Hey there, Atul Khatri, welcome to Toronto

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Atul Khatri holding a kid's bullhorn.

Atul Khatri, a well-known standup comic from India, will be performing at Brampton’s Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln., Sunday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. This is Khatri’s first ever show in Canada. Photo courtesy of Only Much Louder

Ever wondered what would happen if a Sindhi aka Atul Khatri got hold of a calculator?

Quite simple, really. His fingers would fly over the buttons as he crunched the numbers; then he would quit his job (CEO of an IT company in Mumbai) and become a standup comic.What’s more, he will make this life-affirming decision at 45.

Midlife crisis or pure madness? who knows, but Atul Khatri, India’s famous comic, appears to be at peace having swapped the 9-to-5 rat race for the mic. And if his YouTube subscribers, Twitter and Facebook followers are any indications, his calculated move has paid off.

“I am a Sindhi, so I had to calculate the risk of everything,” he deadpanned when asked about the switch in careers. “I realized I was making more money doing six months of standup than what I was earning at my job. The comedy scene is growing in India and I realized it would be foolish of me not to ride the wave.”

Today, Atul’s among the top 20 comics in India. And guess what? He’s coming to Toronto as part of his first-ever North American tour.

“Standup comedy is very personal and every comic has a unique voice,” Atul told Toronto Desi Diaries. “Making people cry is very easy, but making them laugh is difficult.”

After a couple of sold-out shows in the U.S., the “Horny Sindhi” as he refers to himself is coming to Canada.

Atul will be at Brampton’s Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln., Sunday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. Grab your tickets here or by visiting www.rosetheatre.ca or by calling the box office at 905-874-2800.

Atul Khatri holding a bullhorn

Atul Khatri, one of India’s most well-known comics will be performing at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln., Sunday, Aug. 19 at 5 p.m. Photo courtesy of Only Much Louder.

The Desi Family Guy

“I am Sindhi, married to a Punjabi, two of the hairiest communities in India,” he says in a hilarious sketch about meeting his wife. “It was a love marriage, we both had a common love for hair. We met a medical store while buying Gilette…”

And so it goes for the next hour with Atul poking fun at himself, his family and life as a middle-aged man.

In an exclusive chat with the Toronto Desi Diaries Atul gamely answered questions his upcoming visit to Canada and this and that.

Atul’s wife Shaguna, a professional hairstylist, traveled with him to lend him to lend him moral support during the U.S. leg of the tour.

He need not have worried. His packed shows in the U.S. brought the roof down.

Atul’s resolve to grab life (comedy) by its throat happened on Dec. 31, 2012, at the stroke of midnight.

“Everyone has this one friend that’s funny, so, growing up, I was that guy but I never imagined I would get into comedy,” Atul explains. “I think it was a mid-life crisis. That year (2012) my new year resolution was that I wanted to do something different with my life. I was 45-years-old. I signed up for an open mic, wrote a set, asked my wife to come along with me (in case I bombed terribly). But it went well and the audience voted me the winner of “CEO’s Got Talent,” I really enjoyed being on the stage and making people laugh. Within nine months I realized there was even money in it.”

In 2016, Atul quit his IT job to pursue comedy, but he tested the waters first. He was one of the early adopters of Facebook. His observations, wry sense of humour and apt take on the political happenings in India tickled people’s funny bone. Emboldened, he faced a live audience.

Is laughter the best medicine? Not to the Indian politicians

Atul’s routines are peppered with swear words and he’s unapologetic about the language.

“That’s the way I talk to my friends and I am who I am,” he says. “Yes, those words come out whenever they choose to, it’s not planned or rehearsed or written in the script. I think people laugh at the content, not the swear words.”

Taking offense to everything has become a national pastime in India. Anyone with a smartphone has an opinion, Atul observed.

The censorship has made Atul’s writing smarter and exciting because he’s able to deliver the message without stepping on the toes of the indignant netas (politicians and religious zealots).

Atul Khatri, wearing underwear with a Superman logo and carrying dumbbells

India’s well-known comic Atul Khatri. Photo courtesy Only Much Louder.

If you are ready to be shocked, awed and entertained, you might want to buy those tickets, pronto.

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This lineup of South Asian events in Toronto will make you forget the heat and humidity

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Photo of two dancers

The Masala Masti Boat Cruise sailing forth on Aug. 4 from 242 Cherry St. at 1 p.m. features live music, dancing, food and more. Photo courtesy PGA International

Saturday, Aug. 4

Event: Masala Masti Boat Cruise

Details: Head to 242 Cherry St. Toronto and then jump onto a boat for a family fun-filled cruise with music, food, and dance. Boarding time is 1 p.m.
Contact: Visit here for more information about Masala Masti Boat

Event: Swayamvarswayamvar

Details: Swayamvar, a singles event for South Asians seeking their soul mates is happening at the Novotel Hotel, 3670 Hurontario St. in Mississauga at 1 p.m.
Contact: To find out more about Swayamvar, visit here.

Event: Raja Rani Night 2018

Details: This is an event showcasing the talents of Tamil youth. It’s taking place at the Tamil Isai Kalamandran 3-1120 Tapscott Rd. Scarborough M1X IE8 at 5:30 p.m. Also, the evening will feature Sanjeev and Manasa of “Raja Rani” a Tamil show airing on Vijay Television.
Contact: For more details about Raja Rani Night visit here.

Sunday, Aug. 12

Event: Hindustani Classical Music Concert

Chintan

Chintan Upadhaya

Details: Well-known Drupad vocalist Chintan Upadhaya will perform at the Rogers Theatre, 4141 Living Arts Centre at 5 p.m. The concert is brought to you by Swar Sadhana Music Lovers Club.
Contact: For tickets and more visit here.

Saturday, Aug. 18

Event: Festival of South Asia

Details: Gerrard Street East from Coxwell to Greenwood will be filled with music, food, vendors and more at the 2018 Festival of South Asia kicks off. The festival—hosted by Gerrard India BIA— runs Aug. 18-19 from noon (on Aug. 18) and 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 19.
Contact: For all the other details visit here.

Aga Khan

A ring from the Mughal dynasty

Event: Emperors & Jewels

Details: The Aga Khan Museum at 77 Wynford Dr. Toronto, will feature the exquisite jewelry collection dating to the Mughal era. The exhibit, which opens in August will run until Jan ’19 and includes exquisitely crafted pieces of men’s jewelry, once owned by the Mughal emperors who ruled India from the 16th to 19th century.
Contact: For the museum, location and hours visit here.

Sunday, Aug. 19

Event: Atul Khatri Live

Khatri.jpg

Atul Khatri

Details: Atul Khatri, Indian CEO/standup comedian, and winner of the CEO’s Got Talent will be gracing the stage at Brampton’s Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. at 5 p.m.
Contact: To buy tickets or for more information visit here.

 

 

Are you ready Toronto? Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif’s 2018 ‘Da-bangg’ tour is July events calendar’s highlight

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Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif

Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandes and a host of Bollywood celebrities are coming to Toronto as part of their Da-bangg tour. Concert happening Sunday, July 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the FirstOntario Centre, Hamilton.

In what’s probably his last North American concert, Kathak icon Pandit Birju Maharaj will be seen here in Mississauga coaching Kathak students as part of Sanskriti Arts’ annual Dance Diaries. Check below for more information.

Wednesday, July 4

Event: Cardamom Kitchen

a picture of spices

Cardamom Kitchen


Details: This networking event for South Asian gay guys will take place in the spacious community kitchen of Bramalea Community Health Centre (40 Finchgate Blvd. Suite #224) in Brampton, where participants can take part in a meeting and chat they cook and eat desi food together. Hosted by Peel HIV/AIDS Network (PHAN), the event runs from 6 to 8 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, July 6

A woman with open palms

Event: Samarpanam: An Offering
Details: A traditional Bharatanatyam recital by Arrthami Siva-Kuruvinth will take place from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Yorkwoods Library Theatre, 1785 Finch Ave. W. Toronto. All proceeds from this event will be donated to the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre (SAAAC).
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 7

Event: Community Carnival Bazaar
Details: the Islamic Foundation of Toronto will celebrate its 8th Annual Carnival at the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, 441 Nugget Ave. Toronto from noon to 10 p.m.
Contact: Here

Sunday, July 8

 

 

Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj dancing

Pandit Birju Maharaj

Event: Dance Diaries Concert
Details: Well-known dance school Sanskriti Arts will host legendary Kathak maestro Pandit Birju Maharaj and his disciple Saraswati Sen at the Maja Prentice theatre, 3650 Dixie Rd, Mississauga at noon.
Contact: Here

Event: Da-bangg tour
Details: Hold on to your hearts! this much-anticipated concert featuring Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha and others is coming to Toronto, i.e. Hamilton. The concert will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the First Ontario Centre.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 14

Event: Invisible Footprints 0.2 Deep Cuts Artist Toura photo of hands moulding clay
Details: This event by Community Arts Space: Recent Histories, aims to visualize and document the lived experiences of Toronto’s queer and trans East and Southeast Asians. There will be artist talks as well as tours. Exhibit happening at the Gardiner Museum, 111 Queens Park from 1 – 3 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, July 20-21

Aman Trikha

Aman Trikha

Event: BollywoodMonster Mashup
Details: The 8th BollywoodMoster Mashup makes a return to the Celebration Square with dance and music extravaganza. Concert headliner is Aman Trikha (Khiladi 786, Hookah bar) who will perform, Saturday, July 21. Khushboo Grewal, a Punjabi film actress, veejay and singer from Chandigarh will take the stage, Friday, July 20. This a two-day fun event with music, dance, and food.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 22

Event: Sapta Swarangal and Margam 2018A Bharatnatyam dancer
Details: This event by South Asian Artistic Talent (SAAT) has two components, Saptha Swarangal (3 -5 p.m.) a Carnatic music concert by emerging artists and Margam, a two-hour Bharatnatyam performance happening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. This South Indian event is taking place at the Yorkwoods Library Theatre, 1785 Finch Ave. W. Toronto.
Contact: Here

Friday, July 27/ 28

https_cdn.evbuc.comimages453813421420589783461originalEvent: Vibrant Brampton Festival
Details: This free two-day festival happening at Sheridan College (Davis Campus), 7899 McLaughlin Rd. celebrates various South Asian cultures through dance, music, and food. Festival kicks off from 6 – 11 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, July 27

Event: The Bollywood Masti Boat Cruise
Details: Get ready to set sail under the romantic full moon and dance to your heart’s content. This masti cruise will set sail from River Gambler, 333 Lake Shore Blvd. E. in Toronto at 8 p.m.
Contact: Here

 

 

 

 

 

South Asian LGBTQ members to march loud and proud in Toronto’s 2018 Pride Parade

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Two male members of the South Asian LGBTQ community exchange traditional flower garlands as part of a photo shoot.

Haran Vijayanathan (L) and Humza Mian (not partners) are both members of the South Asian LGBTQ community in Toronto. The two recently participated in a photo shoot directed and styled by Saira Hussain from Breath of Henna & The Sai Lens. The initiative was a joint collaboration with Must be Kismet Bridal Show & Magazine. Photo by Banga studios

Happy Pride Month

In this guest post, Mita Patel, a blogger for Must Be Kismet, a South Asian Bridal Show and Magazine, in Toronto, talks to two desi gay guys who gamely became models for a photo shoot celebrating LGBTQ members in Toronto

Guest blog post by Mita Patel

Every once in awhile a project comes along that shakes up our ideas of what a traditional wedding looks like.

Sons of Roses is a bold and inspiring project that brings to light themes of love, union, marriage, and inclusivity.

Haran Vijayanathan and Humza Mian (who are not together in real life), agreed to participate in the photoshoot as two grooms in a traditional, yet non-denominational, South Asian wedding.

The stunning shoot was directed and styled by Saira Hussain (Breath of Henna) & The Sai Lens and was a joint collaboration with Must be Kismet Bridal Show & Magazine and other artistic vendors. Abhirami Balachandran and Angel Glady, two members of the South Asian LGBTQ community, also participated in the project, portraying friends of the grooms on their wedding day. Check out the entire shoot at www.mustbekismet.com.

Two men wearing traditional Indian wedding clothes surrounded by two women wearing flowers in their hair

Models Haran Vijayanathan (sitting in the front) and Humza Mian are members of the South Asian LGBTQ community in Toronto. They participated in a photo shoot by Must Be Kismet, a desi bridal show, and magazine. Also seen in the photo are Abhirami Balachandram and Angel Glady. Photo by Banga Studios.

A desi wedding set in Toronto worthy of the divine

Traditionally in the South Asian LGBTQ community, marriage hasn’t always been an option, due to stigma or lack of family support. Thankfully this is changing, and there are plenty of examples of parents supporting their children who wish to get married and come out to the broader community.

Haran, who is the executive director of the Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention and an outspoken advocate, says that coming out was difficult but that he is grateful for all the support he received. “My mom and sisters were accepting and still are,” he says. “I am blessed to be accepted by family and all the support they give me for who I am and what I do.”

This Saturday, June, 23 Haran will be the first Sri Lankan, Tamil speaking man to be a grand marshal at Toronto’s Annual Pride Parade. He will be marching alongside his mother and sister. His hope is that others in the community who are struggling with reconciling their religious or cultural identities with coming out will feel more supported and a little less alone by seeing someone similar to them represented.

On the topic of marriage, Haran says that his preferred wedding would be a simple affair without a lot of pomp and pageantry.

“My wedding would entail some great Indian/Sri Lankan food stations in a huge outdoor field with lots of mini lights lining the perimeter on stakes with a dome of lights as well,” He said. “Lots of music, very few speeches, and people just having a great time with us and us with them. People would be dressed in simple Indian outfits and just have nature bless all of us with the stars shimmering in the sky, the slight breeze of the wind rustling the leaves in the trees and gently cooling all our guests.”

two women wearing pink floral dresses

Abhirami Balachandram and Angel Glady, members from the South Asian LGBTQ community seen here in a photo shoot – Sons of Roses. Photo by Banga Studios

Manghoe Lassie in the land of Maple trees

Humza, who identifies as queer, is a veterinary technician by day and a popular drag queen by night. His followers on social media know him as Manghoe Lassie, and his vibrant personality and love of his craft radiate through his pictures and videos.

He is partially out to his family – his sisters and cousins know and support him; his parents and aunts and uncles do not yet know. He believes that coming out is an ongoing process and not the same for everyone. Above all, individuals should feel safe and emotionally prepared in their choice to come out.

Humza envisions a wedding in his future, that may not be traditional or in line with his Islamic faith, but one that includes his friends and family.

“I would love to have a traditional wedding, however, this will likely not happen,” says Hamza. “The process of coming out for queer people of color is ongoing and for some of us, it will never be a reality. I have come to accept this and I am actually OK with it (no really, I am!) and will make the best of my wedding with my friends and chosen family.”

A gay prayer: just as powerful

Both Haran and Humza consider themselves religious and take great solace in the tenets and practices of their faith.

Haran, like many Hindus, has a mandir in his home and does pooja twice a day in honour of the deities. He appreciates the many gods and goddesses in Hinduism and the way in which this ancient religion considers people and spirit and life as fluid and ever-changing.

Humza, a practicing Muslim of Pakistani descent, enjoys attending Khutbah, a formal occasion where an Imam preaches and conveys the teachings of Islam. He says that the principles of his faith that are most important to him centre around being a good person and service to others.

Sons of Roses aims to spark more discussion about queer weddings and help to create healthy conversations at home. It is one thread in the fabric of our collective stories of union and marriage that shows how love moves us to transcend all differences.

two men seen reflecting with their eyes closed and hands folded in a namaste

Haran Vijayanathan and Humza Mian, both members of the South Asian LGBTQ community seen here as models for a photo shoot Sons of Roses. Photo by Banga Studios

Must be Kismet team involved in the photo shoot included:

Art Director, Stylist: Saira Hussain from Breath of Henna & The Sai Lens Photographer: Banga Studios Decor: Rose Events and Floral Beauty (makeup and hair team): SS Glam Studios, Daniela Suppa, and Makeup by She. Jewelry: Jaya and Co. Wardrobe Vendors: Chandan Fashion, Sahiba Fashions, Lotus Bloom Official, Live the Collective

 

Sathish Bala who founded desiFEST, shares the story of how it all started

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We all have moments when our life’s work needs validation.

For desiFEST’s founder/ artistic director Sathish Bala, the moment came five years ago, albeit with a price.

The 2018 desiFEST takes place Saturday, June 2 at Yonge-Dundas Square from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

For years, Sathish—the rebel/disruptor—had resisted the path his family hoped he would chase (Engineering). Instead, he struck out and decided to kick-start a free music concert in Toronto (Yonge-Dundas Square). This music was far cry from the classical Carnatic ragas that courses through the vein of every South Indian.

Manjeet Rai aka Manj Musik sits on a white platform against a green backdrop.

Manjeet Rai, aka Manj Musik, an internationally-renowned singer/songwriter/composer known for his Bhangra and Hip-Hop infused music will perform at the 2018 desiFEST, June 2. Supplied photo

It was Hip-Hop, Reggae, rock, Bhangra-fusion, and other genres that his traditional South Indian family did not understand.

Sathish’s dad was an engineer. The apple turns out fell far away from the tree. Disappointment festered between father and son over his career (music).

Time went by and the strained relationship continued. Over time, desiFest found its feet in the multicultural cauldron that is Toronto. As Sathish’s name began to appear in the media, his father slowly came around. The critic became his son’s cheerleader. Then, five years ago, one day after that year’s desiFest, Bala Sr. breathed his last.

The genesis of desiFEST

Sathish came to realize the therapeutic as well as the addictive power of music in his teens when he became a DJ.

“Early in 2000, I joined a club called Bombay Martini where I would spin Punjabi, Bollywood and English music together,” he recalled. “Learning to connect to other cultures through music was a great lesson. From there on, I learned to negotiate with venues and do marketing and advertising…”

All he needed was to connect all of the pieces to a bigger purpose. And that’s how desiFEST happened.

Photo of Tamil rapper set against the backdrop of high-rise buildings

Lady Rolex Rasathy, a Sri Lankan rapper is among those scheduled to perform at the 2018 desiFEST, June 2 at 4:35 p.m. The free music festival runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto. Supplied photo

“I come from a generation of South Asians whose teenage years were influenced by urban music,” Sathish said. “Our original music was fused and we faced challenges trying to find space to display this music. We were by name and sound ‘ethnic’ so mainstream wouldn’t book us either.”

Sathish decided to bridge the musical void.

What now?

Even though Sathish did not opt to become an engineer, he had a natural flair for entrepreneurship. In 1999, while at the high school, he launched his first company, which he later sold. Since then, he has set up several digital marketing and tech enterprises later scooped up as acquisitions.

Sathish Bala wearing a salmon-coloured shirt with a blue bow-tie.

Sathish Bala, the founder of desiFEST, hopes the festival will serve as his legacy for the future generation of artists. Supplied photo.

“Our mission at desiFEST is to have a 12-hour conversation with the community through music,” says Sathish, the Indian-born transplant to Canada who came here via Singapore in 1989. “For desiFEST, we look at what are the different reactions we can create within a diverse community. 25 per cent of our audience is not South-Asians, so that’s important as well because they get to experience our culture and learn about our food, music and not just Bollywood, but the version of the next generation.”

There is a bit of Bollywood in desiFEST. The rationale is to display the talents of young artists who have incorporated Bollywood music into their own arrangements and melodies.

Having artists like Abhithi aka Amitha Mundechira a dancer/singer and a physician perform at the concert (1:55 p.m.) is Sathish’s not-so-subtle message to desi parents. He wants to tell them pursuing art alongside a profession doesn’t have to be an either-or situation. When the passion is powerful enough, it will pull you.

The desiFEST is Sathish Bala’s legacy to the next-generation of desis/South Asians in Toronto and elsewhere in the world. He wants them to take it and run with it.

Artists at this year’s desiFEST include Parichay, Divine, The Roach Killa, The Prophec, DJ Prodiigy and dozens of others. Check out their website for schedules. Also performing at the concert is Manj Musik, a singer/songwriter whose Bhangra and Hip-Hop infused work has been creating ripples around the world.

 

 

June is when all music moves outdoors and Toronto desis finally ditch their toques

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Haviah Mighty performing

The 2018 MonsterWorldMashup is a two-day festival of music, comedy, and art happening in Brampton June 1-2. Hip-Hop artist Haviah Mighty is one of the performers at the concert taking place June 2 at the Garden Square in Brampton.

Friday, June 1-2

Event: MonsterWorld Mashup

Details: The folks that bring the #Bollywood Monster Mashup each year are offering a two-day festival of music, art, spoken word and more in Brampton. The MonsterWorld Mashup runs Friday, June 1, an exclusive ticketed event will feature series of comedy acts, an art show and yes, a secret concert. The action takes place at The Den, Sheridan College, Davis Campus, 7899 McLaughlin Rd. Brampton at 6 p.m.

Saturday, June 2 has the heavyweights such as Movin’ Cool, Stay Out Late, Los Poetas and HANHAN performing on stage at the Garden Square (outside Rose Theatre) at 5 p.m.

“We’re presenting unique acts who represent the changing voices and faces of the GTA,” says Vikas Kohli, executive director, MonstrARTity. “The June 1 launch party will be a unique experience for the audience with Brampton’s first-ever sofar secret concert and side-splitting comedy acts with comedians like Amish Patel, Keesha Brownie, Nitish Sakhuja, Crystal Ferrier, Chris Robinson and Paul Thompson. Most of all, it will be a great time, so join us.”

Contact: MonsterWorldMashup

Saturday, June 2

Event: desiFEST

Details: Now in its 12th year, desiFEST is a free event and is the largest South Asian Music Concert, taking place on Saturday, June 2 at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Contact: 2018 desiFest

Event: Vande Janani (A Tribute to Motherhood)

Details: Keralite Art Lovers Association (KALA) is hosting this dance concert by Divya Unni at the Erindale Secondary School, 2021 Dundas St. W. at 5:30 p.m.
Contact: Keralite Art Lovers Association

Saturday, June 9

Event: EID bazaar

Details: PGA International will be putting together its annual Eid Bazaar June 9 – 14 at the Swagat Banquet Hall, 6991 Millcreek Dr. Mississauga from 1 p.m. to midnight.
Contact: PGA’s EID bazaar

Thursday, June 14

Event: Through Her Lens

Details: A photo exhibit celebrating women of colour will take place at the Chinguacousy Library and Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Dr. in Brampton at 8:30 p.m.
Contact: Through Her Lens

Sunday, June 17

Event: SOCH workshop on coping with anxiety

Details: Supporting Our Community Health (SOCH), an organization host a series of mental health workshops, Sunday, June 17, at Chinguacousy Library and Civic Centre, 150 Central Park Dr. in Brampton from 1 to 3 p.m.

The idea is to increase awareness and education about anxiety and how it can be treated. These interactive workshops will take place in both English and Punjabi.

Contact: Supporting Our Community Health (SOCH) 

Tuesday, June 26

Event: Speed Dating

Details: This Mississauga speed-dating event for South Asians will take place 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at The Port House Social Bar & Kitchen, 139 Lakeshore Rd. E. Mississauga, ON L5G 1E5.
Contact: Mississauga Speed Dating

Event: Toronto Curry Awards

Details: Pukaar News UK will be hosting the first-ever Toronto Curry Awards from 6 p.m. until midnight at the Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport, 970 Dixon Rd., Toronto, ON M9W 1J9.
The awards will celebrate this rich heritage of curries to highlight the finest examples of South Asian cuisine and praising the restaurateurs dedicated to serving up our beloved curries.
Contact: Toronto Curry Awards

10 things you should know about the 2018 International Film Festival of South Asia (IIFSA) Toronto, May 10-21

A booklet featuring IFFSA Toronto schedule
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The 2018 IIFSA Toronto taking place has a mix of commercial as well as arthouse films.

This year’s festival will include some 150 films in 15 languages, 50+ events across the 7 cities in the GTA over 12 days. Whew! That’s something.

Did you know?

Sunny Gill, the founder/president of International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto was not an avid fan of films or music until five years ago?

Fate—and opportunity—threw Gill into taking on the helm at what he says is “one of the biggest film festivals in North America and the “voice of South Asians in Toronto.”

“I have always considered myself as a non-filmi person,” said Gill, an engineer/MBA professional. “I had not attended any film festival anywhere when we launched the IIFSA. So, when drew the blueprint, we did it from an audience perspective, but over the years now, we have learned that festivals are not just about a song and dance but they have to give certain values to the stakeholders and so that’s why we have the ‘seriousness’ of a festival.”

Here’s a curated list of 10 things from the 2018 IFSSA that will likely appeal to the desi audience here in the GTA

    1. Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, The Lunchbox) starrer the Song of Scorpions will have its North American premiere in Toronto. The film also stars Waheeda Rahman (Guide, Pyaasa, and others) as well as Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly, Patterson). The film directed by Anup Singh will make its North American premiere at IIFSA Toronto. Screening happening on Thursday, May 10, at Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas, 20 Biscayne Ave. Brampton at 6:30 p.m.
      Film poster of the movie The Song of Scorpions showing the faces of a man and a woman across a dessert.

      Anup Singh directed film starring Irrfan Khan, Waheeda Rahman and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani will have its North American premiere at the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto, May 10 at the Cineplex Orion Odeon Cinemas at 6:30 p.m.

    2. A Letter to the President: Screening on Saturday, May 12 at the Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas at 1 p.m. is Soraya’s story. She’s a low-ranking government official, is imprisoned when she defends a woman from village lords. She writes a letter to the Afghan president asking for help from behind bars.
      A silhouette of a woman in profile

      Afghani film A Letter to the President by Roya Sadat will have its North Amerian premiere at the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto May 12 at the Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas at 1 p.m.

    3. The Hungry: Naseeruddin Shah and Tisca Chopra play central roles in this film that follows Tulsi Joshi, a single mother and bride-to-be who comes to her own wedding seeking revenge for the brutal murder of her first-born son. The film is “a macabre fairytale set in the elite circles of north India.” It runs May 12 at 3 p.m. at Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.
      A woman wearing a blue veil

      Naseeruddin and Tisca Chopra star in this thought-provoking film screening as part of the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA)Toronto May 12 at 3 p.m. at Cineplex Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.

    4. Ajji: Sushma Deshpande, Sharvani Suryavanshi, and others are part of this acclaimed film by Devashish Makhija. Screens, Saturday, May 12 at 5 p.m. at Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.
      A painting of a woman or mother staring sadly

      This acclaimed film by Devashish Makhija. Screens during the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA), Saturday, May 12 at 5 p.m. at Odeon Orion Gates Cinemas.

Events, masterclass, and workshops

  1. Masterclass: Anurag Kashyap (Dev D, Bombay Velvet) and Hansal Mehta (Shahid, Simran, Omerta) two renowned filmmakers are hosting a masterclass at the Courtyard Mariott Brampton, 90 Biscayne Ave. Tickets cost $50/person
  2. Director’s Workshop: Anup Singh will lead this workshop aimed at young filmmakers taking place at the Courtyard Mariott Brampton, 90 Biscayne Ave. at 10 p.m. on Sunday, May 13.
  3. Fest in the Park: A lively outdoor concert happening at the Sheridan College, Davis Campus, May 19 at 3 p.m.
    A young Sikh boy wearing a turban has his face painted.

    The International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) Toronto will host a Fest in the Park, an outdoor concert at the Sheridan College, Davis Campus, May 19 at 3 p.m.

  4. Sounds of South Asia Concert will kick off at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. in Brampton at 5:30 p.m. on May 21 with a live concert by Bilal Saeed, a Pakistani singer/songwriter
  5. There are several after-parties in and around Brampton. Check out the IFFSA Toronto Schedule
  6. The IFFSA Toronto Gala is happening at Mississauga Convention Centre,
    75 Derry Road West, Mississauga, Ont. On Friday, May 11 (invitation only).
A booklet featuring IFFSA Toronto schedule

IFFSA Toronto runs May 10 to 21 across the GTA and celebrates more than 150 films in 15 languages.

For schedules, venues and ticket prices, visit the IFFSA Toronto website.