Roll out the star-studded green carpet because the 15th annual IIFA Awards are happening tonight in Tampa, FL. While Bollywood celebrates a great year for Hindi films, it’s time for another installment of the Brown Girl Entertainment Awards! This year, we’ve trimmed the amount of categories to focus just on Bollywood films, but fret not my non-Hindi-speaking friends! This December, we will be back with a full list of blockbusters for 2014.
Bollywood lovers, let’s dive in and see how many of our picks will the IIFA Awards also honor.
1. “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”
Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Sonam Kapoor, Pavan Malhotra
This film is one of the best movies made in the last few years in Bollywood. Starring the ravishing Farhan Akthar, he gives the performance of a lifetime. The film does a beautiful job portraying the interesting life of Milkha Singh, an Indian athlete who was a national champion runner and an Olympian.
While the film doesn’t break any new ground story-wise— it’s the Bollywood version of Romeo and Juliet. The performances are stellar from the entire cast and the execution is beautiful. The real shining moment – anytime Deepika Padukone is onscreen.
3. “Kai Po Che!”
Directed by Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Raj Kumar Yadav, Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh
The film is another remake of Chetan Bhagat’s “3 Mistakes of My Life,” and even though I think it is a great film, it’s not perfect. At the core of it, the film celebrates the friendship of three boys and lost innocence. The performances from debutants Sushant Singh Rajput and Amit Sadh, as well as Rajkumar Rao are wonderful. The narrative is spread-out like a novel, while focusing on real-life events that take place in Gujarat, India, which makes relating to the characters more real.
Directed by: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Rajkumar Rao, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub and Tigmanshu Dhulia
Speaking of Rajkumar Rao, he is absolutely brilliant in this film, directed by Hansal Mehta, that follows the life of Shahid Azmi, a lawyer and human rights activist who was assassinated in Mumbai in 2010. The film has already won the National Film Award for Best Actor and Best Director and deserves so many more accolades.
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Lillete Dubey, Bharti Achrekar, Nakul Vaid
If you’re a regular reader of BG, you’ll know how much I love this film. It’s a sweet, subtle story about a very different and complicated romance recounted with the help of the dabbawala lunch service in Mumbai. It’s a must-see film for those who like slow-paced romantic flicks that make you think deeply about and give you a profound appreciation for love and relationships.
Best Performance (Actress):
1. Deepika Padukone- “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela” and “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”
2. Parineeti Chopra- “Shuddh Desi Romance”
3. Shraddha Kapoor- “Aashiqui 2”
4. Sonakshi Sinha- “Lootera”
5. Nimrat Kaur- “The Lunchbox”
Best Performance (Actor):
1. Farhan Akthar- “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”
2. Ranveer Singh- “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela/Lootera”
3. Irrfan Khan- “The Lunchbox”
4. Rajukumar Rao- “Shahid/Kai Po Che!”
5. Dhanush- “Raanjhaana”
Best Breakthrough Performance:
1. Vaani Kapoor- “Shuddh Desi Romance”
2. Sushant Singh Rajput & Amit Sadh- “Kai Po Che!”
Best Hindi Movie You May Have Missed”
4. Ek Thi Daayan”
5. “Madras Cafe”
6. “Ship of Theseus”
Brown Girl Heroine of the Year: Deepika Padukone
Deepika starred in several films in 2013 including “Yeh Jawaani Hai Dewaani,” but it was her fierce, fiery performance as one-half of the doomed lovers in “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela” that really made her stand out. She took a role based off of Romeo and Juliet and made it completely her own by making Leela a strong woman, forced to choose between her family traditions and love.
Worst Film of the Year:
4. “I, Me, aur Main
5. “Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara”
6. “Guilty Pleasure Movie of the Year”
7. “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”
9. “Race 2”
10. “Go Goa Gone”
11. “Gori Tere Pyaar Main”
Best Songs of the Year:
1. Nagada Sang Dhol- “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela”
2. Sun Raha Hai Na Tu- “Aashiqui 2”
3. Balam Pichkari- “Yeh Jaawani Hai Deewani”
4. Sawaar Loon- “Lootera”
5. Gandi Baat- “R…Rajkumar”
Best on-screen couples:
1. Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh in “Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.”
These two make a potential real-life couple who set fire to the screen with their chemistry.
2. Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor in “Yeh Jeewani Hai Deewani.”
This ex-couple continue to have a natural onscreen relationship that feels so real.
3. Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor in “Aashiqui 2″
Newcomers Aditya and Shraddha expertly portray a couple going through the ups and downs of a difficult relationship made more difficult when drugs and alcohol enter the picture.
4. Irrfan Khan and Nimrat Kaur in”The Lunchbox.”
Sweet, innocent and full of reality. That’s how to explain this beautiful pairing that never actually culminates in the two lovers meeting which makes the chemistry that much more impressive.
Worst Movie Couple
1. Imran Khan and Sonakshi Sinha in “Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai Dobara”
A bad film made worse by a pairing that looks strange. Sonakshi is mature and sexy and vibrant, while Imraan still looks like a young, naive kid.
2. Ajay Devgan and Tamannaah Bhatia in”Himmatwala”
The age difference – that’s all that needs to be said.
These two also have a huge age difference with the added problem of differing levels of intensity. Aamir is always so intense in his roles while Katrina plays her role as the normal excitable girl from previous performances.
Biggest letdown of the Year:
1. “Dhoom 3”
Directed by: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Cast: Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Uday Chopra, Jackie Shroff and Siddharth Nigam
It could have been an amazing film with one of the best casting choices for antagonists that I’ve ever seen. The story line was a gigantic letdown when the script chose to take parts from other great Hollywood films and combine them in a mishmash that makes absolutely no sense. “The Prestige?” Really Bollywood? Don’t mess with that movie.
The much awaited sequel was confusing, strange, and full of what felt like phoned-in performances.
3. “Chennai Express”
Directed by: Rohit Shetty
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone
“The film was beautifully shot with a great performance, yet again, from Deepika Padukone, but overall, it felt like a letdown, thanks to a less than stellar performance that lacked heart from Shah Rukh Khan and some silly moments.
And that’s the end of our review of Bollywood films thus far. We hope you enjoyed reading, watching and gushing over your favorite stars.
This story was published as a collaboration between Brown Girl Magazine and Reckon, a national news organization that covers the people powering change, the challenges shaping our time, and what it means for all of us.
This is a special year for Ramadan. For the first time in three years my mosque will fill to capacity, giving my community a chance to rebuild lost connections and overcome heartache. It reminds me of a simple truth: healing comes not when you expect it but when you need it.
For Muslims, Ramadan symbolizes the time of the year in which Islam’s prophet Muhammad first received the revelation of the Quran. Since Islam follows a calendar based on the monthly cycles of the moon, the start of the holy month of Ramadan is determined when a crescent moon is sighted in Saudi Arabia.
The Quran is said to have been received throughout the life of the prophet Muhammad, and Ramadan marks the days it took for him to receive its first verses. When Muhammad received this revelation, it is said that he isolated himself in a cave to reflect and devoted himself to endless worship. In the same way that Muhammad secluded himself to focus on gratitude and prayer, Muslims around the world use the time to distance themselves from daily distractions and focus on spiritual growth through a month of fasting.
Siyam in community
The Arabic word for fasting is siyam which translates to ‘be at rest.’ Abstaining from eating and drinking allows us to take the rest our body and soul so deeply crave and ground ourselves and one another in a physical, mental and spiritual reset.
When I was a child, Ramadan symbolized the one time it was normal to spend your entire weekend in the Mosque. It was my first experience of a sleepover, with pajamas hidden under my abaya and Pakistani kurtas. Beyond the gender divide of the prayer halls, children would take naps on parents laps as the community prayed throughout the night. The Mosque was a beautiful gathering space open to anyone who needed a meal, whether or not they were fasting.
During the pandemic, Ramadan was different. Endless nights in the Mosque filled with prayer and community were scaled down to Zoom hangouts. Programs that were once filled with intimate in-person conversations on the floor of the Mosque, were now faceless squares on a screen, their names barely visible.
The Jummah or Friday prayers that were once so packed with people that the crowd spilled out onto the surrounding grass and sidewalks were conducted in parked cars. The mosque decorated the parking lot for drive-through visitors for the Eid Namaz, and community members waved from a distance to others with the same time slot.
I still remember when a friend’s mother died of COVID-19. What would have been a Janaza or funeral that surrounded the grieving family with community and prayer, turned into a Zoom call. Watching the tears of my friend’s family during the burial services, unable to visit her home and read the Quran together was heartbreaking.
Even before the pandemic, the world was not always a safe place for me and my community. From my family and I being yelled at to “go back to our country” when we were on vacation, to the looks my mother received when she wore her hijab in public, I understood even as a young child the ways in which Muslims were perceived as outsiders in our own country.
In many ways the pandemic compounded the islamophobia that my community began experiencing at heightened levels after 9/11. During Trump’s time in office, the Muslim community—which in the US mostly consists of people who identify as Asian and Black—faced heightened racism and incidents of violence, in part due to misinformation about the coronavirus. In the racial justice uprisings of 2020, Black Muslims—which make up more than 20% of all Muslims in the US—were not only targeted for their race but their religious background. Mosques across the country were vandalized, and continue to experience increased threats to this day.
Ramadan as a space to heal
These last few years made me realize how badly I craved the sanctuary of my Mosque, and to physically return to a space where I felt safe. I feel relieved and at peace to return back to nights where I am surrounded by familiar faces praying together side by side and breaking our fast without any fear of judgment.
Holi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the coming of spring and is observed near the end of winter. It’s also referred to as the festival of colors or the festival of love. Although my daughters and I are not Hindus, (we are Sikhs) we still celebrate Holi. Our Holi celebrations always include reading about this festival, making colorful art, playing with the colorful powders, and making some delicious, traditional sweets. This is always such a great occasion to discuss the diversity of Indian culture with my daughters. I use this opportunity to teach them about inclusivity and respect for different cultures around the world. All across India, different states celebrate this festival in their own meaningful ways.
My first experience celebrating this beautiful festival was in university. My roommates, friends and international students put together a lovely day of Holi celebrations outside. We were completely covered in variety of colors — pinks, purples, and blues. There was music, laughter, dancing, and an overall joyous atmosphere (including bhang, which is essentially a cannabis milkshake). It was particularly heartwarming to see so many Indian students coming together as a community, so far from home, to connect with such a beloved tradition.
For those of us, brought up in Canada, such celebrations were amazing opportunities to genuinely experience the true spirit of Holi. Similar to how it is done in India, everyone became one – there were no small groups or cliques doing their own thing; class lines and caste systems, predominant across India, disappeared. Everyone joined together; our skin tones hidden under the bright colours of the Holi powders. It surely was an unforgettable time.
As a child, I got to experience Holi only through Indian Cinema. Bollywood films like “Silsila,” “Darr,” and “Mohabbatein” stand out in my memory. The actors are dressed completely in white at the beginning of the song, enjoying Holi celebrations, and are then painted from head to toe, in various bright colours, by the end of the song. Since then, I’ve learned that certain colours hold meaning and significance. Red symbolizes love, fertility, and matrimony; blue represents the Lord Krishna; and green stands for new beginnings.
Now, as a mother, I don’t want my children to experience our culture through a screen. So we bring these Holi traditions into our home in our own creative ways. We certainly tend to get creative since around March there is still ample snow on the ground outside and a chill in the air!
The activities we have fun doing are:
Making rangoli designs using coloured powders (this is a helpful site we’ve used)
Making paper flowers to decorate the house with (like the ones here)
Making tie-dye shirts (we’ve got a kit for this because the girls love it)
Baking a traditional Indian snack, like gujiya (we bake them because I get paranoid about the girls being around hot oil).
“Let’s Celebrate Holi!” by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar (for three to seven-year-olds)
“Festival of Colors” by Surishtha Seghal and Kabir Seghal (for two to eight-year-olds)
“Why Do We Celebrate Holi” by Anitha Rathod (for eight years old and above)
This year, Holi falls on the same date as International Women’s Day! To combine the two celebrations, my daughters and I plan on sketching South Asian females we look up to the most, and then adding bright colours using different types of paint. For another element of texture, we might add the paper flowers to these as well. I’m thinking these are going to be frame-worthy pieces of art!
I first started writing it for submission to a competition with the Borough Press. I wasn’t sure what story I wanted to write because I felt obligated to write certain stories or write in a certain style. I pretty much got fed up and started questioning myself. When I put pen to paper and got serious, the story that came out was a story of grief not necessarily specific to my life. I knew I wanted it to be about a family going through grief for decades, and how grief can arrest and impact the family structure.
When you first started writing, which part of the story came out?
It was the very first chapter. The first three chapters of the book came naturally. What you read in the book is untouched from the first draft that I submitted. I knew it was about a family that was going through grief. I knew I wanted it to take place between Trinidad and Toronto because I was born and raised in Trinidad and lived in Toronto. I wanted that sort of cross-generational mixture of family in the book as well – to see how each generation dealt with grief.
Did you always want to be a writer?
I don’t think I knew. It’s just one of those things that you think is impossible, so there’s no point dreaming about it. But when I was a young girl in Trinidad, I imagined myself carrying a leather briefcase and I don’t know why, but I knew I was going somewhere important, and I had something important to do. I always loved writing, but the truth is people get in the way and they dissuade you. It’s all around you – that the arts is not a viable career and if you pursue it, you have a 95% chance of failure. But after working 10 office jobs in three years, I’m like, ‘I’m not happy,’ so this is actually the failure. I knew I needed change.
How do you navigate the space of being told that art is not a viable career, especially in the Indo Caribbean community?
Those challenges were around me all the time. It wasn’t even my family, but it even comes from friends and acquaintances. When you’re young, being an artist is hard, and you’re told there’s no point in doing it. I listened to people who said that, and got office jobs and did what everyone else was doing because apparently, that was the way to be happy. Five years passed by and I realized I wasn’t happy and I should have never listened to those people. I started writing. I started doing something that made me happy and treated it as a serious craft. I did not treat it as a hobby, but as something that was going to pave my path. I really worked in a tunneled vision. So I never told anybody what I was doing – I didn’t want to be dissuaded. I had to be my own champion. I know that doesn’t sound healthy, but back in 2012, I didn’t know about community.
Cassandra, the main character is a writer, like yourself. How much of Cassandra’s story is your story?
My family is very supportive of my writing and it took some time for them to get there. Like many families, they kind of saw it as a hobby. Once they saw that I got published, they took it more seriously. Now, they are supportive of my writing and I think in the book, Cassandra’s family is not that supportive. They just weren’t interested in her writing, which is why she didn’t talk about it. It is a little bit reflective of my own experience.
It wasn’t based on a true story. That is something I get asked often – a lot of people say ‘she’s Trinidad and you’re Trinidadian.’ The places I wrote about are from my memory, but the plot itself is fiction. I wanted to challenge myself to write something truly fictional. I grew up in a household of strong Trinidadian women. I wanted to write about strong Trinidadian women, the roles they play, their histories and their backgrounds. The characters aren’t necessarily based on anyone particular in my life. Overall, it was a joy to imagine and write it because each one of these characters are very different from the other.
The novel has nine major female characters and at most three major male characters. Why did you want to tell a female-driven story?
I grew up in a family of predominantly women, and most of my Caribbean friends also grew up in families of predominantly women. They really are, in my experience, our caretakers. For me, my family and my friends, our mothers are our worlds – we love and admire them. Family is their priority; raising their children is their priority. I wanted to write about Trinidadian women because I wanted to tell each of their stories. I want more Indo Caribbean and Caribbean women in fiction. I think anything that I write will always be about Caribbean women. I want to contribute to that field of literature. I have such enormous respect for them; all the sacrifices that they’ve gone through to bring their kids to new countries – some of them single moms. There’s nothing else I really want to write about, to be honest.
One of the other things I noticed was keen attention to the setting. How many of these precise details came from your own life, if any of them?
For Trinidad, a lot of it is based on my memory of the island and my home there. But I did have to turn to my family for specific details that I thought I may have imagined. Because I grew up mostly in Toronto. I was insecure about writing about Trinidad, so I went back to my mom and my family, who lived there for over 40 years. In terms of the house in Toronto, some of that is from my experience and some from imagination. I’ve written and talked about this book before, “The Poetics of Space” by Gaston Bachelard, which examines the psychology of houses. I tried to construct a house that would accommodate the psychology of the characters. If the house seems very detailed, it’s because I made it so, to accommodate certain secrets and people’s personalities.
Why explore the psychology of a house?
It’s not an original thought, but I think the way space is organized around us, or the way we organize ourselves in a space dictates physical behavior. If you’re in a wide open space and you don’t know anyone, that can seem intimidating. If you’re in a closed space, that can also seem intimidating. I tried to organize the space to give each character privacy from the other, but then once they were in a common room, it really changed the dynamics of their interactions.
What makes a family?
I think people who have been through challenges with you for years make a family. That’s not even a blood thing – I have friends that are like family because we’ve been through things together over decades. It’s people you’ve experienced highs and lows with, but managed to stick with throughout the years. But ‘family’ can also be people who you haven’t talked to for years, who you’ve had a fragmented relationship with. For those sorts of relationships, it can be an unhealthy loyalty or a wondering of what could have been.
The book doesn’t have a happily-ever-after ending. Why?
Not ending the story in a neat little package was very important to me. I think there’s a certain expectation in storytelling by readers that a story needs a conclusion. And, to me, this is not what actually happens in the real world. The reasons people read a book are different – some people are reading for escapism, others are to better understand cultures and other people – so it depends on the reader and what they’re looking for. In literary fiction, readers are more open to an inconclusive ending because literary fiction can take things to a darker, more serious place than other genres. If I wrapped up the story with a nice little bow, it would be untrue to what this family has gone through. I wanted to show how unsolved issues can pan out. I didn’t want to take the story from a sad beginning to a happy ending. Not all stories end happily.
What do you want readers to take away from “Wild Fires?”
I set out to write a story that had a universal theme. I wanted to feature a somewhat normal story with Caribbean characters. It wasn’t centered around race or indentureship because a lot of the Indo Caribbean literature that I’ve read has been – and rightly so. That’s where I learned about our history and our stories. But that was not a story that I wanted to tell first because it was not the story that was closest to my heart. When I started writing, I realized the story was really about grief. I wanted to show Caribbean women and Indo Trinidadian women, in a universal light. We are a result of these histories yet go through normal things like grief, secrets and family dysfunction.
Following the publication of “Wild Fires,” Jai is pursuing her Master’s at Oxford University as a Kellogg’s Scholar. While attending school, she’s looking to write a short story about Caribbean joy to contrast the dark themes of her debut novel and portray Caribbean women in unrepresented ways.
“Wild Fires” is available in Canada and the UK and will be available in the U.S. in Spring 2023.