Monthly Archives: December 2015

TV REVIEW: Aziz Ansari’s Master of None

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I should probably begin this review of Aziz Ansari’s new show by unpacking my strong anti-Aziz bias for some years.  This bias was a product of multiple things, some of which are admittedly unfair because they are personal in nature: (1) People sincerely mistake me for Aziz regularly, especially when I rock a little stubble, which can get really annoying; (2) I had an 11-year career at NYC Parks & Recreation and also grew up in Indiana for 7 years, prompting many people who know I’m not Aziz Ansari to compare me to his character Tom Haverford on the NBC hit show (“You’re Aziz Ansari!”); (3) Despite my background (mine real, his fake) I did not find said hit show Parks & Recreation funny or interesting at all, nor Ansari’s role in it, although many people inform me I gave up on it too soon; (4) I found Ansari’s standup comedy to be long litanies of un-funny cliches and crude slapstick; (5) I hold Indians in American media to unfairly high standards partially due to their lack of representation, my unfulfilled desire to idolize someone in it, and my own aspiration to be a voice in it; and (6) On top of all this SO many people like Aziz Ansari, especially girls I know or go on dates with.

They constantly ask me my opinion of him as a thirty-something Indian-American living in New York till I say I honestly am not a big fan. Then I have to explain why, after which (too predictably) the non-Indian girls especially would look at me, puzzled and like, almost hurt.  Wait, don’t you, Bobby Jindal, Mahatma Gandhi, and Aziz Ansari HAVE to stick together at least in my head?  

After hearing friends, family, and even strangers on the subway encourage me to give his new show a try, I did so with my best friend, sister, and cousin.  We all LOL’d.  My opinion changed in one fell swoop with the release of the new Netflix show, Master of None.  For the first time, I thoroughly respect Aziz Ansari and am even looking forward to additional seasons, having completed the first season.  Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry

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Book Review / Author Q&A: Beyond South Asia by Neil Padukone

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Beyond South Asia: India’s Strategic Evolution and the Reintegration of the Subcontinent. By Neil Padukone. Published by Bloomsbury.

In the last year, a must-read book has been published for practitioners, observers, and students of India’s foreign policy.  Beyond South Asia by author Neil Padukone is an excellent and surprisingly easy read considering the complex and puzzling subject matter: the history and future of New Delhi’s strategic thought (insert laugh track here…).  Experts in this area, and lay readers with zero background in foreign policy alike will gain new insights by picking up a copy.  I have read dozens of books on Indian foreign policy from both Western and Eastern points of view.  Padukone’s is easily among the easiest to read, and I was able to complete it in just a few days.

Some analysts, including myself, have complained for decades that Indian foreign policy lacks a cohesive overarching strategy.  Others find the decision-making processes opaque, or even downright flailing.  Padukone has patiently laid out, with copious amounts of quotes and notes in Beyond South Asia that the reality is more subtle; that the young and growing nation has often pursued rational and intelligent policies throughout its history, though adjustments were required as with any country’s strategic vision in the fast-changing landscape of South Asian and global geopolitics.   Padukone earned credibility by working closely with numerous high-level officials in this area; more on that in the Q&A below. Read the rest of this entry

A Bollywood Star Rises: Profile of Prashantt Guptha

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Prashantt Guptha is a unique character on the Bollywood stage.  Born of Indian-American parents, he grew up in New York City, but decided to return to his motherland to make his acting dreams a reality as a young adult, against the odds, with zero contacts in Mumbai.  Many Indian kids grow up wanting to be a Bollywood actor one day; Prashantt actually went for it.

I had a chance to meet him in 2012 at Sun ‘N Sand in Juhu Beach for a highly entertaining and free-wheeling chat about his experiences and about Bollywood in general. One of the themes of that interview was the challenges that Prashantt had to overcome as a young actor paying his dues.  Since that time, his career has been on a successful upward trajectory worthy of an update for all of you film buffs out there.

Read the rest of this entry

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