Posted inFilm

Om Shanti Om

This rollicking send-up of 1970s Bollywood stars a newly buff Shah Rukh Khan as a Bombay bit player who falls for a rising starlet (Deepika Padukone), dies after trying to save her life, and, reborn as the son of a famous actor (Javed Sheikh), sets out to avenge her death. Director Farah Khan manages to […]

Posted inMusic


Dubbed the “Asian Mozart” by the Daily Telegraph, 41-year-old composer A.R. Rahman redefined contemporary Indian film music in the early 90s, transforming a style that was formulaic and drowning in kitsch into something diverse and sophisticated, infused with everything from Baroque strings to pop guitar to dancehall beats. A student of Carnatic music who’d played […]

Posted inFilm

Umrao Jaan

Like the 1981 film of the same title, this lush but lumbering Bollywood melodrama was adapted from Mirza Ruzwa’s acclaimed Urdu novel Umrao Jan Ada. Told in flashback, the movie follows the misfortunes of a courtesan in 19th-century Lucknow (Aishwarya Rai) who’s sold to a high-class brothel and schooled in music, dance, and poetry. She […]

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Fans of the Bollywood megahit Don (1978) may be disappointed by this slick update. Shahrukh Khan does an admirable job in the dual role of a ruthless Malaysia-based crime boss and the naive street musician recruited to take his place by a crooked police chief (Boman Irani). The special effects are spot-on, the song-and-dance numbers […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Falguni Pathak

Of the estimated 125,000 Indian immigrants living in the Chicago area, approximately half hail from the western state of Gujarat. To celebrate the autumn Hindu festivals of Navratri and Dussehra, Gujaratis perform a dandiya raas, or “dance of swords,” in which actors use wooden sticks to re-create the battle between goddess Durga and demon Mahishasura. […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Sonu Nigam

The songs in Bollywood musicals are usually recorded by faceless playback singers and lip-synched by actors. But 33-year-old playback singer Sonu Nigam is a face: he’s released his own pop albums, acted in movies, and hosted shows on TV and radio. He’s known for matching his baritone to a variety of actors and moods; recent […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Road Trip: Cycle Harbor Country

Michigan is a magnet for cyclists, thanks to its gently rolling hills and thousands of miles of quiet secondary roads, many of which run through the state’s 19 million acres of forest. There are scores of weekend group rides throughout the state; maps and other resources are on the Web site of the League of […]

Posted inArts & Culture


Three years ago my friend and I almost got crushed to death trying to catch a glimpse of Kattassery Joseph Yesudas at a concert he gave in the south Indian city of Mysore. But it was worth it. Despite being Catholic–“yesudas” is Sanskrit for “servant of Jesus”–the versatile 65-year-old tenor is one of the country’s […]

Posted inArts & Culture

Kiran Ahluwalia

The ghazal, a form of vocal music that originated in Persia before migrating to India in the 12th century, takes its name from an Arabic word meaning “to talk amorously with women.” More pointedly, Toronto-based singer and composer Kiran Ahluwalia calls the ghazal a “highly literate pickup line.” Born in India to Punjabi parents, she […]

Posted inFilm

Kal Ho Naa Ho

Shot in New York City, this snappy Bollywood tearjerker (2003, 186 min.) stars Preity Zinta as a dour MBA candidate traumatized by her father’s suicide. Soon after a gregarious, annoying do-gooder (Shah Rukh Khan) moves in across the street, she’s downing shots and doing John Travolta moves to the retro “It’s the Time to Disco.” […]