The 74th Annual Golden Globes aired on January 8, 2017 on NBC and proved, once again, how television is just better than movies when it comes to honoring diversity. *cough* #OscarsSoWhite *cough*. For the most part, at least.
At the ceremony, hosted by Jimmy Fallon, there were some surprising and some obvious wins. There were sobering speeches and light-hearted moments. There were scene-stealers and there were goof-ups. What resonated the most from the event was the representation of diversity for which the Golden Globes would get a solid B+. Although, I almost want to give it a full on A just for Priyanka Chopra’s stunner of a gown.
Some of our favorite Asian-American actors owned it as they stepped out to show the world what we’re all about: breaking the pattern under which we are, woefully, usually buried
Let’s start with the obvious.
Chopra clearly rocked her gold Ralph Lauren couture dress as she went on-stage alongside “The Walking Dead” actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan to present the Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama category.
Dev Patel, nominated for Best Performance in a Supporting Role for “Lion” looked hella dapper. He was responsible for the cutest moment of the show when he brought child actor and co-star Sunny Pawar on stage with him to introduce their film, which was nominated in the Best Motion Picture – Drama category. Lots of hearts collectively melted, trust me.
YouTube star Lilly Singh aka Superwoman was also in attendance at the awards, looking fine in her green gown. “New Girl” star Hannah Simone looked classy, as did Freida Pinto of “Slumdog Millionaire” fame.
Deepika Padukone, who stars opposite Vin Diesel in the upcoming movie “xXx: The Return of Xander Cage,” attended the InStyle Magazine after party glowing like sunshine in her beautiful dress, making a grand entrance.
Of course, the Golden Globes were about more than just the lavish outfits and looking flawless. It matters that these talented actors, whom we love and relate to so much, were out in their world making us look good as they peel off several layers of stereotypes. Even 10 years ago, the only major reference we had for ourselves for Apu from “The Simpsons.” Slowly but steadily, this has been changing. There is still a long way to go but this is a step in the right direction.
To see our favorite Bollywood queens excitedly approach worldwide fame and gain the respect of contemporaries here is delightful to witness. Yes, we’ve seen it before to some extent with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Irrfan Khan, but Chopra and Padukone have truly globalized themselves. As for the Asian-American actors, they’ve built a career for themselves in an industry and in a country that does prefer to see only a certain type of person on their screens. Kudos to them for leading the way for so many more.
This applies to many of the other winners and honorees of the night, too. Tracee Ellis Ross won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Show – Musical or Comedy for her charming, effervescent character Rainbow Johnson on “Blackish,” a poignant, hilarious show. Her win is extremely significant because she is the first black actress to win this award since 1983. In her beautiful acceptance speech, she dedicated her award to women of color.
Donald Glover bagged the trophy for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for his role in “Atlanta.” The show also won big at the Golden Globes by taking home the Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy award. Glover, known for his role in “Community” or by his stage name Childish Gambino, is the creator of the show. In fact, his win reminds me of the incredible success that was “Master of None,” created by Aziz Ansari, who also stars as the lead and was nominated last year for the same.
And, to no one’s surprise, the highlight of the night were veteran actresses Viola Davis and Meryl Streep. The former won for her supporting role in “Fences.” She’s known for her brilliant, insightful speeches and man, did she deliver.
Streep herself delivered the speech of the hour when she accepted said award. She was poised, elegant, thoughtful. Without even taking his name, she brought down President-elect Donald J. Trump as she reminded everyone of the time he imitated a disabled reported. She name-dropped several actors, including Patel. She was met with a standing ovation and rightfully so.
On the movie front, “Moonlight” won Best Motion Picture – Drama, making everything right in the world again. “Lion,” a film about a young Indian man using Google maps to find his family in a small village after he was lost and adopted by Australian parents as kid was also nominated. In fact, it’s a damn shame that Mahershala Ali didn’t get the nod for his fantastic performance in “Moonlight.” Or Patel, who was nominated in the same category. Aaron Taylor-Johnson was the surprise winner for his work in “Nocturnal Animals.” His nomination alone at the Golden Globes was a surprise, and his win was a huge upset.
Diego Luna, responsible for stealing several hearts with his solid performance in the recently released “Star Wars: Rogue One,” appeared with his co-star Felicity Jones to present an award. Once again, he made us collectively “aww” when he spoke in Spanish on-stage. He has been gaining praise for using his thick accent in the movie instead of changing it to appease masses.
However, I did say I’d give the ceremony a B+ despite these wonderful things that happened. One of them is, like I mentioned, Ali and Dev’s loss considering they were both deserving. As wonderful as Hugh Laurie is as an actor, Sterling K. Brown has been a solid performer this year in “People vs. OJ Simpson,” for which he was nominated, and he’s killing it on his other television show, “This is Us,” too.
The biggest talk of the town, though? The non-existent, very famous movie “Hidden Fences!” NBC host Jenna Bush Hager and actor Michael Keaton are to thank for this. While interviewing Pharrell Williams about “Hidden Figures,” Hager ended up calling it Hidden Fences instead.
Keaton did the same thing as he announced the nominees for the Golden Globes category Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Octavia Spencer, nominated in the category, couldn’t help but smile through it. Ah, live television.
Why the confusion by white people, you ask? “Hidden Figures,” a terrific movie starring Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, and Spencer star as the groundbreaking African-American mathematicians who calculated the landing trajectories for Apollo 11 for NASA. “Fences,” on the other hand, stars Davis and Denzel Washington and is an intense and dramatic family drama. They talk of very different and meaningful experiences. At this point, the disregard and mix-up isn’t even surprising. How sad is that? Excuse me as I go watch “Manchester by the La La Land.”
Reactions to “Hidden Fences”:
You know who stars in #HiddenFences… Garcelle Ashanti Brandy Sanaa Bring It On Union ?
Williams, Spencer, Monae were kind enough and responded to Hager’s apology the following day via Twitter, and were very forgiving about the incident.
That’s the irony with the word ‘diversity.’ It emphasizes the notable differences in all of us but it’s also what unites us. We want to be included so our uniqueness can stand out. We want to observe all of this in the media that we consume so heavily. To be represented in a good light makes us feel understood, even at the smallest scale.
That’s why it’s a thing of absolute freaking pride that the aforementioned actors are now considered icons of talent and fashion. Thank you for recognizing it, as best you could, HFPA and the Golden Globes. Let’s hope for less mishaps the next time. Also, maybe, make sure people name the right movies at the right time.
Saloni Gajjar is a recent alum of NYU’s Magazine Writing Program. Her passion lies in pop culture writing, as is evident in her work with magazines like Marie Claire, Interview, and Complex. Her goal is to show the arts as a medium and mirror of the society, much beyond just entertainment.
Over the past few weeks we’ve all seen Mindy Kaling shoulder the blame for misrepresenting the South Asian diaspora in her work. I want to expose us to the flip side. She’s not “Indian enough” for some in our communities and “not American enough” for mainstream television and media. But I don’t know a single South Asian living abroad who doesn’t feel this dissonance. We’re a generation born to parents who strived to stay connected to their homeland but knew they had to assimilate to survive. Many of us got lost in the mix. I definitely did. And from the looks of it, Kaling did too.
I feel like I’ve oscillated between these two extremes all my life. I’ve had moments of code-switching — performing as a white version of myself, melting into the groups around me. And moments of being a “coconut” (or an “oreo” depending on where you come from) — suddenly donning an accent as if Hindi was my first language. It wasn’t conscious. It also wasn’t fully unconscious.
It wasn’t until I watched Netflix’s“Never Have I Ever” as a 35-year-old mother of two that I realized what teenage Ambika was up against. Still wearing tank tops in secret, while girls my age had moved on to the midriff-baring trend of the early 2000s. Not thinking it was okay to explore my sexuality. Not seeing that sometimes I knew what was better for me than my parents did. Not understanding that it was okay to expand my romantic interests beyond the few Indian boys I knew. And then I rewatched “The Mindy Project” while on maternity leave with my second kid. And I ate it up.
I rewound dialogue as Dr. Lahiri got engaged, left a man who lost his drive, fell in love with the unexpectedly handsome curmudgeon, got pregnant, learned to mother, and found a new version of herself. She addressed her pregnant body insecurities on-screen (in “What to Expect When You’re Expanding — brilliant!). She grappled with her ambitions in the face of motherhood. She owned who she was when most of us were taught not to. She dated outside of her race. Her audacity and levity gave me so much oomph at a time when I needed it the most.
Art comes from lived experience. And when individuals reflect their life back to the masses through art, it’s a tenuous balance. Comedians in particular have to toe a fine line between hyperbole and reality, having the paradoxical job of speaking the truth (the dark truth, often), and simultaneously making people laugh.
Even though I didn’t speak Spanish — my parents don’t speak Spanish — early in my career when I would portray my parents in a bit, they would have an accent. They would speak in broken English. Any time I would talk about my mom, it was like, ‘ay, mija.’ My mom doesn’t call me ‘mija.’ My mom will leave me a voice message and be like, ‘hey, girl!’ She talks like me. You know what I mean?
This is the inherent paradox that exists in Velma as well. Kaling, as she often does, takes her own experiences as a young Indian girl growing up against the backdrop of white America, and amplifies them. And now, Kaling is a grown, Indian woman whose career is evolving against the backdrop of an America, too.
Critics across different racial groups frequently talk about “the representation trap.” Even if a minority group is represented in a piece of art, literature, film, or television, the manifestation of that group is still filtered through the white gaze. In Ismail Muhammed’s New York Times piece “Can Black Literature Escape the Representation Trap,” he says:
Our current problem isn’t an insufficient amount of Black representation in literature but a surfeit of it. And in many cases that means simply another marketing opportunity, a way to sell familiar images of Blackness to as broad an audience as possible.
The debate about whether minority artists properly represent their cohort is marred with capitalism and white supremacy. When so many industries are gate-kept by the typical, euro-centric, generationally rich man, is there really any way to be wholly true to our experience?
Let’s not forget that many of us (or maybe all of us?) came up in a society that devalues women, and horrifically devalues people of color. Let’s not forget that the majority of executives across every field still don’t look like us (if by chance you’ve forgotten, read this piece byRuchika Tulshyan). Let’s not forget that when people are introduced to something foreign and unknown to them, their default is to reject it (again, if you’ve forgotten, read about “the mere exposure effect” and racism).
I’m unsure how Kaling has inherited the immense responsibility of representing all of the South Asian American diaspora? And is then being criticized for her representation of it. Third-generation South Asians are very different from second-generation, who are very different from first-generation. Our identities and how we fit into American culture, mainstream media, and business, are still forming as we speak. We are not a monolith.
And plenty of men have done exactly what Kaling is being criticized for, without anywhere near the same level of criticism. All men I (hopefully, we) love.
Riz Ahmed has taken on roles in which his race isn’t the central focus. Hasan Minaj doesn’t get criticized when he uses stereotypical accents to represent South Asians or for using politics as a launch pad for his content. We don’t hate on Kumail Nanjiani when he suddenly gets a six-pack, even though he also once played a nerd. I loved when Aziz Ansari went to Italy to make pasta and didn’t make it Indian.
Why are we tearing down one of the only women in America who is working to showcase South Asian culture and people? Because she uses humor and caricature? Because she’s not putting herself in the mindset of the type of Indian person who has learned to thrive at the intersection of their upbringing and their environment? Newsflash: that person doesn’t exist!
It’s not on Kaling to represent every dimension of this diaspora. She’s done her job.
I’m a proud, second-generation, Indian American woman, married to an Indian American man, with two Indian American children. I was nerdy just like Kaling. I had arm hair just like Devi. I pined after white boys in my teen years just like Bela from the HBO Max’s “Sex Lives of College Girls,” too. And Kaling is an absolute inspiration to me.
I see a South Asian woman who chose to have children on her own. Whose career, post-children, skyrocketed. Who committed herself and her craft to tackle the most deep-rooted stigmas of South Asian culture — mental health, sex, and interracial relationships — while still honoring the way it manifested in her life.
It’s now our job to get out into the world and dimensionalize our cohort. Show the world what us supposed “ABCDs” have grown up and done; who we’ve become and what we’ve accomplished.
It’s what I’m trying to do. It’s what I’m trying to fight for when I’m told things like “maybe tone down the diversity angle in your writing, we don’t want publishers to think they’re just buying a diversity book.”
We still exist in a house of cards. Why are we kicking the building blocks of our own home?
I’ll leave you with this quote from Kaling herself:
People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you’re succeeding. People do not get scared when you’re failing. It calms them. But when you’re winning, it makes them feel like they’re losing or, worse yet, that maybe they should’ve tried to do something too, but now it’s too late. And since they didn’t, they want to stop you. You can’t let them.
I hope this woman never gets discouraged. We need her in more ways than one.
March 20, 2023March 29, 2023 3min readBy Rasha Goel
Award-winning commercial real estate and land consultant in Arizona, Anita Verma-Lallian, is venturing into the world of entertainment with her newfound production house, Camelback Productions, making her the first South Asian female in the state to do so. Verma-Lallian is a woman used to paving her own way, and now she’s committed to doing it for future generations.
Through her production company, she aims to contribute towards greater South Asian representation in mainstream media with a focus on storytelling that’s relevant to the community. In a conversation with Brown Girl Magazine, the real estate maven spoke about what inspired her to shift from investing in land to investing in creative dreams.
Tell us more about Camelback Productions and what your hopes are for the company?
The intention is to help communities that are not being represented in the media. As you know, there are a lot more streamers looking for content so that presents an interesting opportunity for people to tell stories that are otherwise not being told.
For us it’s important to tell these stories that aren’t being told, and tell them in the way that we want them to be told. With South Asians, for instance, the roles typically given are stereotypical. There are only four or five roles we are playing repeatedly. I want to show the South Asian community and culture in a different way.
You come from a business and investor background. I am curious to know what catapulted your interest towards establishing a production company?
Good question. There were a few things that inspired my interest. I was looking to diversify the different opportunities we offered our investors. We’ve done a lot of real estate, so we were overall looking for different investment opportunities. And then, at the time when I started exploring this, the real estate market was in this wait-and-see for many people.
Everyone was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens next. There was a slowdown at the end of 2022 which is when I started looking into this more. Film seemed like it was kind of recession-proof and not really tied to what’s happening in the economy, which I thought was refreshing and exciting.
Also, overall, I observed what was happening in the industry with there being a push to see more South Asians in the media. The timing felt right, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.
Good stories and good quality scripts. We are looking at all types of content — movies, docu-series, comedy shows, and reality shows. We’re open to anything that has a good message.
On a personal level, what hits home for you with this production company?
Growing up I always loved film and TV. We watched a lot of Bollywood movies because that’s what we related to and I always loved that. But I did feel there wasn’t a lot of representation of people that looked like me. Being able to change that — especially after having kids, and a daughter who wants to go into film — is important for. It’s a contribution for future generations. It’s important to me that as they grow up, they see people that look just like them.
Is there a significance to the name Camelback?
Yes! Camelback Mountain is a very iconic mountain in Phoenix.It’s one of the most famous hikes we have here and a relatively challenging one.
The significance is being able to overcome challenges and barriers. I have a nice view of Camelback Mountain and it’s something I look at every day, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. It has a very calming and grounding presence.
To me the mountains signify being grounded and not being able to be moved by external factors. That’s what I want this production company to be!
What would you advise people interested in entering the entertainment industry?
The best advice I would give someone is to align yourself with people that you know are experts in the industry; that have a good track record. Learn from as many people as you can.I learn as much as I can, talk to as many people as I can, and I study different things to understand what was and wasn’t successful.
“After so Long” is a poetry film created for Simha’s EP, which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The poem was collaboratively written by Simha, a U.S. native, and Jae, who is based in India, during the 2020 lockdown. “After so Long” was recited by Simha and their parents. In 2022, I directed and produced the film through my studio, Star Hopper. “After so Long” premiered on Nowness Asia in March 2022.
This film is a worldwide collaboration among trans and queer south-Asian artists from the United States, India and Canada. It was recorded, shot and filmed during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021.
Awake at 10 am but out of bed at noon,
I want to be here where I lose myself in these sheets
Glancing through half-shut eyes
At the gold pressing past my window
The glimmer remarks on the ledge of my bed
But the voices are so loud
Like dust collecting in the corner of my room
I am unaware to why I’m still here
With the chilling doubt of the breeze…
I’m swept into lucidity After so long
Mil rahi hoon mein aaj iske saang barso baad,
(Today, I’ll be meeting them after so long)
Koi paata nahi diya tune
(But with no destination sight,)
(What should I do?)
(Where should I go?)
Shayad agar mein chalne lagoon,
(Perhaps, if I keep walking)
Inn yaadon ki safar mein
(Down this road of memories)
Mujhe samajh mein ayega,
(I will find out)
Yeh rasta kahaan jayega,
(Where this road leads)
Inn aari tedhi pakadandiyon pe baarte hi jaana hai,
(Through the twists and turns of this winding roads, I must keep going on)
Mujhe mil na hain aaj uske saath,
(I wish to meet them today)
(After so long)
I feel like I’m retracing my footsteps
From these concrete stretches
To broken cement walls
Chips and cracks forge their way for new designs
I see the old abandoned buildings
That once held the warmth of bodies
Now just hold memories
Supporting the nature’s resilience
In vines and moss
After so long
Dhoondli shishe mein jaaga leli hai
(These isty mirrors have offered refuge)
Bikhri hui laatao ne,
(To these scattered vines)
Zameen pe uchi ghaas pe
(Amidst the tall grass stretching from the ground)
Lehrati kamsan kaliyaa
(The swaying little buds)
Bheeni bheeni khushboo bikhereti
(Spreading honeysuckle scent through the air)
Phir wahi mausam,
(I lose myself in reminiscing, the same season)
(The same heart)
(After so long)
Phir bhi mein chal rahi hoon aaj
(Still, I keep carrying on today)
Khudko khudse milane ke liye
(In the pursuit of my higher self)
Inn galiyo se guzarna hain aaj
(I must pass through these streets today)
Chaalte chaale jaana hai aaj
(I must keep going on today)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor paar
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
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