November 28, 2016September 22, 2020 5min readBy Tina Lapsia
On a recent episode of the infamous ‘Koffee With Karan,’ Twinkle Khanna, aka “Mrs. Funny Bones,” sat down with famed Bollywood actor and husband Akshay Kumar to get grilled by her childhood friend Karan Johar. The normally private couple, that rarely attends social Bollywood gatherings and award shows, was quite candid in revealing some of their most honest thoughts about love, marriage, and their Bollywood colleagues.
As we already know, Twinkle “Tina” Khanna is an absolute badass who isn’t afraid to share her true thoughts on any question that may be thrown her way. Also the author of a new collection of short stories titled “The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad,” here are some of her shining moments from the show (sorry, spoilers ahead)!
1. When She Called Out India for its Double Standard on “Lewd Behavior”
Khanna and Kumar were involved in an incident where the two were at a fashion show; the former was in attendance while the latter was the show runner. Seeing it fit (no pun intended) that Kumar was strutting a pair of Levi’s “Unbuttoned” jeans, Kumar found it spontaneously comical to ask his wife to unbutton the top button of his jeans. While speaking on the matter, Khanna clarified that she was in reality mortified and reluctant to do it but gave in as her husband had adamantly insisted. “It was only the top button. The next day, he was receiving his Padma Shri and I got a call from mom saying that police was looking for me because of this act,” she said. She added that people in India pee on the wall of police stations with their “danglers” out all the time, but it was she who got arrested and had to pay a 500-rupee bail!
2. When She Made Fun of Herself as a Teenager
During the show, the audience was indulged with the details of Johar and Khanna’s friendship which began way before their Bollywood careers. Much to our surprise, Johar admitted to having a child crush on Khanna! Yes, you read that right. Khanna laughed while adding the crush was mostly due to the moustache she was sporting at the time in addition to, as she put it, “a testosterone level of 11.” Needless to say her witticism pointed towards Johar’s yet to be confirmed sexuality. These types of uninhibited comments were exactly what we anticipated from our valiant Mrs. Funny Bones!
3. When She Wasn’t Afraid to Make Sexual Innuendos
The beloved Rapid Fire round saw the return of Johar’s Khan obsession when he asked Khanna what her husband has that the three Khans (Aamir, SRK and Salman) do not. Much to our surprise, Khanna simply replied, “extra inches.” Although she claims she was talking about Kumar’s shoe size of 12, we know there was definitely an alternate meaning to that statement. In addition, we loved that little remark she made towards Johar about Fawad Khan (which caught him really off guard)!
4. When She Revealed the Truth About a Lasting Marriage
Kumar and Khanna have had one of the longest lasting relationships to come out of Bollywood, and for good reason. It’s a no brainer that the two balance each other out extremely well and the interview gave us the opportunity to see that. Khanna claims that while her husband is quiet and calm, she is the loud one with a “short fuse” in the relationship. Furthermore, the author, in all her candor, gave free rein to how their relationship began; who would have thought what she intended to be a “casual 15 day fling” would evolve into a 15 year marriage? She noted, “If you’re getting married, you should know why you’re getting married.” We love a girl who wasn’t afraid to try out a casual romance (at first)! Their story gives us Brown Girls all the feels!
5. When She Spilled How She and Kumar Broke Social Norms
Probably one of the funniest anecdotes Khanna shared was one in which she had told her mother, the evergreen Dimple Kapadia, that she had intended to marry Kumar upon also quitting Bollywood. What ensued resulted in a laugh riot, because Kapadia had supposedly heard through the grapevine that Kumar was allegedly not straight! Kapadia suggested her daughter to live with Kumar for one year before she made a final decision to which Khanna obliged. This is pretty shocking since this occurred over 15 years ago, and premarital, live-in relationships, are predominantly considered taboo in India even today!
6. When She Showed Us What a Progressive Parent She Is
Kumar and Khanna together have two kids: 14-year-old son, Aarav, and 4-year-old daughter, Nitara. Johar, being in their inner circle of friends, asked the couple about the relationship they have with their kids, especially about Khanna’s “crazy” relationship with her son. “I talk about everything—we talk about drugs, we talk about sex, we talk about all sorts of things because when that time comes that he [Aarav] actually needs someone to talk to, I hope that he’ll pick me because I’ve kept those doors open,” she said. We couldn’t agree more!
7. When She Admitted Acting Wasn’t the Right Fit
If there’s anyone who can put a Bollywood celebrity on the spot for his or her acting abilities, it’s Karan Johar. He did exactly that to Khanna, who did not find much success at the box office. Nevertheless, Khanna wasn’t hesitant to admit that as far as her acting went, “I was just not good at what I did. I was terrible, and I didn’t want to be there. I didn’t have the aptitude for it…all I wanted to do was come home.” It was refreshing to hear someone accept what they saw as flaws and failures with full honesty.
8. When She Teared Up After Kumar’s Surprise
One of the biggest surprises of the show was Kumar’s performance of Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” for his wife. As soon as Khanna teased that Kumar is just a typical romantic, Karan admitted that her husband had been planning a surprise for her for the past month. Accompanied by musician Raghav Sachar, Kumar proceeded to serenade Khanna (and Johar) with the classic hit, which became “their song” during the beginning of their budding romance in Calgary. This heartwarming gesture brought twinkles (bad joke) of tears to Khanna’s eyes. Awwww!
Be sure to check out this episode of ‘Koffee with Karan’! And look out for our upcoming reaction to KWK’s latest episode featuring Ranveer Singh & Ranbir Kapoor!
Tina Lapsia is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and studied political science and economics with a minor in Spanish. She is passionate about politics, feminism, and women’s rights, and wrote her senior thesis on the impact of the 2012 Delhi gang rape case in India. Tina is a fervent Bollywood fan and dance enthusiast; when she’s not listening to Hindi music, you can find her dancing to it. She aspires to have a career in public service in the future.
South Asian representation in entertainment and media is rapidly increasing nationwide. “We are making strides in the industry, and I am excited about the journey ahead,” said Indian American actor Teresa Patel, known for her roles as Paramedic Harvell in the NBC medical drama, “New Amsterdam,” and Neela Patel in the ABC soap opera, “One Life to Live.”
As a rising star, Patel is breaking barriers for South Asian women nationwide. We, at Brown Girl Magazine, had the opportunity to speak with Patel, a pharmacist by day and an actor by night, about her journey into acting and how she balances both careers.
While her love for Bollywood is common among South Asians, her background and continued work in pharmacy are what make her stand out the most among other creatives.
“I went into pharmacy school knowing that I wanted to do both,” Patel said.
She added that while she knew she was interested in both, she wasn’t sure how to pursue them initially. She never let that dream or passion die down.
“I’ve always known I wanted to pursue acting. I knew I would have to pave a path to pursue acting, and I figured I will work as a pharmacist until I could make it possible — because acting is an investment.”
Patel shared her experiences and emphasized the importance of financial stability, especially for women.
“I believe in strong independent women who can finance their own dreams and build the life they want to live. You don’t want to have to rely on anybody else to do it for you.”
She shared that while it was something her parents did want her to pursue, being a pharmacist was something she eventually loved doing and ultimately helped her pursue her dreams of acting, due to the financial stability it provided as she built her acting career.
“I enjoy what I do and that’s what I love about the life I created. I have grown to love my pharmacy life and I love pursuing acting. I feel fulfilled with both.”
When talking about balancing two demanding jobs, Patel walked us through a day in her life. We spoke about the importance of organization and how she managed to juggle both, but of course, it didn’t all come easy. She shared how she worked during the day and simultaneously enrolled in an acting conservatory which she attended in the evenings.
She also noted that she had to make a lot of personal sacrifices since her time was limited with work, training, and auditioning. But despite how difficult the times were or how much she initially “struggled” to find that balance, Patel shared that those were some of her “most memorable” times.
“It felt like a hustle, and I had the chance to experience two very different parts of my life. Looking back, a lot of my growth as a person happened during this time — which is what makes it so memorable for me.”
Speaking about representation and how the media has changed over time, Patel noted that while South Asians are still often given stereotypical roles, recently, a change can be seen in the roles they have been playing and creating.
“There’s just more inspiration and more out there now,” she said, speaking of the different emerging writers, actors, and shows depicted in the media.
“South Asians are starting to be seen as leads, as people who can have love interests, who have their own issues, not just white-collar professionals on screen.”
She added that change cannot happen overnight but is slowly occurring in media spaces. Patel also noted that more roles that don’t just highlight one’s identity are needed, adding that roles should not just represent a culture but be able to be played by anyone, despite identity or color.
Reflecting on roles that emphasize characteristics only associated with one culture, she said:
“Women have so many types of backgrounds, that’s what I want to see more. A role shouldn’t be just for South Asians,” Patel said. “Like any woman should be able to take a role, my identity shouldn’t define what roles I can get.”
Outside of acting and being a pharmacist, Patel wears several other hats including directing her own short film. Without giving any spoilers — we learned that Patel’s film will revolve around the bond between herself, her sister, and her nephew.
“Instead of waiting for the right role or opportunity, I realized I can invest in myself and create my own.”
In terms of advice, she would give to others,
“I don’t believe we are all meant to do only one thing all of our lives. We are full of potential, but you do have to believe in it and try your hardest to live up to it,” she said.
She noted that people often “glamourize” the acting world and forget to talk about what brought them to where they are, emphasizing the importance of training, marketing, and networking — all of which can cost money.
. “While you have a full-time job, you can still invest in yourself financially to live out your dreams.”
Patel can be seen in American medical drama “New Amsterdam” on NBC.The show currently has five seasons available.
November 27, 2023November 27, 2023 5min readBy Aysha Qamar
“Sort Of” fans are having all the feels as the iconic, non binary-focused series is coming to an end with its third season. The show, currently streaming on CBC Gem, has paved the way for broader conversations on inclusivity, representation and just existence.
“Sort Of” is a heart-warming story that challenges traditional labels by depicting a character who encompasses several marginalized identities.
Sabi Mehboob — a non binary, gender-fluid millennial — is the youngest child in a large Muslim Pakistani family. Throughout the series, we follow Sabi’s journey in empowering themselves and refusing to fit into a mould for others’ comfort. The series reminds us how labels impact people and how they must not define people.
Sabi is played by award-winning Canadian actor Bilal Baig, known for being the first queer, South Asian and Muslim actor to lead a Canadian prime-time TV series. Baig not only stars in the groundbreaking and award-winning sitcom, but has also directed and co-created it.
The show however, hasn’t reclaimed praise just because of the community it focuses on. It’s the authentic, personal and funny storytelling that leaves a lasting impression. “Sort Of” resonates across all genders, races and ages, with the stories within it being relatable universally despite how one identifies.
Baig and co-creator Fab Filippo announced the show’s third season would be its last in a heartfelt social media post in October.
“We know how much the series means to a lot of you — it means so much to us too,” the statement read. “We set out to tell a story about a kind of transition in Sabi’s life, and how those around them also change — and we feel in this coming season that story came to an end in a way that felt right for us.”
“We’re aware that series like ours, shows that feature queer and trans characters, tend to get cancelled early on, and we know that’s been happening a lot recently. We want to say that’s not what’s going down here. We made this third season knowing it would be our last. … We’re also aware that this show is ending at a time when trans communities continue to be targeted and trans rights are being constantly attacked. Our hope is that this series can continue to affirm lives and spark conversations well after the final season drops. Sort Of will always exist, despite all the transphobia in our world.”
Reflecting back on the statement and decision to end the show in its third season, Baig shared that they and Filippo felt the story had come to its “natural” end.
“When you look at all three of the seasons together, I think it will feel like we’ve captured a really specific moment in time and in Sabi’s life, as well as, the other characters around them,” Baig said. “That felt right.”
Season 3 of “Sort Of” picks up right where Season Two ended: the sudden death of Sabi’s father. While undergoing the stages of grief, Sabi is also processing their romantic life including the aftermath of their kiss with Bessy (Grace Lynn Kung). The season is filled with big life choices for Sabi and is all about “transitions,” Baig said, in an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine.
Speaking of the season’s big moments including how Sabi deals with grief and what happens after the kiss, Baig said “it felt kind of cool to let it end there.” They added that the story is meant to feel “real and authentic” and continuing it would “feel false.”
“Much of the feedback I get is from people who say, it feels like we’re watching real humans talking to each other. And to uphold and maintain that quality, I feel like three is a good number.”
Baig reiterated that playing Sabi “has been such a gift,” adding that the character “felt refreshing from the start.”
When asked how the role differs from other queer and trans roles on screen, Baig noted that Sabi’s complexity and humor in the show was “intentional” and based on real-world experiences including conversations with both trans and non binary friends.
“It’s like representation for the quiet, exhausted by the world, people who totally exist in the queer and trans community.”
“It always felt like our representation was either we’re not talking because we’re being killed or we’re these super political activists, who are educating everyone around them — which is all real — but think about somebody who doesn’t say everything they’re thinking, who has a lot of feelings but doesn’t speak on it all the time. We don’t always have to be sassy and witty or fabulous.”
The dark humor in the show “humanizes Sabi” and is “the way into so many peoples’ hearts.” Baig added, noting that humor often helps one process the trauma they are carrying.
While many have questioned whether or not Sabi’s character was based on Baig’s own life, Baig confirmed they are not and addressed the fan-based rumors noting that Sabi is relatable because of the obstacles they face and the many identities they hold.
Baig identifies as a queer, trans-feminine, while Sabi is non binary or gender fluid. Baig shared that playing someone who is “guarded” and not “super trustworthy” had been fun and in the last season especially, Sabi goes through a “transformation” that speaks truth for many “vulnerable and marginalized people.”
The show was able to capture “how transition looks like for so many different things for so many different people,” Baig pointed out, speaking of the small and big life experiences we follow Sabi on.
“It’s not one thing; it’s not only defined by whether you want to change things about yourself and your body or not…it’s so much more nuanced than that.”
Speaking to the identities Sabi holds, Baig said they wanted to depict “multiple different kinds of trans and non binary bodies and experiences” that they felt were “lacking in media” or “not being represented at all”
“We’re not all the same. We’re different and evolving, just like cis people are.”
Baig added that while intentional, the identities of these characters were not hard to develop “because it just felt real and right.” They also lauded the team behind the show, noting that it included several people of color, women and non binary folks.
“Cis characters are presented alongside trans characters,” Baig said. “We are a part of this ecosystem and we cannot be erased.”
When asked about the challenges and current climate of how trans and queer people are treated, Baig shared that it “has been challenging” to work on projects like this and shared how assumptions associated with people “at the intersection of any identity” can be problematic.
They also spoke of the statistics associated with trans people, often negative or fatal. According to a report by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights group, at least 33 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed in the United States since November 2022.
Baig noted that working with a team that is diverse and accepting is what helps lift the weight off the constant heartbreaking news.
Sharing their gratitude for their team, Baig noted that making the show’s atmosphere and environment safe was a priority to ensure “people felt like they could really be themselves and come to work fully as themselves.”
In terms of a takeaway from the season finale, Baig said that they hope people internalize that “we’re all transitioning” whether or not our transitions look the same. Believing that will create “more empathy towards trans people.”
Often referred to as hijras and kinnars, transgender men and women are a part of society just like any other individual, regardless of how different their lives may be. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta and actress Sirat Taneja have created a documentary to bring to life a story about dual identities and the hardships that the LGBTQIA2S+ community members continue to face, despite the support they have found around them. Mehta and Taneja take the baton and continue the fight for equality in “I Am Sirat,” a documentary, presented at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), on Taneja herself.
“I Am Sirat,” set in Delhi, India, is shot completely on a smartphone. Talking more about filming the documentary on a cellphone — a conscious choice made by the ace director — Mehta confidently says:
It wasn’t a creative decision. It was the only decision we had [to] make the film the way we wanted to, which was very intimate and with nobody else around us. When Sirat was telling her story, she was free to tell it without a crew. That’s the way we wanted it. There were no cameras, no sound, no lighting. It was her life, she was in control of it.
The story highlights the deep intricacies of Taneja’s dual identity. At home, her mother cannot accept the idea of a trans daughter and requires her to be a man, even though she’s made many attempts to tell her family that she does not identify as a male. With her efforts to express her true, authentic self, falling on deaf ears, Taneja sets out to live a life that appeases both her family at home and herself. She goes as far as being her mother’s son in the house while renting out a room for her beautiful clothes and makeup elsewhere in the city; this room is the keepsake of who she really is, the woman she always longed to be.
At one instance she is even physically assaulted for expressing her true gender identity. While the film does not depict the assault, it showcases the traumatic aftermath of it. But the violence doesn’t discourage Taneja from living out her truth. If she’s oppressed at home, she leaves that baggage at the door on her way out — in public, she’s a woman.
The documentary allows viewers to see how Taneja carries this dual identity and how it impacts her as a person. We see her lose many things she considers important in her life, including her job with the Government of India and the love of her life, all because of her trans identity. The myriad of hardships that she faces can be seen throughout the film with struggles not limited to personal and social, but also financial and psychological.
Taneja lives in a single-parent household with her siblings. As the eldest child in a low-income household, she is required to take on her late father’s responsibilities as the breadwinner of the family. In addition to financial issues, the lack of a father figure in her life creates more obstacles for Taneja, including those around sex reassignment surgery. Enter, the idea of following tradition.
It would be remiss to not mention that “I Am Sirat” grazes over the idea of how paradoxical modern-day India really is. On one hand, there are talks about progression, making space, and living your most authentic life; on the other, people like Taneja are asked to put up facades in the name of tradition. Tradition, conservative ideals, and possibly even patriarchy are at the forefront of the oppression that Taneja and her counterparts face. So, even for a country that’s made some notable changes to its governing policies, many of its outdated conventions still trump the law.
“I Am Sirat” really makes the viewers reflect on how far the world has come in offering support and camaraderie to the LGBTQIA2S+ community on a broader level — mainstream media has made important strides to bring equity and inclusivity to the forefront — while hardly ever paying heed to the struggles these minorities face day-to-day with their loved ones. There’s an element of duality even for them in their fight to be recognized; they want acceptance from the public as well as their families. A story like Taneja’s puts into perspective how transgender men and women will never choose the easy way out; they’re determined to be an honorable part of society regardless of what it will cost. A heartbreaking truth, to say the least.
“I Am Sirat” brings about an important message for its global audience: never forget to celebrate who you really are, undeterred by the trials you’re put through. And Sirat Taneja is a living example of this simple life lesson, who danced her way from the TIFF red carpet right into our hearts with her soulful story.