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Desis in Entertainment: Box office results for June movies with high desi quotient, Nipa update on The Next Food Network Star

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How did June movies with some desis in them do?
Based on number for BoxOfficeMojo:
1. “Get Smart” released this weekend, features Dalip Singh a.k.a The Great Khali in the role of the main villain’s bodyguard, who the hero (Steve Carrell) later befriends.
Verdict: Big opening week. Probably a medium level box office hit. Desi Quotient: Upgraded to 2 out of 5 with the increased role for Dalip Singh.
2. Which brings us to our next movie, “Love Guru”.
Verdict: Poor opening weekend. Probably a flop at the box office. Desi Quotient: 5 out of 5.
3. “The Happening” continued a surprising box office run staying the top 5 for the second week in a row.
Verdict: Given the negative publicity and panning by MSM critics, it will probably end up as one of the surprise hits of the year. Desi Quotient: Downgraded to 2 out of 5. Shyamalan needs to employ more desi actors :-)
4. “The Brick Lane” was released only in 7 theaters and made $50,000 an average of over $7000 a theaters. By comparison, “Love Guru” made only $4,648 per theater.
Verdict: Call me biased but this movie needs to hit more theaters across the nation. Desi Quotient: Being that it’s entirely based on the life of a Bangladeshi immigrant in London, 5 out of 5.
5. “The Fall” released at the beginning of June is still out in the theaters. I’ve not watched this movie yet but have heard of its stunning visuals and cinematography. Directed by Tarsem Singh, it also stars Jeetu Verma in a prominent role.
Verdict: Being that it’s such a niche movie, it’s really hard to classify it as a box office hit or flop. Word on the blogosphere is that it’s definitely worth checking out. Desi Quotient: Desi director + desi actor in prominent role + stunning visuals including some desi locales = 4 out of 5.

Anyone know of any July release with high desi quotients?

Was Nipa eliminated on “The Next Food Network Star”?
Nipa had a week from hell. Asked to shoot a video for cleaning squid, she was unable to do it because it was out of her area of expertise. The next challenge was making a fish dish and another dish out of grapefruit. After making a big fuss over touching fish, Nipa’s food turned out well, surprisingly. However, during her presentation she burst out into impromptou session of what she called “Bollywood Dancing”. Given that her audience were military personnel, it did not go down well with some of them. Nipa was eliminated. The Next Food Network Star won’t be cooking Indian food anytime soon.
However, if some Indian cuisine chefs (and other also) want to learn from Nipa’s experiences here’s a few pointers:
1. Mr/Ms. Friendly – Create a warm and friendly image. While it’s good to appear confident, it can easily be mistaken for cockiness.
2. Face time, face time, face time – Practice with the camera all you can. Practice talking to the camera while you cook. Practice presenting your dishes to the camera everyday. Be creative and witty without overdoing it.
3. Spin yarns – It is not simply enough if you describe what you’re making and how to do it. Try relating the food with some childhood experiences and family anecdotes. If you’re cooking some new fare like Indian cuisine, some history on the food will also be appreciated.
4. Minority reports – If you’re from a “minority” (in the US) background, speak about it. Audiences and judges love hearing that kind of stuff.
5. Culinary expertise – Even if you are an Indian cuisine chef, food network execs want to know how you can translate it to an American audience. Making a potato curry with rice and naan won’t work every week. You have to be able to make entrees with meats and seafood and appetizers with some sauces.

Hoping to see more Indian cuisine chefs on “The Food Network” soon.

  • Author: Santosh
  • Published: Jun 23rd, 2008
  • Category: Opinion
  • Comments: Comments Off

The Love Guru central: Were the protests misguided?

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Does the movie “Love Guru” pick on Hinduism? It does use some references to some elements of Hindu origin but there are no direct references to the religion or any gods. Rajan Zed, leader of the protesting Hindus in the US, finally purchased a ticket and watched the movie.
[News Track India]

On the other hand, guru in “The Love Guru” instigates a bar fight, repeatedly narrates penis jokes, mocks yoga (one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy), wears female jewelry, mocks the concept of third eye, makes disciples drink tea passed through his nose, orders alligator soup, induces elephant copulation in front of the crowd, introduces himself as “His Holiness”, lives in a lavish ashram staffed with scantily clad maids, and whose goal in life seems to appear on Oprah Winfrey show, Zed said.

Rajan Zed – crying wolf or just misguided
img: via News Track India

Guru is hardly a Hindu word anymore. It may be derived from Sanskrit but after worldwide usage in various contexts and its inclusion in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary does not stand to indicate “guru” in the traditional Hindu sense. Same goes for the movie. The Guru in the movie, is a guru on eastern philosophy schooled in India, not a Hindu guru. Similarly, in this day and age, we hear the word “guru” being used in various fields – software, philosophy, finance. Why can’t there be a guru for love, or even sex, for that matter? Zed’s argument is based on the concept of the word “guru” representing a Hindu. That train left the station in the last century.

There are some valid points in here. The intro shows Guru Pitka in various contortionist yogic stances including one with his head up his posterior. There is also a scene featuring the third eye, which Guru Pitka can open up in anyone at any time to hold them hostage. “Yoga” it can be argued on Zed’s behalf is one of the basic tenets of Hinduism and the “third eye” in particular could be construed to represent Shiva. But when Zed starts protesting on irrelevant points like “wears female jewelery”, that’s when you lose interest in what he has to say. What’s wrong with a man wearing female jewelery? Such borderline misogynistic remarks make it sound like Zed is nitpicking or was having a really bad day. Perhaps after watching the movie and finding it was more of a Deepak Chopra spoof than one on Hinduism, Zed found it hard to go back on this elaborate “We’re offended” platform he had already built.

“Love Guru” the movie makes fun of everything – yoga, third eye, pachyderm intimacy, human intimacy, little people, phalluses, Oprah, Chopra, Hollywood celebrities, Bollywood, metal ballads, Canadians – the list is long. Not that making fun of everything justifies picking on a religion but the fact is that the connections to Hinduism, the religion, are tenuous at best. “Love Guru” is basically a parody of Deepak Chopra and the brand of Eastern philosophy he preaches. “Hindu” and “Hinduism” are never referred to in the movie but “Eastern”, “philosophy” and “India” are. Sure, some people with no knowledge of Hinduism might confuse the latter to represent the former, but I certainly didn’t expect Rajan Zed, the self proclaimed leader of Hindus in the US, to do the same.

Which brings us to one of two conclusions:
A. The protests were misguided.
B. The protesters are crying wolf.

Please share your thoughts and opinions in the space below and keep it clean.

The Love Guru Central: The movie review

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In our continuing coverage of the movie “Love Guru”, we have some posts left including the review of the movie itself, our opinions on whether the movie was really as offensive as self proclaimed leader of the Hindus, Rajan Zed, proclaimed it to be and, perhaps, another surprise post ***hint***. All these post will feature under the section titled “The Love Guru Central:” for obvious reasons. Presenting the first post in out “Love Guru Central”, a broad review of the movie.

The Love Guru has Austin Powers Mike Myers exchanging his retro 60s suit in favor of saffron robes and a beard. The movie is full of juvenile jokes including a liberal dosage of references to the male anatomy. So if that kind of stuff offends you, I suggest you give this review (and the movie) a miss.

Pitka and Rajneesh
img: via Winnipeg Sun

I watched “Love Guru” Friday night with my wife. In the movie, Myers plays Pitka, a Deepak Chopra wannabe, whose life revolves around wanting to be on Oprah so he can be the next Chopra. Yes, there are a couple Oprah-Chopra jokes thrown in for good measure. Pitka preaches with power point presentations, has a penchant for trademarking his own teachings and writing self-help books for every life situation with Sooraj Barjatya and Karan Johar ish nomenclature, “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Think Again” and “I Know You Are, but What Am I?” for instance.

Pitka lives in a massive Beverly Hills ashram, surrounded by desi women assistants dressed like the apsaras of yore, glides across the room in a motorized carpet and greets his followers with a “Mariska Hargitay”, Pitka’s version of “namaste”. His followers include Hollywood stars like Jessica Simpson, Val Kilmer and the real Mariska Hargitay. Pitka with his multi-colored robes, beard and jewelery himself looks like a bastardized version of Osho crossed with Govinda and Sean Puffy Combs.

Growing up, Pitka and Deepak Chopra were fellow students in Tugginmypudha ashram under the cross-eyed tutelage of Guru Tugginmypudha, who went cross-eyed from … well …. tugginhispudha. Guru Tugginmypudha played favorites with Chopra and made Pitka fight with brooms soaked in urine, drink tea snorted out his nostril and wear a chastity belt. Ben Kingsley as Guru Tugginmypudha, is only mildly amusing, perhaps an attempt to break free off the other Indian role that made him famous. Other points to note, Deepak Chopra as a young adult is played by his son, Gotham Chopra.

Alba can Bollywood dance, but can she act?
img: via Filmiholic

Jessica Alba is Jane Bullard, reluctant owner of the ice hockey team Toronto Maple Leafs. Alba features in yet another flat performance to go with “Good Luck Chuck” and all the lackluster roles she’s done of late. However of desi interest is the couple of love duets between Jane and Pitka. There is a “Nadiya Kinare” (which I should know but am unable to pinpoint) song 60s Bollywood-ishtyle scratchy recording and all. I remember watching his sequence and thinking to myself, perhaps this movie would’ve had a little more pizzazz had they gone all out on the classic 60s Bollywood-ishtyle.

Jane recruits Pitka to motivate her star player, who lost his mojo after his wife left him for the goalie of the Los Angeles Kings, Jacques Grande, whose claim to fame is a grande phallus. Justin Timberlake is fairly amusing in this role as the big phallused Celine Dion loving afro and mustache wearing French-Canadian.

Manu Narayan of Bombay Dreams fame, plays Pitka’s sidekick and conscience, Rajneesh, which oh-so-conveniently is the namesake of another erstwhile Indian sex guru (in case you missed the connection). Some of their scenes are hilarious particularly the sitar versions of “More than words” by Extreme (one of my favorite numbers of all time) left the audience rolling in the aisles. One small grouse about Manu Narayan, he needs to work on his “Indian accent” in these kind of roles. Narayan’s role unfortunately does not leave much room for histrionics, save a little bit of face time.

Bollywood style song and dance routines
img: via yahoo!

At this point you start to realize that with this supporting cast the movie is looking flat. Enter the true supporting stars of the movie – Verne Troyer a.k.a Mini Me and Stephen Colbert. Verne Troyer plays Punch Cherkov, the foul mouthed coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs and in the scenes between him and Pitka you start to see the carry-over of the chemistry of the Austin Powers-Dr. Evil-Mine Me combo. Colbert plays a recovering drug addict ice hockey sportcaster playing color commentator to his fellow Mr. Obvious commentator.

The following section of this post also reflects some of the trivia that my wife was able to translate for me from her American POV. The movie has a lot of inside jokes that people may start to latch on to as the DVD comes out and you start watching it again and again. The hero shows a propensity to randomly burst out singing and dancing, Bollywood-ishtyle. But of course, you would have to have watched Bollywood movies to latch on to that fact. Pitka is a walking talking spoof of Deepak Chopra himself, including the accent and the slow deliberate way Chopra talks. Then again, you would have to have watched a video clip of Deepak Chopra to know that. Again you would have to be familiar with Hindi and Punjabi slang to know what Tugginmypudha means. Similarly you would have to be well versed in American pop-culture nut to understand the references to Mariska Hargitay, Law and Order: SVU and Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5″ in particular.

I’m sure there are a few more jokes in there I did not catch. As for the movie itself, it’s funny in parts and mercifully short (less than an hour and a half by my estimates). The movie is full of stupid jokes and juvenile toilet humor but even my wife who is not a big fan of the Austin power’s movie, found it cute. If you like Mike Myers and his Austin Powers movie, this one is definitely worth a dekko.

Coming soon:
My take on whether the movie is really offensive to Hindus and another surprise post.

Love is having to say you’re sari: Jessica Alba

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June Hollywood releases of desi interest (Update)

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I can’t remember the last time Hollywood released back-to-back summer blockbuster movies with such high desi quotients. [Detroit Free Press blogs]

1. The Happening by M. Night Shyamalan: Another thriller flick by Shyamalan, this one has an apocalyptic storyline, ala Shyamalan’s 2002 flick, Signs.Unfortunately, after bursting onto big-time Hollywood, with The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan’s movies have been largely criticized for lacking variety. Shyamlan contends this is because movie marketers try to recapture his Sixth Sense feel to movies, even if his movies were based on different concepts [NYT]. Unfortunately for Shyamalan, this movie comes out the same weekend as The Hulk. Will it rise above the Hulk or get crushed by it? Stay tuned. Desi quotient: 2.5 out of 5

2. The Love Guru: We’ve extensively discussed the pros and cons of the Love Guru on this blog. The Love Guru features Mike Myers as a guru brought up in an Indian ashram dispensing love advice. Besides the obvious Hindu angle, this movie features numerous desis – Manu Narayan, Sachin Bhatt, Ravi Patel, Suresh John and above all, Ben Kingsley as Guru Tugginmypudha. Desi quotient: 5 out of 5

3. Get Smart: Featuring Steve Carell as a secret agent, this movie also has Dalip Singh a.k.a The Great Khali. Desi quotient: 0.5 out of 5

4. The Fall: Desigooner also reminds us of Tarsem Singh’s “The Fall”. Tarsem Singh is well known for his 2000 psycho thriller, The Cell. “The Fall” also features desi actor Jeetu Verma among the lead 5.
Desi quotient: 4 out of 5

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