You may not have been familiar with Ayesha Malik (aka @spisha), but by now, you’re surely aware of her. The 27-year-old Pakistani-American woman made headlines this week after she confronted Bollywood-turned-Hollywood actress Priyanka Chopra-Jonas over a February tweet in which the actress allegedly encouraged armed conflict between India and Pakistan.
The charged encounter took place on Saturday during the Q&A portion of Chopra’s panel at the 2019 Los Angeles Beautycon — a beauty, fashion and wellness conference where celebrities, influencers, brands, and consumers share their love for all things beauty-related.
Malik, a content creator and entrepreneur from Alaska who came to LA to attend Beautycon, called out Chopra for a tweet posted on Feb. 26, reading “Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces.”
The India-Pakistan Conflict Behind Priyanka Chopra’s Tweet
The tweet happened during a period of time when renewed tensions between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region were heightened. On Feb. 26, 2019, India’s government launched airstrikes in Pakistan, allegedly targeting a “militant camp” near the town of Balakot.
The incident was just 12 days after the Pulwama attack, a suicide bombing by a local Kashmiri associated with a Pakistan-based militant group called Jaish-e-Muhammad that killed 40 paramilitary officers.
The day after India’s airstrike, Pakistan shot down an Indian fighter jet flying in Pakistani airspace and captured the pilot. The safe return of wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman relaxed the tensions—until Sun., Aug. 5.
The decades-long conflict over Kashmir came to a frightening head when the Indian government revoked Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5, which gave special status to the two territories of Jammu and majority-Muslim Kashmir. In the days since, Kashmir has been on lockdown, with set curfews and communications cut off, leaving family members outside of the area without a line of communication to their loved ones. Additionally, there have been reports of violence against the local Kashmiri people.
The revocation of Kashmir’s special status, which granted the territory autonomy among other provisions, has become a sensitive issue for Indians and Pakistanis in and outside of the region.
A Family Matter for Ayesha Malik
Malik said that while traveling to Pakistan in early March, she was excited to visit her extended family living in her parents’ home country, but when she reached the Los Angeles airport on a layover, her trip took a disheartening turn. According to Malik, she was told upon arriving at the airport that Pakistan’s airfields were closed, preventing air travel into and out of the country, due to the aggressive air activity between the nuclear powers.
Not knowing what was happening, Malik said she was extremely upset about her canceled travel plans and more so worried for her family back home, who was under a temporary communication blackout.
Belonging to one of the only Pakistani families in Anchorage, Alaska, Bollywood served as a connection to Malik’s South Asian heritage, and Chopra was among the many actors who she admired and supported. However, coming across Chopra’s possibly ill-timed tweet, which appeared to praise the Indian army during a time of renewed conflict between the two nations, deeply soured the PC fan within her.
It took me back to when I couldn’t reach my family because of the blackouts and how scared/helpless I was.
She gaslit me and turned the narrative around on me being the “bad guy” — as a UN ambassador this was so irresponsible.
Malik decided to take to the mic during the Q&A portion of the panel to confront Chopra — a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador — about her contradicting behavior.
So, it was kind of hard hearing you talk about humanity because as your neighbor, a Pakistani, I know you’re a bit of a hypocrite because you tweeted on February 26 ‘Jai Hind #IndianArmedForces.’ You are UNICEF ambassador for peace and you are encouraging nuclear war against Pakistan. There’s no winner in this,” Malik said.
“As a Pakistani, millions of people like me have supported you in Bollywood,” Malik continued as security guards grabbed the microphone from her hand, “and you want nuclear war.
“Whenever you’re done venting. Got it? Done? Ok, cool,” Chopra replied. “So I have many many friends from Pakistan and I am from India. And war is not something that I’m really fond of, but I am patriotic. So, I’m sorry if I hurt sentiments to people who do love me and have loved me, but I think that all of us have a sort of middle ground that we all have to walk, just like you probably have to do as well.
The way you came at me right now. Girl, don’t yell. We’re all here for love. Don’t yell. Don’t embarrass yourself.
“Whenever you’re don’t venting”. Sorry, didn’t realize that speaking on a humanitarian crisis was “venting” pic.twitter.com/OqCLgjDNa1
Filmed by other attendees, the dispute has garnered significant social media traction and traditional media attention, sparking conversations about celebrity activism and the role of celebrities in politics.Both Malik and Chopra have received backlash for their comments.
Malik recently opened up to Brown Girl Magazine about the incident itself, the media storm that has engulfed her since, and what she would say to Chopra if she had the chance:
When you attempted to ask your question during Chopra’s Beautycon panel, the mic was taken away from you before you could finish. What was the full question you wanted to ask her?
Priyanka, will you relinquish your title as a Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations, or will you use your online platforms to encourage peace and bridge building between the two nations?
How do you feel about the way the media has covered the encounter between you and Priyanka so far? What are they getting right, and what are they missing?
A handful of publications called me an angry heckler. A humanitarian crisis is going on. I’m angry because a self-proclaimed humanitarian is not doing her job. And a lot of people thought I did this to be ‘famous.’ But I just wanted to confront her and hold her accountable for her words. That’s it. I am not the voice for Kashmir or Pakistan or India, I’m just a voice. I don’t claim to know everything, I’m always willing to learn and listen.
If you had the chance to respond to Chopra’s comments, what would you say?
The ‘I am patriotic’ energy that perpetuates this terrible fervor for being Indian – or Pakistani – will always cloud our judgment, make us more susceptible to propaganda and stop us from examining larger issues in an objective way. I want her and our respective governments to understand that having our countries wiped off the map is not the way to go.
Trust in government institutions both at home and in many parts of the world has diminished significantly, but our ties with celebrities through social media has grown exponentially — so it’s no wonder Malik wanted to confront Chopra in the hopes that the Goodwill Ambassador could make even the slightest difference. Celebrities play a bigger role in today’s society than just providing entertainment. Their platforms give them the power to act as catalysts for change, and their words truly matter.
In the case of Malik versus Chopra, a more thoughtful and empowering encounter should have occurred. Regardless of her patriotism to India and its armed forces and her family’s military background, PC held the power to promote peace and shed positive light at a time when our neighboring countries are at the brink of war and both nations refuse to mediate.
However, we must not forget the power of our own voices. The way in which people around the world have taken to social media to appeal against Chopra and her position at UNICEF should be the same way we work to take down leaders unworthy of our votes.
March 20, 2023March 21, 2023 4min readBy Nida Hasan
If you are a South Asian, born in the ’80s or the early ’90s, chances are your ideas of love and romance are heavily influenced by Hindi films — that first gaze, the secret love notes, that accidental meeting somewhere in Europe, over-the-top gestures and dancing around trees. While reality may have been far from what was promised on reel, you still can’t stop pining over a hopeless romantic, with chocolate boy looks, chasing you across the earth and many universes; in the life here and the ones after. Somewhere deep down, you still dream of that possibility despite your husband sitting and sipping his morning coffee right next to you. And much of the credit for weaving this dreamland, that we can’t resist happily sliding into, goes to the legendary Yash Chopra. Award-winning filmmaker Smriti Mundhra’s docu-series, “The Romantics,” that released on Netflix on February 14, chronicles Chopra’s prolific career; offering an illuminating look into the highs and lows of his journey, his unblemished vision for Hindi cinema and sheer love for filmmaking.
I wanted to look at Indian cinema through the lens of it being a major contributor to the global cinema canon and Yash Chopra seemed like the perfect lens to explore that because of the longevity of his career and the fact that he had worked across so many different genres. His films, for so many of us, defined what Hindi cinema is.
— Smriti Mundhra
As “The Romantics” unveils, in a mere episode — a challenging feat in itself — Chopra did experiment with multiple genres as a budding filmmaker, initially under the shadows of his elder brother B.R. Chopra. From the religiously sensitive “Dharamputra” and the trendsetting “Waqt” to the action-packed and iconic “Deewaar.” It wasn’t until later on in his career that he set a precedent for a Hindi film having a wholly romantic narrative; though “Waqt” did offer the perfect glimpse into what would go on to become Chopra’s cinematic imprint. And then came “Chandni” which ushered in a new era for Hindi cinema; defying the formulaic approach to box office success and making love stories the golden goose.
In the words of more than 30 famous faces, a host of archival videos and interviews, and personal anecdotes, audiences get an extensive insight into the life and career of Yash Chopra and the evolution of his vision through the business acumen and genius of his polar opposite son and a famous recluse, Aditya Chopra. “The Romantics” is not a fancy portrait of a legendary filmmaker but an exploration of what goes into making a successful film family and a path-breaking production house. As viewers, we not only get a peek into the making of a fantasy creator but also learn of the many failures, hurdles and uncertainties that the business of filmmaking comes packaged in, the impact of socio-political shifts on the kind of content being produced and demanded, and just how much control we have as an audience over the fate of the film and the filmmaker.
For both the uninitiated and fanatics, there are some interesting revelations like Shah Rukh Khan’s lifelong desire to become an action hero as opposed to a romantic one and the creative conflict between Aditya Chopra and his father Yash Chopra on the sets of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge” — a project that, surprisingly, did not seem too promising to the latter. Mundhra penetrates deep into the family’s history and industry relationships evoking some really candid conversations; almost as if these celebs were eagerly waiting for their moment to speak. With one appraising interview after the other, it’s a panegyric that does border on being a tad tedious but there is enough depth and fodder in there to keep one hooked. Kudos to Mundhra for managing to achieve cohesion despite there being more than enough material to chew on. In the process of bringing this project to life, Mundhra also ends up achieving a number of milestones: one that the series features the last of actor Rishi Kapoor’s interviews and two, it brings Aditya Chopra, who, it appears, can talk a blue streak contrary to popular belief, to the front of the camera after almost two decades. The moment when he puts the nepotism debate to rest by referring to his brother’s catastrophic attempt at acting is quite the show-stealer.
At some point during the four-episode series, you might question if it’s fair to credit the Yash Raj family for being the only real changemakers of the Hindi film industry and for picking up the baton to get Hindi cinema the global recognition that it has. But then there is no denying the Chopra clan’s body of work, their ability to understand what pleases the crowd and their commitment towards growth and progress amidst changing times and technology — Yash Raj Studios is in fact the only privately held and one of the biggest, state-of-the-art film studios in India. Chopra’s career and legacy are in no way under-lit that Mundhra can claim to throw new light on with “The Romantics.” But what she really has on offer here are sheer nostalgia, some fascinating discoveries and an ode to a cinephile and his art with a bit of fan service.
In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Mundhra discusses why it was so important for Chopra to be the subject of her docu-series, her own learnings during the series’ research and creative process and her accomplishment of getting Aditya Chopra to talk, and that too, at length.
It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?
Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).
But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?
The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.
Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.
Was it her fiance?
Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?
Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.
But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.
The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.
And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.
Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!
To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.
I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.
And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!
“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!
“Ghoomer,” R. Balki’s latest directorial venture, had its world premiere at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne 2023 (IFFM), earlier this month, and the moment was nothing short of memorable. Lead actors Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher, and Angad Bedi, were present to unveil their labor of love to the world, and all three were left speechless at the reaction of the global audience; the film received a standing ovation on opening night, leaving the team extremely emotional — a feeling that Bachchan tells Brown Girl is one he cannot put into words.
“Ghoomer,” tells the story of Anina (played by Kher), an exceptional cricket player who loses her right hand in an accident. Downtrodden and with no will to live, Anina finds a mentor and coach in Padam Singh Sodhi (played by Bachchan), an insensitive and brash failed cricketer who helps her turn her life and career around; Anina also has the unwavering support of her husband, Jeet (played by Bedi). Sodhi teaches Anina unorthodox techniques to make her mark on the cricket ground once again. Enter, ghoomer, a new style of bowling.
Balki checks all the boxes with this feature — his protagonist is a female athlete, the film is his way of giving back to cricket (a new form of delivery), and he highlights the idea that nothing is impossible for paraplegic athletes. The heart of Balki’s film is in the right place — Kher mentions that the film is meant to be more of an inspirational movie and less of a sports-based movie. One can only imagine the impact that a film like this would have on an audience that’s hungry for meaningful cinema.
And, to chat more about “Ghoomer,” Brown Girl Magazine sat down with the stars of the show. Bachchan, Bedi, and Kher came together to talk about their inspiring characters, the filming journey, and how their film aspires to change the landscape of cricket and paraplegic athletes in the country. It was all that, with a side of samosas.
Take a look!
The featured image is courtesy of Sterling Global.