‘The Archies’ in New Jersey: Amit Shah and Aditya Madiraju Prove Change Can Happen Locally

'The Archies' Culture Creators screening in New Jersey — brought to you by Netflix and Brown Girl Magazine | Photos by Nivedha M. Photography

In celebration of Zoya Akhtar’s newest film, “The Archies.” the following Q&A is a part of Netflix and Brown Girl Magazine’s first-ever community-driven ‘Culture Creator’ screening series — featuring community leaders doing impactful work in New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Netflix’s much anticipated film “The Archies,” featuring the beloved characters of Archie, Reggie, Betty, Veronica, Dilton and Jughead from the original Archie Comics, is the desi musical we have all been waiting for. The film’s iconic cast features a new generation of actors, many of whom are making their acting debut in Bollywood, creating a sense of equal parts nostalgia and newness.

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I had the absolute honor to attend an early screening of the film before its December 7th release — co-hosted by Netflix and Brown Girl Magazine — and needless to say, it did not disappoint. Set in 1960’s India in the fictional town of Riverdale, the musical is the perfect coming-of-age film, directed by Zoya Akhtar It tells the story of friends united for a common goal for the betterment of their community. I especially enjoyed the time travel back to the 60’s, where the fashion is timeless and headbands are a must, and found myself listening to the soundtracks for days after the screening. 

Following the screening, Brown Girl Mag’s CEO Trisha Sakhuja-Walia hosted an insightful Q&A with New Jersey’s culture creators and husband duo Amit Shah and Aditya Madiraju, about the start of their journeys together from the early days of dating to going viral after their wedding at a local Hindu temple to growing their lives with their two dogs, baby daughter and millions of social media followers.

Shah, a well known dancer, creative director and choreographer, founded AATMA Performing Arts 15 years ago, a performing arts and dance company, known for seamlessly blending both east and west dance styles while preserving and passing South Asian culture, music and language to the next generation.

When asked about keeping AATMA alive over the course of time, Shah proclaimed, “It’s the community that has kept it (AATMA) alive and keeps it alive, all the time. There is something to be said about the community and how powerful that can be.” 

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In regards to the success of Shah’s dance company and potential global opportunities, Amit spoke with such humility when he said, “I have a dance studio here  on purpose, because here I can locally make a difference, don’t need to tackle the whole world.”

The idea of change was a recurring theme throughout the screening. Both creators and audience agreed, you need only one voice, one person to start leading the way with grace to gain the respect of their peers, and soon their support will follow. 

Madiraju, a content creator and skincare and beauty maven, has broken countless barriers, stigmas and benchmarks on social media to share his passion and love for makeup. His trustworthy skincare tips and GRWM videos are followed by more than a million as of recent. While recounting the memory of his first video post on International Men’s Day in 2020, he admits that Brown Girl Magazine was the first media outlet to repost it. Since then, he’s been focused on centering his content and art to promote equality and genderless freedom of expression.

On social media and trolling, Aditya spoke candidly about how he handles the negative comments on the internet.

“I personally reply to the trolls for two reasons. One is to raise awareness on the issue at hand and secondly, I get a kick out of it. I love it, because, a lot of times, most people forget creators are also real people sitting behind a phone or computer. And people just think they can say whatever they want without any consequences. There has to be some kind of accountability.”

When asked which character the couple related to the most, Madiraju said Ethel, especially she when she spoke about wanting growth and having ambition. Wanting to carve his own identity on social media, Aditya said he’s always been in awe of the power and beauty of makeup, but had his reservations pursuing it publicly at first knowing it’s a woman-dominiated field. It’s only when he broke through his own barriers has he been able to focus on promoting genderless beauty and fashion.

Shah commented on the power of Dilton’s subtle LGBTQ storyline.

“In Bollywood films, it’s sometimes hard to expect a lot of depth when there is a gay character. But I did appreciate how Zoya gave Dilton’s character a storyline that had nothing to do with his sexuality but everything to do with his talent and bravery.”

The characters, their optimism and good-will-prevail-over-evil-mentality will have you rewatching the film. “The Archies” is the perfect family movie to watch during the holidays as it provides entertainment for all with a much-needed jolt of inspiration.

By Subrina Singh

Subrina Singh holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Asian & Asian American Studies from Stony Brook University and a Master’s Degree … Read more ›