Vivek Murthy’s Surgeon General Nomination is Still Being Blocked by the NRA

Vivek Murthy’s nomination continues to float in limbo: Remember Vivek Murthy, President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General? Back in February the Senate HELP committee gave the good doctor a bipartisan recommendation and it looked like the office of Surgeon General would finally be filled. Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association has single handedly been blocking the nomination from proceeding. The NRA objects to the fact that Murthy was “was one of the authors of a letter saying that “strong measures to reduce gun violence must be taken immediately.” Yikes. (Vox)

 Maya Angelou and Madhur Jaffrey once had the best lunch date ever: As the world mourns poet Maya Angelou, the Guardian’s Twitter feed revisited this wonderful 2005 piece in which Angelou and the actress and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey had a long detailed conversation about life and food over lunch.

A sampling of their conversation:

Maya Angelou: . . . I somehow knew early on that I would not live my life at someone else’s whim, out of somebody else’s ignorance. My tastebuds are mine and if I’d like to have champagne with a steak then that’s what I want. My question since I was a young person was: Who makes the rules? Was it with me in mind? And if it wasn’t, I didn’t want it.

Words to live by. (The Guardian)
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Sriram Hathwar and Ansun Sujoe Become the First Scripps Spelling Bee Co-Champions since 1962

“Ansun, if you spell this word correctly you and Sriram will be declared co-champions.”

That simple declaration from Dr. Jacques Bailey, the official pronouncer of the Scripps Spelling Bee led to one of the most memorable endings to the event in recent memory.  Because contestants Ansun Sujoe and Sriram Hathwar were about to exhaust the list of official spelling bee words, the pair had the chance to create the first tie  since 1962.

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A Dowered Box of Jewels Changes the lives of 3 Generations of Women in Aparna Sen’s ‘Goynar Baksho’

It was a coincidence that while director Aparna Sen was making her latest film Goynar Baksho her native India was having a national conversation about the role of women in society.

Sen had first become interested in adapting Bengali writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s story of the same name shortly after reading it in the early 1990s, but budgetary and creative concerns held up the creation of the film for nearly two decades.

Goynar Baksho follows three generations of women in a wealthy Bengali family whose fates reflect the evolving history of the country around them.

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Salman Rushdie’s New Favorite Parody Twitter Account is Hilarious

Hit follow now. The must-follow Twitter account of the week is @RushdieExplains, a new feed that purportedly explains India from Salman Rushdie’s perspective. The account’s Twitter bio proudly notes that it’s “graciously blessed by Sir himself.” You can see Sir Salman’s complementary tweet posted above. (Scroll.in)

The Frenchman who fell in love with Urdu. Meet Julian Columeau, a 41-year-old French-born writer who the AFP calls one of Pakistan’s “most innovative Urdu novelists.” Columeau began studying Hindi in the early 90s, but found it too “clerical,” leading him to switch to Urdu. He moved to Pakistan to work in the humanitarian sector over a decade ago. (AFP)

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New Study Says South Asia is The Most Corrupt Region on Earth

Raise your hand if you are surprised that South Asia is the most corrupt region in the world. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Raise your hand if you are surprised that South Asia is the most corrupt region in the world. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Surprise, surprise! A new report by the watchdog group Transparency International has found that South Asia is “the worst region in the world when it comes to corruption.” Sigh. (Associated Press)

Attention: Pat Sajak. The longtime Wheel of Fortune host recently said that he believed that global warming was fake. Tell that to the people of Pakistan. The organization Climate Asia found that the Pakistanis they surveyed were deeply concerned about the Earth’s rising temperature, despite the fact that many of them were unfamiliar with the term “global warming.” (The Guardian)

An avoidable statistic. India leads the world in newborn deaths, with a large number taking place within 24 hours of birth. Most of these deaths are avoidable, a study in the Lancet and public health officials say. (NYT)

Meet the teenager at the center of #handlegate: As you may have heard, the @PMOIndia Twitter account was recently a victim of the power battle between India’s two biggest political parties. In the midst of all of the confusion, 19-year-old Qaiser Ali was briefly able to register the handle before his parents “scolded me and told me to apologise to all the people of India.” (BBC)

Save the date.  Narendra Modi’s swearing in as the new Prime Minister of India is all set for Monday and,as a somewhat unexpected gesture of goodwill, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is on the guest list. (CNN)

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

A Kidnapping and Then Unquestionable Greed: Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Ugly’ Reviewed

Movie_Poster_Ugly

According to the official brochure for the New York Indian Film Festival, Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly is “a terrible tale of corruption, indifference and systemic violence [which] starts when the 10-year-old daughter of an aspiring actor disappears.”

Given that description, I didn’t expect to laugh several times during the NYIFF’s opening night screening of the film earlier this month. But as the viewer watches the aftermath of the child’s sudden abduction, there are severely deeply cynical, darkly hilarious scenes that show Anurag Kashyap’s talents in full form.

The film’s central event is the kidnapping of 10-year-old Kali, which occurs on a Saturday when she is in her divorced, shiftless father Rahul’s care. While it appears on the surface that Rahul loves his daughter and wants her to be happy, it’s also clear that he is completely unable to put Kali’s needs before his own, a circumstance that unintentionally contributed to the tragedy. (Kali disappears when Rahul leaves her waiting inside his car while he discusses business with his best friend and casting director Chaitanya, in the hopes of finally getting his big break.)

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Review: A Tragically Brief Marriage Leads to Heartbreaking Choices in ‘Mrs. Scooter’

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There are two stars of the first scene of Mrs. Scooter, the sublime and emotionally turbulent new film by Shiladitya Moulik that screened at the New York Indian Film Festival last Friday. The first is the shiny new scooter that’s been recently acquired by Bhushan, a hard-working young clerk. The second is Aashima, Bhushan’s dazzlingly young wife, who happened to come into his life the same day his treasured scooter did.

With his marriage, it seems like things are finally looking up for Bhushan, a man with no family to speak of except for his doting, gossipy landlady Sheila. Viewing these early scenes, a viewer with no knowledge of the film’s plot would be forgiven for thinking that Mrs. Scooter would be about the struggles (yet ultimate triumphs) of India’s growing middle class.

Alas, that’s not what this film about.

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Debut Filmmakers Win Big at the New York Indian Film Festival Awards

Geetanjali Thapa (right) won the Best Actress award at the New York Indian Film Festival on Saturday for her performance in Liar's Dice.
Geetanjali Thapa (right) won the Best Actress award at the New York Indian Film Festival on Saturday for her performance in Liar’s Dice.

A pair of young filmmakers took home two of the top prizes at the New York Indian Film Festival Awards on Saturday, a feat that was especially impressive considering both films were feature-length debuts.

Geethu Mohandas was awarded the NYIFF’s Best Film award for Liar’s Dice, which tells the story of a young rural mother whose tragically changes after her husband goes missing in Delhi. Lead actress Geethanjali Thapa, who plays the main character Kamala, was also honored with the festival’s Best Actress award. Reviewing the film for The Aerogram, Hannah Harris Green movingly wrote that “the Himalayas in this story are not majestic but forbidding and unreadable. Kamla stares blankly into them as she waits — for a bus, or a jeep, or some sign that her struggle will be worth it.”

Another film that garnered widespread acclaim at the festival was Nagraj Manjule’s directoral debut Fandry, which also earned him the festival’s Best Director award. The Marathi film explores the persistent problem of caste-based discrimination through an intra-caste romance starring Somnath Avghade and Rajshree Kharat. Watch the film’s trailer here.

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