India was the farthest thing from Katrell Christie’s mind in 2007 when the former roller derby competitor and art buyer purchased a tea shop in her hometown of Atlanta. She christened the shop Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party simply because she liked the whimsical sound of it. Less than two years later, India was foremost in her mind.
Bollywood Ties, Literary Knots
— India Currents Magazine | August 2014
Manil Suri, author of Death of Vishnu, The Age of Shiva, and City of Devi and A.X. Ahmad, author of The Caretaker (IC, September 2013) and the recently-released The Last Taxi Ride—books one and two of the Ranjit Singh Trilogy, first met at one of Suri’s evening readings. They chatted politely despite being famished. When both confessed their hunger, they ended up becoming friends over dinner. This conversation of literary minds took place at Suri’s home, where they sat at his dining table and transported themselves to India via their conversation about Bollywood’s influence on society, their lives, and their writing.
— India Currents Magazine | December 2012
When I find myself discussing or asking for recommendations of books, the talk invariably turns to why we booklovers gravitate toward novels. More often than not, the answer is, for entertainment and pleasure. I, too, often fall into that easy category. But even so, truth—sometimes hard truth—must be present in order to make the fiction credible, and within that truth, we discover the purpose of the book. The most compelling novels offer more than just a good story. They provide many things, including reflection, enlightenment, instruction, remembrance, enrichment, connection, enhancement, introspection, surprise, empowerment, inspiration, education, reinforcement, or activation.
Passion in the Pages – Redux
India Currents Magazine | September 2011
One sultry evening in June 2000, a chance meeting in an unpretentious movie house showing the Shahrukh Khan-Aishwarya Rai starrer Josh provided an interesting twist to my professional life. A man named Aniruddh Chawda (A Lotus from the Nile, June 2011) engaged me in conversation during the intermission, and his first question was a more than fair one:
“Why are you watching a Hindi film and one without subtitles?” (After all, I’m an American woman from the upper Midwest whose hair has been white-blonde since graduate school in the 1970s. Not your typical Hindi film-goer at all.)
Passion in the Pages
— India Currents Magazine | November 2003
Hindi cinema. “Bollywood.” Whichever name you prefer to use, the film industry is here to stay. The movies are shown all over the world in South Asian-market movie theaters and even in select mainstream complexes. But sometimes, it’s just not enough to go to the theater and spend three hours with our heroes and heroines. Or to rent or purchase a new movie. Or to renew a subscription to Filmfare. Sometimes, we Hindi film fans just need to go where the movies themselves can’t take us. That’s when we turn to books because they take us behind the screen, beyond the scenes, and between the frames.
NRI Number One
by Jeanne E. Fredriksen
India Currents | August 2002
The expatriate in films is nothing new. Casablanca starring Humphrey Bogart as the suave, mysterious Rick in Morocco remains the top favorite 60 years after its release in America. Although expat characters’ lives are traditionally painted as being extraordinary, the simple fact that they live “elsewhere” adds a sense of adventure, a dash of romance, and a bit of wishful longing. However, expats have never made the kind of impact on films that non-resident Indians (NRIs) have with Hindi cinema, both at the box office and on the big screen.
According to India’s 2001 census, the country’s population exceeded the 1 billion persons milestone, and there are approximately 11 million Indians living, working, and studying elsewhere around the world. NRIs have become a serious market for the Hindi film industry, particularly in the U.K., where approximately 3 percent of the population is Indian/Pakistani, and in the U.S., where 1.7 million out of 281.5 million people are Indian.
The rupee box office is now augmented quite handsomely by the dollar-and-pound box office, much to the delight of directors and producers.
In Monsoon Wedding, Mira Nair washes away the gritty facade of family and shows us the tender heart …
When It Rains, It Pours
by Jeanne E. Fredriksen
India Currents | March 2002
Weddings are complicated events. Stress levels rise to their most consuming. Family members overwhelm to distraction. And it is, in the end, the happiest of occasions. In Monsoon Wedding, director Mira Nair and writer Sabrina Dhawan skillfully test the Verma family at every turn as they prepare for daughter Aditi’s wedding. And with each obstacle, they emerge as winners.
As a Delhi family gathers for a wedding, the film dexterously tells five separate-yet-related stories. Lalit Verma (Shah), the patriarch who will do anything to ensure the well-being of his family, frantically arranges the perfect wedding while going into financial overload. Aditi (Das), the bride-to-be, struggles with the procrastinated decision of whether to marry the man chosen for her (Dabas) or to wait silently for the possible divorce of her lover. Aditi’s introverted cousin, Ria (Shetty), is met with a series of revelations that force her to reveal unspoken traumas before they repeat themselves. Meanwhile, the hapless-but-flapless wedding/event planner, P.K. Dubey (Raaz), barks orders, makes excuses, and munches marigolds until he realizes that he has fallen in love with the Vermas’ housekeeper (Shome). While each of the stories presents a difficult decision to make, none is as painful as that which ultimately confronts Lalit.
Dhawan’s screenplay is built on frank, realistic dialogue that yields well-drawn characters brought to life by the magnificent performance on an enviable ensemble cast. Woven between the dramas are heaping helpings of comedy, love, and joy punctuated by the honesty that allows a person the necessary luxury of exhaling. This forthright portrayal of modern Indian life in the city clearly speaks to changing attitudes while addressing the universal issues of sexuality, pedophilia, human relationships, and family dynamics. But the weight of those issues is lightened by the wedding, the colorful centerpiece around which the stories are arranged.
Not Nair’s style to offer up typical masala fare, she expertly integrates two key supporting elements on her own terms: music and color. The music is plentiful and varied, yet it neither intrudes nor distracts, providing background enhancement or celebratory songs. Colors smoothly alternate between the hot, spicy, bold colors of the home and wedding, and the cool, sedate, unsaturated hues of the rains that wash away Aditi’s doubts and help her face her own truth. Also to Nair’s credit is the use of a handheld camera, allowing more intimate framing of the scenes. This method captures the details and layers that give depth to each of the characters and moments as the audience eavesdrops rather than merely watches.
With generous amounts of English, even non-Hindi-speaking viewers find themselves enthralled by the color, the clatter, the universality, and the directness of the film. No family is without shame or sorrow, but love and honesty make reality easier to bear. In the end, we are reminded that the good life is good when we allow it to be.