NYC SAFF: From East to West, 22 of the Best Subcontinent and Diaspora Films Screened in One Weekend

Presented by Toyota, the Big Apple welcomed its newest South Asian film festival, New York City South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF). Founded by veteran festival director Jitin Hingorani, the festival’s mission is to showcase premieres of features, documentaries and short films curated to engage, educate and inspire the masses, ranging from Baby Boomers to Generation Z. And so they did from November 15-16, the likes of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Tannistha Chatterjee, Abhay Deol, Brendan Fraser and many more were in attendance premiering their films alongside 22 other films!

Four of those films walked away with top honors at the closing night awards ceremony, held at Rumi Event Space in Chelsea on Sunday night.

The winners of the festival are as follows:

Best Short:
WHAT DID YOU THINK? directed by Parinaz Jal (World Premiere)

Best Actress:
Usha Jadhav for MAI GHAT, directed by Ananth Narayan Mahadevan (North American Premiere)

Best Actor: 
Ashish Sharma for KHEJDI, directed by Rohit Dwivedi (NYC Premiere)

Best Director:
Ananth Narayan Mahadevan for MAI GHAT (North American Premiere)

Best Film: 
KAAMYAAB directed by Hardik Mehta (NYC Premiere)

Opening Night

Line of Descent  
Directed by Rohit Karn Batra
Hindi/English, 108 minutes, 2019, USA

Review by Jashima Wadehra 


You know when it’s raining out and you make some hot chai, cuddle up on the couch, search Netflix in the mood for a movie with a cute actor and lame, easy-to-follow plotline? This is it. I will forever be biased where Abhay Deol is concerned, those dimples would make anyone weak at the knees BUT this film left much to be desired in its plot. Written and directed by Rohit Karn Batra and featuring the iconic Brendan Fraser, as much as I was fangirling (Hello! Encino man!) I found myself wondering why we were still rinsing and repeating stereotypes and cliche storylines from the early 2000’s.

A mafia patriarch’s three sons fight over who will take control of the future of their criminal businesses with standard overdramatized intimidation and “tough guy” violent routines. While the plot may have left something to be desired, the action shots and cheesy jokes made for a few belly induced laughs and the star-studded cast (Ronit Roy, Prem Chopra, Neeraj Kabi, and Ali Haj) brought their A-game, I mean…I am still waiting patiently waiting for Abhay…(call me)!

With winter around the corner, “Line of Descent” makes for a decent in-the-background eye-candy film, but don’t expect to see an innovative narrative that has you at the edge of your seat. 

Centerpiece Programming

Bombay Rose
Directed by Gitanjali Rao
Hindi, 93 minutes, 2019, India/United Kingdom/France/Qatar
Review by Jashima Wadehra 


Gitanjali Rao has transported us to an alternate world with her animation of Mumbai and the duality of the city that pulsates Kalakari (artistry) and the perils of survival navigating extreme wealth disparity. Animated films have a magic all their own, every detail, color, and angle made you feel as though you had arrived in Mumbai.

The attention to detail and editing alone was a pleasure to watch and compensated for a slightly scattered storyline that was perhaps too nuanced for its length. The rose, cardamom and Haldi color palate tugs at the heartstrings and makes for a visual experience so intricate, the thought and effort are apparent.

Kamala and Salim’s love brews amidst Bombay’s day-to-day struggles and makes references to mythology and Bollywood — an ever so beautifully relatable facet but slightly too much context and information.

The film’s beautiful visuals were complemented by an incredibly well developed musical scoring featuring compositions that enhanced the audience’s watching experience. You’re left feeling as though you’ve been in love and heartbroken…and slightly overstimulated but so enamoured with the magic that is, Bombay.  

Closing Night Film

Roam Rome Mein
Directed by Tannishtha Chatterjee
English/Hindi/Italian, 2019, India

Review by Jashima Wadehra


Have you ever felt seen? Wondered how you perceive others? Do we see of people who they are OR do we see who we want them to be? This double entendre titled feature film had us asking these very questions. Following the brother-sister duo played by writer/director Tannishtha Chatterjee and Nawazsuddin Siddiqui, we unravel the many tangles of gender inequality, familial expectations and the perception of art and autonomy.

Filmed predominantly in Rome, we follow the runaway Reena whose fate remains undetermined, as she indulges in the pleasantries of life as an architectural student in the exquisitely designed city of Rome and evades her father and family’s expectations. Reena flees a home that dictated her personal life, imposed a curfew and deprived her of education on the basis of her gender being a disadvantage in hopes to find a version of herself that is real.

As a woman, watching “Roam Rome Mein” felt as though this film made of subconscious, time-lapse shots, was disorienting yet infectiously empowering as stigmas were dismantled one by one while paying homage to Italy’s renaissance of historical feminism. Watching Nawazuddin (who comes from a similar background as his character, from a region that is used to women staying home, not receiving an education and being generally less-than), act as an overprotective and overzealous brother who goes on his own journey of self-discovery was a beautiful experience outlining the value of change and growth in life. 

Paired with a beautiful title song and an incredible heartwarming series of interactions, “Roam Rome Mein” is a wonderful film the world deserves to see. Women are often considered to be the sum of our roles; daughters, wives, sisters but we are seldom reminded that our conglomerate is not all that we are but simply a part. 

Manhattan Shorts

Fractured Souls
Directed by Eliezer Vergara
English, 15 minutes, 2019, USA

Review by Divya Jethwani 


Eliezer Vergara’s “Fractured Souls” opens with a man at a sink vigorously rinsing his hands from what seems to be the remains of a bloody encounter. My mind is drawn to different places imagining what could have possibly occurred before that moment. As the story goes on, the viewer is taken on a journey exploring various socio-cultural issues (infidelity, xenophobia, workplace harassment, religious violence, honor killings and more), however, the story follows a rather complicated path before merging two parallel plotlines in the midst of workplace harassment. 

A lot of time is spent exploring the protagonist’s life following an unfaithful encounter. The confusion, anxiety, walking on eggshells, the downwards spiral at work. This, followed by the entry of a new employee (the same man washing his bloody hands in the opening scene), who does nothing but keep to himself in his cubicle in a sterile work environment. Catching the new employee, a Muslim, praying in a secluded room, the protagonist proceeds to harass and bully him. This interaction creates conflict before the protagonist reaches an emotional arc. Through the experiences of this new employee, the protagonist is forced to examine his actions and the way he values his spouse and the people around him. 

Pulling on the protagonist and the viewer’s emotional strings through an honor killing, “Fractured Souls” puts emphasis on the value of love and life, reiterating not to take what you have for granted, because you will regret it when it is gone. The protagonist’s transformation in the way he views his romantic relationship after learning about his colleague’s wife’s murder surpasses his douchebag personality and distaste of a religion that is different from his.

Although there is a sense of open-mindedness and acceptance at this moment, “Fractured Souls” barely grazes the surface with all the opportunities it has to amplify the various themes in the story. The story brings together extremely important and relevant themes in today’s society but is unable to do justice to each of them. As a viewer, I was drawn to the dialogue “religion has no color” and wish there was more explanation of how this tied into the journey in the character’s emotional arc. 

The Unexpected
Directed by Rishi Kumar
English, 12 minutes, 2019, USA

Review by Jashima Wadehra

Rishi Kumar’s first short film, The UnExpected, is just that—unexpectedly beautiful.  In just a few minutes Kumar transports us into the home of a beautiful young couple trying to conceive. As they struggle through the ebbs and flows of infertility and IVF, for the first time in South Asian cinema, I’ve seen an emphasis on how traumatic and debilitating the process of conception can be and it was depicted exceedingly well without having to be overly explained. We follow their journey of emotional turmoil and faith. Following the female protagonist’s coping mechanisms and effort to survive, we feel her pain as she struggles to make it through each day. We experience the balance in life of loss and gain, love and pain and the greater acceptance of it all. With a diverse cast touching on intersectional cultural taboos (interracial marriage, conception, adoption, death) the film managed to address several socio-cultural issues without confusing or overwhelming the storyline.  

Wherever there is good, there must be bad. The void of love and the grief of loss are feelings less acknowledged but ever-present. The UnExpected entrenches the audience with its reminder to value life and can serve as an incredible catalyst for conversations our community needs to normalize. 

Directed by Vick Krishna
English, 12 minutes, 2019, USA

Review by Divya Jethwani

“Freak” is the heartwarming journey of love, acceptance and self-discovery as a daddy’s little girl comes out and draws the curtains on their relationship. Resulting in a rather positive outcome, “Freak” wants to showcase open-mindedness and the innocence of a father-daughter relationship. 

Exploring different realities of being a South Asian woman, the story encompasses the parallel journeys of a single father with a strong, but graceful daughter; alongside her ladylove, a woman scared of her mother’s judgmental eye and a reluctant but softie dad who is also scared of his wife, but loves his daughter dearly. 

Through the journey of the characters, I was pleasantly reminded of my childhood, where I would seek comfort in my dad when I knew I had done something wrong or needed validation in a situation because I knew my mother would scorn me or offer her unnecessary criticism. Freak capitalizes on this sweet bond which is furthered through characters of the dads. Silly, goofy, hesitant yet willing to go out of their comfort zones, Siraj Huda and Nitin Madan personify the typical desi dad. The soliloquy style narration allows the viewer into the minds of the characters, adding a unique element to the film.

For the first time in South Asian cinema, have I seen a positive take on the sensitive topic of homosexuality. Although “Freak” does a great job with tackling relevant issues, as a viewer, I wish there was a little more focus on the script-writing and plot development that exceeded the sweetness and explored more on the reality of the situation. 

Directed by Chelses Venkadathu
English, 21 minutes, 2019, USA

Review by Divya Jethwani


Ever heard the Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani dialogue shaadi (marriage) is boring, “daal chawal for 50 years till you die?” Ephemera explores the journey through that boring and feels like a coming-of-age story for a married couple. Set in suburban America, the viewer is instantly transported into the seemingly boring and routine life of a couple and their young daughter. The female protagonist personifying a South Asian wife, the nagging, bickering with a constant need for more paired alongside a Caucasian husband, who is rather indifferent, complacent and open to exploring the unknown. Despite this, the husband’s character is still caring and cognizant of his wife’s needs and is willing to move at her pace.

Ephemera follows the attempt of this couple to keep things exciting as they explore their sexual desires, satisfaction and experimentation outside of the sanctity of their marriage. A conversation not often had in South Asian society, the film creates acceptance for intimate exploration between two consenting individuals. As a viewer, we are exposed to the fear, doubt and uncertainty that presents itself by virtue of emotionally engaging with another individual outside of a marriage. The character’s internal conflict to take this first step, but feeling the need to give it a shot legitimizes the concerns one might have of seeking intimacy beyond their partner. 

With an easy to follow plotline and character development, Chelses Venkadathu pushes the boundaries and conventional thinking behind the system of marriage and explores new lifestyles that might help to ease the mundanity of the protagonists’ relationship and keep the family bound.  

Arts Programming

Directed by Hardik Mehta
Hindi, 107 minutes, 2018, India

Review by Radhika Menon


The Bollywood films of yesteryear are chock full of quirky side characters, from policemen to villains, who often make a name for themselves through memorable dialogue or interesting on-screen presence. But what happens after they fade into obscurity? 

The film stars Sanjay Mishra as Sudheer, a washed-up character actor who discovers he’s on the verge of a rare record. While being interviewed for a “where are they now” type of show, Sudheer finds out he has 499 IMDB credits, which sets in motion a quest to complete one last film. As he comes out of retirement for his 500th role, Sudheer is adamant about no longer being the sideshow; for this milestone, he wants to be front-and-center.

Wig donned, he reenters the Bollywood film arena and aims to be cast opposite the current hot superstar. His determination threatens to ruin his already rocky relationship with his daughter and her family, as well as his legacy within the industry — which was the impetus for all of this, to begin with. 

Films about the film industry aren’t new, but Kaamyaab finds a stone that had not yet been unturned and thrusts it into the light. Sanjay Mishra’s acting is so genuine and heartbreaking that even when Sudheer is making inadvisable decisions, the audience remains on his side.

Director Hardik Mehta is empathetic in his direction, largely driven by his youthful interest in the subject matter; in a post-screening Q&A he affirmed that the movie was largely inspired by the character actors that he grew up loving. Mehta’s interest in the filmmaking industry also expands into music, and his directorial debut features three original musical compositions. Kaamyaab is a beautiful love letter to both the bygone eras of the Bollywood film industry and the practice of acting as a means for fulfilment. As the film moves from the festival circuit to theatrical release, it’s worth seeking out.

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’: A Modern-day Exploration of Love Across Cultures

What's Love Got To Do With It

It is the strength of both British and South Asian cinema that every few years, and with increasing regularity, a film comes along that is able to successfully and thoughtfully bridge the highs and lows of both cultures. With the recognisable cross-cultural DNA of films like “Bend it Like Beckham”, “Bride and Prejudice and others before it, Shekhar Kapur brings to the silver screen an honest and comedic representation of East meets West with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” — an exploration of love and marriage across international norms. 

[Read Related: Joyland: A Film Rising Above Unacceptability With a Story of Acceptance]

Written and produced by Jemima Khan, the film draws from elements of her own experience of marrying then-Pakistani cricket star and now ex-Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and relocating to the country for 10 years.

“Particularly in the West, Pakistanis would quite often be seen as terrorists, fanatics and backwards,” says Khan, as she reminisces about her time spent in Pakistan over Zoom. “My experience of living in Pakistan was very colourful, vibrant, and fun. I always felt like the rom-com side of Pakistan was more surprising than anything else.”

 A film not just about the heart, but with a lot of heart of its own, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” touches on South Asian families, culture, individuality, and marriages in the 21st century. Set in the UK and Pakistan, this is a feel-good and fun story about childhood best friends and neighbours, Zoe and Kazim, AKA Kaz. And as the narrative unfolds, new light is shone on their friendship and questions are asked about the cultural norms and practices we have grown to accept.

It isn’t your usual ‘boy-meets-girl’ tale. On the contrary, they’ve known each other forever; the fabric of their lives intertwined. Kaz is a British-Pakistani doctor of “marriageable” age, opting for an “assisted” marriage set in motion by his own desire rather than parental duress. 

“I think we’ve replaced the term “arranged” with “assisted” because South Asian parents now trust their kids more to make the right decision for themselves,” said Shahzad Latif, sitting next to Lily James, who nods in agreement. “It’s still a process. Some parents may have more confidence in their kids than others, but we’re getting there.”

Zoe – played by Lily James – is a professional documentary maker living on an inexplicably fancy houseboat (bit of a stretch for somebody having difficulty funding projects, but, at this point, a crucial ingredient for London rom-coms). As a white British woman, her method of finding love isn’t one that involves parents or family.

“It was a no-brainer for me to be part of the script,” says a smiling James in response to whether any culture shocks were encountered during filming and table reads. “Pakistani culture is so rich and colourful, and it was important for me to showcase this side of the country. So no, no culture shocks per se, just more singing and dancing in comparison to British culture!”

Zoe’s camera is the vehicle through which the film examines Kaz’s “contractual love”, as she trawls dating apps while following her best friend down the assisted aisle.

What's Love Got To Do With It
Emma Thompson, who plays the role of Zoe’s mother in the film, with Shabana Azmi.

Emma Thompson’s Cath plays the comedic matriarch to Zoe, eager to witness the conclusion of her daughter’s swiping days by being with someone suitable. She’s found a family in Shabana Azmi’s Aisha Khan – a more layered mum — one that is embracing both tradition and modernity. It would be fair to say that Azmi successfully sells cinema-goers on the difficulty of that struggle.

“Today’s society is slowly coming to terms with providing children the space they rightfully require and deserve to make decisions,” says Azmi, reflecting on how scripts and films have evolved over time. “Gone are the days when parents would blackmail their children into marrying the first person they come across. Just because they are their kids doesn’t mean they are actually children. They are adults with views and minds of their own.”

Kaz is then introduced to Maimoona (Sajal Aly); a shy introvert from Pakistan, unsure about the idea of moving permanently to London. She’s dealing with internal battles of her own; battles between personal desires and societal expectations.

“Maimoona may not have verbally said much, but her face said everything,” explains Aly, looking beautiful and radiant as ever. “She is torn between what she wants and what society silently shoves down at her and eventually, she goes with what the latter expects.”

The film navigates between London and a fabricated Lahore filmed in the suburbs of the British capital; a feat that comes as testament to the film’s production design. Kaz and Zoe’s jaunts across Lahore, backdropped by its magnificent architecture, set the stage for Pakistani music legends to shine, including the mesmerising voice of Rahet Fateh Ali Khan. 

What's Love Got To Do With It
Pakistani actress Sajal Aly plays Maimoona — torn between her own desires and society’s expectations.

And if this wasn’t enough, Nitin Sawhney and Naughty Boy add further melody to the film’s music, as they talk about their experience of creating appropriate tunes such as the foot-thumping “Mahi Sona”. 

“It was a great process and experience to create an appropriate language and expression of music which added elements and flavours to the film,” says the duo enthusiastically. “It’s also an ode to our South Asian heritage.”

Even though the tone of “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is distinctly feel-good, the film thoughtfully explores the unconventional ways that relationships may be built, and what multiculturalism can teach one another. Is it, in fact, more sensible to be practical about relationships? Is it possible to learn to love the person we’re with? Is love really the only ingredient needed for a successful marriage? Why was Kaz’s sister shunned for marrying outside of their culture? And do Western relationships draw more on the ideas of assisted partnerships than we realise?

A clever reference is drawn from the moment Prince Charles shattered many royal dreamers’ hearts with his dismissive “whatever in love means” comment upon his engagement to Princess Diana, thus proving that these notions may be closer to home in the West than one might believe.

James and Latif are a charismatic pair, with Zoe married to her independence and Kaz gently questioning her prejudices. The film is also a vivid demonstration of British talent, with Asim Chaudhry playing a hilarious yet questionable rishta uncle, comic duo Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen appearing as a pair of TV commissioners with a briefcase of ridiculous ideas, and Nikkita Chadha as the confrontational Baby — the film’s feisty rebel, in love with dancing. 

[Read Related: Ms. Marvel’s Iman Vellani and Mohan Kapur Talk Cultural Pride, Hollywood and Brown Representation]

“It’s incredible to be part of such a diverse and stellar cast,” smiles Chadha animatedly, while sipping on tea at Soho House in London. “My character is defiant and nonconformist — perfectly conflicting with the name “Baby “. I’m really excited for everyone to watch the film.”

Divorce is still stigmatised in South Asia — a theme often carefully avoided in desi films and television. Khan gently addresses it as a twist in the film – with a reminder that be it love or assisted marriage — amicable and mutual separations are a possibility.

As a complete package, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” deftly wraps up all the emotions associated with love and family in its joyful, musical, and vibrant 109-minute runtime. With its cast, music and direction, this classic rom-com is set to make you laugh, cry and, even more importantly, make you think about the multi-dimensional nature of love within and across cultures. The film is now showing in cinemas worldwide, and we highly recommend it.

Photos Courtesy: Studiocanal/Working Title

This piece is written by Brown Girl writer Queenie Shaikh in collaboration with Marium Abid

Desk bound by day and travel bound all other times – Queenie thrives on her weekly dose of biryani and chilli paneer. She recently released her first book called The Poor Londoner, which talks about comical expat experiences people face worldwide. With degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing, her work and research on gender inequality in the travel industry is taught in universities across the globe. Her travels and everyday fails can be found on Instagram (@thepoorlondoner) and YouTube (The Poor Londoner).

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan and now blended into the hustle-bustle of London, Marium is a trainee technology consultant, by day and sometime also night, and also finishing her bachelors in Digital Innovation. In the midst of striving to be someone, she enjoys dreaming about the impossible (impossible according to desi standards and sometime Harry Potter impossible as well), and writing about them. She enjoys baking, decorating things and a cup of chai!

‘Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani’: A Perfect K Jo Showcase Celebrating the Filmmaker’s 25 Years in Cinema

Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani

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.

K Jo

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.

[Read Related: ‘The Romantics’: Revisiting the Legacy and Grandeur of Yash Chopra With Filmmaker Smriti Mundhra]

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.

K Jo Rocky aur Rani

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.

Stills Courtesy of Media Global House



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By Anushka Suharu

Anushka Suharu is a British Indian journalist, with a Masters in Interactive Journalism (City, University of London) and a BA … Read more ›

Indo Caribbean Actress Saheli Khan Lands Role as Young Anna in Disney’s Musical ‘Frozen’

Saheli Khan, young anna in disney frozen
Saheli Khan

From singing and acting to drawing immaculate figurines, Saheli Khan, 11, has made her debut in the North American Broadway tour as young Anna in Disney’s musical “Frozen.” As a first-generation Indo Caribbean, with roots in India and Pakistan, she continues to pave the way for young people with similar backgrounds.

[Read Related: Rebecca Ablack: The Guyanese Actress Talks Netflix’s “Ginny and Georgia” and Indo Caribbean Representation]

Khan has always enjoyed entertaining those around her and she continues to have the motivation to pursue her passions. In school, she always sought to lead her class in songs and she was encouraged by her parents and teachers to enroll in music and acting classes, even at a young age. These ventures fueled her passions even more.

Continue reading to learn more about her journey!

What do you like about acting the most?

I like to portray different characters. Specifically, I like playing characters who have strong personalities and those who portray a sense of bravery, especially during problematic occurrences.

As a first generation Indo Caribbean actress, how do you feel about your journey as a young Disney princess? Do you feel that you are paving the way for other Caribbean and South Asians who want to pursue similar paths?

Diversity has always been important to me, but in today’s society, I feel that most people would like to be accepted and encouraged. As a Disney Princess, I am simply helping to broaden the field for all young people to see that skin color should not matter.

Saheli Khan
Saheli in Hidden Folk outfit| Photo courtesy of Saheli Khan


What do you like about your character, Anna? Is there anything that you may dislike?

Young Anna is a ball of sunshine! She is happy, funny, and a delight to be around. Despite having a troubled childhood, she grows up to be just as joyous, but she is also courageous as she goes on a journey to find her sister. I love everything about young Anna and she truly embodies who I am as a person.

Who is your inspiration and why?

My parents are my inspiration. My mom is beautiful, loving, and she works hard without ever giving up. No matter the task, she finds a solution and keeps on going with a smile on her face. She always tells me, “Whenever you feel overwhelmed, remember whose daughter you are and straighten your crown.” And my dad is my best friend. He’s insanely funny, caring and knows all the best places to eat! My parents are exactly how I want to be when I grow up.

If you had a magic wand, what show would you do next?

I would love to be Annie on Broadway or play the lead in a series or movie. 

What is the one last thing that you do before you step out on stage and the curtain goes up?

There are many things I do before I step on stage. I do fun and silly things quietly with my “Frozen” sister, Mackenzie Mercer, and play with my Anna pigtails for good luck.

What are your other passions?

I love to sing, act, and spend time with my younger cousin, Ayla. I also love to draw and color since it makes me feel relaxed. I was told I have a great ability to draw and make figurines ever since I was a child. And I love exploring new cities and eating at great restaurants with my family.

Saheli Khan
Saheli dressed in her “Young Anna” costume | Photo courtesy of Saheli Khan

What advice do you have for young people who are just starting their careers, specifically within the field of musical theater?

To have a positive mindset, practice diligently, and enjoy every moment within the journey. I have learned that there may be some occurrences that may not take place the way that you want them to, but there’s always an opportunity to learn from them.

 Aside from your career, how do you balance your schoolwork and acting?

I attend school virtually, which is essential when I am on tour. Each day I have scheduled school hours that allow me to focus and complete all school assignments. Once that is done, I have most of the day to work on extracurricular activities, go on outings, and hang out with my friends. Though performing takes a large chunk out of my day, it helps that I enjoy it, so it doesn’t feel like work.

What types of roles do you see yourself playing?

I love to play humorous characters such as young Anna from “Frozen.” I truly enjoyed this role as it captures who I truly am.

What are your plans for the future?

To be the best version of myself regardless of what career path I choose.

[Read Related: Nadia Jagessar Talks Finding Love, Not Settling and Shines Light on her Indo-Caribbean Roots]

Khan’s debut marks the start of a budding career. With her array of talents and future goals, we are bound to see more of the young actress in the future and more representation of Indo Caribbeans in mainstream media. If you would like to purchase tickets for Disney’s “Frozen,” click here

Feature Image Courtesy: Saheli Khan

By Anita Haridat

Anita Haridat is the owner of the wellness website, Healthy Spectator, which is a platform to help people find inner-balance … Read more ›