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!
Weddings, huh? Talk about a stress fest. And for the bride, it’s like a 24/7 walk on eggshells. However, add in a paranoid and overprotective sister, and you’ve got a recipe for a completely different degree of drama. In “Polite Society,” Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) and her gang of clumsy pals take the phrase “till death do us part” to a whole new level as they plot to “steal” the bride — aka Ria’s own sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), during her shaadi reception. But with a wedding hall packed with guests, a mother-in-law from hell, and a groom with more shades of fraud than a rainbow, this heist is anything but smooth sailing.
It goes without saying but “Polite Society” comes with a cast of wacky characters, gut-busting one-liners, and an action-packed heist sequence, making it a must-watch for anyone who loves a good comedy. I mean who hasn’t dealt with some serious wedding drama, am I right?
Lead actress Kansara agrees wholeheartedly. “I definitely have!” she chuckles, as I catch up with her at Soho Hotel in London. Despite the rubbish weather outside, Kansara is a ray of sunshine with her infectious enthusiasm.
The minute I read the script, I thought to myself…wow, playing Ria is going to be one wild ride!
And wild is definitely the right word to describe her character. Ria is a British-Pakistani martial artist-in-training from London, determined to become a professional stuntwoman. Her sister, Lena, who dropped out of uni, often ends up being the guinea pig for filming Ria’s stunts for YouTube, including one lovingly dubbed “the fury.” She reveals
I’d never done martial arts before this film. The stunt training started from the day I got the role, and it was three to four times a week all the way until we finished filming. It was a seven-week period in total, and boy, was it physically demanding. Oh my God, I think I can add a whole new skills section to my CV! But on a serious note, it was so much fun and we had an amazing stunt team. They, including my stunt double, taught me so much. It was important to me to do my own stunts as much as possible, but also strike a healthy balance.
For South Asian women, who are often expected to be quiet and agreeable, all that punching and kicking on set must have been cathartic, right?
Honestly, it was like anger management at work! I got to kick and throw things around — it was the perfect balance.
What sets Kansara apart from other actors starting out in the industry is her ability to draw from her own life experiences to bring authenticity to her characters on screen. Her career began with a degree from UCL and a communications job at a pharmaceutical company. But today, her versatile range and unwavering commitment to her craft have propelled her to the forefront of British comedy, portraying defiant South Asian women we’d love to see in real life.
From my own experience as a South Asian woman, I’ve always been told to do what’s ‘proper’ and think twice before speaking up. Playing a character like Ria and putting myself in her shoes, I felt like I was doing and saying things that I wish I had done at her age. It was almost like living through her and speaking my mind about things I never did.
Without a doubt, every South Asian woman on this planet wishes she cared more about herself and less about what other people think.
Ria totally inspired me. If only I had her mindset when I was younger, my career path would have taken off way sooner instead of worrying about other people’s opinions.
The chemistry between the cast members on and off-screen is so apparent, especially the sisterhood between Ria and Lena. The wild adventures of a bride, and her paranoid maid of honour navigating through family drama, are bound to create some unforgettable moments on set.
We both confess our love and admiration for Nimra Bucha’s portrayal of Raheela, Lena’s evil mother-in-law and share a teenage fangirling moment:
I’m obsessed with that woman. There’s something terrifying yet ultra sexy about her character in “Polite Society” that’s mesmerising. I absolutely loved the dance sequence. As South Asians, we’ve all grown up watching Bollywood films and idolising Madhuri Dixit’s iconic dance moves. “Polite Society” gave me my Bollywood heroine moment, and it was a dream come true with the costumes and jewellery.
It’s definitely a unique experience for Kansara, considering her former career was worlds apart from entertainment. So, what advice does she have for aspiring actors who may secretly wish to pursue the same path, but are unsure of the next steps? Kansara advises, drawing from her character’s heist-planning skills.
I believe starting small and honing your craft is an underrated superpower. If you’re passionate about acting, make short-form videos, and build your portfolio. You never know who might be watching.
So, grab your popcorn and your sense of humour, and get ready for “Polite Society” — the film that proves that sometimes, the most polite thing to do is kick some butt and save the day. It released in cinemas on April 28th, and I highly recommend it.
For the Singh family, Chandan Fashion has always been bigger than simply a bridal showroom. Located in the heart of Gerrard Street, a bustling Little India in Toronto, the bright blue and pink building can be spotted from a distance. Over the years, Chandan has garnered attention from customers from all over North America, even as far as California and Virginia.
For Chandan and Roop, who work alongside “Mom and Dad,” Chandan Fashion is a family business and a way to showcase the beauty of South Asian culture while playing a helping hand in allowing every bride and groom to feel special on their big day. Chandan is their legacy and one they hope to be able to showcase the beauty and intricacies of throwing that “big Indian wedding” on their new CBC show, “BollyWed.”
“BollyWed” follows this tight-knit family through the joys and difficulties of running a multigenerational business. Throughout the variety of clients, discussions of new generation business practices versus old generation, many lehengas, and plenty of laughs, this is one whirlwind journey through the marriage industry.
Brown Girl had the opportunity to interview Chandan and Roop Singh, who were incredibly down-to-earth and a joy to speak to. Here is the interview down below!
What was the inspiration for opening Chandan?
Chandan: My mom and dad started the vision back in 1984 — they started the business. I have a store in India that was started by my grandfather which my father worked in as well, so it is kind of multi-generational of being within this industry of clothing and fashion. My father had a dream of starting what his father did in India, in Canada. While visiting friends in Toronto, my father knew that the Gerrard Indian Bazaar was the right place for them to start, it was the largest Indian market in the Northern America area. He rented a space for two years a couple of doors down from where Chandan originated and then in 1986 we had the opportunity to purchase the corner unit and grow it from one floor to two, to now a four-floor showroom.
Roop: And it should be noted that 1986 is also the year that Chandan was born, hence the name of the store. Chandan Fashion.
Many cities have their own versions of Little India. What was it like growing up/operating in Gerrard Street East? What do you think makes Gerrard Street unique?
Roop: It is funny you say that because even now when we have people traveling to Toronto, checking out Gerrard Street is on their itinerary. So we get a lot of clientele that are visiting from out of town whether it be visiting for the day or weekend. Some of them will sometimes get a hotel nearby for about a week and do their entire wedding family shopping with us.
Chandan has literally grown up in Gerrard Street, but I grew up in Toronto as well. I spent a good chunk of my own childhood in Little India on Gerrard Street. Growing up in the 90s, it was the only Indian bazaar in the greater Toronto area, so anyone who wanted to meet members of their community, have really good South Asian food, shop for upcoming events, or celebrate Diwali or Holi, this is where [they’d] go. This is where my mom would take me on the weekends and I remember popping into Chandan Fashion when my mom needed an outfit. In that way, our childhoods are connected over Little India and I feel like a lot of first-generation kids will sympathize with me, when we wanted to feel a little bit at home, that is where we would go.
How did you get the “BollyWed” opportunity on CBC? What is it like working with your family? What roles do you all play in the business? How do we get to see this in the show?
Roop: It has been quite a journey. It wasn’t necessarily such a drastic transition because already the family was very close-knit in the sense that they are working day in and day out. We do our social media together and our buying together, go to fashion shows. So naturally things we were already doing as a family were just translated to the TV. That is what I love the most about the show, it is just an authentic following of what we do on a daily basis as a family and as a business. It has been a great experience and something that we are super grateful for. It was actually seven years in the making and I’ll let Chandan tell you how “BollyWed” came to be.
Chandan: It started out in 2014. I was at a wedding show and I was approached by the executive producer, Prajeeth and we shot a shizzle. He had an idea of a wedding show with a family narrative and I had been watching ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ extensively. I knew that there was this really interesting market and this fascination with South Asian outfits and bridalwear given that it was so colorful and the beadwork was so ornate. There was a lot more interesting subject matter, especially if we tie that into a seven-day-long wedding and you tie that into multiple events and families. That is more prevalent in South Asian culture: what the mother-in-law thinks, what the mother thinks. But five to six years went by and we got 22 rejections over that period by almost every network imaginable. I was always excited that we were getting rejected because I knew that eventually, we would get a yes. Eventually at the end of 2021, around the end of the COVID era, the production company reached out asking if we were still interested in the show. I said it was never a question of ‘if,’ it was a question of ‘when.’ From the get-go, I knew that this show would be picked up, I knew it would be a success. In March 2022 we got greenlit. We had this amazing journey of seven months of continuous filming. It has been an amazing journey to be able to represent South Asians on television in a way that has not been done before. I like lighthearted programming and I am glad that we were able to influence the show because of our lives and make it a lighthearted family show that people can watch. But we still get to have important discussions.
Roop: I love that Chandan mentioned this. We get to showcase a lot of pivotal subjects in today’s society. For example, we made sure that inclusivity was showcased across all 10 episodes and that is something that I give credit to our directors and producers, they did a wonderful job showcasing how inclusive not just us as a business, but as a brand and as a family we are. These are values that have been instilled in us, that when somebody crosses your threshold and comes into your store, it doesn’t matter what their background is, their color, or their orientation, that is irrelevant. It is something that we don’t factor in, we just consider that this is the patron, the client. There is no judgment — not in our store, not in our family. And I love that we were able to share that on a big screen for everyone to see. That was one reason why it was so important to do this, but the other reason has a lot to do with Chandan and his childhood.
Chandan: So for me, I was born and raised in Toronto. I went to a very small school where I was the only South Asian for a long time in that school. I was the only Punjabi kid, the only kid with a turban, and eventually the only one with a beard, so I noticeably stood out compared to all my peers. My father with his best intentions sent me to a really small school, a private school, that he could not afford to pay for. Where at times the check would bounce every month, but he had a very strong belief that if he provided me a quality education [so] I would keep something really dear to him —keeping the belief in religion — I wouldn’t cut my hair, I wouldn’t cut my beard, I wouldn’t conform to society. He wanted to give me the best chance to succeed as is, [but] the unfortunate truth was I was bullied, I was picked on. I wouldn’t tell him, but people would grab my jurra, my turban, and my hair. And as a kid I would just let it go because you do not want to go home and tattle to your parents, but also because I knew how sensitive of a topic it was to my dad. And I think that my experience would have been different if people didn’t ask me every month, ‘How long is your hair? What do you keep under that?’ All these questions made me feel really uncomfortable, but the other kids also asked because they had never seen anyone like me. If I had grown up with a show like this, I would not have felt so alone, such a strong desire to belong. This is one of the reasons I really believed in the show, I really wanted to have representation. Even if there is just one other kid who watches this show and grows up in a suburb where there aren’t many South Asian kids; if he is able to turn the TV on and see my dad with such a thick accent — English isn’t his first language — but he still owns it so confidently. Or they see a guy like me with a turban and a beard and see that frankly he still has such a hot wife.
Roop: But beyond that, this gentleman with a turban and thick accent, they are such normal people. They love takeout, they like to play tennis, and they could be your neighbor. Other than their outward appearance, they are very much like you, very similar.
Your support in styling Priyanka for their drag performance was inspiring and refreshing to see. How do you change your styles/designs to foster inclusivity?
Roop: I think that goes back to what I was saying about how Mom and Dad have fostered this universal approach to our clientele. We do not look beyond their needs. I think it is also important to note that some people had thought that we had Priyanka come onto the show to make it more interesting, but their relationship with the store spans over the past five to seven years.
Chandan: Twenty years. Priyanka and their family have been shopping at the store for the past 20 years since they were kids. When Priyanka started exploring the world of drag, they came and said they needed a costume that they would be designing. It also wasn’t even any of my peers or me that made that connection with Priyanka, it was actually my dad, the older generation. He said, ‘Don’t worry beta.’ He actually corrected himself and said, ‘Beti, we will be there for you.’ And he got them a really nice sari and lehenga which they converted into a costume that won the first season.
Roop: And Priyanka put their own spin on it and created something amazing. Only because we were the designers of those pieces could we tell that that is a piece from our lehenga. They did such a fabulous job with it.
Chandan: I think we sometimes think of the older generation, like our parents, as being more conservative, but I think that it is a one-sided narrative. Not all of the older generation is as conservative as we think. And my dad just took it as a paying customer is a paying customer. It doesn’t matter what their orientation or beliefs are, and that just naturally unfolded into the story that we are sharing. He did not treat it as a big deal.
For our readers currently planning their weddings, do you have any pieces of advice on how to balance all the heavy details of wedding planning without losing sight of why they are doing it for?
Roop: One thing for the bride and groom is not to lose sight of themselves in all of this. I’ve been there and done that. You plan this extravagant seven-day affair, you have all these people flying out to your wedding, and you feel this really heavy responsibility to make sure that all these guests are taking time out of their lives to celebrate your union. And like myself — and I am guilty of this, which is why I want to tell my fellow brides — [you] tend to make it less about [yourself] and more about everyone else who is attending. And yes, of course, everyone is important and I owe them respect for joining us. But remember what you want in the heart of heart, if you want a small wedding, go for a small wedding. If you want a big wedding, go for a big wedding. If you want the seven-tiered cake, go for it, if you just want cupcakes, go for that. At the end of the day don’t forget what makes you happy. Don’t lose sight of it, just be authentic to yourself.
Chandan: Oftentimes in the wedding industry, people are really looked down upon. Like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are spending so much for this wedding!’ Or, ‘You are obsessing over these details!’ If it is important to you, it is okay. I would not let judgment get in the way of doing what you want whether it be a small intimate 20-person wedding or a having a 1000-person wedding. This is your moment. The biggest thing I hear is, ‘Oh, it is only for an hour.’ But, if you have a photographer, nothing is for an hour. It is for a lifetime. Those moments last a lifetime. If it is something that you hold near and dear to you, you will cherish it. I wish people would stay true to themselves.
Roop: Yeah, agreed. Be mindful of what sparks joy in you and let that be your compass. The most important piece of advice though: At every function please request that your caterer create a to-go container of the meal at the event for you and your partner to enjoy after because often, and it is so sad to hear this, the bride and groom will eat last at their own event or not at all. And you spend all these months planning [an] extravagant menu and then you don’t even get to eat your own wedding cake. Hah! That happened to us!
Do you have any future plans that you feel excited about sharing with Chandan?
Chandan: Yeah! I would say concrete plans are in the pipeline. In the first episode of ‘BollyWed’ [you] see that we come to the realization that there is just not enough space and we would love to expand into another space.
Roop: And this is where you get a lot of the new generation, old generation beliefs. Because mom and dad believe that the family should stay very close-knit and together to run the one location. And Chandan has the belief that [the] true success of a business is when it is scalable, and has multiple locations nationally, globally even. In Episode 10 you get a conclusion, but we will let the readers watch it for themselves!
You can now watch the inaugural season of CBC’s “BollyWed” on CBC TV every Thursday at 8 p.m. EST or stream it for free on CBC Gem! And that’s not all from the Chandan Fashion team! They’ll soon be featured in an Instagram LIVE chat with Brown Girl Magazine, so stay tuned!
It’s never a dull moment with your girl gang; some shots and conversations about sex, right? If you agree, you’re in for a treat with Karan Boolani’s directorial venture, “Thank You For Coming,” which had its world premiere at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival. This coming-of-age story unapologetically begs the answer to a very important question: Why should women be left high and dry in bed?
Kanika Kapoor (Bhumi Pednekar) is a successful, 32-year-old, Delhi food blogger who makes a huge revelation on her 30th birthday: She’s never experienced an orgasm. This dirty little secret (no pun intended!) has now become detrimental to her self-esteem. She feels so down and out that she even accepts the proposal of a very boring suitor, Jeevan-ji (Pradhuman Singh Mall).
But, it’s not like she hasn’t tried. Kanika’s been a monogamist since her teenage years, starting with puppy love in high school — unfortunately, their sexual endeavors coined her as “thandi” (cold) by her first boyfriend — all the way to dating in her adulthood. But, regardless of how great any relationship was, nobody had her achieve the big O. All until the night of her engagement with Jeevan, when the drunk bride-to-be leaves the party for her hotel room and gets into bed. What follows is her very first orgasm. Ghungroo, finally, tute gaye! But, with whom?
The morning after, an initially-satisfied Kanika works herself into a frenzy of confusion and frustration as she makes her way through the list of potential men who could’ve been in her room the night before.
Was it one of her exes? She’d simply invited them to come to wish her well.
Was it her fiance?
Or, God forbid, was it actually the rabdi-wala (ice cream man)?
Boolani takes a straight-forward and on-the-nose approach to drive the point home. There are no cutting corners, no mincing words, and no hovering over “taboo topics.” The dialogue is raunchy, the characters are horny, and no one is apologetic. It’s important for a film like “Thank You For Coming” to be so in-your-face because the subject of women achieving orgasms can’t really be presented in any other way. Anything more conservative in the narrative would feel like the makers are being mindful of addressing something prohibited. And there is no room for taboos here.
But, there is room for a more open conversation on the reasons why many women feel the need to suppress their sexual needs in bed; how generally, women have been brought up to be the more desirable gender and hence not cross certain boundaries that would make them appear too brash. The fight for the right of female pleasure would have been a little more effective if the modesty around the topic was addressed. But, that doesn’t mean that the point is remiss.
The plot moves swiftly along, never lulling too long over everything that seems to be going wrong in Kanika’s life. “Thank You For Coming” is full of all the right tropes that belong in a comedic, masala film, too; the direction very seamlessly takes classic fixings like the abhorrent admirer (enter Jeevan-ji) and effectively plugs them into this contemporary feature that will remain perpetually relevant.
And now, let’s come to the star of the show: the well-rounded characters.
Producer Rhea Kapoor has mastered the formula of a good chick flick and her casting is the magic touch. She’s got a knack for bringing together the right actors — cue, “Veere Di Wedding.” So, just when we think that it doesn’t get better than the veere, Kapoor surprises us with a refreshing trio — they’re modern, they’re rebellious, and they say it like it is. Thank you, Dolly Singh (Pallavi Khanna) and Shibani Bedi (Tina Das) for being the yin to Kanika’s yang — and for the bag full of sex toys your homegirl oh-so needed!
To complete Kanika’s story, we have her single mother, Miss. Kapoor, brilliantly portrayed by Natasha Rastogi. She is the face of a headstrong and self-assured matriarch and a symbol of the modern-day Indian woman. Rastogi’s character exemplifies the fact that with access to education, and a stable career, women do not need to mold their lives around men.
I love the fact that Miss. Kapoor is almost villainized by her own mother (played by Dolly Ahluwalia) in the film because she had a child out of wedlock in her yesteryears, she chooses to remain single, and she brings her boyfriends around the house to hang out with. But, there’s a point to be made here. The fact that Kanika’s mother is being antagonized just highlights that she is challenging the norms and pushing the envelope for what is socially acceptable for women. Miss. Kapoor definitely deserves an honorable mention.
Pednekar’s unexpected yet impeccable comic timing is the highlight of the entire film. Everything from being a damsel in sexual distress to a woman who unabashedly chases self-pleasure, Pednekar puts on a genuinely entertaining act for the audience. From being portrayed as a high-schooler to the 32-year-old, independent woman, Pednekar is fit for each role. Her naivety as a teen wins you over, as does her gusto as a full-blown adult with a broken ankle and some very messy relationships. This also speaks volumes about the versatility of her looks.
And, of course, Pednekar is not new to films that address social topics, but “Thank You For Coming” challenges her to balance Kanika’s droll with the responsibility of delivering a very important message to the viewers. Mission accomplished, Ms. Pednekar!
“Thank You For Coming” is a through-and-through entertainer. Everything from the casting — a huge shout out to the rest of the supporting cast including Anil Kapoor, Shehnaaz Gill, Karan Kundra, Kusha Kapila, Gautmik, and Sushant Divkigar, without whom this roller coaster would have lacked the thrills — to the homey locations and even the glitz and glamor in the song sequences, they’re all perfect pieces to help drive home a powerful message: Smash patriarchy!