Jeever Madness

dhrupad:

Raja Hindustani (1996) | “Pardesi Pardesi”

One of my favorite Hindi songs. I’m sure I’ve already shared that fact on this blog.

Happy Onam to all my fellow Malayalees!

Happy Onam to all my fellow Malayalees!

As a huge fan of Mindy Kaling, I was excited to hear that Fox would be previewing the pilot of The Mindy Project online before the show premieres in September. While the episode has many of the expected downfalls of a pilot, there’s definitely quite a bit of potential. As a South Asian American, there is something particularly promising about the character of Mindy Lahiri. While time will still tell if and how the show confronts its star’s race (beyond a throwaway joke in the pilot), it’s quite refreshing that nothing about this character seems predestined by her Indian American background. While it is still perfectly possible to have conversations about race in the show and what it means for the way South Asians are being represented in American popular culture, it’s also possible to discuss the show without mentioning Kaling’s background at all. Mindy Lahiri is not a stereotype, but just as importantly, she’s not just a device disguised as a character whose sole purpose is to launch discussions of race. This subtly dangerous practice is often ignored because its usually such a relief to see characters of color on TV, but in terms of expanding the types of opportunities nonwhite actors have in the entertainment industry, it can be almost as restrictive as character credits like “convenience store worker” or “cab driver.”
Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with having characters of color who confront the realities of race. In fact, when this does happen on mainstream television in ways that feel organic, complex, and honest, it’s a reason for celebration. However, there is something extremely problematic about the notion that characters of color must confront race, and The Mindy Project makes major progress in challenging that expectation. Though I doubt it will keep people from using reductive labels, this is no more “a show about an Indian girl” than The New Girl is “a show about a white girl;” while technically accurate, both of these characterizations are insufficient, although for many viewers, such a description would unfortunately be more identifiably lacking in the case of the latter than the former. I will continue watching The Mindy Project to see how it develops, but for the time being, I hope nobody will ask me if I checked out “that show about the Indian girl.”

As a huge fan of Mindy Kaling, I was excited to hear that Fox would be previewing the pilot of The Mindy Project online before the show premieres in September. While the episode has many of the expected downfalls of a pilot, there’s definitely quite a bit of potential. As a South Asian American, there is something particularly promising about the character of Mindy Lahiri. While time will still tell if and how the show confronts its star’s race (beyond a throwaway joke in the pilot), it’s quite refreshing that nothing about this character seems predestined by her Indian American background. While it is still perfectly possible to have conversations about race in the show and what it means for the way South Asians are being represented in American popular culture, it’s also possible to discuss the show without mentioning Kaling’s background at all. Mindy Lahiri is not a stereotype, but just as importantly, she’s not just a device disguised as a character whose sole purpose is to launch discussions of race. This subtly dangerous practice is often ignored because its usually such a relief to see characters of color on TV, but in terms of expanding the types of opportunities nonwhite actors have in the entertainment industry, it can be almost as restrictive as character credits like “convenience store worker” or “cab driver.”

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with having characters of color who confront the realities of race. In fact, when this does happen on mainstream television in ways that feel organic, complex, and honest, it’s a reason for celebration. However, there is something extremely problematic about the notion that characters of color must confront race, and The Mindy Project makes major progress in challenging that expectation. Though I doubt it will keep people from using reductive labels, this is no more “a show about an Indian girl” than The New Girl is “a show about a white girl;” while technically accurate, both of these characterizations are insufficient, although for many viewers, such a description would unfortunately be more identifiably lacking in the case of the latter than the former. I will continue watching The Mindy Project to see how it develops, but for the time being, I hope nobody will ask me if I checked out “that show about the Indian girl.”

…Up in New York City’s Washington Heights, I saw white men with small U.S. flags make the rounds of the immigrant-owned small grocery stores. They banged these flags, which retailed at about $1 each, on counters and said things like “Aren’t you going to be a patriot and buy this flag?” The flags cost the immigrant workers $5 each, but they were far too scared to refuse. The test of loyalty provided a business opportunity for the young white men, and it forced the small shops to fly as many flags as possible. Patriotism is not, in this instance, the refuge of scoundrels. It is an act of desperation.

Vijay Prashad, Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today

Prashad’s follow-up to The Karma of Brown Folk arrives at a hugely significant moment, as its subject matter is startlingly relevant to the recent shootings at the Oak Creek Gurdwara. The book also covers the post-9/11 rise of Islamophobia among American Hindus, as well as the political strategies adopted by the rising Hindutva lobby in the United States. For those interested in the South Asia diaspora, Prashad’s book is a must-read!

What a huge loss. I’m a huge fan of Dasgupta’s work and his successful balance of commercial and artistic appeal.

"We are not Muslims" hasn’t been so effective for our community, has it? Even if we do so in a positive way that does not condone attacks on Muslims, simply educating the public about the fact that we are a distinct community and that we in fact "are not Muslim" will not get to the root of the problem. As long as we live in a country (and world) where an entire community (in this case, Muslims) is targeted, spied on and vilified, we will not be safe, we will not be free.

This is an important article from earlier this year that clearly resonates with today’s tragic events. This is a significant point both for the media and South Asians responding to the horrifying violence in Oak Creek.

Promotional stills for Deepa Mehta's upcoming adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight’s Children.

Adapting Midnight’s Children seemed like an impossible task, and I was doubtful that this film would actually happen until production actually started. There seemed to be far too much in the novel for an easy film adaptation, and Rushdie’s style seemed especially difficult to translate to the screen. That being said, I’m not one to get up in arms about a film’s fidelity to its source if the film can stand on its own merits. Even if much of the novel had to be cut to allow for a running time under three hours, I’ll be happy if the adaptation can both capture the spirit of the novel and find originality and innovation as a work of cinema.

bombayelectric:

Lakshmi Menon x Elephant Love

bombayelectric:

Lakshmi Menon x Elephant Love

bombayelectric:

Salvador Dali x Shiva Nataraja

bombayelectric:

Salvador Dali x Shiva Nataraja

It feels like a good afternoon for some quality cinema. Smita Patil is absolutely brilliant in Ketan Mehta's Mirch Masala.

It feels like a good afternoon for some quality cinema. Smita Patil is absolutely brilliant in Ketan Mehta's Mirch Masala.

Everything is Inside, 2004 by Subodh Gupta 
Taxi, bronze

Everything is Inside, 2004 by Subodh Gupta

Taxi, bronze

"At the Museum"

But in 2500 B.C. Harappa,

who cast in bronze a servant girl?

No one keeps records

of soldiers and slaves.

The sculptor knew this,

polishing the ache

Off her fingers stiff

from washing the walls

and scrubbing the floors,

from stirring the meat

and the crushed asafoetida

in the bitter gourd.

But I’m grateful she smiled

at the sculptor,

as she smiles at me

in bronze,

a child who had to play woman

to her lord

when the warm June rains

came to Harappa.

-Agha Shahid Ali, anthologized in Indivisible: An Anthology of Contemporary South Asian American Poetry.

The Island President is a documentary that chronicles the attempt of the (now former) president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, to push for the international action on climate change; for the Maldives, climate change is not a future problem, but an immediate threat to the island nation, which is in danger of disappearing under rising sea levels. The documentary not only explore the country’s troublesome history, but also expertly portrays how Nasheed’s efforts are inevitably weighed down by the high likelihood of failure. Available on iTunes, this is an important documentary that illustrates the immediacy of an issue that we often imagine in the future tense.

The Island President is a documentary that chronicles the attempt of the (now former) president of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, to push for the international action on climate change; for the Maldives, climate change is not a future problem, but an immediate threat to the island nation, which is in danger of disappearing under rising sea levels. The documentary not only explore the country’s troublesome history, but also expertly portrays how Nasheed’s efforts are inevitably weighed down by the high likelihood of failure. Available on iTunes, this is an important documentary that illustrates the immediacy of an issue that we often imagine in the future tense.

Pushpamala N, Abduction/Apaharana (2009)

Pushpamala, one of my favorite contemporary Indian artists, is best known for her earlier Ethnographic Series. This take on the Ramayana brings Pushpamala’s exaggerated sense of drama to explore questions of gender and storytelling.Discussing Pushpamala’s performance photography for the National Portrait Gallery of Canberra, Ajay Sinha writes:

In the ‘Wilderness’ chapter of the Indian epic Ramayana, Sita, the pinnacle of feminine virtue, yields briefly to temptation and is abducted by Ravana. Pushpamala seizes this moment and elaborates on it, playing the role of Rama’s demure wife swept away by the demon. High action unfolds in meticulously designed tableaux, recalling the proscenium-framed settings of late nineteenth and twentieth-century Parsi and Kannada theatres. Mist, symbolising dreams and illusions in theatre and film, engulfs the actors. Against faintly visible Arcadian landscapes and golden architecture, Ravana and Sita take on the melodramatic poses of comic-book characters such as Chandamama and Amar Chitra Katha.

One of the most striking differences between this series and Pushpamala’s prior photo-performances is the large size of the photographs (approx. 1 x 1.5 metres). They recall history paintings, and the use of ornate gold frames brings to mind mythological scenes occupying ceilings and overdoors in Baroque and Rococo interiors. And yet, while the genre reference transports the scenarios to a remote story-land, the images also reflect the artist’s body as if in a life-size mirror and thereby address us somatically.

After seeing the author read last week, I finished I Am Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran, a fantastic debut collection that demonstrates incredible range and depth. From a lovesick tiger fighting his instincts to a production designer having an affair with the wife of one of India’s most celebrated “parallel” directors,I Am An Executioner cannot be characterized easily, though it becomes clear quickly that the subtitle of “Love Stories” is quite unexpectedly accurate. Be warned, these stories often get graphic and gruesome. My favorite story in the collection “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan,” which features a man who decides to open a medical practice based on knowledge from borrowed library books, is quite disturbing in its detail, but incredibly powerful nonetheless. I highly recommend Parameswaran’s collection, but if the title wasn’t a tip-off, understand that these are not the types of love stories that Nicholas Sparks might write.

After seeing the author read last week, I finished I Am Executioner: Love Stories by Rajesh Parameswaran, a fantastic debut collection that demonstrates incredible range and depth. From a lovesick tiger fighting his instincts to a production designer having an affair with the wife of one of India’s most celebrated “parallel” directors,I Am An Executioner cannot be characterized easily, though it becomes clear quickly that the subtitle of “Love Stories” is quite unexpectedly accurate. Be warned, these stories often get graphic and gruesome. My favorite story in the collection “The Strange Career of Dr. Raju Gopalarajan,” which features a man who decides to open a medical practice based on knowledge from borrowed library books, is quite disturbing in its detail, but incredibly powerful nonetheless. I highly recommend Parameswaran’s collection, but if the title wasn’t a tip-off, understand that these are not the types of love stories that Nicholas Sparks might write.