4 Years of ‘Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani’: The Lessons I Have Learned

[Featured Image Source: Dharma Productions]

May 31st marks four years since the release of “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani,” a noted film from 2013 for various reasons.

“Balam Pichkari” and “Badtameez Dil” were among the most popular film songs that year. The blockbuster was one of four films in 2013 in which Deepika Padukone starred, all of which marked Padukone’s ascent into the top ranks of contemporary Hindi film actresses. It was also Ranbir Kapoor’s last commercial hit before a string of flops, a phase that ended in late 2016 with his portrayal of an unrequited lover in Karan Johar’s “Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.”

But most importantly, “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”, or YJHD as it’s often called, provided not only a relatable story and set of characters, it also gave me new understanding and outlooks on many aspects of my life.

Directed by Ayan Mukherji, YJHD follows four friends – Bunny, Naina, Avi and Aditi – as they navigate the beginning of adulthood. The first half of the film takes place as they vacation together as early 20-somethings, and the second half picks up eight years later when they reunite as the first of their friends gets hitched.

Throughout the film, they each explore and learn about friendship, love, loss, ambition, family and failure. The situations thrust upon these characters are relevant to all currently experiencing the shift from adolescence to adulthood and reminiscent for those who have been through the transition already.

We all come across stories with which we connect, that remind us of ourselves or those we love, that paint the picture of the lives we’d like to live and the people we’d like to be – and for me, that was YJHD.

I discovered the film during my senior year of high school while my life was in the midst of various forms of change. To say that I relate to these characters would be an understatement. I have always said if Bunny and Naina had a lovechild, he or she would have a personality pretty similar to my own. The film also came along at a point in my life where I was beginning to deal with more complex issues for the first time, and in many ways, it gave me the perspective I needed in those situations and continues to do so.

“I want to fly, Naina. I want to run, I want to fall, I just don’t want to stop.” – Bunny

While Hindi films are notorious for being shot in beautiful exotic locations, “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani” was one of the first times I came across a Bollywood character with a genuine zest for travel and adventure that is apparent to everyone around him.

It was interesting for me to see how his passion for travel also led to an interest in journalism, since I had my own personal journey that led me to pursue journalism as a major and career path. These were the parts of Bunny’s character that I identified with the most. My parents enjoy traveling, and the gene has been passed down to me. In my first two years of college, because my younger sister and I no longer had spring break at the same time, my parents allowed me to miss a week of classes each year to go on family vacations. I have gotten so used to traveling that I begin to crave it if I am home for too long.

Bunny, to me, represented a man that was not afraid to take risks and would not let a rare opportunity sail by just because he was comfortable within certain boundaries. After seeing YJHD, I became a more conscious traveler. When presented with the choice of certain experiences, I chose the one that made me a little nervous instead of the one that gave me a sense of safety. Have a dolphin push me across the water with its mouth at my feet? Sure! Hike up Diamond Head on the island of Oahu in the exhausting mid-day heat…and then go surfing? Why not?! Go on a ride through Monterey Bay where whales seem close enough to tip the entire vessel over? I simply can’t think of anything better.

These decisions did not just apply to vacations. I pushed myself to find adventures at home whether it was through spending more time out in nature or agreeing to experiences that did not seem initially like “my scene.” Because of this, I now have a bank of more fulfilling and memorable experiences.

“If only I could tell him how much I love him…” –Bunny

As a young child and even in adolescence, while I understood the concept of death, I never thought about the fact that there would be a time when my grandparents, parents or other close loved ones would no longer be around. As I grew older, as friends confided in me about the death of grandparents or the illnesses of parents, it became a more prominent thought that I ruminated over. In my senior year of high school, I became more aware of the reality of the future – a future where I would have to deal with the loss of loved ones along the way. I was experiencing separation anxiety while all four of my grandparents and my parents were still alive.

In the film, after losing someone close to him, Bunny expresses his regrets about racing through life, disrespecting time and not valuing the important moments enough. Through that particular scene, I had an epiphany: Most people only learn to value their loved ones after they pass on. I still had time to make memories with each of them, and having this epiphany at that time allowed me to treasure such moments rather than taking them for granted. It was a luxury that some people do not have, as sudden deaths and accidents sometimes take loved ones at the most unexpected times.

While it is still a lesson I have to remind myself of from time to time and a habit that I am constantly working to continue, it is well worth the effort. I am much happier focusing on maximizing my time with my loved ones rather than grieving their loss before it even happens. I have the opportunity and time to still show the people I love and care about just how much they mean to me and, as simple as it may be, to express to them much I love them.

“Stop feeling so bad for yourself and learn to love yourself. You’re fine just the way you are.” –Bunny

Naina, when first introduced, is a bright, reserved girl with aspirations to be a doctor. She has always remained aloof from her peers, feeling as though she does not know how to relate to them. At one point, she tells Bunny that, unlike him, making friends is not easy for her, and she characterizes herself as boring. However, Bunny attempts to show her what she is unable to see herself; she is more fun and courageous than she thinks she is, and in some ways, her differences are her greatest assets.

Since the first day of high school, I had been looking forward to graduation. Like Naina, I spent much of my free time in high school sitting by myself reading books, listening to music or writing. I had moments of insecurity about not fitting in or being able to relate to those in my age group.

However, one day during my last week of high school, I found myself asking two of my former English teachers if I could speak to them in the hallway. On one side of me was my tenth-grade English teacher sitting at the desk meant for the teachers on hall duty, and on the other side stood my eleventh-grade plaid-shirted English teacher.

“When I was little, I dreamt about what my life would be like at 17,” I began, “but my life is nothing like I imagined it would be.” After a short pause, I continued. “It’s ten times better than I ever dreamed, and that’s only because of the two of you.” My voice began to quiver, and not quite ready to let go of my high school experience or the teachers that had impacted me so greatly, tears streamed down my face.

Clearly, something had changed from those first years of high school. Although I had not established a strong connection with more than a small few of my peers in high school, eventually I found teachers who believed in me and showed me all I had to offer, especially one in particular – my tenth grade English teacher. Because of his continued support and belief in me, I became a published writer at the age of sixteen. And that encouragement – in scholastic, professional and personal matters – continued on into college.

Bunny taught Naina to love all of herself; my tenth grade English teacher, helped me do the same.

“It’s your show, Bunny. How could I not see it?” – Avi

With the start of my college career, I had a sense of confidence that I had established in the later years of high school with the help of my support system of teachers. I became more outgoing, forming quickly blossoming friendships, some of which have survived the past three years. Many of those friendships were created with fellow students who are older than I am, and just a week ago, I watched my three very best friends graduate and receive their diplomas.

As happy as I am for them and the beginning of the rest of their lives, I also realize that our friendships will no longer be the same. I won’t see them every day, the way I am currently used to. Walking into the library on campus, they will no longer be sitting at the long tables, their eyes lighting up as they register my arrival. There will be no surprise run-ins on campus. Graduate schools and jobs may take them further away than I’d like, and the business of life may make the texts, calls and dinners less frequent. Since I have a year of college left, the feeling of being left behind is stronger than it probably would be if I were to have graduated with them.

The YJHD scene that hit closest to home in terms of friendship takes place in Avi’s room in Udaipur at Aditi’s wedding. After a few days of passive-aggressive arguments directed at his childhood best friend and a fist fight between the two, Avi reveals that he has quietly been supporting Bunny, watching each one of the episodes of the travel show he worked on, even though they had not been in touch for many years.

No matter where my friends go, no matter where I go, I know that our love and support for each other will not fade. There are few bonds we make in life that grow into true friendships, and I was lucky enough to find that in college, not once, but three times. I used to believe that to call someone a best friend, we had to call and text each other every day. We had to see each other at least once a week. However, now in the beginning of my twenties, I realize that the ultimate test of friendship is enduring through distance and time.

And like Avi, Aditi, Naina and Bunny, eventually we may get caught up in our own lives as the responsibilities of adulthood take over. However, I am confident that each of them will be at my wedding one day, and the times when we do rally the troops will thrust us back into the memories of our youth like nothing had changed and no time had passed.

You can never be old and wise if you were never young and crazy.

This quote is the tagline of the film, which appears in the clouds during the opening shot of the trailer. This line represents the core essence of the film, and it is also the mantra in which I have come to deeply believe.

I have only begun to discuss all the ways in which I have learned from and related to “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.” In addition to the lessons listed above, the film constantly reminds me that it is okay to make mistakes, to seek out the magical moments in life and to live on my own terms.

Most importantly, I discovered the power of stories. As an artist of any kind, there is no greater success than being able to move an audience with the work of one’s imagination. It is the kind of success I hope to achieve one day through my own writing.

Until then, I am embracing my youth and working on becoming a little crazy. I have a feeling I am closer than I think.

By Gabrielle Deonath

Gabrielle Deonath is a New York-based writer and content creator with a passion for storytelling. Through her work, she hopes … Read more ›

Anita Verma-Lallian Talks Camelback Productions and the Need for Greater South Asian Representation

Camelback Productions

Award-winning commercial real estate and land consultant in Arizona, Anita Verma-Lallian, is venturing into the world of entertainment with her newfound production house, Camelback Productions, making her the first South Asian female in the state to do so. Verma-Lallian is a woman used to paving her own way, and now she’s committed to doing it for future generations.

[Read Related: Anita Verma-Lallian Launches Arizona’s First South Asian-owned Film Production and Entertainment Company ]

Through her production company, she aims to contribute towards greater South Asian representation in mainstream media with a focus on storytelling that’s relevant to the community. In a conversation with Brown Girl Magazine, the real estate maven spoke about what inspired her to shift from investing in land to investing in creative dreams.

Tell us more about Camelback Productions and what your hopes are for the company?

The intention is to help communities that are not being represented in the media. As you know, there are a lot more streamers looking for content so that presents an interesting opportunity for people to tell stories that are otherwise not being told.

For us it’s important to tell these stories that aren’t being told, and tell them in the way that we want them to be told. With South Asians, for instance, the roles typically given are stereotypical. There are only four or five roles we are playing repeatedly. I want to show the South Asian community and culture in a different way. 

You come from a business and investor background. I am curious to know what catapulted your interest towards establishing a production company?

Good question. There were a few things that inspired my interest. I was looking to diversify the different opportunities we offered our investors. We’ve done a lot of real estate, so we were overall looking for different investment opportunities.  And then, at the time when I started exploring this, the real estate market was in this wait-and-see for many people. 

Everyone was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens next. There was a slowdown at the end of 2022 which is when I started looking into this more. Film seemed like it was kind of recession-proof and not really tied to what’s happening in the economy, which I thought was refreshing and exciting.

Also, overall, I observed what was happening in the industry with there being a push to see more South Asians in the media. The timing felt right, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.

What kind of content are you looking to create?

Good stories and good quality scripts. We are looking at all types of content — movies, docu-series, comedy shows, and reality shows. We’re open to anything that has a good message. 

On a personal level, what hits home for you with this production company?

Growing up I always loved film and TV. We watched a lot of Bollywood movies because that’s what we related to and I always loved that. But I did feel there wasn’t a lot of representation of people that looked like me. Being able to change that — especially after having kids, and a daughter who wants to go into film — is important for. It’s a contribution for future generations. It’s important to me that as they grow up, they see people that look just like them.  

Is there a significance to the name Camelback?

Yes! Camelback Mountain is a very iconic mountain in Phoenix. It’s one of the most famous hikes we have here and a relatively challenging one.

The significance is being able to overcome challenges and barriers. I have a nice view of Camelback Mountain and it’s something I look at every day, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. It has a very calming and grounding presence.

To me the mountains signify being grounded and not being able to be moved by external factors. That’s what I want this production company to be!

What would you advise people interested in entering the entertainment industry?

The best advice I would give someone is to align yourself with people that you know are experts in the industry; that have a good track record. Learn from as many people as you can. I learn as much as I can, talk to as many people as I can, and I study different things to understand what was and wasn’t successful.

Photo Credit: Claudia Johnstone

By Rasha Goel

Rasha Goel is a 2X Emmy-nominated television host/producer and international correspondent. Her talent has led to opportunities such as giving … Read more ›

Anya Banerjee: The New Face of NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’

Anya Banerjee
Anya Banerjee

Born in the US and raised in New Zealand, actor Anya Banerjee made her television debut, this past Sunday, in season 10 of NBC’sThe Blacklist.” She is seen playing the character of Siya Malik, daughter of former task force member Meera Malik who met with an untimely death in season one.

[Read Related: Sri Rao and the Future of South Asian Diasporic Cinema]

An MI6 agent, Malik is hoping to learn more about her mother and the work she did with Raymond Reddington. Her character is a sharp, inventive, fearless spy with a knack for spotting what motivates others. Even though this is her first-ever television role, one can see how deeply involved Banerjee is in the character, pushing you to connect back the dots to the history her character comes with. In an interview with Brown Girl Magazine, Banerjee talks more about her journey into acting, what drew her to the role of Siya and what should the audience expect from the 10th and final season of the show:

People, in general, are very influenced by the content they consume. Was there a specific film, play, or television series that got you interested in acting?

As the first in my family to be raised in “the West,” just being in the world involved performing some kind of identity. Film and TV acted as a third parent in that regard. I’m the first actor in my family, but have wanted to do this since before I can remember. Watching “Bend It Like Beckham” when I was in primary school showed me there was a place for South Asian female leads in Hollywood. I’ve also always been drawn to media with some element of the fantastical. I loved Baz Lurhmann’s “Moulin Rouge” because it brought the theatricality of the stage to the screen in a spectacular way. I remember being tickled by the cultural fusion in the film. It reflected my own sense of being at the intersection of various cultures and the appeal of escaping into a made-up world.

Were you a part of any productions in school or in college that influenced you?

I did a lot of singing and dancing as a kid; Indian dance-dramas at Durga Puja and yearly ballet recitals. We did musicals and Shakespeare productions at secondary school and that’s also when I started working in Auckland’s professional theatre scene.


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A post shared by Anya Banerjee (@anyabanerjee)

What were some of your favorite roles while pursuing the acting program at Columbia University and how did they prepare you for your television debut?

Casting director James Calleri headed the acting MFA program at Columbia when I was there and his on-camera classes really set us up for success in TV. We also had the tremendous good fortune of being Ron Van Lieu’s first cohort at Columbia. The master acting teacher directed our thesis production of “Where Do We Live?” by Christopher Shinn. I played Lily, a British party girl who has to be physically and emotionally vulnerable in the play. With the help of movement coach Sita Mani and intimacy co-ordinator Alicia Rodis, I gained the confidence to take more risks in my acting. Now I’m playing a very different Brit with a totally different background and disposition but I’m using many of  the same tools I used as Lily to feel grounded as Siya.

How would you describe “The Blacklist” to people wanting to learn more about the show?

Action-packed, full of intrigue, and endlessly entertaining. There’s a reason this show has been killing it for a decade and that’s the high caliber of the cast and crew, as well as the inventive and topical writing that keeps fans coming back for more. Audience members who’ve watched from the beginning will appreciate the full circle moments that my character ushers in — I play the daughter of Meera Malik, late CIA agent from season one so my storyline is a bit of a throwback. But new viewers can use me as an access point into the world of “The Blacklist” as Siya uncovers it, bit by bit, as a newcomer herself.

How did you prepare for the role of Siya Malik and how similar are you in real life to the character you’re playing on screen?

Some of the first things I had to learn on the job were stunts and how to operate a firearm. You’ll be seeing a lot of Siya kicking butt. The gun stuff was entirely new for me but I took to it very quickly and my background as a dancer helped with the fight scenes. Something I identify with in Siya is her resilience. She’s turned the tragedy of her mother’s death into the fuel that led to her own career as an MI6 agent, overcoming obstacles and others’ underestimation of her. That’s the kind of fire inside that  I really admire and hope to practice in my own life.


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A post shared by Anya Banerjee (@anyabanerjee)

Are there certain roles you feel suit you better?

I love characters with complex inner worlds — ones who are deeply flawed and may even be outcast from society, but who rise above the odds to carve out space for themselves and the ones they love.

Do you feel South Asians are still pigeonholed into certain roles or has it gotten better?

I think things are a lot better than what I grew up seeing in the early 2000s. “Sound of Metal,” for example, is one of my favorite movies because Riz Ahmed’s riveting performance has little to do with him being South Asian and everything to do with his commitment to an expertly crafted role.

Is there a dream role you would want to play?

On stage, someone as volatile as Emma from Duncan Macmillian’s “People Places & Things.” On screen, someone as funny as Amina in “We Are Lady Parts” or as brave as the title character in “Kimi.”

You have worked with many talented individuals. Is there anyone still on your list you would want to work with in terms of directors, actors, actresses, and others?

Parminder Nagra, obviously! As a Kiwi, it would be a dream come true to work with Jane Campion or Taika Waititi. I’m most excited to form meaningful relationships with artists daring enough to challenge the status quo.

You describe yourself as a “Kiwi-Bengali in the Big City.” How have you felt as an Indian American, raised in New Zealand, coming into the acting world?

There’s been a lot of juggling aspects of my triangular identity. A lot of the times in this industry people want you to be just one thing, or maybe two, but three’s pushing it! The reality is that we live in a globalized world. We have to make room for cultural nuance in the media. So maybe I’ll lean into my American side today, turn up the Kiwi tomorrow, and speak Bengali with my Indian parents on the phone. All are valid, authentic expressions of myself and reflections of the real world.

[Read Related: Manish Dayal on ‘The Resident’ & Telling Stories During and About a Pandemic]


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A post shared by Anya Banerjee (@anyabanerjee)

What advice would you give to your younger self?

It’s okay to be a chameleon — in fact it’s a gift. Adapting aspects of your personality and identity to different circumstances is part of being a multicultural artist.

What is something not many people know about you?

I can be a little introverted and have struggled with social anxiety since I was a teenager. I had a bit of an emo phase then, but have since learned to take life less seriously and it’s made me a lot happier. My loved ones nurture and embrace the goofball in me. If you get to know me, I might let you see my inner clown!

Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview?

Take pride in your difference and embrace the outsider in you. It’s your superpower. There’s no one right way to be a Brown Girl so get out there and be whoever you want to be!

Photo Courtesy of Ted Ely

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›

The Poetry Film Breaking Genres and National Borders

“After so Long” is a poetry film created for Simha’s EP, which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The poem was collaboratively written by Simha, a U.S. native, and Jae, who is based in India, during the 2020 lockdown. “After so Long” was recited by Simha and their parents. In 2022, I directed and produced the film through my studio, Star Hopper. “After so Long” premiered on Nowness Asia in March 2022.

This film is a worldwide collaboration among trans and queer south-Asian artists from the United States, India and Canada. It was recorded, shot and filmed during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021.

[Read Related: Poetry That Reflects the Fire Inside]

[Read Related: A Bengali Muslim Boy’s Poetic Journey Through Himself]

After So Long (English Translation)

Awake at 10 am but out of bed at noon,
I want to be here where I lose myself in these sheets
Glancing through half-shut eyes
At the gold pressing past my window
The glimmer remarks on the ledge of my bed
But the voices are so loud
Like dust collecting in the corner of my room
I am unaware to why I’m still here
With the chilling doubt of the breeze…
I’m swept into lucidity After so long

Mil rahi hoon mein aaj iske saang barso baad,
(Today, I’ll be meeting them after so long)
Koi paata nahi diya tune
(But with no destination sight,)
Kya karu?
(What should I do?)
Kaha jau?
(Where should I go?)
Shayad agar mein chalne lagoon,
(Perhaps, if I keep walking)
Inn yaadon ki safar mein
(Down this road of memories)
Mujhe samajh mein ayega,
(I will find out)
Yeh rasta kahaan jayega,
(Where this road leads)
Inn aari tedhi pakadandiyon pe baarte hi jaana hai,
(Through the twists and turns of this winding roads, I must keep going on)
Mujhe mil na hain aaj uske saath,
(I wish to meet them today)
Barso baad.
(After so long)

I feel like I’m retracing my footsteps
From these concrete stretches
To broken cement walls
Chips and cracks forge their way for new designs
I see the old abandoned buildings
That once held the warmth of bodies
Now just hold memories
Supporting the nature’s resilience
In vines and moss
After so long

Dhoondli shishe mein jaaga leli hai
(These isty mirrors have offered refuge)
Bikhri hui laatao ne,
(To these scattered vines)
Zameen pe uchi ghaas pe
(Amidst the tall grass stretching from the ground)
Lehrati kamsan kaliyaa
(The swaying little buds)
Bheeni bheeni khushboo bikhereti
(Spreading honeysuckle scent through the air)
Phir wahi mausam,
(I lose myself in reminiscing, the same season)
Wahi dil,
(The same heart)
Baarso baad.
(After so long)
Phir bhi mein chal rahi hoon aaj
(Still, I keep carrying on today)
Khudko khudse milane ke liye
(In the pursuit of my higher self)
Inn galiyo se guzarna hain aaj
(I must pass through these streets today)
Chaalte chaale jaana hai aaj
(I must keep going on today)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor paar
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
barso baad
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
barso baad
(After so long)

[Read Related: How to Follow Your Heart, Even When it’s Hard]


Poem by Simha & Jae
Produced by Star Hopper Studios
Directed by Varsha Panikar
Cinematography and grading by Tanmay Chowdhary
Editing by Asawari Jagushte
Featuring Vaishakh Sudhakaran
Music Production by Simha
Hindi editing by Rama Garimella
Recited by Simha, Rama Garimella, Annaji Garimella
English Translation by Nhylar

The opinions expressed by the guest writer/blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brown Girl Magazine, Inc., or any employee thereof. Brown Girl Magazine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the guest writer/bloggers. This work is the opinion of the blogger. It is not the intention of Brown Girl Magazine to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please follow the guidelines we’ve set forth here.
By Varsha Panikar

Varsha Panikar (they/he) is a filmmaker, writer and multi-disciplinary artist from India. They are the co-founder of Star Hopper, a … Read more ›