Monthly Archives: November 2009

Kavita Ramdya at the SOS Children’s Villages Charity Event on Desiclub.com

Check out coverage of Kavita Ramdya at the SOS Children’s Villages Charity Event on Desiclub.com or read below.

On Monday the 23rd of November 2009, Kavita Ramdya awarded a pre-ordered copy of her book “Bollywood Weddings” at a silent auction and raffle for SOS Children’s Villages, an organisation which provides shelter and support to orphan children worldwide, at Indali Lounge in Marylebone. Funds raised will go towards building and installing a water purifier in Bhopal, India. Festivities included canapés and drinks, a designer fashion show by Nayna, and live music by DJ Nad. The evening concluded with a silent auction and raffle. South-Asian entrepreneuers Leo Lourdes and Mandy Jhamat donated, respectively, one Neuro Linguistic Programming session at Futureminded and a make-over by Beauty-into-Bloom.

Thanks to Indali Lounge, designer Falak Amaar, DJ Nak, make-up artists Aisha Khokhar from Gloss & Blush and Reena Ondhia from MidnightSparkle, photography service Capturise Photography and emcee Jay Kumar along with Leo Lourdes and Mandy Jhamat for their charitable donations.

For more information about this event, please e-mail contact@bollywood-weddings.com or visit http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/

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Kavita Ramdya’s “Bollywood Weddings” soft launch with Jacqueline Fernandez at Satya Paul & Deepika Gehani Maya Fashion Show in “Miss India Magazine”

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Click here to check out coverage of the Maya Fashion show and soft launch of Kavita Ramdya’s “Bollywood Weddings” at Mint Leaf Restaurant in “Miss India Magazine”, “News India Times“, “Mayfair Times” and “Delhi Times”.

On the 22nd of November 2009, writer Kavita Ramdya soft launched her book “Bollywood Weddings” at Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar where top Indian fashion designers Satya Paul and Deepika Gehani from the house of Genesis Colors were joined by Guest of Honour Jacqueline Fernandez, Miss Sri Lanka 2006 and star of the new Bollywood film “Aladin” with Amitabh Bachchan, in staging a fashion show. Festvities included a three-course meal and cocktails, magician, live deejay, and a fashion show entitled “Maya”, displaying Paul and Gehani’s fall/winter 2009 collections.
Left to right: Jacqueline Fernandez (Miss Shri Lanka 2006 and star of Bollywood movie “Aladin”), Sanjay Kapoor (Managing Director of Satya Paul), and Kavita Ramdya (author of “Bollywood Weddings”)

Although the crowd was a diverse one, the theme for the evening was fashion through and through. Chapter 3 of Kavita Ramdya’s book “Bollywood Weddings” examines four disparate bridal outfits worn by Indian-American Hindu brides at their weddings including a white Caroline Herrera gown, a red dress from Macy’s, a custom-made gold outfit based on a lengha seen in a Bollywood film, and a traditional red-and-white South Indian wedding sari. Many of Paul and Gehani’s designs were created as wedding ware either for the bride herself or guests. The colorful nature of Indian bridal clothing took a whole new level of meaning with the designers’ inspiration which came from the concept of “maya”, or the illusory world, as conveyed through the use of colors on the fabric as if refracted through a prism.
Left to right: Kavita Ramdya (author of “Bollywood Weddings”) and Anjali Guptara (Mint Leaf)

Thanks to Mr. Dinesh and Anjali Guptara at Mint Leaf Restaurant & Bar for hosting the event and Sohail Anjum at “Asiana Magazine” for the photography.

For more information about this event, please e-mail contact@bollywood-weddings.com or visit www.bollywood-weddings.com

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“Glee for Glee” by Kavita Ramdya (TV review of Fox show “Glee”)

Glee I can’t help it: I’m a self-confessed “Glee” fanatic. It’s the best show on TV… in my humble opinion. “Glee” is ironic, smart and totally entertaining. While watching “Glee”, I’m always listening for how the dialogue is going to create an opening for a musical number. I love how the cast breaks into song and dance to express teenage angst. Who knows, maybe my appreciation for “Glee” stems from my childhood watching Bollywood movies with my parents…

Click here to read Kavita Ramdya’s review of the FOX show “Glee“.

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“Glee for Glee” by Kavita Ramdya in “News India Times” Nov. 27, 2009

Imagine my surprise when I learned that “Glee”, the funniest and smartest show on television, is a Fox production. The show’s writers take repetitive high school stereotypes much abused in prime-time television and portrays these archetypes in so heavy-handed and hyperbolic a manner that the TV viewer is forced to laugh at the ridiculousness of how teenagers are portrayed in mainstream media. Irony abounds in “Glee”, differentiating it from its peers (e.g. “The Hills”) and predecessors (e.g. “The OC”, “Beverly Hills 90210”).

“Glee” contains the requisite characters necessary for a popular high school comedy including the dumb but well-mannered jock, bitchy cheerleader, goody-two-shoes, punk, flamboyant homosexual, and bossy loud mouth just to name a few. What unites these disparate characters is their membership in and commitment to their show choir, the Glee Club.  These teenagers are unique: they sing and dance like it’s nobody’s business.

Teenagers get a bad rap in mainstream media news, and Fox is no exception. On both sides of the Atlantic, adolescents are in the news for gang and drug-related crime, binge drinking, less-than-average math skills, and teenage pregnancies as a result of pre-marital sex.

“Glee”, on the other hand, celebrates the fact that teenagers “are people too”, not solely bumbling bags of hormones jostling around in human form. Instead, adolescents are what cute babies grow into and are at the awkward larval stage of the beautiful butterfly’s development: one day they will blossom into productive citizens. As revealed by President Barak Obama in his first autobiography “Dreams From my Father”, he, too, was once a teenager. He seems to have turned out okay.

The show’s writers adapt familiar high-school sitcom story lines like the dumb jock torn between dating the catty cheerleader versus the sincere nerdette and the gay teenager on the verge of coming out. However, the scenes are interspersed with short, pithy singing and dancing routines that highlight the confused, exaggerated, and totally nonsensical existence that characterizes one’s high-school years.

Whether you’re the dumb jock, catty cheerleader, sincere nerdette or flaming homosexual, the American high school experience more closely resembles fumbling and tripping through a funhouse for four years rather than smooth sailing from Freshman year homeroom to Graduation Day. The path to adulthood is not a clear one and requires navigation, presumably with the help of adults: parents and teachers. Herein lies the show’s commentary on the American family unit and the role educators play (or fail to play) for their students.

Parents are practically invisible in “Glee”. Finn, the star quarterback, briefly mentions that his mother has advised him to quit doing his homework so he can relax more (time which Finn uses to play video games). Kurt, the flamboyant soprano, comes out to his father who gets less than ten minutes of air time on one episode in the current first season. Beyond these two instances, not much more surfaces in the way of parents guiding and offering ethical, moral, educational and professional direction for their teenage sons and daughters.

Teachers and coaches, on the other hand, play a far more active role for Glee Club members. Mr. Schuester, McKinley High School’s Spanish teacher and director of Glee Club, and Ms. Sylvester, the cheerleading squad’s coach, are the two adults who play the most prominent roles in the teenagers’ lives. Considering how much time high school students spend in class and after-school activities coupled with their double-income parents’ long commutes and high-stress careers which often take them away from spending time with their family, “Glee” reasonably portrays how much more an active role teachers and coaches play in the day-to-day lives of teenagers.

Which is all the more reason why it is essential that parents, administrators and instructors alike recognise and embrace the fact that teachers and coaches inadvertently take on an unofficial responsibility of acting as mentors and role models for teenagers.

However, Mr. Schuester and Ms. Sylvester fail to live up to any standards of adult decorum. The two insult one another in front of their students, shout at each other in front of the principal, volleyball insults back and forth, and pit students against one another. Ms. Sylverster insidiously implants seeds of dissent in Glee Club members by suggesting that Mr. Schuester is racist. “Glee” not only admits but also confronts the fact that racial prejudices abound in American high schools, a phenomenon other high school shows are loath to admit. Additionally, “Glee” illuminates how adults are complicit in creating a toxic atmosphere for students who are ethnic, religious, handicapped, or gay.

“Glee” is not the first example of modern popular culture to expose the challenges in navigating one’s way through adolescence, the emotionally and psychologically damaging role adults can inadvertently play in adolescents’ lives and the unofficial responsibility educators and school administrators have in guiding students morally and ethically in addition to providing the mandatory science, math, and history lessons.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to see the Tony-award winning Broadway and West End rock musical adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s late nineteenth-century play “Spring Awakening”. While a student at New York University, I read the original play in my German Literature class (in its English translation!) and was blown away by the honest and critical approach Wedekind takes in his morality play about school kids whose well being are only second thoughts for parents and teachers in their attempt to preserve customs, traditions and, selfishly, their own reputations.

Who knew Fox would manifest itself as the contemporary Wedekind, critiquing the widespread mis-education of high school students as a result of President George W. Bush’s support of abstinence programs? The prominent story line in “Glee” is how the President of McKinley High School’s celibacy club and head cheerleader Quinn, in a drunken stupor, has sex with her quarterback boyfriend’s best friend, resulting in an unwanted pregnancy. Quinn desperately lies to Finn, her cuckold of a boyfriend, and tells him that their make-out session in a hot tub is what baked the bread in her oven. In an attempt to highlight Finn’s gullibility as well as widespread ignorance due to a lack of sex education as a result of eight years of emphasis on abstinence as a viable solution against the spread of STDs, AIDS and unwanted pregnancy, Finn is duped by his girlfriend and accepts her explanation when she tells him that the warm water in the hot tub somehow facilitated his semen entering and impregnating her.

Strong writing, social critique and sexual politics aside, “Glee” is also an exceptional show purely for its entertainment value. The dialogue is hilarious, characters are caricatures, and the intertwining plots momentous. However, let’s not forget the final ingredient which differentiates the show from its equally-exceptional peers such as AMC’s “Mad Men” and ABC’s “Cougar Town”. The TV viewer waits with anticipation for when the Glee Club, without any rhyme or reason, breaks into song and dance sequences much like the stars in a Bollywood movie. And, as in Bollywood films where the leading man and lady are suddenly transported to the green mountains of Switzerland, characters in “Glee” may suddenly find themselves transported from their lockers to the football field. The talent put into “Glee” is not limited to its writers and actress Jane Lych’s comedic relief but also includes the singing and dancing talents of the innocently corrupt members of McKinley High School’s Glee Club.

Kavita Ramdya is author of “Bollywood Weddings: Dating, Engagement and Marriage in Hindu America” www.bollywood-weddings.com

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“Divorcer a l’anglaise comme un musulman”

I got a kick out of reading this French blog posting about a letter I wrote to the “Financial Times” in response to Dr. Suhaib Hasan’s first-person article “I’m a sharia judge” (a friend translated the entry for me). I think this woman carrying the sharia law text book is supposed to be me!

http://www.bollywood-weddings.com/Home.html

Dr. Suhaib Hasan’s “I’m a sharia judge” (Sep. 19, 2009)

Kavita Ramdya’s “Muslim women’s right to happiness under threat” (Sep. 26, 2009)

Blogger’s “Divorcer a l’anglaise comme un musulman” (Sep. 26, 2009)

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“An Alien Artist” (profile of Saad Quereshi)

A few weeks ago I attended the opening of Saad Quereshi’s group show at Aicon Gallery London. Saad is a young, Pakistani-English artist whose highly-conceptual work is both rigorous and well crafted. He was extremely grateful for his parents’ support of him pursuing a career in art which I found endearing.

Click here to read Kavita Ramdya’s article “An Alien Artist”, a profile of artist Saad Quereshi.

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“News India Times” November 20, 2009

“An Alien Artist” by Kavita Ramdya

Saad Qureshi is easy to pick out in a crowd. At “Wound”, an Aicon Gallery group show, Saad sticks out: he wears immaculately-white high-top sneakers two sizes too big for his feet. Saad’s sneakers are the discerning feature of his “artist costume”, an outfit that must have taken him a week of internal to-ing and fro-ing plus phone conversations with friends for him to pull together. He wears the multiple layers indicative of his current status as an art graduate student at University College London’s Slade School of Fine Art including a white shirt, red tie, purple cardigan and black jacket. His hair is tussled and he isn’t clean shaven, giving him the appearance of looking disoriented from having just left his art studio for the first time in days.

The young Pakistani artist furtively scans the gallery while speaking to friends, family and associates, giving the feeling that he is half present in all his conversations. However, when speaking with him, I have his full attention. What I quickly realize is that for all his posturing as iconoclast, he is not immune to the guilt young South Asians feel over rejecting more practical vocational choices (e.g. law, medicine, business) for embarking on a creative career as an artist. Saad describes how his parents, although initially unsupportive of his artistic interests, started to come around when his school teacher, Mrs. Robinson, explained to them that Saad was a “chosen one”. Now, he continues, his “parents are 200% behind me” and “would do anything to help me in my career”. Saad’s parents surface again and again, so much so that I begin to feel like I am his shrink rather than an Arts Op-Ed columnist. Alternatively, and I wouldn’t put it past Saad whose youth is a powerful cover-up for his shrewdness, he may be planting material on me that he knows a South-Asian reading audience subscribing to “News India Times” would find endearing.

Saad Qureshi, despite his formulaic style and earnest concern for his parents’ approval, is an exceptional conceptual artist. Not only is his work well-crafted and of the highest standard of quality, but its themes and concerns are relevant and timely. When he tells me that he works constantly and needs to be coerced into leaving the 24-hour art studio to eat and sleep, I am not surprised. His work is the conceptualisation of issues of immigration, terrorism, and victimhood, all as current as the daily e-mail alerts I receive from the “New York Times” and “Washington Post”.

Qureshi has two qualities that will stand him in good stead as he moves forward in his career. First, he is prolific. Second, his work is a response to his personal experiences as a young Pakistani growing up in the suburbs. However, these personal themes reverberate on a global scale: the alienation and marginalization he captures in his sculptures and on the canvas also speak to the current political climate with regard to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the proliferation of racism.

Jagroop Mehta, the gallery’s Sales Associate, explains how a collection of black, life-sized alien figure sculptures symbolize marginalized societies. On a more personal level, the black sculptures refer to the artist’s adolescence while living in the suburbs, where he felt like an outsider. When I ask Qureshi about his tribe-of-aliens sculptures, he refers to Frantz Fanon, a black, mid-twentieth-century French post-colonial philosopher whose writing serves as the intellectual backbone in Qureshi’s own work. Fanon discusses how the “other” is only a different version of oneself. After learning the intellectual underpinning of Qureshi’s work, I silently applauded his ability to inspire repulsion and intrigue in the viewers of his sculpture collection. He successfully mirrors the viewer’s own grotesqueness by drawing his or her attention to the quality of the “other” in his works.

In addition to the alien-like sculptures, a collection of Qureshi’s “edge paintings” are in the show. From a distance, the pieces look like fresh, egg-white canvases waiting for the artist’s attention. However, upon closer viewing, Qureshi has meticulously painted, drawn, and “scrap-booked” in marginalized figures on the edges, where the canvas bunches up and threatens to be overlooked rather than on the smooth, white, fresh surface. The scrap-book nature of the canvas’ edges is a result of Qureshi’s use of multi- media. Along with drawing and painting on the canvas’ edges, he also utilizes photographs and currency to convey concepts around “the other”.

When asked why he refrained from utilizing the medium of the canvas in a traditional way, Qureshi describes his frustration with painting: “I felt restricted, like painting was a limited medium… I discovered the edge of the canvas instead.” He goes on to describe his images threaten to “slip off the canvas” and Qureshi’s role as the artist is to “catch these images before they fall into oblivion”. Niru Ratnam, the gallery’s curator, describes how despite Qureshi’s age (he is not yet twenty-four years old), the artist’s installation works “are conceptually very well developed”. The use of Fanon and Qureshi’s ability to discuss his work on a theoretical level are testaments of the thought process he puts into his art.

Ivan, an art student enrolled in the same program Qureshi is finishing his studies, rejects the notion that his friend is a painter. Instead, Ivan describes Qureshi as a “designer” who “arranges things”, designing canvases like Tom Ford would “designer jeans”. Although on the face of it, Ivan’s comments might seem unfriendly, in the context of looking at Qureshi’s painstakingly-detailed work, one quickly realizes how much of his art is based on the conscientious placement of details.

Clearly a workaholic, Qureshi is managing well during a defining moment in his young career. Currently his work is showing in a well-respected gallery while he is still completing the final year of his Master’s degree. Finally he has just finished filming what I am guessing is a reality television show on BBC2. Throughout the private viewing of “Wound”, my ears pricked when scattered associates referred to a television production of some sort which incorporates various young artists including Qureshi. The production is not meant to be public, but then artists are not known for their ability to keep secrets.

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