The International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) was held for the first time in the United States of America on April 26th in Tampa Bay, Florida and is set to air this Sunday, June 15, 2014 on STAR Plus. If you weren’t one of the lucky thousands that were able to attend the actual event, this behind the scenes post may be help you get your IIFA pre-show fix!
To begin with, The IIFA Tata Motors awards show was supposed to start at 8 p.m at the Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, true to “Indian standard time”, the show did not officially begin until an hour and a half later. And while it was supposed to end three hours later, at 11 p.m, the event did not conclude until around 3 a.m—a very expensive tardiness since overtime at the venue costs $1,000 per minute.
Generally IIFA is held in exotic locations around the world, such as South Africa, Malayasia, Netherlands, Thailand, and Macau. This year marked the first in the IIFA awards’ fourteen-year history in which the show was hosted in the United States. One man was instrumental in the selection of Tampa Bay as the first American host city for the 2014 IIFA awards. Dr. Kiran C. Patel, the wealthy majority owner and Chief Executive Officer of WellCare HMO, widely known for his philanthropic activity in Florida and internationally, convinced the IIFA board of directors and won the bid for the city. Patel is a firm believer in spreading awareness about South Asian culture. In that vein, he and his wife Dr. Pallavi Patel, an entrepreneur and pediatrician, founded the Drs. Kiran & Pallavi Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, which aims to fund various programs in health, education, arts and culture. It is widely believed that through this foundation Dr. Patel was able to fund enough money to attract attention to the U.S.
My experience at the IIFA awards was, overall, positive. The performances were high energy and very well done. Kevin Spacey did the “Lungi Dance” and Hrithik Roshan and John Travolta danced the “I see you” from Pulp Fiction; John Travolta also danced with Priyanka Chopra on stage. It was nice seeing the blend of the two cultures since Bollywood and Hollywood have historically taken ideas from each other and have increasingly been mixing. American attendees at the event included Tampa Bay mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miss America Nina Davuluri, actors Kevin Spacey and John Travolta, and Olympic swimmer Brook Bennett.
Even though I had a great time with my own friends, I was disappointed to see beefed up security at the Hilton hotel where Hrithik Roshan and Saif Ali Khan allegedly hosted exclusive and private after parties. Not that I am saying we tried to get in…but what can I say; I’m a dedicated and devoted Bollywood fan!
October 3, 2023October 3, 2023 8min readBy Arun S.
Badshah is undoubtedly one of the most influential figures in the South Asian hip-hop landscape. From farmlands to stardom, Badshah embodies the quintessential tale of humble beginnings and the rise to the top. He is one of the most successful generational artists who’s donned multiple hats, including that of a reality TV judge and has built a culturally rich empire with equity in a diverse set of businesses. Voted as the world’s No. 1 songwriter on YouTube by Blokur and being the first Indian artist to chart on Billboard Global 200, he is among the most bankable names in the Indian music industry; pretty much every label owner and/or film producer turns to him when in need of a guaranteed hit.
I recently got an opportunity to meet Badshah while he was in LA to record an album. Meeting him was surreal; almost like a bucket list moment. As someone whose music is a party starter in itself, it was surprising to learn that Badshah likes to keep to himself. The rapper is no stranger to a frenzy of fans huddling around him with camera phones. The environment was no different on the day we met. Yet he was kind, approachable and generous, smiling genuinely for every click of the camera. We spoke at length about his latest musical outing, his foray into entrepreneurship and South Asian representation at large. Below are the excerpts from our conversation:
We just learnt that you’ve been spending a lot of time here in LA. Are you liking it better in the U.S. than back home in India? What prompted this transition of spending more time overseas given that you are someone who endorses the heartland of India?
India will always be home for me. LA is a more diverse hub where you can just jump into the studio with artists from different ethnicities. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m shuttling between India and LA. The other day, I was strolling down the street and I noticed people jamming to a Bad Bunny song. In my head, I was like this needs to be a Hindi or a Punjabi song. There are multiple ongoing conversations, but everything I’m working towards globally is to represent the culture and normalize Indian-ness at a very grassroots level.
We really enjoyed the album “3 a.m. Sessions.” It showed a different side of your music discography. What was the process of creating this album and what was your intention behind presenting a more personal and intimate album?
I launched it as a random drop for my fans. My label wasn’t too hyped about it so I just went ahead and released it on my channel at 3am and it just exploded! The album was more about songs that I felt good making, it allowed me to dive deep with the storytelling and gave me a premise to be authentically vulnerable.
What can you tell us about your new single “Gone Girl?”
It’s me revisiting my older soundscape and reinstating what my moniker stands for. Badshah is all about blockbusters and bangers. For the longest time, my fans were waiting for me to come up with an anthem and I’m all about keeping my fans happy!
While you have managed to craft a legacy of your own, there is a section of the industry that dismisses your success. Why is that?
It’s human nature to not want to celebrate another’s strength and success and seek pleasure from others misfortunes and weaknesses. Till the time you’re an underdog, everyone wants to support you because it’s relatable and unpredictable. But once you’ve achieved a certain stature, the same people want to invest in someone else because they feel success comes with a sense of entitlement and privilege. It’s a vicious cycle of love and hate. I’m grateful for being overlooked because it reinforced my belief in myself and it pushed me to work harder. You can love me or you can hate me, but I know I’ve earned the respect and that’s the only opinion that matters.
You’re a mentor, entrepreneur as well as a philanthropist — aspects of your personality that most people aren’t privy to. What prompted you to take on such varying roles in life and why do you feel it’s important for artists to extend beyond their art?
My craft would be very self-limiting if I didn’t blend in the element of purpose. Music helps you to build a spiritual conscience and creative appetite that can empower you to go beyond hedonism and create opportunities for community progress.
Did you apprentice with anyone or was it more just self-education when transitioning into this prolific creative businessperson and learning the business side of things?
It was very organic. Maybe it was my love for mathematics that originated into me embracing entrepreneurship. Being invested for the long haul and having sweat equity gives me a sense of responsibility as opposed to engaging in time-bound brand partnerships based on my public stature. I have taken a lot of un-calculated risks, but I enjoy the process of creating an establishment. That business streak has been in me since I was a child. In school, I was selling comic books and in college, I was selling medicine and land. Fashion label, record company, television network, a film production house, nightclub — I’ve tried it all and I am still looking forward to expanding within the beverage and sports industry.
Currently, Reggaetón and K-POP are having huge moments around the world. When do you feel South Asian sounds will reach a mainstream level?
I’m hoping within the next two years. We are at the cusp of a Brown takeover and this was long overdue. In a world where every other culture and community is enjoying its fair share of spotlight, I think it’s about time South Asians are celebrated and are given the due they deserve. South Asians are a hardworking lot and are invested in their craft and the world is just about waking up to how multi-hyphenate we truly are! Diljit paaji at Coachella is a great example of how audiences are investing in not just the music, but the overall cultural experience. AP Dhillon and Karan Ajula are doing great as well. Late Sidhu Moose Wala was a real legacy artist who pushed the boundaries for Indian hip-hop, sitting out of a remote village in India, and encouraged music consumption that directly put a spotlight on staying true to one’s roots. Similarly, I’d like to do the same for Indian hip-hop globally — celebrate the culture, champion other artists, build an indigenous empire and be the voice of a generation without having to conform to any diktat or cater to the need of validating where I come from.
The legacy of a cultural juggernaut. I am working towards building an establishment that extends beyond the mundane materialism and impacts individuals on a more humanitarian level. The success needs to transform into something more meaningful and greater than just million-dollar brand deals, or stadium tours, or record-breaking streaming numbers. I’d like to build towards generational cultural wealth. When people remember me, I want them to smile recalling how they were touched by me in a way that left them with something to cherish. I don’t want to just live inside minds, but also inside the hearts of people.
How do you celebrate your success?
With grace. I don’t believe in hierarchical systems. I don’t consider myself above or below anybody. I’m always sharing my success, and congratulating my peers on their success as well. I’m not the type to take success for granted because I worked hard for it and I’m grateful that God views me as worthy enough.
Tell us about the person behind the moniker.
I’m contrary to what you see in my public profile. I’m a happy social recluse who’d prefer a studio session over a glitzy red carpet. I feel my public persona is an alter ego as I’m quite straightforward and boring in real life. Though one thing that has stayed constant is my love for fashion, jackets, and sneakers, more precisely.
How do you feel about the Asian Underground scene in the U.K. influencing your music and who were some of the artists and tracks that helped pave the way?
In my early teens , I listened to a lot of Panjabi MC, Bally Sagoo, and Rishi Rich. They helped me pursue hip-hop more ardently and gave me a sense of direction in my quest.
As someone who is constantly in the public eye and most susceptible to hate and criticism, how do you motivate yourself on the hardest of days?
Music and family are always therapeutic, but because I’ve seen massive struggle in my heydays, I can come around the hard days far easier now. I’ve realized that the war is against myself and I have to take full responsibility. If I need to learn new things and progress, I need to befriend disapproval, embrace the struggle, and enjoy the discomfort. I’ve always taken the harder route. I’ve lost friends, rewired my brain to think in new ways, foregone old patterns, pulled myself away from anger, but it’s made me feel empowered knowing that the power to change my life lies within me.
In an era where popularity is gauged as per one’s social media following and streaming numbers, how important is the aspect of authenticity and storytelling for you?
Storytelling gives character, whilst authenticity builds reputation. You may forget the face or the name, but you will never forget the story. The human brain is wired to connect through stories and the more organic and real these stories are, the more an artist becomes relevant.
Speaking of numbers, does creativity get affected in the whole number game?
Numbers are a great flex, but it’s in no way a measure of whether a song is a hit or not. Just because a song has ‘X’ number of million views, doesn’t guarantee an artist’s achievement quotient. These are just titles for the hype which can fade if you aren’t consistent creatively. Fans still need to attend your shows and consume your music, more unswervingly.
What more do you want to see from the Indian-Bollywood music industry? What’s lacking and can be done better to transcend borders and industries?
We need to embrace diversity and celebrate not just the major feats, but the small wins too. We don’t need to blend in or do something that’s against the culture as if we have nothing to offer. We need to stand up and own our uniqueness. Indians were born for greatness, it’s our time to shine, respectfully and authentically.
It feels like you almost see it as a mission on some level, outside of just making millions and selling super dope records, to kind of get the Indian culture up. You have extensively spoken about representing the scene more authentically and taking the Indian sound overseas and how you’ve been inspired by the late Sidhu Moosewala’s career trajectory. Why is cultural representation so important for you and what are you envisioning to propagate it?
Culture is what defines identity and representation is what bridges the gap between communities. Together they lay a foundation for anti-racist behavior and beliefs. However, there is still work to be done towards representation where diversity is seen as beautiful and valued. The barrier is tokenism, where artists are included in projects solely for the sake of diversity. We need representation that is diverse and not tokenized.
What do you think your true essence is? What would be true about you no matter how successful you get?
My commitment to the community and the craft. We are born to help people and if my art can uplift someone, I’d consider myself successful.
Who are you inspired by?
I’m motivated by everything that involves hard work because talent alone isn’t enough. I’m inspired by Virat Kohli, Ratan Tata, Drake, Jay-Z, and the list just goes on.
If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?
I’d love to collaborate with Elon Musk. Maybe I can headline a concert he organizes on Mars one day!
Any particular American hip-hop artists that have inspired you?
I really love J. Cole. He’s amazing! I also love Jay-Z and Kanye West.
We hear there’s new music coming up for you. What can fans expect from you in the coming year?
I have some dope collaborations in the pipeline, and an arena show in London, later this year. I’m also a judge on two reality shows and life is kind!
Face rejections with grace and accept success with humility. The attitude we bring to things changes the course completely. You give away what you want. If you want love, love unconditionally; if you want respect, respect equally. It’s just a mentality thing!
February 2, 2023February 11, 2023 7min readBy Arun S.
Kevin Wu, previously known as KevJumba, is an American YouTuber, from Houston, Texas, with more than 2.68 million subscribers on YouTube and more than 323 million views. His content consists of vlogs, social commentary, musical parodies and more. Wu also streams on Twitch and has released original music as well as freestyles. His most popular YouTube video is titled “Nice Guys” with Ryan Higa. Wu has also worked with many individuals including A-Trak, Chester See, David Choi, Globetrotters, Iyaz, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, and more. He has also appeared in movies such as “Hang Loose,” “Revenge of the Green Dragons,” “Man Up,” and more. Wu is one of the first original YouTubers gaining popularity in 2008 and even had another channel, titled JumbaFund, now known as Team Jumba. Continue reading to learn more about Kevin Wu’s journey!
We really enjoyed the project ‘Underneath the Lights.’ On the track “WHY U IN LA” the lyrics, “Don’t know who I might be, it might surprise me. I could be a hypebeast, That’s nothing like me, It’s so enticing.” How do you feel this speaks to the idea of self-discovery? What have you learned about yourself, diving back into making content?
I love that song we did. The artist who sang those lyrics his name is Zooty. I really provided the energy and direction for the musical piece, but I give credit to my producer Jonum and Zooty credit for the lyrics. Both guys are a slightly different generation, gen-Z, whereas I grew up as a millennial. I find that I left a lot on the table when I left YouTube at 23, so when I work with gen-Z I have so much that I want to give. Coming back to YouTube this time around, it’s all about self-reliance. Coming from movies and television, you have to depend on people to get a better product. But with YouTube, I’m going back to my roots and putting my wit and effort into every part of the process again (writing, directing, performing, producing, editing). I want the result to be authenticity and a homegrown feeling.
When you started your YouTube channel you were known for your vlogs and social commentary. How do you feel about the new age of content creation — where content is in surplus but individuals aren’t feeling the content?
It’s hard to say whether or not individuals are or aren’t feeling content — the taste is just so wide now. It’s like living in Los Angeles; food is very competitive, and when picking a restaurant you have every ethnic variety and even fusion foods. I imagine opening a restaurant in LA to be very competitive and the attention to detail in what you make has to be authentic or hit a certain demographic. I feel on the Internet, YouTube does a decent job of catering to your sensibilities, the so-called algorithm. However, the personal connection you get with content creators has somewhat been shifted, and now it’s become more interest-based (ie gaming, how-to, music, politics, etc.)
How do you feel the original algorithm has changed, and what do you miss most about that time?
I don’t remember talking about algorithms back in 2010 to 2012. People watched their favorite Youtubers because their homepage included their subscriptions first and foremost, and then if your subscriptions hadn’t posted anything new, you would typically check the most popular page. Then trending became a thing and now you have algorithms generating your timeline based on a bunch of data. I think it’s forced creators to think externally and hanging onto identities i.e. what are my interests? Am I a gamer? Am I a streamer?
We parodied your music video for “Nice Guys” for our orchestra music camp skit back in high school. If Chester, Ryan, and you, had to recreate “Nice Guys” today, would you focus on the concept of self-love for the current generation? We also really loved “Shed a Tear.”
I definitely think self-love would be a very nice theme. Recreating it would be nice, actually. I think it’s hard to get three people to all be in the same room again, especially after leading different lives. But “Nice Guys” was something special for each one of us, and Chester See deserves a lot of credit because of his musical talent. It’s made me realize today the impact of music. I really enjoy the expression of music because it forces you to be more artistic, versus just saying what’s on your mind. Like poetry, or hearing harmonies.
You’ve worked with many individuals and groups in the past including, A-Trak, Chester See, David Choi, Globetrotters, Iyaz, Jamie Chung, Jeremy Lin, Ryan Higa, Wong Fu Productions, and more. If you could create content with any group of individuals who would be your dream collaborators?
At this stage in my life, I really enjoy coming back and rekindling those creative connections and checking in with previous friends or acquaintances. Doing a video with Ryan Higa, Jeremy Lin, Chester See, David Choi, Wong Fu, Jamie Chung, those would all be very fun. But the first step would be to just see how they’re doing. So that’s the closest thing to a best case scenario for me. I’m not trying to force any collaborations at the moment (haha!). Unless it’s convenient.
As an NBA fan you expressed you would like to talk more about basketball on Ryan’s “Off the Pill Podcast.” How do you feel watching sports and has playing sports helped you become more in tune with yourself?
After going through a lot of physical adversity after my car accident, reconnecting with sports has been really helpful. I played basketball for a while and I’d like to get back into soccer. I wanted to talk about basketball on Ryan’s podcast because I was still dipping my toes into Internet content/social media and didn’t want to talk too much about myself at the time.
As a content creator how do you balance not letting validation get to your head and authentically connecting with your audience?
We all seek validation. It’s innate, but it’s about where you seek it. Nowadays I remember to validate myself first, by starting with my mind and body. After a while, you can get a sense of when you need validation versus being totally unconscious of it. Sometimes that sense of validation is important, so we know to check in with our parents, or see if a friend needs positive feedback. To connect with the audience, that’s like number five in my priority list (haha!). Having an audience can be scary; you definitely want to be in tune with yourself first.
How do you deal with comments consisting of “I miss the old KevJumba?”
As live streaming has become a new form of content now, how have you enjoyed live streaming on Twitch for the Head In The Clouds Festival both in 2021 and 2022? We really enjoyed seeing Ylona Garcia sing “Nice Guys!”
It’s fun, I enjoy live streaming and I really appreciate 88rising and Amazon Music for inviting me both years to be the host for their livestream.
What was the decision behind putting your family in your videos?
I put my Dad in my videos accidentally; we were on a ski trip. I think people responded really positively in the comments, and then I just sat down had a conversation with him on camera, and it became a hit. After that he just became his own character. I think I tend to come alive more when I am interacting with someone on camera.
We really liked seeing you upload videos to Team Jumba. Is the mission still to donate earnings to a charity that viewers suggest?
At the moment, no. The Supply, which was the charity I donated to before, has since shut down. I also don’t make much money on YouTube anymore, since I was inactive on my channel for a while, so that format from 2009 will be difficult to replicate.
We really enjoyed the ‘KevJumba and Zooty Extended Play,’ specifically the track “With You in the Clouds” featuring fuslie. How has Valorant inspired your music as well as other forms of content creation?
The album was really experimental. I find the personal connections I made in gaming to be the most enlivening. “With You in the Clouds” was inspired by TenZ and, since he’s such a legendary figure in the pro FPS community, we had to do a worthy tribute. I think paying tribute to the things you like is a really great way to think about content creation.
How do you feel your childhood experiences in Houston, and playing soccer, have shaped you to chase your dreams of acting? How have you enjoyed acting in comparison to YouTube?
I love acting. It’s a wondrous lens at which to see your relationship with others. I find that in studying acting, you are often really studying the human experience or the mind. It’s like learning psychology but you are on your feet, or you are reading great theater. Playing soccer and growing up in Houston don’t really contribute directly to why I enjoy acting, but I very much enjoy coming from Houston and thriving in soccer. It made me commit to something and seeing how consistently “showing up” can really ground your childhood and prove to be valuable, later in life.
How do you feel we can uplift each other across the Asian diaspora and unify to create ripple effects of representation?
I think listening is probably the best thing you can do. Just genuinely hearing about something, or someone, helps you really invest in them during that time that you are there. So I think that’s probably the first step.
What made you go back to school and finish your degree at the University of Houston in Psychology?
No one reason in particular. I was also studying acting at the time back in 2017-2018 when I completed the degree, so it was just testing my limits and seeing what I could balance. I finished it online.
What are your upcoming plans?
Just experimenting on YouTube for now. Making videos with my own effort.
Your first video was uploaded back in 2007 and was titled ‘Backyard,’ where you are dancing to a song called “Watch Me” by Little Brother, off of the “The Minstrel Show.” We also really enjoyed your video with Ryan Higa titled “Best Crew vs Poreotics.” Are you still dancing these days?
Yes. The body does what the body wants.
Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
Nothing in particular. I try to let my mind flow when I answer questions. I may have jumped to conclusions before fully investing in some of the questions, so I apologize. If you are reading, I thank you for your time and patience. I also thank Brown Girl Magazine for putting together a vast array of questions that allow my mind to stretch and work out a bit. I hope you find a stronger connection to your own truths, and I hope I did not disturb those in any way. Regards.
For any of us who have siblings, the relationship with them can be one of the most fulfilling ones. And also one of the most bloody frustrating. No one can quite stroke the fire like someone who knows you extremely well, or sometimes not, but have a familial bond with that neither one of you chose. In “Polite Society,“directed by Nida Manzoor, sisters Ria Khan and Lena Khan’s loving, sweet, and sometimes tumultuous relationship takes center stage.
Played delightfully by Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya, respectively, the evolution of their relationship is one of the film’s greatest and simultaneously weakest points. It’s also pretty cool to see two South Asian actresses in an action-comedy movie — how refreshing it is to mention the art of choreography and praise it in regards to fight sequences vs. dance sequences for a film centered on two South Asian women — that itself shows progress.
Set in London, Ria is an aspiring stunt woman who already shows massive talent in martial arts. She looks up to her older sister Lena, who is enrolled in art school and, also holds remarkable potential in a somewhat less traditionally acceptable field. Their relationship starts off as supportive and sweet with no inclinations of jealousy or resentment that sometimes plagues sisterly bonds. But this also means that they are quite protective of one another, almost to the detriment of their well wishes for each other.
This all happens when Lena gets engaged after dropping out of art school. Ria feels betrayed. They were supposed to be on this journey together in fighting for their dreams. Ria decides that she knows what’s best for her sister and enlists the help of her friends to rescue the damsel in distress from her own wedding. Her deep animosity towards the prospect of Lena getting married is also fueled by Lena’s fiancé and his mother acting extremely suspiciously. The twist that ultimately brings the two sisters back together is both shocking and weirdly somewhat progressive in the motive behind the villain’s origin story. But the twist, unfortunately, is too ambitious for the movie as it tacks on another genre and theme earnestly, but still clunkily.
“Polite Society” tackles not only what it means to fight for one’s dreams but also what it means to have just one ardent supporter. As Lady Gaga famously said, “There can be 100 people in a room and 99 of them don’t believe in you but all it takes is one and it just changes your whole life.” Well, Ria’s Bradley Cooper was her very own sister who seemed to abandon her, and her faith in her, when she chose a different path. For Lena, the film opened up the question of marriage and the weight it bears in the life of a South Asian woman. Ria’s lack of understanding of the pressure it places on Lena is the start of the change in their relationship — the start of Ria’s coming of age and the start of Lena settling firmly into her adulthood.
Standouts from the cast include Ria’s best friends, played by Seraphina Beh and Ella Bruccoleri, who commit to the story and characters with such hilarity and conviction. They add the lightheartedness and playfulness the film needs, and it is refreshing that never once do they use Ria’s cultural background as a way to make fun of her or dismiss her.
It is also heartening to see Lena and Ria’s parents being some of the most supportive South Asian parents seen on screen. At the end of the day, it is not the external family pressure that impacts the decisions made by the sisters but rather their own satisfaction, or lack thereof, with their own lives that become the driving force of their actions.
“Polite Society” is written and directed by a South Asian woman for South Asian women, and is definitely worth a watch when it releases in theaters this April.