dominant force in the manufacturing arena. Chinese have experience, which is hard to replace or reproduce. They have infrastructure specifically designed for outsourced manufacturing and they have no shortage of labor. As a result, ‘Made in China’ is a world force to reckon with.
However, China may be reaching its capacity in manufacturing labor. The wages are going up, the labor market is becoming more demanding. There are only so many workers you can hire at the rock bottom wages.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. The western companies need to find an alternate to China; they need a back-up plan at the very least. That’s why more and more companies are looking towards Indonesia, Vietnam, and oh yes…India.

India is world’s second most populated country; no shortage of worker here. hence the question: Can India replace China as a manufacturing hub for the western companies? If you ask anyone including the Indian Government, the answer is Yes, with an ‘*’. Anything is possible, as they say and India has the size to stand against China. So what is the problem? Why India has not made much progress in this area?

Well, there are many ‘problems’, not just one. Continue reading “Why not ‘Made in India’?”

‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou

A tribute to Maya Angelou – a life well lived.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom Continue reading “‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou”

Indian Elections and the Change – Not so fast

They say, time changes everything. Now, how fast or how slow? – It depends on the time or the force of change!

The Indian elections bring one of the biggest change in the political scenery. The Congress Party – the ruling party for decades, has been voted out. The Gandhi dynasty is gone, for now. The Indian public have spoken, They wanted a change, and the change they got; at least that’s what they think!

However, lets be clear; BJP is the winner by default not by merit. People wanted congress gone, no matter who the opposition is. The change is more driven by the fact that Congress was dissed by the masses, not because BJP is embraced by everyone. In other words, the common man on the street was more interest in ousting the Congress party. As a result, BJP came out a winner in big way.

This is a major change in Indian politics after a long time. The majority of Indians are happy about the results. But, are they more hopeful for a better future, for a better India? Not necessarily, not if you look around. Nothing is changing in a hurry; there is nothing new on the horizon!

For example, take the case of common corruption. The corruption runs deep in India, it is an accepted way of life. When it comes to corruption and the common ailments of Indian society, the boundaries of political parties don’t matter. No matter who sits in the high office, the middle management is still the same. An honest police chief will be always honest no matter if congress ruled or BJP. A corrupt office will still be corrupt, even if there is s change in the political party. So, the things have hardly changed for the common man even though there is a major political change.

So what gives! The BJP promise of better days ahead – is it false? It may not be false, but it is not so true either. There is not going to a change overnight, let us be realistic. The web of Indian corruption and other political evils has deep roots, it cannot be eliminated by taking out the current ruling party. It is not so simple. It is not the color of a party’s flag but the color of money that drives India and the Indian infrastructure. And lots of that money is still black, no matter which party rules the high offices.

For an average man, there is hardly any change – nothing, nada, zero!!

So, are the better days ahead? Not in the near future, not for a common man. Continue reading “Indian Elections and the Change – Not so fast”

The ban on Affirmative Action – a new trend

Affirmative action has many names in different parts of the world. Some call it positive discrimination; Canada touts it as employment equity; it is ‘reservation’ in India and positive action in the UK. Affirmative action is the policy of providing special opportunities for a disadvantaged group of society who suffer from discrimination. It is an effort to ‘equal the playing field’ by favoring a weaker/minority group.

The nature of positive discrimination policies varies from country to country. Some countries, such as India, use a quota system, whereby a certain percentage of jobs or school vacancies must be set aside for members of a certain group. In some other regions, specific quotas do not exist; instead, members of minorities are given preference in selection processes. The US public colleges and Universities often consider race and ethnicity during admission process.

The Affirmative action is intended to promote the opportunities for the minority groups – to give them equal access to that of the privileged/majority population.

Now, there has been ongoing argument that the affirmative action is an unfair system and prefers certain groups during a selection process. The Michigan state has been in the news for many years now as the argument (for and against affirmative action) started in a school, leading all the way to the Supreme court. Here is a quick summary:

October 1997: Two students (Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher) sue the University of Michigan regarding the affirmative action policy used in undergraduate admissions after not getting into the College of Literature Science and Arts.

December 1997: Barbara Grutter sues the university regarding the Law School’s use of admissions, which considers race in reviewing applicants.

June 2003: The U.S. Supreme Court held in the Grutter case that diversity is a compelling interest in higher education, and that race is one of a number of factors that can be taken into account during the admissions process. The Court upheld the holistic review used in the Law School’s admissions policy. Continue reading “The ban on Affirmative Action – a new trend”

Best Bollywood Movies of 2013

Yeh-Jawaani-Hai-Deewani01
The best Bollywood Hindi films of 2013
The tastes vary, the choices differ. When it comes to the Bollywood films, some like them spicy and action packed thrillers while others prefer sweet and romantic dramas. Some like suspense while others prefer plain old romance. The films below are some of the best standout Bollywood features from 2013.

1. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: This is a sports drama film produced and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra; the script is written by Prasoon Joshi, based on the life of Milkha Singh – an Indian national champion runner and an Olympian. The movie stars Farhan Akhtar, Sonam Kapoor, Divya Dutta, Pavan Malhotra, Yograj Singh, Meesha Shafi and Prakash Raj. 2014 Filmfare Awards recognized this movie with multiple awards including the Best Movie, Best Director, along with Farhan Akhtar receiving the best actor award.

2. Chennai Express: This is a romantic action comedy film directed by Rohit Shetty and produced by Gauri Khan under the film production company Red Chillies Entertainment. The film features Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone in lead roles, along with Sathyaraj, Nikitin Dheer and Kamini Kaushal. The movie is about a man’s journey from Mumbai to Rameshwaram and what happens along the way after he falls in love with the daughter of a local don. The melodious music is composed by the duo Vishal-Shekhar; the lyrics come from Amitabh Bhattacharya and Yo Yo Honey Singh.

3. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: This is a coming-of-age romantic comedy, directed by Ayan Mukerji and produced by Karan Johar. The film stars Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in lead roles – the duo know for their on-screen chemistry. The cast includes Aditya Roy Kapur, Kalki Koechlin and Kunaal Roy Kapur. Madhuri Dixit appears in an item number titled “Ghagra”. The soundtrack score is composed by Pritam, with lyrics from Amitabh Bhattacharya and Kumaar. The popular songs include ‘Dilli Wali Girlfriend’ and ‘Badtameez Dil’.

4. The Lunchbox: This artistic film is a romantic drama written and directed by Ritesh Batra. It stars Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the lead roles. This unexpectedly refreshing and slow-developing love-story has a touch of loneliness, highlighting complicated human relations. The story is simple and supported by brilliant acting. The film was screened at International Critics’ Week at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and later won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award also known as Grand Rail d’Or. It was shown at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival as well. Continue reading “Best Bollywood Movies of 2013”

The Ant and the Grasshopper – The Indian Version

An old story:ant_grasshopper

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

The Indian Version:

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving. NDTV, BBC, CNN and other media outlets show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food. The World is stunned by the sharp contrast – ‘How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer! What an injustice!!’
So, Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant’s house. Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter . Mayawati states this as `injustice’ done on Minorities.

Amnesty International and United Nations criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper. The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper, many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance.
Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for ‘Bengal Bandh’ in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry. CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers. Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the ‘Grasshopper Rath’. Continue reading “The Ant and the Grasshopper – The Indian Version”

Happy Diwali – Drink, Dine and Dance!

Happy Diwali
Happy Diwali

Diwali – the festival of lights, the king of the all the Indian festivals. There is nothing more festive and more celebrated than Diwali in India.

You have to be in India to understand and experience this festival. A few candles and some firework – that’s nowhere c;lose to the actual Diwali. But, we are not in India; we have our own style of celebrating Diwali abroad.

All around the globe, Indians celebrate Diwali festival, but in our own way! The families and friends get together to drink and dine, to party and dance. Seems familiar? Well, that is how we celebrate almost everything abroad – by drinking, dining and dancing! Be it a wedding, a birthday party, even the Holi festival.. or anything in-between …. we never pass on an excuse to drink, dine and dance!!

‘Festival of Lights’ is an understatement to describe this celebration in India. But, then again, we are not in India. The euphoria of Diwali, the traditions of the day, the competing fireworks late into the nights are hard to describe, even if you try.   The feeling and enigma of Diwali is beyond what words can narrate. The thundering sound of the fireworks and the glow of night-lights gets lost somewhere in the translations, the translations from Indian culture to the life abroad! Continue reading “Happy Diwali – Drink, Dine and Dance!”