Tag Archives: desi

Nina’s Heavenly Delights: the cheesecake factory

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

Nina’s Heavenly Delights is the latest badly-written desi flick to hit enough recognizable truths about the diaspora that it’s fun in spite of itself. It’s a Glaswegian lesbian romance interpreted chastely, as if for kids. The female leads nuzzle and kiss without tongue, lest director Pratibha Parmar offend the focus group, while the drag queens camp and vamp to stereotype but are never permitted to smooch on screen. FSM save gays and lesbians from friendly filmmakers.

The problem with gay, desi, and gay desi flicks is that they’re made out of a crying need for representation, but neither ‘boon’ automatically makes one a good director. Nina’s is infested with clichés, begins with a spice metaphor, and ganks not only the ghostly chef from Ratatouille, but also the spirit guide from the atrocious Touch of Pink (Jimi Mistry, Kyle MacLachlan). It rings false and fantastical, with the most understanding desi mom ever written into film. But it leans on an indie soundtrack and a cinematographer who loves slow pans and tilts. Save for a tacky Taj Mahal model-slash-heartlight, it’s not as obviously amateur as Flavors.

Shelley Conn, great niece of stealth desi Merle Oberon, is taller with darker skin than her white love interest. She’s the top in this film, which is unusual for gay desi flicks. (Daniel Day-Lewis’ tomahawk cheekbones were clearly dom in My Beautiful Laundrette.) The plot is yet another battle-of-the-bands exercise, a ‘curry competition’ helmed at last by the great Kulvinder Ghir (Goodness Gracious Me) in burr, kilt and rabbits’ feet. The movie’s relentless focus on Indian food makes it more commercial, as does the lesbian angle; knowing her mainstream, Parmar let the girls get to first base, while any guy-on-guy takes place off-screen. It’s not that one wants to see Ronny Jhutti (Rafta Rafta) get it on — not that there’s anything wrong with that — it’s that it’s a blatant double standard, genuflecting in the direction of heteronormative marketability.

This movie was made earlier with more wit and bite as East is East, which too made great use of Jhutti and Raji James. But its ending video sequence has queens, twinks, brown highland dancers and white Bollyornaments naachofying to Briton Nazia Hassan’s classic ‘Aap Jaisa Koi.’ If you enjoyed Rocky the drag queen’s camp performance in Bollywood/Hollywood, you’ll have fun with this. And Shelley Conn (and Atta Yaqub) aren’t exactly hard on the eyes.

Nina’s opened in NYC and San Francisco recently. Here are the trailer and clips. For more desi Scots, check out Psychoraag and Ae Fond Kiss, among others .

Heroes recap of episode 211: Powerless

by guest contributor Elton

Heroes Volume 2, “Generations,” is over.

The season began with an exciting change of scenery, as Hiro Nakamura accidentally teleported to feudal Japan and met the legendary Sword Saint, Takezo Kensei, who turned out to be a lying, cheating, spiteful scoundrel of an Englishman named Adam Monroe. As Hiro tried to repair history and turn Adam into the heroic Kensei of legend, his brave deeds won the heart of their mutual love interest, the swordsmith’s daughter Yaeko, and Hiro himself became immortalized (figuratively speaking) as Kensei. Hiro and Yaeko’s love incurred the wrath of the jealous Adam, who swore on his life that he would bring misery and suffering to Hiro and all that he held dear.

Adam, the first man to discover his special ability, has survived through the ages because of it, and four hundred years later, he has founded a Company dedicated to finding and tracking others with special abilities. But Adam has a hidden agenda – fueled by his desire for revenge on Hiro and his bitter cynicism as a result of living through four centuries of human suffering, Adam plans to use the vast talents and resources of the Company to destroy most of humanity and “wipe the slate clean.” When the Company realizes this, they lock up Adam and throw away the key. Thirty years later, Adam recruits Peter, a son of Company founders Angela and Arthur Petrelli, in his quest to escape and release the deadly Shanti virus.

The season finale begins with the other bad guy’s quest to regain his powers. Sylar has recruited Maya Herrera, an irritatingly naive Dominican who has journeyed with him to Dr. Suresh’s apartment in Brooklyn to ask the good doctor for a cure to her cursed powers. Maya feels a kinship with (and attraction to) Sylar because they have both killed people with their powers, but she does not realize that Sylar is only using her to get to Dr. Suresh so that his powers, neutralized by the Shanti virus, can be restored.

Mohinder knows full well that Sylar killed his father, and having battled Sylar before, wants to be sure that Maya understands exactly what Sylar wants. Ever faithful, she believes that Sylar only wants to be cured of his sickness and lets slip that his powers are gone. Upon hearing this, Mohinder tries to attack Sylar with a knife, only to be met with a Company gun. Sylar reveals his true intention of regaining his abilities so that he can continue his power-hungry murder spree, and forces Mohinder, Maya, and Molly to Mohinder’s lab, formerly the apartment of precognitive artist Issac Mendez, one of Sylar’s many victims. Continue reading

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make Me a Match: MTV Looks at Arranged Marriages

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

I usually avoid MTV because of its basic lack of programming that interests me. This weekend, however, I happened to catch an episode of True Life, which chronicles people in different walks of life going through different life experiences. The episode I happened to catch was entitled “I’m Having an Arranged Marriage.”

I can’t find the episode summary on MTV’s website, but the summary goes like this: MTV follows three people on their journeys through arranged marriage. The show follows Najwa, a Pakistani-American Muslim woman; Rohit, an Indian man living in America (who I believe is Hindu, but I couldn’t get a definitive statement from the show); and Arwa, another Pakistani-American Muslim woman. All these people have college educations; Arwa is currently in law school.

The show first follows Najwa as she goes to pick up her fiancé Zeeshan at the airport. Najwa and Zeeshan are engaged but have not married yet; this visit will be the third time Najwa has seen Zeeshan, even though they talk frequently over the phone. Meanwhile, Arwa goes to several dates set up by her friends and family in hopes of finding someone to marry, even attending a conference that attracts other professional Pakistani-Americans. Her mother keeps bothering Arwa about her arbitrary deadline: announce an engagement by the end of the year. That’s some serious pressure.

Both girls do not wear hejab, and at first glance, you wouldn’t even be aware that they were more conservative, family-oriented women. I’m big on not judging a book by its cover, so I was kind of pleased about this. Both women talked about how they thought they’d find their own husbands (rather than being set up by people in their community), but are willing to try their family’s traditions.

What I really appreciated is the fact that the show highlighted these women’s experiences as their choice: Arwa mentions that she tried to find her own husband, but she’s okay with her parents trying to find him for her, too. Often, the words “arranged marriage” conjure images of veiled women who have no say in who their parents choose for them, and a lot of people think that arranged marriages trap women and are loveless. There’s also this idea that any Muslim man is a good Muslim man, and all a girl has to do is find a Muslim guy—any Muslim guy—and marry him. Muslim marriages—whether arranged or not—work just like other people’s: compatibility is key!

This episode refuted a lot of those ideas, likening arranged marriages to something as simple as just getting set up by your friend who thinks she has a friend you’d like. The idea that one size fits all is also not applicable here: Arwa met three different guys, and rejected two of them (unfortunately, the one she liked didn’t call). Najwa, after realizing that she had different priorities than Zeeshan, ended the engagement herself. At the end of the episode, Rohit was the only one who actually got married! Arwa went back to law school (if I remember right, she was on summer break during the show’s taping) and Najwa’s family continued to look for a match for her.

While the reality of arranged marriages is different for everyone (personally, I think I could do a better job of picking out a husband for myself than my parents; some families prefer to rely on social networks, some families let their children find their own mates, sometimes arranged marriages turn out badly, sometimes love matches turn out badly) and MTV’s portrayal really only illustrates how arranged marriages work within the U.S., I was pleased to see none of the gimmicky stereotypes. My only real complaint is that it would have been nice to see a Muslim man getting set up. On the whole, not bad, MTV.

Curry metaphors are a must when writing about desis

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

The New York Times licks its typing finger and reels off Yet Another Curry Review, because after all these years, it’s so original. Even lamer, the movie is about a 2nd genner. You can take India out of Shelley Conn, but Shelley can’t take herself out of India — the Times won’t let her:

A cloying blend of Bollywood sentiment and Amélie whimsy, Nina’s Heavenly Delights is a lesbian-foodie fairy tale… the director, Pratibha Parmar, is more interested in pappadams than passion… Fetch the turmeric! … groans beneath ethnic stereotypes and half-baked performances. Blander than a cumin-free curry… cringeworthy dance routines (courtesy of a flamboyant troupe known as the Chutney Queens)… [Link]

One can only imagine how the Times reviewed Alfonso Cuarón:

A cloying blend of mariachi music and lucha libre whimsy, Y Tu Mamá También is more interested in tacos than pasión. Fetch the cayenne pepper! Acting worse than a two-dollar chimichanga and blander than a chili-free burrito.

Oh, it didn’t? Not even a whiff of exoticism?

… one of those Bildungsroman films… The director, Alfonso Cuarón, works with a quicksilver fluidity, and the movie is fast, funny, unafraid of sexuality and finally devastating. The film, which takes place in Mexico, follows two hormonally consumed teenage boys, Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), whose infantile macho games seem more like baby steps when they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), a sad-eyed young woman who is married to Tenoch’s older cousin. [Link]

Snark is great, but what’s with the baby talk? On the plus side, the Times has finally run a review as badly-written as its movie. Much respect. There’s a kind of beauty in that.

Update: Reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis writes back that the piece’s clichés were partly intentional:

… When reviewing a film in 200 words or less, I usually try to give readers a flavor (no pun intended!) of what to expect, and, to be honest, this film was one long cliché. I responded with clichés of my own, mostly out of irritation and disappointment. As for the curry/spice issue, I grew up in Britain (in Glasgow, which had made me more excited about the film), and was probably corrupted at a very early age. No excuse, however, for falling into the pit of knee-jerk regional metaphors — however well they seem to suit the tone of a particular film…

But most of the time the Great Curry Metaphor strikes papers unironically and with maximum kitsch.

ROCK OF ASIAN: Arash

by guest contributor DISGRASIAN, originally published at DISGRASIAN

I don’t know about you, but when I think of Snow’s 1993 hit, “Informer,” I get all giddy and nostalgic inside. You can’t summon the energy? Would a photo help?

Ohhhhhh yeah. Those round sunglasses, so low on the nose bridge. That hair! That sullen gaze! And that sultry, smooth Snow voice! OMG. I can’t deal.

Okay, if you’re not feeling it like me, I can’t force you. But I can offer you an exciting new take on the oh-so-good-even-though-it-feels-so-wrong original:

THE BOLLYWOOD VERSION! Fabulous Arash turns the “Informer” tune into “Chori Chori” (Secretly).

Now mind you, the lyrics and the talent may be new and different, but if you just close your eyes and relax, I swear you’ll kinda believe it’s snowing. Just a little bit.

Writer’s strike video relies on tired old stereotypes

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

As many of you have probably heard, the Writers Guild of America has been on strike. As part of their campaign, they have put together a series of online videos feature A-list actors. Check out this one, starring Holly Hunter.

I’m left scratching my head, wondering what the heck this issue has to do with outsourcing to India? And why exactly does the writers guild need to mock one profession to make a case for fair compensation of their own work? (Thanks to Angie for the tip!)

Heroes recap of episode 210: Truth & Consequences

by Racialicious guest contributor David Zhou

As Volume Two of the Heroes saga nears its end, the plot lines come together and the series develops a climactic peak. But at the same time, gone are the opportunities for the writers to tell backstory, and while this is good for simply the quality of each episode, it gives the show a lot fewer opportunities to slip up with things like representation and stereotype. But who was counting anyway? Oh right, we were.

In this episode, Adam, Peter, and Hiro all look for a virus, albeit for different reasons. Mohinder Suresh proceeds in his lonely medical missions before being confronted by an old villian, accompanied by Maya but not Alejandro, who is the newest victim to Sylar’s wrath. And in the meanwhile, the Bennets mourn for their not-so-dead father… moments in which Hayden Panettiere displays her best acting yet this season. (Okay, you might disagree with me there.)

Two recaps ago, I told my deep discomfort with the portrayal of the as-yet-unnamed Haitian, but I missed one thing. I don’t know the science-fictional precedent of his eclectic collection of superpowers, but somehow we must add one more to his many abilities: super-hearing? I say this because from season one, he and Claire have a relationship that has stemmed from a friggin’ windchime; when she needs someone to turn to, she just needs to hang up a special windchime and then expect the Haitian at her back door immediately to console her fears. In this episode, as Claire grieves for the loss of her father, she is tempted to hang this windchime once more to ask him to erase the memory of her father’s death. This character is even less whole than we had thought… I’d like to think that in addition to his power-negation and memory-stealing powers, he has also teleportation and super-ears, but instead he seems continually like just a house-elf for the Bennets and the Company. And this is a problem. (Please note that he wasn’t shown in this episode – this is just a remark about another reminder of this issue.)

This week we also return to the Dawsons in New Orleans. After Monica attempts to steal back a medal won by D.L., she’s caught by a gang that, besides being paid for arson, steals backpacks from little kids. Granted New Orleans is still depicted as a broken city with rising crime, but the men in this gang here fulfill very specific archetypes of the urban criminal. Specifically, these gang members do happen to be black men decked out with chains, toting guns and enacting violence upon the good. This stereotyping ties into a much greater discussion about how the criminals that these men portray have made a mark on the mainstream consciousness, but I’ll stick to the small things here. In this show, it is apparent that no effort was made to avoid or qualify this kind of typecasting at the levels of plot or representation. I can just imagine how casting was like.

And lastly, as we begin the hunt for this pandemic-causing virus, deception and coercion thrive in the plotlines of Heroes. In which case, it’s interesting to note that, well, all of the dishonest, deceiving, and generally bad characters are white: Bob, Elle, Noah (in a way), Adam, Sylar. The characters of color are generally all genuine and good, for reasons entirely inexplicable. Sorry, but I just had to make this connection. Perhaps it means nothing. :-D

To read past Heroes recaps, click here.

Heroes recap of episode 209: Cautionary Tales

by guest contributor Elton

This week’s episode revolves around the deaths of two fathers, Noah Bennet and Kaito Nakamura, and the struggles of their children, Claire and Hiro, to come to terms with the tragedies.

The episode opens with the funeral of Kaito Nakamura, who, a few episodes ago, was killed in a plunge off the Deveaux rooftop by someone he knew but least expected. Hiro is asked, as the eldest son, to give his father’s eulogy, but he hesitates, telling Ando that to do so would be to admit that his father is dead. He decides to go back in time to save him.

The prophecy apparently foretold by the Mendez paintings, that Mohinder would fire a Company gun, and the Man in the Horn Rimmed Glasses would die of a gunshot wound to the eye as his daughter Claire looked on, seems to be unfolding perfectly. Mr. Bennet tries to evacuate his family from Costa Verde, California, but is held back by Claire’s anger at his deception and refusal to cooperate. Noah Bennet has led a secret life of kidnapping and murder, and as Claire discovers that her boyfriend West was one of her dad’s victims, she comes to hate her adoptive father.

Meanwhile, Mohinder, Company man Bob, and Bob’s (adopted?) daughter Elle track the Bennets down to Costa Verde, where they will attempt to take Claire from Mr. Bennet. The healing factor in her blood is the key to saving Niki, who has infected herself with the Shanti Virus, and saving the human species, which will be devastated by the virus if it crosses over into the general population.

The conflict between Mr. Bennet, who will protect his daughter at all costs, and Dr. Suresh, who has found himself on the side of the Company in the pursuit of saving lives, comes to a head. After an initial fight with Mohinder, Bennet captures Elle, but Bob gets Claire and takes a sample of her blood. Bennet and Bob agree to a hostage exchange, and each brings the other’s daughter to the beach.

Mr. Bennet comes to a bit of an understanding with West when they realize what they both want most is simply to protect Claire, and Bennet enlists West’s help in flying Claire away from the hostage exchange. As she is being returned to her father Bob, Elle, ever devious, shoots a ball of lightning at Claire and West, who come crashing to the ground but are not seriously hurt. Mr. Bennet, seizing the opportunity, shoots Elle in the arm and prepares to kill Bob and end The Company once and for all. Mohinder chooses to protect Bob over his former ally and shoots Mr. Bennet, fulfilling the prophecy. The Man in the Horn Rimmed Glasses is dead. Continue reading