I’m 36-years-old, I’m basically your auntie. You can call me your #OnlineAuntie. And I’m not happy with the hashtag #CurryScentedBitch. Grab a cup of cha’ and gather ’round so I can share my thoughts.
By now, we all know the awful things Azealia Banks said to Zayn Malik on Twitter: “dirty, Punjab, f****t,”p*ki,” and of course, “curry scented bitch.” Granted she’s apologized and Twitter has suspended her account, this discussion warrants further thought.
As a South Asian girl, with parents from Punjab growing up in the ’80s in a predominantly white town in Canada, these racial insults hit home.
I was called a “p*ki” and made fun of for how my house and clothes smelled. Azealia’s words hurt. Really badly. I cried reading the horrible things she said to Zayn. My hurt and anger – YOUR hurt and anger – is legitimate. Canadian YouTuber, Jus Reign, caught wind of the situation and decided to reclaim “curry scented bitch” and turned it into the hashtag we all now know.
At first glance I thought the tag was great, seeing so many beautiful desi faces! I even contributed by posting a selfie (which I have since deleted). As I scrolled through the tag, I mostly young South Asian millennials posting selfies (many of which had Azealia’s Twitter handle in the post), but then I began to see some epic anti-black racism directed at Azealia.
Let’s face it, desis: our communities are very anti-black. Before you start trying to deny it in your minds as you read this, stop. You know what I’m saying is true. I saw young Desis saying misogynoiristic (the hatred of black women) comments like, “don’t forget where your weave comes from,” “clapping back,” “monkey,” “whore,” and “kuthi,” whilst plastering photos of light-skinned desis using African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) with words such as “slay” and “fleek,” and asking Azealia, “what’s good?”
There is a deep and long history of the hatred of black people’s hair. Black people get called “ratchet” and “ghetto” when using AAVE but brown people are going to steal their language to sound cool? Hmm…this sounds familiar, doesn’t it, desis? Like when white people wear henna and bindis to music festivals but when our mothers, aunts, and sisters wear it as a part of their daily garb, they are told to go back to their own countries.
South Asians get rightly upset when white people steal our things because they have more societal power than us; they get to have all our pretty stuff without the oppression. In the way racial hierarchy is designed, brown people have more societal power than black folks. Before you call me a liar via Twitter, please read the copious amounts of scholarship and other material on power dynamics and systemic oppression. You can start by watching Aamer Rahman’s “Fear of a Brown Planet” in which he perfectly explains why “reverse racism” doesn’t exist.
Black people cannot be racist toward us because of power dynamics (they don’t have the power to oppress us on a systemic level) but they can certainly be prejudiced and bigoted as illustrated by Azealia. #CurryScentedBitch was created to heal from the hurt and all our community did was hurl horrific anti-Blackness at Azealia. You have every right to be hurt and angered. Please don’t mistake my words for absolving her of her actions, however, I cannot sit by and watch my community spew racial hatred and dehumanize a black woman over whom we have societal power.
Azealia has talked about wanting to bleach her skin to be whiter. Does this sound like a familiar problem to you, desis?
Instead of knee-jerk racist reactions to what Azealia said to Zayn, I want for all of us to take a more nuanced look at this. Move past the valid emotion and interrogate the real culprit: white supremacy. Let’s decolonize our analysis of this whole situation. Also, it needs to be said: black people, particularly black women, ALWAYS show up for desis when we need them. And let’s not forget the black-desis who are experiencing erasure in all of this.
We share some of the same struggles and common histories of coloniality but please do not compare the plight of black folks with that of brown folks, even in a post-9/11 world.
When I started learning how white supremacy and anti-blackness operate, I vowed to take that knowledge to my community because that’s what good aunties do. Almost all the learning I’ve done has been from black and Indigenous people, mostly women, in the academy and online. We must work together to dismantle white supremacy and anti-blackness. Please challenge it at the dinner table, online, in schools, and communities; the revolution begins at home.
Roopa Cheema is a Toronto-based educator. She holds a Master of Education in Social Justice Education from the Univeristy of Toronto. You can follow her on Twitter at @RadRoopa. She wants all people of colour to add to #DecolonialSelfies.
We’re rounding up all the latest South Asian entertainment news so you don’t have to. With the rise of representation in media, South Asians are making strides and we’re all for celebrating the highs. Brown Girl Magazine’sentertainment editors Aysha and Arun have compiled a list of the all that grabbed headlines in the first half of the year, so you can still be in the loop without having to stop and search elsewhere. From the latest movie buzz to must-watch live and animated shows, we are covering it all.
Here’s a round-up of some of this year’s highlights:
Star Wars Joins the Brown Side, It Must
Yoda approves this one. After wowing us with Ms. Marvel and breaking glass ceilings while doing so, Academy Award-winning and International Emmy Award-winning director and journalist, the one and only badass Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has once again proved that she’s a force to reckon with! Chinoy is set to be not only the first Pakistani and South Asian, but the first person of color, and the first woman to direct a “Star Wars” film.
“Spider-Man, Spider-Man…” if you don’t know what song we’re referring to, you better pause and run to YouTube and check it out.
The multiverse, with virtually an infinite number of heroes, couldn’t exist without South Asian representation. Insert, Pavitr Prabhakar hailing from Earth-50101. Like Peter Parker, Prabhakar grew up under the care of his aunt and uncle. Despite living in poverty, Prabhakar’s intelligence earned him a scholarship that — with additional support from his family — allowed him to attend an illustrious school in Mumbai. Similar to Parker’s story right? He even has an MJ in his life: Meera Jain, instead of Mary Jane.
He first debuted in the Spider-Man: India (2004) comic book series, but became a household name after being featured in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.” Voiced by Karan Soni in English and Shubman Gill in Hindi, the character is set to return in the film’s 2024 sequel.
South Asians are finally making their way into the Marvel universe and this is only the beginning.
Season four of the much-awaited “Never Have I Ever” came to an end filled with tears and hope, this past summer. Devi proved she can have it all (spoiler alert ahead) — a boy and her dream Ivy League college Princeton. Being a desi kid growing up, many of us also dreamt of being accepted into a school our parents could rave about to their family friends, so to see Devi’s applications rejected was refreshing and much-needed. Much thanks to Mindy Kaling and her co-producer Lang Fisher for keeping it real and showing growth with each of the characters. Seeing both the widows on the show, Nalini and Pati, make room for love and dating gave us more of an incentive to indulge in the show.
Women in Showbiz Everywhere (WISE) Hosted its First Ever ‘Hues of Heritage’ Event Celebrating South Asians in Film & Television in mid-August with actor Bill Moseley and Executive Director of CAPE Michelle Sugihara. The Hi-Tea Affair brought together South Asian creatives, writers, journalists, and other industry members, fostering inspiring and supportive conversations. The event also marked the launch of the esteemed RATNA fellowship, which Vineesha Arora-Sarin, founder & executive director of WISE, terms as a “movement dedicated to identifying and supporting emerging South Asian female writers worldwide who aspire to make their mark in the global entertainment industry.
And what better time to launch it than now when we’re going through a major cultural and a much-needed revolution in Hollywood to give writers and creators fair play as we speak.” The fellowship will select five writers from South Asia (including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and others) and the diaspora to join a one-year program and collaborate on a project alongside talented mentors. Read more about the fellowship here.
It was not something we grew up imagining as South Asians in America; children of immigrants who are often sidelined. But it happened! History was made as a considerable line-up of South Asian artists including Ali Sethi and Jai Wolf took center stage at Coachella. The highlight though, was Diljit Dosanjh’s power-packed performance that sent fans into a frenzy, enough to keep the security on their toes! It was the first time an Indian Punjabi singer performed at the event and we’d say it was about time.
Iconic song “Naatu Naatu” from the blockbuster movie “RRR” not only made history as the first ever song selected from an Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar but by also winning it, beating the likes of Rihanna and Lady Gaga. While the Oscar performance was disappointing — featuring predominantly ‘white’ ensemble of dancers, instead of the thousands of Indians who could’ve done a far better job and made more sense — this win is big for the South Asian community as a whole!
Pakistan filled with Joy as “Joyland” Made it on Academy Awards Shortlist
Pakistani film “Joyland” is the country’s first-ever film to be shortlisted for the Academy Awards. While it had a long run, it did not receive a nomination for the Oscars as expected. It was among 15 films that made the cut for the best international feature film. The critically-acclaimed film breaks stigmas by showcasing a stereotypical patriarchal family that craves for the birth of a baby boy— but with twists. Without any spoilers, this film is a must-watch for dismantling and challenging a host of patriarchal and discriminatory norms that continue to plague South Asian culture.
From “Indian Matchmaking” to Indian Idol-ing: Sima Taparia
Love or hate her, everyone has an opinion about internet sensation Sima Taparia. And with the end of season three, there’s still more to talk about Taparia’s new wedding or shadi song: “Shadi ki Tayaree Hai.”
The song follows Taparia attending a wedding while singing, dancing, and encouraging you to have a wedding of your own. And she’s not alone; her husband Anup Taparia is also singing and dancing. People are calling the song as entertaining as her show! Do with that what you must, but check out the song available to watch on YouTube.
An adaption of Yann Martel’s best-selling novel, Lolita Chakrabarti’s “Life of Pi” musical is not only the first Broadway play with a majority South Asian cast but the first to win three Tony awards.
Dubbed as Broadway’s most diverse show right, “Life of Pi” won Best Lighting Design of a Play, Best Scenic Design of a Play and Best Sound Design of a Play. Not to mention the musical is the Broadway debut of three Olivier Award-winning performers. With more than 20 puppeteers, the show takes you through Pi’s journey of survival.
After almost 15 years in development, “Monsoon Wedding” has made storms in New York’s theater scene. An off-Broadway production that ran all through the summer, “Monsoon Wedding” is an adaption of the iconic film that released in 2001.
We laughed, we cried, we sang as Mira Nair had us “literally dipped in the vat of stunning classical Indian singing.”
A show fit for anyone, as each character depicts varying shades of a personality, “Monsoon Wedding” breaks stereotypes, confronts stigmas, and reminds us of the importance of family.
“What’s Love Got to Do with It?” Brings Home Four Awards
Shekhar Kapur and Jemima Khan’s romantic comedy “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” won four awards at the United Kingdom’s National Film Awards, including best screenplay, best British film, best director and best supporting actor.
Khan, the screenwriter and producer of the movie, won the award for Best Screenplay. Asim Chaudhry’s performance won the movie Best Supporting Actor and Kapur won the Best Director award and the Best British Film award.
In another historic win for India, “The Elephant Whisperers” became the first Indian documentary to win an Oscar. Winning Best Documentary Short Film at the 95th Academy Awards, the film touches upon the relationship between animals and their caretakers. It follows the story of an indigenous couple named Bomman and Bellie who care for an orphaned baby elephant.
The film was directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga. Sharing the news of the win on Instagram, Monga noted how two women brought home this historic award.
”Tonight is historic as this is the first-ever Oscar for an Indian production. India’s Glory with 2 women.”
Record Number of South Asians Invited to Join The Academy
The Academy of Motion Pictures and Arts announced their list of 398 new members invited to join them. Among the prestigious names are also Indian film celebrities Ram Charan, Mani Ratnam, Karan Johar, Siddharth Roy Kapur, Chandrabose and MM Keeravani. As members of The Academy, they will be eligible to vote for the 96th Academy Awards which will be held in March 2024.
Be on the lookout for our next roundup as the year comes to a close!
November 29, 2023November 29, 2023 5min readBy Aysha Qamar
After a six-month hiatus, Marvel Studios gives us “The Marvels”— the female trio we’ve all been waiting for. A sequel to the billion-dollar blockbuster “Captain Marvel”, “The Marvels” is the family fun, inclusive, action-filled comedy that superhero cinema has needed.
With a nearly all-female led cast “The Marvels” stars Brie Larson, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Zawe Ashton and Samuel L. Jackson.
An arguably non-traditional Marvel Comics film, “The Marvels” emphasizes teamwork, women empowerment, and how heroes don’t need to work alone, with a humorous twist. It gives depth to characters like Captain Marvel (Larson), who was criticized as lacking emotions in the film’s 2019 prequel, introduces Kamala Khan (Vellani) to the overall Marvel universe and artistically ties the X-Men to the Avengers with Monica Rambeau (Parris) — a moment and plot twist Marvel fans have been waiting for!
But that’s not all. Despite being the shortest film in the MCU so far, “The Marvels” has real-world resonance, touching on themes of climate crisis, refugees, war and depleting natural resources.
Filled with emotion and enthusiasm, “The Marvels” will have you crying, laughing and shocked at the natural chemistry between its three leading ladies. Perfectly paced, the film continues and connects the storylines of the characters from “Captain Marvel,” “Ms. Marvel” and “WandaVision.” For those who may not have seen all three, the film is still easy to follow — you just might not get all the easter eggs and references.
But DaCosta’s script, written with Megan McDonnell and Elissa Karasik, does an admirable job of getting audiences up to speed: Captain Marvel, aka Carol Danvers, is an intergalactic icon, saving planets ever since she liberated herself from the fascistic Kree empire. Ms Marvel, aka Kamala Khan, is a New Jersey native, has a magical bangle and happens to be a Captain Marvel super-fan (she’s introduced here through an adorable bit of hand-drawn, animated fan fiction). Monica Rambeau, who shuns nicknames, is an astronaut and the daughter of Carol’s best friend, Maria (Lashana Lynch).
The film begins with the ending of the Disney+ series “Ms. Marvel” when Khan learns she can harness the cosmic energy of her Nani’s bangle and switches places with Captain Marvel or Carol Danvers.
We get an insight into the inner thoughts of all three women and follow their journey on how they establish and build relationships with one another. We also see another side to Captain Marvel as she literally watches memories taken from her including the last time she saw Rambeau.
Vellani is outstanding in the film despite “The Marvels” being her first big screen moment. She is a complete natural with her perfectly-timed facial expressions and unintentionally comical comments throughout. In many instances, her scenes feel impromptu as opposed to scripted lines. Being familiar with her passion for Marvel outside the screen, seeing Vellani play Khan, an excited teen eager to meet Nick Fury, felt as though Vellani wasn’t really acting and instead just being herself.
Khan also played a key role in humanizing Captain Marvel. In “The Marvels” we see Khan working to get behind Danvers’ guarded personality while also reminding viewers that heroes, too, are people and can make mistakes.
“Captain Marvel will fix this — I promise,” Khan says, reassuring a child displaced from their home. As Danvers’ struggles to uphold the image of the hero she is expected to be, both Khan and Rambeau are depicted supporting her, as a group of empowered women should.
But Khan isn’t a supporting role. Throughout the film, we also follow Khan’s journey into becoming a real hero, a moment she craved from the beginning as depicted in her origin series Ms. Marvel.
Viewers like me are likely to be awestruck by the fight sequences. They are perfectly synced despite switching from one character to the next. The music choice depicts them even better with early fight scenes set to Missy Elliott’s “Ratata” featuring body-swap confusion and rhythmic flow as the trio crashes from outer space to Kamala’s house to Nick Fury’s S.A.B.E.R. space station.
The family aspect of the film is what sets it apart from most Marvel movies. Khan’s family being involved in the film throughout, when they could’ve stepped away when she decided to pursue her space mission, is a refreshing change. It not only showcases diversity in the Marvel space but emphasizes her character’s closeness to her family and the importance they hold, similar to the relationship Spiderman’s Peter Parker has with his aunt May.
Vellani’s family brings not only a close-knit emotional presence to the film but also comedic relief similar to that found in “The Guardians” with the hilarious presence of characters like Muneeba Khan (Zenobia Shroff), Kamala’s mom. Muneeba’s iconic one-liners as a fearless mother make her more than just Kamala or a superhero’s mother. She even gets some fighting scenes of her own and can be seen as the protector of the family, often putting herself in harm’s way in place of others. She ensures Fury’s fear of Kamala not making it to high school graduation is not met.
The film’s use of Islamic verses and the Urdu language is also an exciting moment for South Asian and Muslim comic fans. Theories of “Are cats Muslims?” are exasperated with Goose’s liking of the Khan family’s Islamic scriptures and art — not to mention “cats” saving the day also being an Islamic easter egg. Most noteworthy though is the film’s positive portrayal of a Muslim family that breaks several stereotypes often depicted in other Disney films. It reminds viewers that Muslims are not only fans of the Marvel universe but everyday normal people like anyone else, with religion only being an aspect of their identity.
While the film’s release has brought hate towards first-time Marvel director Nia DaCosta, her work should be applauded. Most of the accusations towards DeCosta reek of misogyny and racism with several reviewers having claimed the film is a win for teenage girls as opposed to comic book fans, alluding to the fact that “real fans” cannot be girls.
The film’s box office outlook has also been seen as negative with people failing to acknowledge its release during the SAG-AFTRA strike, which prevented cast members from promotions, and its record performance globally — $161 million in worldwide box office sales in just 10 days.
“The Marvels” is an icon of its own, not to be compared with “Endgame” or other Marvel films, it’s a refreshing new take for the MCU reminding us that “The Future is Female.”
In theaters now:
For fans of: “Ms. Marvel,” cats, women empowerment, Brown and Black Girl Magic
Avoid if: You hate women and haven’t seen any of the previous Marvels-related projects. Don’t be a hater, though!
Often referred to as hijras and kinnars, transgender men and women are a part of society just like any other individual, regardless of how different their lives may be. Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta and actress Sirat Taneja have created a documentary to bring to life a story about dual identities and the hardships that the LGBTQIA2S+ community members continue to face, despite the support they have found around them. Mehta and Taneja take the baton and continue the fight for equality in “I Am Sirat,” a documentary, presented at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), on Taneja herself.
“I Am Sirat,” set in Delhi, India, is shot completely on a smartphone. Talking more about filming the documentary on a cellphone — a conscious choice made by the ace director — Mehta confidently says:
It wasn’t a creative decision. It was the only decision we had [to] make the film the way we wanted to, which was very intimate and with nobody else around us. When Sirat was telling her story, she was free to tell it without a crew. That’s the way we wanted it. There were no cameras, no sound, no lighting. It was her life, she was in control of it.
The story highlights the deep intricacies of Taneja’s dual identity. At home, her mother cannot accept the idea of a trans daughter and requires her to be a man, even though she’s made many attempts to tell her family that she does not identify as a male. With her efforts to express her true, authentic self, falling on deaf ears, Taneja sets out to live a life that appeases both her family at home and herself. She goes as far as being her mother’s son in the house while renting out a room for her beautiful clothes and makeup elsewhere in the city; this room is the keepsake of who she really is, the woman she always longed to be.
At one instance she is even physically assaulted for expressing her true gender identity. While the film does not depict the assault, it showcases the traumatic aftermath of it. But the violence doesn’t discourage Taneja from living out her truth. If she’s oppressed at home, she leaves that baggage at the door on her way out — in public, she’s a woman.
The documentary allows viewers to see how Taneja carries this dual identity and how it impacts her as a person. We see her lose many things she considers important in her life, including her job with the Government of India and the love of her life, all because of her trans identity. The myriad of hardships that she faces can be seen throughout the film with struggles not limited to personal and social, but also financial and psychological.
Taneja lives in a single-parent household with her siblings. As the eldest child in a low-income household, she is required to take on her late father’s responsibilities as the breadwinner of the family. In addition to financial issues, the lack of a father figure in her life creates more obstacles for Taneja, including those around sex reassignment surgery. Enter, the idea of following tradition.
It would be remiss to not mention that “I Am Sirat” grazes over the idea of how paradoxical modern-day India really is. On one hand, there are talks about progression, making space, and living your most authentic life; on the other, people like Taneja are asked to put up facades in the name of tradition. Tradition, conservative ideals, and possibly even patriarchy are at the forefront of the oppression that Taneja and her counterparts face. So, even for a country that’s made some notable changes to its governing policies, many of its outdated conventions still trump the law.
“I Am Sirat” really makes the viewers reflect on how far the world has come in offering support and camaraderie to the LGBTQIA2S+ community on a broader level — mainstream media has made important strides to bring equity and inclusivity to the forefront — while hardly ever paying heed to the struggles these minorities face day-to-day with their loved ones. There’s an element of duality even for them in their fight to be recognized; they want acceptance from the public as well as their families. A story like Taneja’s puts into perspective how transgender men and women will never choose the easy way out; they’re determined to be an honorable part of society regardless of what it will cost. A heartbreaking truth, to say the least.
“I Am Sirat” brings about an important message for its global audience: never forget to celebrate who you really are, undeterred by the trials you’re put through. And Sirat Taneja is a living example of this simple life lesson, who danced her way from the TIFF red carpet right into our hearts with her soulful story.