Indian Films Are Showing the Realities of Life for the Country’s Housewives

In 2012, when the Indian actor Sridevi, a glamorous star of the 1980s and ’90s, decided to play the role of a housewife in her comeback film “English Vinglish,” it surprised audiences and the industry alike. It wasn’t that they had not seen a housewife in a film before, but the characters were either obedient, devoted wives or ailing but tender mothers — mere supporting characters on the peripheries. That’s why in “English Vinglish” filmmaker Gauri Shinde put the protagonist, Shashi, a belittled...

The End of Populism in the World’s Largest Democracy? — With Shruti Kapila

Hosted by Surbhi GuptaFeaturing Shruti KapilaProduced by Finbar AndersonListen to and follow The LedeApple Podcasts | Spotify | PodbeanThe surprise Indian election result earlier this month upended the established consensus on Indian politics that had been crafted not least by incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself.“There was this kind of inevitability written by not just exit polls, not just the mainstream media, but very much the way Modi himself has fashioned his rule,” Shruti Kapila,...

Why the Indian Election Results Present Modi With a Defeat Within a Win

“A defeat that feels like a win, and a win that feels like a defeat” — this is how Indians have summarized one of the most unexpected election results in India’s political history. Exit polls predicted that a win would be a cakewalk for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), with over 353 seats. Some even predicted 400 seats. For the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA), a big tent multiparty bloc led by the Indian National Congress, they pro...

An Indian Singer Stirs Mubarak Nostalgia for Egyptians

In January, the Indian singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya was invited as a special guest on an episode of “Indian Idol,” the popular singing competition television series. Bhattacharya is one of the playback singers who lend their voices to actors in Indian movies. He has sung some of the most iconic songs of the ’90s and 2000s in Bollywood and is popularly known as superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s voice, having rendered it in over 30 songs. Those unaware of the tradition of playback singing, even in India,...

Democracy and Controversy in the World's Largest Elections — With Surbhi Gupta

Hosted by Kwangu LiweweFeaturing Surbhi GuptaProduced by Finbar Anderson Listen to and follow The LedeApple Podcasts | Spotify | PodbeanIn a year of elections across the globe, none will be bigger in scale than that in India, where nearly 1 billion people are eligible to vote. “In the seven decades since India got its independence, democracy has been its identity,” Surbhi Gupta tells Kwangu Liwewe on The Lede. Gupta notes that India, despite its significantly higher population, managed to draw a...

The Ambani Gala Expands the Limits of the Big Fat Indian Wedding

In 2013, when a journalist asked Shah Rukh Khan if we would ever see the three Khan superstars of Bollywood — him, Aamir and Salman — in a film together, he jokingly replied, “One would have to sell their undergarments while trying to sign the three of us,” indicating how expensive and difficult this collaboration would be. When these three come together at an event the cameras are always pointed toward them. So when the trio performed at the pre-wedding celebrations of Anant Ambani — the younge

The War on India’s Free Press — with Manisha Pande and Samar Halarnkar

India’s media ecosystem has a long and proud history. It was in Kolkata, after all, that the first newspaper in Asia was published. But journalists and observers inside the country are speaking with increasing alarm about a climate of repression and self-censorship, in which outlets that challenge the official government line expose themselves to sanctions.

“There’s a complete and near-total capture of mainstream voices, especially the loudest voices, the most prominent voices,” says Manisha Pa

Podcast | India’s Political Hinduism — with Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay

The small town of Ayodhya in northern India has long been a major flashpoint for communal tensions in the country. Believed by Hindus to be the birthplace of Rama, one of the most revered gods in Hinduism, it was also the site of the 16th-century Babri Mosque. Enmity between Hindus and Muslims over the site grew through the 20th century before reaching its climax in 1992, when leaders of Hindu nationalist organizations, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), incited a crowd of activists to

Kashmir’s Wular Lake Is in Crisis

Situated in north Kashmir, the Wular Lake has been gulping sewage, industrial, and horticulture waste, replete with fertilizer and pesticide, for decades.

As we drive through the outskirts of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir—the conflict-ridden Muslim-majority region in India—and enter Ganderbal district, environmental filmmaker Jalal Jeelani comments, “All of this used to be agricultural land, but villagers are selling more and more of it, and people are building huge hou

After a Seattle Cop Disdains Value of a Student’s Life, Indian Americans Are Outraged

Last week, a viral video of a Seattle police officer sent shockwaves around the United States and India. It captured a conversation between Daniel Auderer, vice president of the Seattle Police Officers Guild, and its president, Mike Solan, as they joked about a fatal crash that had killed Jaahnavi Kandula, a 23-year-old Indian student, earlier in January. Officer Kevin Dave was driving at 74 mph while responding to an overdose call when his car hit Kandula as she was crossing the street. Her bod

Indians Are Celebrating the Moon Landing — One Song at a Time

In 1972, when the 11th and final mission of NASA’s Apollo program was taking place and Americans were exploring the moon, one of the most iconic romantic musicals was released in India. “Pakeezah” (“The Pure One”) has some of the most celebrated love songs of Hindi cinema. One song, “Chalo Dildar Chalo, Chand Ke Paar Chalo” (“Let’s Go Beloved, to the Other Side of the Moon”), penned by the Urdu poet Kaif Bhopali, sees lovers embarking on a romantic journey beyond the moon. The veteran Indian jou

Podcast | India’s Star Crossed Lovers — with Mansi Choksi

“I have a line in my book where I say marriage is the only intended outcome of growing up in India,” Mansi Choksi tells New Lines magazine’s Surbhi Gupta. “Like, that’s how it feels for a lot of us.”

Choksi, author of the “The Newlyweds” and co-host of the latest season of NPR’s Rough Translation podcast, has spent many years untangling the fraught politics of marriage in the country. “On a family level, it’s almost as if it’s seen as a marker of success. Finding the right match for your son or

Indian Media Icon Ravish Kumar Warns About the Future of Journalism in His Country

Indian journalist Ravish Kumar doesn’t have time to be pessimistic about the state of the media and press freedom in his country. Even from his hotel room in New York City — where he is promoting “While We Watched,” Vinay Shukla’s documentary film chronicling Kumar’s recent life and work as he found himself at the receiving end of harassment, threats and even violence — his journalism continues. Just before he spoke to New Lines, he recorded a news story on the viral video of two Manipuri women

On His Trip to the US, Rahul Gandhi Looks for Diaspora Support

New York City: “Nafrat ke bazaar mein mohabbat ki dukaan (A shop for love in the market of hatred).” That the Indian National Congress is responding to the politics of hate with love was a thought repeated multiple times by its leader Rahul Gandhi during his three-city trip in the United States, as he made efforts to reach out to the Indian diaspora ahead of the 2024 general elections.

“There is an attack on the democratic structure, on our institutions, judiciary, media, and it is your respons

Chaos and Uncertainty Engulf Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Dramatic Arrest

“Spotlight” is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday and Wednesday. Sign up here.

Unprecedented is the word repeatedly used to describe the violent and chaotic events unfolding in Pakistan in the aftermath of former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s dramatic arrest on Tuesday. Khan was at the Islamabad High Court for a hearing on one set of corruption charges when he was arrested for another set of charges brought by the N

A Leadership Race Exposes the Myth of Scottish Exceptionalism

“Spotlight” is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday and Wednesday. Sign up here.

In 2016, when Humza Yousaf took his oath of allegiance in the Scottish Parliament — in both English and Urdu — he paired the kilt with a gold-embroidered sherwani, a traditional South Asian jacket. This was not the first time he had fused the two cultures with which he most identified. Ever since he used the phrase “bhangra and bagpipes

An Oscar Moment for Indian Documentaries

“Spotlight” is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sign up here.

On a December evening, two friends and I were among the six people watching the Indian documentary “All That Breathes” at a small theater in New York City’s West Village. The film had won several awards in 2022, including top honors at Sundance and Cannes and was nominated for the Oscars earlier in January. I had missed its scre

Podcast | The Many Worlds of Indian Cinema — with Anupama Chopra

“It is a movie-crazy culture,” says journalist and film critic Anupama Chopra. “Cinema is the number one choice of entertainment. The Indian movie star is somewhere between human beings and God.”

Since 1993, Chopra has been covering India’s cinema industry — or industries — and is the founder and editor-in-chief of the digital platform Film Companion. In the past, she tells New Lines magazine’s Surbhi Gupta, the Indian movie culture was dominated by the goliath that is Bollywood, the Hindi-lang

Decoding Indian Film 'RRR’s' Popularity in the West

“Spotlight” is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Sign up here.

It was hard to keep count of the number of times the theater at New York’s Museum of Modern Art erupted with applause or the audience gasped in astonishment during the screening of “RRR,” an Indian film in the Telugu language — spoken in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. One of the 22 official languages of Ind

The Many Ways of Celebrating an Indian Christmas

In the 1950s and ’60s, women baked cakes in the abandoned ammunition boxes left behind by British troops in the villages of Nagaland, a state in northeast India. The Naga writer Easterine Kire recalls how wives of Christian missionaries taught English and cake-baking to young girls, including her mother. While they didn’t really pick up the language, the tradition of baking cakes was passed down “from mother to daughter and from daughter to granddaughter.” It was the men who thought to repurpose

Pakistani Pop Culture Has Had a Global Year

Spotlight is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday. Sign up here.

Between the first Pakistani win at the Grammys, the first Pakistani film to be selected at the Cannes Film Festival, a Pakistani song topping the most-searched list on Google, local actors featured in international series, and the highest-grossing film in the history of Pakistani cinema, 2022 has been a banner year for Pakistani art.

Pakistani music a

Indians Celebrate UK’s First PM of Indian Origin

An old photo of British politician Rishi Sunak with his dog Nova, a fox red Labrador Retriever, at his former address at 11 Downing Street in London has been making the rounds on social media in India. It is accompanied by photos of a sign that says “Dogs and Indians Not Allowed” — a reference to the ubiquitous sign that was placed outside British clubs and establishments when the empire ruled over India. That humiliation resonates with Indians till this day. “Karma strikes back,” wrote Viral Bh

Support for Iran Protests Highlights Indian Celebrities’ Predicament

Spotlight is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday. Sign up here.

Last year, when American pop superstar Rihanna tweeted about the internet shutdown during the farmers’ protest in India, all hell broke loose on the internet. It was followed by similar tweets by climate activist Greta Thunberg and attorney Meena Harris, who is U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’s niece. India’s external affairs ministry issued a statem

Fight to Protect Pakistan’s Trans Rights Law

Spotlight is a newsletter about underreported cultural trends and news from around the world, emailed to subscribers every Monday. Sign up here.

When a talk in Pakistan by trans activist and popular social media influencer Dr. Mehrub Moiz Awan, at the upscale International School Lahore, was canceled recently, it was cause for vehement debate on the internet. However, just a month later, the entire nation became embroiled in a conversation about trans rights, and activists and community members
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