Tag Archives: Hindi

Santa Clara County Hindi Language COVID Ambassador Training

Dear Community Leaders and Residents: 

The Santa Clara County COVID-19 Community Ambassador Program (CAP) is hosting its first Hindi  Language Ambassador Training on Saturday, April 17, 2021 beginning at 11:10 am. We welcome you to participate and become a CAP Ambassador. 

For those of you joining for the first time: we ask for your help and leadership as we continue to experience a high number of hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases in Santa Clara County. 

As an Ambassador, you will serve as a trusted resource for COVID-19 information in our communities.  In this capacity, you will play a key role in educating others about COVID-19 to curb the spread as we continue to vaccinate our residents. Your role will be primarily virtual. You will be trained and provided with weekly toolkits containing topline messages of the week, infographics, videos, and sample social media posts. We will provide you with the latest updates on COVID-19 tests, cases, and vaccines through periodic Ambassador Trainings. Then we will ask you to engage with your networks, groups, and communities to share the facts.  

Please join us for the Hindi Language Ambassador Training Saturday, April 17 from 11:10 am – 1:05 pm: 

https://sccgov-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SBC0ab-bQoCN2WFhYJQs2A

After you register, you will receive a personalized link to join. 

This training will provide you with the foundational knowledge to become an expert in our local COVID 19 response efforts:  

  • Ambassador: Roles, Responsibilities, and Resources  
  • COVID-19 101  
  • COVID-19 Testing 101 
  • COVID-19 Vaccination 101  
  • COVID-19 Communications and Social Media 

Please feel free to share this invitation with your networks so that we can all join in this collective effort to get the county closer to exiting this pandemic. 

Remember to also follow CAP on social media to easily access and share all updated information with your networks. The links below will direct you to our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and  YouTube accounts: 

  • Facebook: www.facebook.com/scccap  
  • Twitter: @scc_cap  
  • Instagram: @scc_cap  
  • YouTube: Santa Clara County CAP 

If you have any questions, please contact the CAP Team at SCCCap@bos.sccgov.org. Be Well, 

Santa Clara County CAP Team 

Information on Americans with Disabilities Act and Accommodations  

Zoom offers the accessibility functionality described at https://zoom.us/accessibility. If you have any other access and functional need that will not be met by the features described above, please notify us at SCCCap@bos.sccgov.org or 408-299-5025 by 12:00pm Thursday, April 15.

*****

जप्रय सामुदाजयक नेता और जनवासी

सािंता क्लारा काउिंटी COVID-19 सामुदाजयक रािदू त काययक्रम (क प -CAP) अपनेप लेज िंदी भाषा के रािदू त प्रजिक्षण, यानेके ट ृनी िंग, केजलए आपका स्वागत करते ैं। य प्रजिक्षण िजनवार, 17 अप्र ल, 2021 को सुब 11:10  िुरू ोगा । म आपको भाग लेनेऔर मारेरािदू त बननेकेजलए आमिंजित करते ैं। 

आप मेंसेप ली बार िाजमल ोनेवालेलोगोिंकेजलए म आपकी स ायता और नेतृत्व क़ा जनवेदन करते ैंक्ोिंजक म सािंता क्लारा काउिंटी मेंअस्पताल मेंप्रवेि की उच्च सिंख्या और COVID-19 रोगी मामलोिंमेंवृद्धि अनुभव कर र े ैं। 

एक रािदू त के रूप में, आप मारेसमुदायोिंमेंCOVID-19 िानकारी केजलए एक जवश्वसनीय सिंसाधन (टऱसटेठ रीसोरस) के रूप मेंकाम करेंगे। इस क्षमता में, आप COVID-19 को रोकनेकेजलए दू सरोिंको जिजक्षत करनेमें म त्वपूणयभूजमका जनभाएिं गेवीिेषकर इस समय िब मारेजनवाजसयोिंका टीकाकरण िारी ैं। आपकी भूजमका मुख्य रूप सेआभासी ोगी। आपको सप्ता के टॉपलाइन सिंदेिोिं, इन्फोग्राजिक्स, वीजियो और सोिल मीजिया पोस्ट वाले साप्ताज क टू लजकट के साथ प्रजिजक्षत जकया िाएगा और येआपके उपयोग के जलए उपलब्ध ोिंगे। म आपको समयसमय पर रािदू त प्रजिक्षणोिंके माध्यम सेCOVID-19 परीक्षणोिं, मामलोिंऔर टीकोिंके नवीनतम अपिेट प्रदान करेंगे। जिर आप मारेरािदू तोिंके रूप मेंआपके नेटवकय को येअपिेट देंगे। 

ज िंदी भाषा का रािदू त प्रजिक्षण िजनवार, 17 अप्र ल को सुब 11:10 बिेसेदोप र 1:05 बिेतक ोगा 

https://sccgov-org.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SBC0ab-bQoCN2WFhYJQs2A

पिंिीकरण करनेके बाद, आपको िुड़नेकेजलए एक व्यद्धिगत जलिंक प्राप्त ोगा। 

य प्रजिक्षण आपको मारेस्थानीय COVID-19 प्रजतजक्रया प्रयासोिंमेंरािदू त बननेकेजलए ज्ञान प्रदान करेगा

  • रािदू त: भूजमकाएँ, जिम्मेदाररयाँऔर सिंसाधन 
  • COVID-19 101 
  • COVID-19 परीक्षण 101 
  • COVID-19 टीकाकरण 101 
  • COVID-19 सिंचार और सोिल मीजिया 

 म आपको मारेसमुदाय मेंदू सरोिंको य जनमिंिण भेिनेकेजलए क ते ैं। िब म एकिुट ोकर COVID19 को समाप्त करनेकेजलए काम करेंगे, तो मारा समुदाय मिबूत ोगा। 

नीचेजदए गए जलिंक आपको मारेिे सबुक, जिटर, इिंस्टाग्राम और YouTube खातोिंपर जनदेजित करेंगे

  • िे सबुक: www.facebook.com/scccap
  • जिटर: @scc_cap
  • Instagram: @scc_cap
  • YouTube: Santa Clara County CAP

यजद आपके कोई प्रश्न ैं, तो कृ पया SCCCap@bos.sccgov.org पर CAP टीम सेसिंपकय करें। धन्यवाद 

सािंता क्लारा काउिंटी क प टीम 

जवकलािंगता अजधजनयम और आवास के साथ अमेररजकयोिंपर िानकारी 

जूम https://zoom.us/accessibility पर वजणयत पहिंच क्षमता प्रदान करता । यजद आपके पास कोई अन्य पहिंच और कायायत्मक आवश्यकता िो ऊपर वजणयत सुजवधाओिंसेपूरी न ी िं ोगी, तो कृ पया में15 अप्र ल गुरुवार को 12:00  बिेतक SCCCap@bos.sccgov.org या 408-299-5023 पर सूजचत करें ।


 

Aki Kumar Fuses Blues With Hindi and Makes It Familiar

Aki Kumar is a blues musician and artist from the Bay Area. Over the years he has developed his identity as a musician and what it means to be Indian in a traditional Blues world. Now as a well-established musician and artist, redefining and breaking the barriers of genre, I chat with him to understand his growth and work as an artist. 

“Toxic masculinity is the biggest hurdle in my world. It’s the ‘macho bravado’ that I needed to get out of myself.” 

He elaborated on the importance of getting out of the man box and how the presence of toxic masculinity has affected many women in the Blues world. He details his understanding of appreciation vs appropriation, the importance of the Indian community and the barriers of toxic masculinity in the blues world, and how he overcame the divide in the music world, to create a fusion of those worlds. 

IC: Where do you feel you stand in music right now and going ahead? Where are you headed? 

AK: I’m headed towards running away from the label of ‘genre authenticity’ which is really what caused me to first try to not represent my Indianness and then go completely the other way. Blues has been heavily appropriated in the US by the white audience that consumes it. When I was starting out in the Blues scene, I played and performed with my white peers, following their tastes and catering to a white audience. But even they know in the back of their heads that they’re not the authentic torchbearers of this genre. It’s always been Black music and in fact, black musicians have been denied their rightful ownership for several decades. I realized I was chasing an authenticity that these guys (white musicians) were not going to find. What’s authentic for a Desi boy is to be Desi as best as you can. But moving forward I’m going to try and break away even more from these predefined notions of what is authentic and what isn’t. The only authentic thing to me is just me and if a song comes to my head I’m gonna represent it my way. 

IC: What message do you have for the people that look up to you? 

AK: I hope someone is inspired by what I’m doing. The thing I would like to tell people is to really find yourself in your art. I myself didn’t realize this when I was starting out because I came from a traditional standpoint. But despite that, you have to find your voice. It’s a journey and when you find it is up to your circumstances but it is the most important aspect of artistry, otherwise you’re just reduced to an authentic mimic of something that already exists. 

IC: As an Indian immigrant in the States, how important is it to speak from an Indian perspective, in your music?

AK: It has been a journey to be honest because the first ten years of existing in the US was just ‘hey do I have my visa? Where’s my visa? Is everything stamped? I don’t want to get a drunk driving ticket cause then I’ll get deported.’ Until I realize that there are more people here (in the States) and there’s a history here. It’s a process of growth and I think everyone goes through it. 

One of the things I find with the Indian community is that we can be caught on the fence. A lot of folks are not sure about how to thread this needle where they want to be nationalistic in the Indian sense but they can’t embrace American nationalism cause that’s toxic to them. So they end up being liberal in the United States in many ways and embracing the freedom they enjoy here and then being rigidly conservative in India. This is a liberalism of convenience where you’re saying ‘oh I’m going to embrace the aspects of a democracy or being liberal when they benefit me but if they’d not benefit someone else I don’t care’. This is something I would like to address because they need to be aware of this. If you care about inequality it has to be in all aspects. 

IC: Where do you think the rise in fusion music puts India in the global music market?

AK: I think India is going to be a powerhouse, it already is. There is so much variety and talent in India and the consumer market is also in India. If all the music was made in India and listened to in India, it would be a powerhouse even if no one knew about it. The next century belongs to India culturally speaking. There’s so much regional music and so much potential for fusion, which has already been happening. Bollywood, for example, is fusion music. We are a masala of cultures. Everything gets blended in and we make something good out of it. However, it is important that we don’t appropriate cultures in fusion. If you’re going to bring cultures together through music, be aware of what you’re doing and educate yourself on the genres and history behind styles of music. If you want to do fusion, be a master of your domain.

IC: You explore a lot of genres and with fusion, there is bound to be criticism from both communities of Bollywood and traditional blues. How do you deal with that?

AK: There has been a lot of support, which I was really worried about in the beginning but a lot of folks got what was going on primarily because musically what I did with the fusion, worked. Most people who listened to it without prejudice found it smooth. The criticism comes from people who are so fixated on genre-centric music that they have established rules for what is and what isn’t fitting of blues music. In fact, all of the criticism has been from white people. Black people typically won’t go that way because they themselves have been oppressed in the ownership of the genre they created. So I don’t pay much attention to that part. In Bollywood music, it’s mostly people who say ‘oh that’s Kishore Kumar and he’s my favorite artist, but you don’t sound like him.’ I’m not Kishore Kumar that’s why I don’t sing like him. Nobody has really criticized me in a way that has stuck and after five years, if no one has found a way to give you truly insightful criticism, then maybe you’ve done something right. 

IC: Your track Zindagi that you released this year, is extremely comforting and hopeful, what made you release such a song during this time?

AK: I wrote the track a year before I actually did a video. I’m very proud to say that I wrote it in Hindi which has been a bit of a tricky thing for me because I don’t speak Hindi fluently. But it was part of the process of trying to write something more positive because typically I write cleverly worded attack songs to express my frustrations with the political or social climate. But then I thought that as an artist I need to find myself a more positive form of expression. Given the pandemic and how we landed last year, I had a feeling that if I put something positive right now it’s gonna seem lame cause people are not feeling positive right now. But there was hope of vaccines and the administration changing. Everything was building up to a more positive year. So I feel now is a time to put zindagi out there to help people feel hopeful. 

IC: The song was more reggae than blues, was there a reason for that?

AK: I’ve been on this old school Ska and Rocksteady journey which are precursors to reggae, and I’m the kind of person that steadily listens to one genre of music in extreme depth to really find its roots. I realized the things that appealed to me about the blues— the core nature of the rhythm being in place and this tonal vocality that just cuts through with a message, all of that is in ska and rocksteady because that’s the foundation of black music. I know reggae has kind of been a part of my musical listening even before I moved to the US like A.R Rahman’s Dil Hai Chota Sa’ is complete reggae, so I knew the genre and I just thought it would be perfect for the song.


Swati Ramaswamy is a recent graduate from UC Davis and is an aspiring creative writer who loathes speaking in the third person. 

California Nani: A Video a Day Keeps The Doctors Away

In the pandemic of 2020, when the world went into lockdown, one Indian lady who is above 80 years of age, engaged herself in making videos on Indian culture, mythology, and literature from her apartment in San Francisco.

Her name is Mrs. Harsha Watts and she is my mother.

She learned how to record, upload and manage her YouTube channel “California Nani” on her own. Here, she has showcased about 500 videos made by her with more than twenty thousand viewers. My mother’s life holds a message that learning and following one’s passion can occur even after eighty years of age! Here are some excerpts from the life of California Nani, which is an inspiration to many. 

For a large part of her life, mom remained a reticent atheist. Yet back in India, she fulfilled her duties in organizing religious festivities for the family. Her greatest talent lay in cooking delicious meals. Without feeling exhausted, she managed all chores herself, after which, she would sit to knit sweaters for her loved ones! 

When I was growing up in India, I recall how mom would help all of us at home with our homework. She would help us understand meaning in literature, explain shlokas in Sanskrit, show us the tricks to memorize science and math. Several evenings, when the light would go off, mom would give a candle to us so that we may continue to finish our homework in a room full of darkness. 

Although mom couldn’t finish her own college, she aspired to see her children excel academically. She was the person who would attend the parent-teacher meetings at school in India. Now that everyone in the family is settled in the US, you might be thinking that my mother must be leading her retired life. 

Well, a few years back, my father had passed away. Mom began visiting temples each day. Soon after, she engaged herself in making jewelry and dresses for the deities. I was surprised to see this transformation in a nonbeliever. 

A few years back, she fell down, twice, when her feet got entangled in her saree causing multiple fractures on her knee and foot, and hands. Wearing a saree or keeping long hair wasn’t feasible anymore. Short hair and western attire brought another transformation in her leading to a miraculous phase. 

When mom turned eighty years of age, her granddaughter asked her, “what was life like in India in 1940, 1950, and 1960?” Mom began remembering her childhood during the partition in India, and beyond. We wanted to preserve the words of wisdom flowing out of her lips. With the help of her granddaughter, mom launched her own channel on youtube – CALIFORNIA NANI, in August 2019. Now she wakes up each morning with the goal of making one video each day. 

The beauty of this endeavor is the preservation of knowledge related to Indian culture and benefit to students of Indology.

More details at YouTube channel – California Nani! 


 Anu Sharma teaches, travels, writes, volunteers and lives in San Francisco, CA.

Mushkil Duniya Painted in Coffee

In June Ahmad Abumraighi messaged me asking if he can come to my community studio, Studio Pause, with his friend and filmmaker Anas Tolba. Anas was making a documentary on Ahmad as a Palestinian artist, whose work is about social justice and community.

I asked Ahmad, “Why the Studio?”

He replied “… it’s about being around honest company where I can be myself, without experiencing the feeling of having to defend myself or my beliefs. At Studio Pause I feel safe and creative when I’m with Sush and other community artists who care to bring love and light to everyone in the community.”

Ahmad with Filmmakers Anas and Mohammad

Anas would bring his assistant, Mohammad Saffouri, and Hanan would join them later. I agreed happily. I was going to have my first group of people at the Studio since lockdown. What better group than this?

I had first met Ahmad at Hanan Seid’s Mic-Less Night Series. Hanan, a local spoken word artist, activist and the Studio’s first artist-in-residence, had started her Mic-Less Night Series here in 2016 finding the space perfect for people who are intimidated by the mic to share their poetry and stories. Since then, Ahmad had had two shows here sharing his love for Arabic poetry and his mastery in calligraphy with the community, while he attended university as an international student.

Before they arrived that day I reminded them to wear masks. Susan Sterner, a PAUSEr who visited once a week, had brought in extra masks and hand sanitizer. She had figured out how we could safely work at the ends of the 6 ft long art tables. Ahmad and the crew arrived masked and with bags of goodies. I made coffee and set out the refreshments. Our last reception had been in Feb 2020, for Susan’s show, and this was the first four-month gap in seven years of the Studio. The AC was out, the windows were open, and a noisy bird sang from a tree.

The filming started with an interview. Ahmad asked what I had worked on during the pandemic. I showed him my calligraphic explorations in Hindi and Bengali. I told him how his art had inspired me to return to my languages and scripts reconnecting with them through my art. Then it was time for art-making. I introduced him to water-soluble graphite. “As I play music in my Studio,” I said, “a Hindi movie song might speak to me, and I make the lyrics into art.” 

He got an idea. “Why don’t you play your music and I’ll play mine!” he said. “You do your calligraphy and I’ll do mine!” 

The songs played and we wrote directly on the butcher paper taped to the table—Arabic and Devanagari. “What did you write?” I asked. 

“Take me to Palestine,” he read.

I texted a photo of it to my friend, Sughra Hussainy, a calligrapher from Afghanistan, living in Baltimore, MD. She created a calligraphic artwork and sent it to me. Take me to my dear Kabul, it read. I showed it to the men. 

I caught a few Arabic words from Ahmad’s songs. They were the Hindi/Urdu words duniya, mushkil. Ahmad painted with the coffee too. 

“What is that? Looks like mountains and valleys,” I observed, as the wet paper warped. 

“It’s the map of Palestine,” he laughed. Later, he started to dance.

The air was magical, yet, I was quietly panicking. What if someone caught COVID-19? Had I done everything right? I went and looked out of the window, tears rolling down my face. Was I being pessimistic as the friends chatted away, laughed and worked? I had missed people, even strangers. Every month, between an artist’s reception and Mic-Less Night I met 20-50 people here and it was always awesome. And here were these wonderful people and I was … what’s the word? 

They continued their shoot downstairs in the community center. I had worked alone during the lockdown designing and producing handmade copies of Hanan’s first full-length poetry book, Catalyst: A Collection of Poetry by Hanan Seid. Now again, I was sitting at my table, alone. But my heart was racing. I breathed deeply, folding the printed pages, reading snippets of Hanan’s powerful poems.

Hanan and her books.

Soon the group returned to the Studio along with Hanan. At the opening reception here five years ago we had 40 guests and now five made my heart race. But she was so excited to see the copies of her books and sign them. I noticed the red mask she wore over her hijab. I couldn’t see her smile let alone give her a hug. Who was I now? I could hardly recognize myself.

An excerpt from her poem Tsunami spoke to me: 

“Which character will they remember?
I’ve been them all
The good and the bad
Wonder if my soul is as claustrophobic as I am
If it’ll fit nice in the coffin
Then my eyes open
And the nightmare supposedly over
I gasp and wonder
Who will I be next
and will she be remembered?”

When they left, I helped the community center staff put the furniture back the way it was. They worried about what had been touched. I stared at where the woman sprayed the Lysol, and what she wiped. So much remained unsprayed and unwiped! I remained silent. I couldn’t recognize myself, a total stranger! But it would be fine, I told myself. We were all doing our best.


Sushmita Mazumdar is a self-taught writer and book artist, writing stories from her childhood for her American children and making them into handmade storybooks. Encouraging everyone to share their stories of home, heritage, and migration she opened Studio Pause in 2013 mixing community voices into her own work, allowing cross-cultural collaborations and dialogues to inform her creations.

The Powerful Dancing Legacy of Saroj Khan

Sarojji, you were a legend and one of a kind. A heartfelt salute for countless moments of cinematic joy and moves; for making a mark as a female choreographer in Hindi cinema – despite the odds stacked against you.

Saroj Khan’s life and 60 plus years of career were defined by her natural talent and love for dance – she transformed into an ethereal being when she put her dancing shoes on. A classic rags to riches story, her professional and personal journey was filled with pure love, dedication, hard work, passion, and candor.

While her aptitude for dance gave her everything, it also took a lot away. Sexism, exploitation, struggles, barriers… she didn’t let any of that stop her. Over the years, she worked with a variety and generations of stars from Sridevi and Dharmendra to Shahid Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai.

Saroj was born in 1948. Her parents, affected by partition, had fled from a wealthy existence in Pakistan to poverty in India, hoping to build a new life. At three years of age, she entered the film industry as a child actor, fending for her family, when her mother discovered her love for dancing by accident. To avoid the stigma of working in films, her name was changed from Nirmala Nagpal to Saroj.

At 8-9 years, Saroj had outlived her career as a young actor and turned to background dancing for a living. She had no formal training but picked up dance movements easily and quickly. In those years, as a group dancer, she identified herself as Anglo-Indian, had short hair, and mainly did Western styles of dancing –  jive, rock and roll, and acrobatics.

Her transition to Indian dancing was difficult. Western dancers were looked down upon by the classical-bent dance veterans. Nevertheless, she turned a chance to work with B Sohanlal into an opportunity, when she was called to perform acrobatics (Spot Saroj in video below at 1:42-1:441:52-1:58 and 2:04-2:16)  as a group dancer in Vyjayantimala’s version of Eeena Meena Dika from Aasha.

Saroj changed her appearance from an Anglo-Indian to Indian to learn from Sohanlal, it marked her big break, and she became a part of his troupe, first as a group dancer and later as an assistant. At 13 years of age, she married her 38-year-old mentor, who had shaped her as a dancer. He was married with children but she was unaware and much in love. At 14, she gave birth to their first child. Her association with him lasted 5 odd years in which she learnt the finer aspects of dance and also discovered her knack for choreography. When he was away for a song shootingPL Santoshi (Rajkumar Santoshi’s father) inspired her to choreograph Nigahen Milane Ko Jee Chahta Hai for Dil Hi To Hai.

When Sohanlal refused to give their child his name, she walked out. It was the start of a long struggle but also finding her own feet as a solo professional. “I wanted to live my life as I wanted to live, without him,” she had said at a Ted Talk event. Those were big words from a young teenage mother, who also had to break professional ties with her ex-husband. Despite what happened, she continued to respect him and remained grateful for the learnings and livelihood. Not a justification but it gives context to her controversial casting couch comments in 2018. After the break-up, she went back to working as a group dancer and assistant choreographer for other lead choreographers. She was a good talent to hire, she could be the proxy lead whenever needed, without the money or credit.

Accolades and fame were still elusive despite support from actress Sadhana who gave her a break as a choreographer in her directorial venture Geeta Mera Naam (1974)Her talent wasn’t enough, she was still stuck. “I worked very hard – day and night – but I was not popular. Nobody accepted me as a choreographer, as I was female. That time, the rule was that only men can be choreographers or dance masters, as they were called then,” she recalled.

The road to A-grade success began with the Hema Malini-Dharmendra starrer Pratigya (1975) but the journey to popularity was still slow. Around that time, she also remarried second husband Sardar Roshan Khan and took some years off to focus on her family. She returned with Raj Babbar’s debut movie Jazbaat (1980) and this time the path was smoother. She was accepted whole-heartedly as a choreographer in the industry. Top directors like Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mani Ratnam lined up.

Saroj was also known for her penchant for perfection and had a temper to unleash on anyone who didn’t meet her high levels. Though she loved actors who knew their dance, she also enjoyed guiding non-dancers like Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, and Sunny Deol. Actors had to rehearse before they arrived on set. Madhuri rehearsed Ek Do Teen for over two weeks. Saroj demanded that Sanjay must rehearse Tamma Tamma (Thanedaar) as a signing condition. He did. She added a touch of femininity to Hrithik’s steps in Bumbro (Mission Kashmir).

Kareena fondly remembers Saroj telling her, “Perrr nahin chala saktiii to kam se kam face to chalaa!” (if you can’t work your feet, at least work your face!).

Saroj was hired to train Madhuri, who had done a few movies but hadn’t succeeded as a lead heroine yet. It won’t be an exaggeration to say Madhuri owes her success to Saroj Khan.  Ek Do Teen handed her stardom and a career on the platter. Ek Do Teen was out there and fun compared to the classic and subtle beauty of Oh RamjiMadhuri aced both.

There was a marked difference in Madhuri’s persona on screen post the Saroj influence. The oomph, confidence, and attitude that Madhuri imbibed in both her acting and dance performances were unmistakable learnings from Sarojji.

Saroj had a long association with Sridevi as well, whom she considered her daughter. There is no doubt that her partnership with Madhuri was more fruitful commercially but some of her most refined and creative pieces were with Sridevi.

They created wonders in the cult classic Mr. India with Hawa Hawai. I remember watching it in a seedy Mumbai theatre and being blown away. It was one of those surreal cinematic experiences where your senses are shot and the only way to get over it was to watch the movie many times over.

Ek Do Teen brought other achievements for Saroj. She bumped up her price, benefiting her assistants, and made sure choreography was valued for its true worth. She was proud of the students she gave the industry. Her unavailability propelled two of her assistants into success. She requested prodigy Ahmed Khan to choreograph Ramgopal Verma’s Rangeela (1995) which won him a Filmfare award for Rangeela Re. Farah Khan stepped in to do Pehla Nasha when she couldn’t adjust her dates for Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992).

Sarojji‘s style was a stamp, she dominated the 90s and left her impact well into the 2000s.

Not that Saroj Khan needed awards to prove her worth but hopefully they were sweet revenge for having to stay under the radar for decades despite her formidable talent. Portrayed with dignity and grace, her women could still be sensual and defiant within the traditional mold. As Kareena said aptly in her tribute to Sarojji: dance and expression will never be the same for us actors. I would add Hindi cinema to that. It’s an end of an era. Or perhaps, many eras.

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.

Social Distancing With Vintage Hindi Movies

It’s easy to burn through all the new shows and movies on Amazon Prime and Netflix when you’re quarantined at home. Bet you didn’t think to go back a few decades and find films that are reminiscent of your childhood. Here is a list of vintage Hindi films to watch after you’re done working from home, of course!

Kaala Patthar (1979) Prime

Before Yash Chopra went rogue with romance in the 80s, with the exception of Mashaal (1984), he belted out all-round, thoughtful dramas with a social tinge such as Deewaar (1975), Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Trishul (1978). They were all multi-starrers, Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor were common stars in all of these. Chopta finished off the decade with the rough cut diamond Kaala Patthar, inspired by Chasnala mining disaster. Shatrughan Sinha played to the gallery with a crackling performance. Raakhee, Neetu Singh, Parveen Babi and Poonam Dhillon had limited presence. It had a taut screenplay by hit writer-duo Salim-Javed however it had an average run at the box office. The movie is the full package though, it never misses a beat. 

Gol Maal (1979) Netflix Prime

This Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic is double trouble and multiple shots of fun for all moods, times and tides. Just give in to the craziness of the world of Gol Maal where Ramprasad/ Laxmanprasad (Amol Palekar in his elements) fools his boss Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt, outstanding) for a live hockey match and is caught in a web of lies to cover up his first one. Both  actors won Filmfare Awards (Best Actor and Best Comedian). Dina Pathak shines as the fake mother while Bindiya Goswami charms as the actor-girlfriend. Those were simple times when Mukherjee could easily swing walk-in guest appearances from Amitabh Bachchan, Rekha, Hema Malini, Zeenat Aman and Lata Mangeshkar. Definitely a winner!

Doosara Aadmi (1977) Prime

Yash Chopra produced Doosara Aadmi for his assistant director Ramesh Talwar, who directed his independent debut. It comes with some glaring gender-biased morality flaws but is still a refreshing take on the complex nature of frayed relationships before marriage, after marriage, during romance and in offbeat quieter friendships. Raakhee plays reclusive Nisha, an advertising professional who falls for Karan Saxena (Rishi Kapoor) as he reminds her of her late boyfriend, Shashi Saigal (Shashi Kapoor). However, Karan is newly married to Timsy (Neetu Singh) and Nisha has a close friend Bhisham who loves her. It is laced with stunning, blockbuster music by Rajesh Roshan, sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi. Sample the myriad moods of love with Chal Kahin Door Nikal Jayein and  Aao Manayen Jashn-E-Mohabbat, Jaan Meri Rooth Gayi, Nazron Se Kah Do and Ankhon Mein, Kajal Hai. It’s worth a watch or two.

Kabhi Kabhie (1976) Prime

Kabhi Kabhie tops my list of the Yash Chopra romance. It covers all seasons of love in its full glory. Amitabh Bachchan’s Amit Malhotra plays a poet to Raakhee’s pristine beauty as Pooja Khanna. Their love remains unrequited as parental love leads them to arranged marriages. Pooja marries the boisterous Vijay (Shashi Kapoor), a man with a conscience and ability to question his own flaws. In an exact opposite scenario is the quiet marriage of Amit and Anju (Waheeda Rehman). In a twist of fate, the hopeful love of the younger couple, Vicky (Rishi Kapoor) and Pinky (Neetu Singh) brings the two older pairs together. It has the usual elements of romance, drama and entertainment along with poetry, poignance and humour. The performances and music are cherry on top. Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianwi won Filmfare awards for Best Music and Lyrics. Pyaar Kar Liya To Kya remains my favourite capture of the Rishi-Neetu romance. You can’t help but shed a tear when Pooja sings Kabhi Kabhie on her wedding night even as Vijay delicately removes her wedding jewellery. I do wonder about that song though, the definition of consent has walked a considerable distance since.

Chupke Chupke (1975) Netflix Prime

For those feeling trumped and beaten, there is always a fun movie around the corner to watch. Hrishikesh Mukherjee recycled Bengali fare Chhadmabeshi to create Chupke Chupke, an all-time classic comedy for Hindi cinema. Newly married couple Sulekha Chaturvedi (Sharmila Tagore) and Parimal Tripathi (Dharmendra) fool their family, Raghavendra Sharma (Om Prakash) and Sumitra Sharma (Usha Kiron), into believing they are “not married”. Joining the fun of the scheming couple are bumbling Professor Sukumar Sinha (Amitabh Bachchan) and sweet Vasudha Kumar (Jaya Bachchan), navigating their own new romance, and Lata Kumar Srivastav (Lily Chakravarty), Prashant Kumar Srivastav (Asrani) and Haripad Chaturvedi (David). The lyrics and music by Anand Bakshi and S. D. Burman fit in perfectly. Ab Ke Sajan Saawan Mein ticks all boxes of situation, performances, music, lyrics and singing. Sharmila Tagore is devilishly divine. So is the movie. 

Abhimaan (1973) Prime

Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed this compelling take on professional rivalry between a singer couple, Subir (Amitabh Bachchan), professionally successful, and Uma (Jaya Bhaduri), a newly born star. Along the way, his career dives as Uma soars, becoming more successful, throwing Subir into a jealous despair and straining their marriage. A definitive masterpiece, in terms of its subject and ensemble of mature performances. And of course, the terrific music which blended beautifully into the movie, by Sachin Dev Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics

Namak Haraam (1973) Prime

While Anand (1971, also on Prime) is definitely the better known tragi-classic starring Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna, I thought Namak Haraam was more layered and compelling as a subject. Two warring friends are caught amid rising unions of Bombay‘s textile mills and inflation in the early 1970s. Ironically, the two superstars were at opposite ends of their fates and journeys, Khanna handed the success baton to Bachchan unknowingly with this movie. Fresh from the success of Zanjeer, Amitabh had sealed the deal with the audience and together the stars made the 5th highest grossing film of 1973. Khanna’s performance was not in question at all, he excelled as loyal friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) who agrees to help out Vicky (Amitabh Bachchan) and then realises he is on the wrong side of his own ideals after closely experiencing the plight of factory workers. RD Burman’s music was right on note with Diye Jalte Hai, Nadiya Se Dariya and Main Shayar Badnaam and lyrics by Anand Bakshi.

Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) Prime

Salim-Javed’s feminist take on double roles, inspired by Ram Aur Shyam, resulted in Seeta Aur Geeta, Ramesh Sippy’s second directorial venture. Hema Malini landed the role quite by chance after Mumtaz said no. She was a dynamite and an absolute hoot, winning the Filmfare Award for Best Actress that year. A pair of identical twins (played by Hema Malini) lose their parents at birth and are also separated, they are raised by different sets of people and have distinct personalities. When they swap places, fun and madness ensues. For once, both the heroines got the centre stage to do things as she pleased while the men indulged and supported them from the sidelines. Sanjeev Kumar matched Dharmendra, dimple to dimple, charm on charm, both looked dapper, adding their candid take to the comic explosion. 

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women and social equity.

My First Hindi Book: Bringing A Language To The World

Chandni Bhatia’s debut, My First Hindi Book, teaches the basics of India’s beloved national language in a fun, approachable way. The book covers concepts ranging from colors, animals, and numbers in Hindi and English — a perfect way to introduce our ‘maatrabhasha’ to young people all over the world. Chandni’s own experiences of living between two cultures influenced her approach to this book. Though she was born and raised in Delhi, she emigrated to the United States in 2013. Chandni wanted her daughter to appreciate the same language and culture that she had grown up with — but where to start? 

“As a fairly recent immigrant to USA, and the only Hindi speaker in my family, I wanted to teach my daughter Hindi. I started working on this book after giving birth, and realizing that there weren’t many books on the market to help provide young children an early introduction to Hindi.”

The desi diaspora that has characterized generations of immigration is less about leaving India behind; rather, it’s much more about carrying pieces of India with us, no matter where we go. And Chandni Bhatia’s book is a fond reminder of this idea. Her bilingual work offers a simple introduction to a wonderful language, bringing hope to every multicultural household. To find out more about My First Hindi Book, this book is  now available on Amazon.com, Amazon worldwide, and Barnesandnoble.com.

Falguni Pathak Sings for Local Bay Area Charity

This season of Navaratri brings with it garba, dandiya, music, masti, and hordes of Indian Americans ready to celebrate! Traditionally, garba/dandiya is associated with the region of Gujarat, however, all over America, this practice has been adopted by all. Uttar Pradesh Mandal of America (UPMA) is one such local Bay Area organization that has used the love of garba and dandiya for a good cause. On Friday, October 18th, at the San Jose Convention Center, UPMA held a benefit garba, Festival of Life “Dandiya Dhoom”, with world renowned singer, Falguni Pathak. UPMA has used the money they have raised over the past year from such events to build 10 daycare centers in Chitrakoot and helped 15,000 underprivileged women become empowered and get married. I was lucky to attend such an event on Friday October 18th; it was a night of synchronization, music, energy made unforgettable by Falguni Pathak’s infectious energy. 

“Every penny earned [by UPMA] is sent back to India.”

From left to right, Ashish Rastogi, Kiran Pandey, Manju Mishra, Nilu Gupta.

UPMA’s light and energy is sourced from founder, former President, and current Chairperson, Nilu Gupta. Nilu Gupta and Prakash Agrawal co-founded the organization in 2006 when they saw a gap in knowledge and retention of UP culture in the Bay Area.

As a Hindi professor at De Anza Community College, Nilu Ji also runs one of the few college credit Hindi courses in California; she is trying to inspire the next generation of Indian Americans to grasp their native language and keep it alive.

UPMA is not without a team of volunteers and the current president, Ritesh Tandon, is working tirelessly to keep the organization vibrant. Attending events like Festival of Life shows support for Indian culture in the Bay Area and allows us to be civically engaged transcontinentally. To learn more about UPMA, to volunteer, or to find out about upcoming events check out their website http://upmaglobal.org/.

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The Sky is Pink is an Emotional Rollercoaster

Mom: “Why are you crying?”

Son: The teacher scolded me in class.

Mom: Why?

Son: Because I colored the sky pink. She told me it’s blue, not pink. Change it to blue.

Mom (after a short pause): Make the sky whichever color you want to. If your sky is pink, make it pink. Don’t let anyone tell you what color your sky should be.

This is one of the powerful opening scenes that lends this heartfelt film its title. The Sky is Pink is based on a true story about young Aisha (Zaira Wasim), who is suffering from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), a rare genetic disorder in which the body has no immunity to fight any kind of external infection. Most persons born with such a medical condition have almost no hope to live. With no proper cure for the disease in India in the 1980s, the girl’s parents, Aditi (Priyanka Chopra) and Niren (Farhan Akhtar), decide to go from their home in old Delhi to London for her treatment. Through a desi radio show in London, they manage to procure funds from kind listeners to help operate the girl, as a result of which her life is extended by a few years. 

A biopic is a great way to bring awareness about an issue or retell an important story, which would otherwise have remained unknown, unnoticed, or forgotten amid the pacing annals of time. The film’s director, Los Angeles based Shonali Bose, has dealt with the subject of maladies earlier as well—most recently with her 2014 romantic drama Margarita with a Straw, about a teenager with cerebral palsy, based on the life of her disability-rights-activist cousin Malini Chib. In that sense, the theme seems a little repetitive. However, while The Sky… feels more mainstream Bollywood than her previous film (with a bigger star cast and shoot locations that move seamlessly between old havelis of Chandni Chowk to metropolitan London and posh farmhouses of Chattarpur), it’s equally sensitive in its treatment. Bose’s inspiration to make the film was the crumbling of her marriage that happened after she lost her own 16 year old son, Ishan. Bose said in an interview that Ayesha’s real-life parents, Niren and Aditi Chaudhary, asked her to make a film on their daughter after she died, and added that it was Ayesha’s dying wish to watch Margarita with a Straw

Through strong performances by the lead pair, the film manages to capture well the angst and frustration of the parents who are perpetually struggling to keep their daughter alive, while trying to earn a livelihood to pay for all her expensive medications. In one scene, Aditi has an anxiety attack as she is unable to sleep for days—which seems very real for someone who is faced with such a stressful situation. Added to this, is the brave front they have to constantly put up in front of their children to always keep them cheerful and optimistic.

The Sky… is a ‘comeback film’ of sorts for PC, who returns to Bollywood after a hiatus of three years, during which she went through several significant life events, such as working on the international TV show Quantico, starring in Hollywood films, and getting married. The collective experiences seem to have lent maturity to her acting, and she plays the role of a mother to two teenagers convincingly well. Dangal girl, Zaira Wasim, too delivers a power-packed performance as the ailing Aisha, who despite her illness, is just like any other girl her age—nursing heartbreak, falling in love and wanting to live. It’s sad that the talented actor recently decided to quit acting, making this her last film—and giving audiences another reason to watch it.

Here’s what I thought The Sky… missed. The film fails to address the larger issue of the complexity of the family’s situation getting further complicated had the socioeconomic indicators differed. In this case, the family had some financial issues in the beginning. But with the support of donations and the privileges of education and property, they surmount the financial challenges through career progression. What do families with no financial means do under such circumstances? Does society or the government support them in the eventual choice they make? Unlike western economies, the Indian state does not provide any long-term financial assistance or support to such persons. 

Nevertheless, even when they know that time is running out for their daughter, they hope against hope (as any parent would), and decide to make all her dreams true—whether it’s in the form of holidays, pets, or crushes—in the short lifespan that she has left. The bittersweet takeaway is loud and clear. Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

THE SKY IS PINK. 2019. Director: Shonali Bose. Screenplay: Shonali Bose, Juhi Chaturvedi. Players: Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar, Zaira Wasim. Hindi and English. Distributed by RSVP Movies, Roy Kapur Films and Purple Pebble Pictures.

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in New Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. You can read all her published work on www.nehakirpal.wordpress.com.

This article was edited by Culture and Media Editor Geetika Pathania Jain.

Photo credit: The Sky is Pink facebook page.

 

Exclusive Interview With Director of Photograph

An interview with Ritesh Batra, the writer and director of Photograph, where he kindly assures Geetika Pathania Jain three times that she is not being too fanciful, and discusses the characters and their motivations:

Geetika Pathania Jain: Thank you for this exclusive interview with India Currents. Excited about your upcoming film Photograph. I had the honor and the pleasure of reviewing The Lunchbox and I was struck by some of the authorial signatures that I’m starting to see in your films. Certainly Mumbai appears to be your muse (or maybe it’s Bombay) with its colonial architecture and its chawls and teeming poverty. Any comments on why Mumbai inspires you so much?

Ritesh Batra: I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about it myself. I do love the city. I grew up there. I was there till I was eighteen. I really loved how it used to be. And that kind of finds its way when I’m writing something. And especially with this movie, I wanted to get back to my own writing, to get back to directing my own writing. Yeah, so it also has a lot of nostalgia in it, just like The Lunchbox did, so I really come to it from a place of nostalgia.

You know when it used to be Bombay, when I was growing up, someone in the twenties now —  I’m in my late 30s — but someone in their twenties now would be able to make a movie about Mumbai now, but my movies are more about people who are going through the city with a certain degree of nostalgia, which sometimes blends in and sometimes stands out from what their journey is, but it had a big impact on who they are.

GPJ: I see a more positive view of the city in this film (compared to The Lunchbox). I’m not sure if you agree with me that even though we do have Tiwariji who has been crushed by the city, but can I recall Mr. Fernandez (Irrfan Khan of The Lunchbox) and how these individuals who have been crushed by the city but yet they seem to endure and find ways to carry on. A message of alienation in this film or am I reading too much into it?

Got ten minutes? Here is the complete interview with Ritesh Batra:

 

PHOTOGRAPH (2019). Director: Ritesh Batra. Screenplay: Ritesh Batra, Emeara Kamble. Players: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sanya Malhotra, Farrukh Jaffar, Jim Sarbh, Vijay Raaz. Hindi with English sub-titles. Amazon Studios.

Geetika Pathania Jain, Ph.D. is Culture and Media Editor at India Currents.

The Parent Trap

The Parent Trap

HINDI MEDIUM: Director: Saket Chaudhary. Players: Irfan Khan, Saba Qamar, Amrita Singh, Deepak Dobriyal, Sanjay Suri, Neha Dhupia.  Music: Sachin-Jigar. Hindi and Eng. with Eng. sub-titles. Theatrical release (T Series)Irfan Khan and Saba Qamar

The right job. The right address. The right school. For some cognizanti, there are hallmarks of success. In the peculiar form of Indian affluenza, however, a couple of other idioms can also be tossed in. Borrowing from both Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee’s Bengali entry Ramdhanu (2014) and also Rajesh Nair’s Malayalam language comedy Salt Mango Tree (2015), Chaudhary and company spin the same theme to come up with a sharp satire of India’s education system and also the tools for equal opportunity embedded therein to level the field for more applicants.

For successful Delhi dress shop owner Raj Batra (Khan) and his wife Meeta (Qamar), the chase to enroll their four-year old daughter to the right school is in full gear. The daughter is academically gifted and, provided they land a coveted spot on the admission list, the couple can easily afford any of the top-rated schools. This should be a slam dunk. Not so fast. Why so, the Batras ask the admissions “coach” hired to chaperone them through the cut-throat jungle of competitive pre-school —yes, pre-school and not high school let alone college admissions. The teensy problem is that the Batras’ shop is located in Chandni Chowk, a famed, teeming old Delhi neighborhood which happens to fail the “criteria” the top-rated schools desire in Indian zip codes for where they recruit from.

The Batras find themselves in a social minefield trip-wired with landmines comprised of judgmental playground tart-mommies and show-off party attendees whose weapon of choice is accusatory, disapproving visual darts.  The Batras’ limited command of English is used against them as amounting to not only a necessity for communication in the modern world—which it truly is—but even more heavily as a moral flaw. For wannabe social ladder climbers, this is precisely the doctrine the British used against Indians when mandating English-first on sub-continent curriculums in the 19th century; that the Indians could not be considered “civilized” if they were to only use their indigenous languages. Thumbing its nose at that very notion, therefore, makes the brilliantly self-reliant title Hindi Medium, and not English Medium, sparkle even more.

The Batras’ greatest “shortcoming” is not where they live or how they dress but it is their limited command of English.  India has by far the largest number of half-English speakers in the world, thanks to its colonial legacy. Many Indians routinely weave in and out of English interspersed with a local language and knowing even a few words of English can rightfully be a source of pride for them. Maddening as that can sound, it is essentially a charm Indians use to open up their country to outsiders—indeed, no tourist with even a rudimentary grasp of English would ever get lost in India or be made to feel unwelcome in asking for directions.  That is the Indian spirit at its raw best—adapt or adopt, mingle and move on.

So how does a family cope? Can one move to a more desirable locale? That would have commuting pitfalls for sure.  Can one overcome the mean, iron-fisted headmistress (Singh) who controls admissions at one school?  The dimming chances of successfully assailing the awkward yet mandatory “interview” required of applicant parents could put chances of landing admission fair to middling at best and disastrous at worst. Can one find a way to apply through the interview-free quota system used to encourage economically disadvantaged students to apply? As funny as that could be, mind you, it could just spiral into an unintended yet perhaps telling experiment in downward social mobility.  For the Batras, the angry gods have laid out a meticulously perfect and cruel parent trap.

In superb lead, Khan is all fidgety with his English diction and provincial mannerism while Qamar, a Pakistani beauty making her Indian debut, nails the neurotic urbanite intent on outshining all her poser so-called girlfriends. Singh as the dowdy schoolmarm and especially Dobriyal as the factory worker that may impart for Raj a lesson in humility round out a fine cast.  With Sachin-Jigar’s decent score—check out Atif Aslam’s romantic “Noor” and Guru Randhawa and Arjun’s catchy “Suit Suit” —and tremendous plot pacing, Hindi Medium rekindles all the insightful, observant and fun reasons for going to the movies.

EQ: A
Globe trekker, aesthete, photographer, ski bum, film buff, and commentator, Aniruddh Chawda writes from Milwaukee.