Their stories are almost opposite, yet it seamlessly ties them together. They both left the mainstream cinema industries in the countries they grew up in to venture into new territories. This makes their experiences and views unique, which provided for some wildly entertaining television. In case you are still confused, I am referring to Indian-born Frieda Pinto and American-born Nargis Fakhri, and their recent appearance on the show “Koffee with Karan,” with the beloved “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” film director playing as host, Karan Johar.
Most of us know Pinto from the acclaimed 2008 British drama film, “Slumdog Millionaire,” which made a splash in the United States and the international film world. The success of Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan’s film launched Frieda straight into Hollywood, surpassing any work in Bollywood. This is the stuff that crossover dreams are made of.
Since her debut, she’s starred in Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger,” “The Rise of the Planet Apes” and other independent films. Pinto spoke about some surreal moments during her journey to fame, such as receiving praise from Angelina Jolie, while stuffing her face with cake. Pinto also mentioned the struggles she faced in India prior to her film career, specifically in modeling and commercials. She was told by various director and casting departments that she did not look “Indian enough” and she was not up to their idea of “physical standards.” (As stated on the show, Pinto was told she wasn’t fair enough and parts of her body were “too thin” and was recommended that she have some work done…I will let you figure out the rest).
While it was refreshing to see Pinto’s beauty appreciated internationally even after such criticisms, I was surprised to hear that she developed a slight British accent. I cannot help but wonder if this is the result of some accent coaching to make her sound more “global” and less “Indian,” or a byproduct of spending time with her British-raised beau of four-and-a-half-years, Dev Patel.
On the contrary, there was nothing fake about Fakhri’s New York accent. I did not know much about supermodel Fakhri before watching this episode except that she had been heavily criticized after her Bollywood debut in Imtiaz Ali’s “Rockstar.” However, it was refreshing to see a sassy, frank model-turned-actress, born and raised in Jamaica, Queens, NY. Apparently, Nargis said she is known as a “ghetto girl.” She said it stems from the area in which she grew up, which, according to her, sees many murders, prostitution and drug deals. Noticing the vast juxtaposition of the real personality of Fakhri versus the one of her that she played in “Rockstar,” I definitely think she did justice to her role.
A passion for travel, ignited by tales from her Czech mother, inspired Fakhri into a career of modeling that enabled her to live all over the world, ranging from Costa Rica to Germany to Singapore. Finally, Fakhri found herself in India, which demanded the most from her in terms of cultural acclimation. Prompted by Johar, Fakhri hilariously described how many men propositioned her in India. To all the man who tried, she said they need to “hold up and back up.”
Besides the men, Fakhri’s rocky start in Bollywood did not help her feel any more at home. However, she defended herself, asking Johar and Pinto how they would do in a Chinese film had they been given two months to learn Chinese. She adds humor to the situation to further illustrate her difficulty all of her Hindi-dialogues sounded like, “bada-bada-bada-HAPPY” or “bada-bada-bada-SAD.” But, despite the harsh remarks, Fakhri is still standing. She recently danced to an item song for “Phata Poster Nikhla Hero” and stars in “Main Tera Hero” with co-star Varun Dhawan, which will release in April.
Their respective journeys aside, Pinto and Fakhri bonded on being uprooted, dealing with men and confidently embracing their sexuality. The episode turned into one of Johar’s raunchier ones, as the ladies discussed pole dancing. Fakhri even told us that in Spanish her first name sounds like the word “butt cheeks.” Fakhri’s spunk shined in witty one-liners and a certain realness with humility that you don’t always see in other Bollywood stars. At one point, Fakhri jokingly began airing out her underarms because she felt sweaty and nervous.
I appreciated such a relateable gesture because it’s something I could never imagine the glamorous Deepika Padukone or Priyanka Chopra doing. There were many points in the episode where Pinto, Fakhri, Johar, and myself erupted in laughter, thanks to the chemistry and conversation between the two guests.
The “KWK” newcomers did exceedingly well in the “Rapid Fire Round,” tying for the much-awaited hamper full of luxurious prizes. One of personal favorite answers was when Pinto said her matrimonial advertisement would read “anyone who is not looking for a ‘fair, light-eyed virgin.'”
Fakhri’s cleverest quip was her response to the game “Kill, Marry, Hook-up.” Out of her the choices she given, Fakhri said, “I’d kill to see John [Abraham] hook up with Ranbir [Kapoor] and marry Uday [Chopra].”
This episode of “Koffee with Karan” is, without out a doubt, one of the best and funniest I have seen in a long time. Much of this can be attributed to Fakhri’s quirkiness and wackiness. While these two actresses are not as dominant in Bollywood mainstream cinema as some other stars, it is still worth it to keep an eye-out for them in years to come.
Featured Image Source: http://mumbaiboss.com/2014/03/04/koffee-with-karan-season-4-recap-freida-pinto-and-nargis-fakhri/
“How could the British bring the Indians without the cows?”That’s one of the jokes you’re very likely to hear at comedian Priya Guyadeen’s show. In fact, the 53-year-old just wrapped up a set of shows with her troupe: Cougar Comedy Collective. The Guyanese-born comic spearheads the group of mostly women of “a certain age,” as she puts it.
She says the group was formed in 2021 but she started dishing out jokes back in 2020 during the pandemic, over Zoom. She was always labeled the “funny one” in her family and decided to take her jokes to a virtual open mic, hosted by her friend, where she says failure was less daunting.
Cut to 2023, and the comic was able to take her show on the road. Guyadeen and her fellow performers recently hit the East coast for a set of shows called “Cougars on the Loose!” The shows even featured two male comics.
Guyadeen’s comedy routines touch on her Indo Guyanese background, highlighting stereotypes and a clash of cultures. In one of her jokes, she tells her audience that her Guyanese mom is bad with names when she introduces her white boyfriend, Randy, and he gets called Ramesh.
Out in the Bay Area — where she spends her days now — she tries to connect the sparsely Caribbean population to her jokes.
That includes talking about the 1978 Jonestown Massacre which had ties to San Francisco and ended in Guyana. She uses this as a reference point — trying to connect her audience to her background with historical context. She says this does come with its challenges, though.
The single mom also practices clean jokes. Once she finishes up her daily routine with her eight-year-old son and day job as a project manager for a biotechnology company, she tries to find time to write her material.
It’s a balancing act. I’m like the day job-Priya for a few hours or for a chunk of time. And then I’ve got to put on my comedian hat and do that for a period of time because with comedy, I’m not just performing. I’m also producing, managing the shows, booking talent, seeking venues.
Though it’s not easy, she says she’s learning through it all — the business side of comedy and discipline.
Guyadeen, who’s lived in Brazil and Canada, says her young son really contributes to her comedy. A lot of her material focuses on jokes for parents, and single parents like herself, because she feels:
[We live] in a society that doesn’t really create a support system for single parents.
Her nonprofit, Cougar Comedy Collective, was born out of all the great reception she received. She noticed a “niche market” of women in their 50s who loved to get dressed up and come out to the shows to hear jokes that related to their own lives that aren’t typically touched on. These were jokes about menopause, aging and being an empty nester. Guyadeen says her nonprofit,
…bring[s] talent together in our age group to celebrate this time of life; celebrate this particular juncture in a person’s life.
As Guyadeen continues her comedic journey, she says she hopes she’ll be a role model for other Caribbean women to follow their dreams despite their age. She also hopes to see more Caribbean people carving out their space in the entertainment industry.
Featured Image of Priya Guyadeen taken by Elisa Cicinelli Photography
It’s always a flamboyant affair of colour, emotions and grandeur when Karan Johar directs a film, and his latest blockbuster “Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani” is as K Jo as it gets. After recently being recognised at the British House of Parliament for 25 years as a filmmaker, Johar is back to doing what he does best — bringing together families and star-crossed lovers, but this time with a modern touch. He makes a decent attempt at showcasing progressive ideals and feminist issues while taking us on this family-friendly ride.
“Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani” is a larger-than-life film revolving around the love story of a boisterous Rocky (Ranveer Singh) from a wealthy Delhi family, and Rani (Alia Bhatt), a sharp journalist from a progressive Bengali household. And of course, despite belonging to completely different backgrounds and lives, our protagonists, in true Bollywood fashion, fall hopelessly in love through a string of slow-motion gazes, warm embraces and some truly breath-taking song sequences in Kashmir’s snowy mountains. They are then forced to face their opposing families which brings along the family drama in the second half of the film.
The plot is not the film’s strongest point — there’s no real surprise about what’s going to happen next, and yet the film doesn’t fail to keep audiences engaged and pack an emotional punch. This is down to its strong acting, witty dialogues and K Jo’s classic, beautiful cinematography.
Ranveer Singh sinks into the skin of his character with ease – not only does he make the hall burst into laughter with the help of perfectly-timed gags but he pulls off those dreamy gazes ,expected in K Jo’s heroes, to evoke that typical, fuzzy-feeling kind of Bollywood romance. Alia Bhatt’s intelligent and undefeated character is no less a pleasure to watch on screen — not only does she look breath-taking in every shot but her feminist dialogues earn claps and cheers from the audience as she brings a progressive touch to this family drama.
Albeit, while Bhatt’s dialogues do their best to steer this film to the reformist drama it hopes to be, some of Singh’s gags and monologues on cancel culture bring out bumps in the road. The film could have done better to reinforce its points on feminism and racism without using the groups it tries to support as the butt of jokes.
There is also a case to be made about how long these Punjabi and Bengali stereotypes can go on with often gawkish displays of Ranveer’s ‘dilwala-from-Delhi’ character among the overly-polished English from Rani’s Bengali family. But it is with the expertise of the supporting cast, that the film is able to get away with it. Jaya Bachchan in particular is as classy as ever on screen; the stern Dadi Ji holds her ground between the two lovers, while Dada Ji Dharmendra, and Thakuma Shabana Azmi, tug at our heartstrings showing that love truly is for all ages.
Saving the best to last, it is the film’s cinematography that makes the strongest case for audiences to flock to the cinema. The soul-stirring songs steal the show with their extravagant sets and powerful dance performances that treat the audiences to the much-awaited cinematic experience of a K Jo film. While audiences may already be familiar with the viral songs, “What Jhumka?” and “Tum Kya Mile“, it was the family-defying fight for love in “Dhindhora Baje Re” that really gave me goosebumps.
Overall, the film does exactly what it says on the tin and is a family entertainer with something for everyone. It will make you laugh, cry, and cringe at times, but nothing leaves you feeling as romantic as some old school Bollywood with a mix of new school humour, in true K Jo form.
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.