Bollywood Monster Mashup brings crowd favourite Jonita Gandhi

Bollywood Monster Mashup

In this file photo, headliner Jonita Gandhi with some of her fans at the opening night of Bollywood Monster Mashup. This year too Jonita will wow the crowds with Kamal Khan, Saturday, July 22 starting at 6 p.m. at Celebration Square in Mississauga. Photo by Bryon Johnson/Metroland Media.

Two exceptional artists pursuing musical careers in two neighbouring cities in the GTA until their paths cross. With that begins the start of a friendship rooted in mutual respect, love for their craft and the journey leading to Bollywood.

Also, whenever Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) announces its line-up, there she is. So, Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD) asked Vikas Kohli, founder/artistic director, BMM to talk about Jonita Gandhi/ vocalist and well known Bollywood singer.

And he obliges.

TDD. When did you first meet Jonita?

Vikas: Years ago, a promoter was putting on a talent competition and asked me to be one of the judges. After a few acts, a young singer did a Capella performance. The other judges clearly knew the singer because when they gave their critique, they referred to her by her first name, Jonita. When my turn came, I simply said, “that sounded great” because I thought all this singer needs is some good songs.

Sometime after that we ended up working on getting some original material and recordings together, but both of us got too busy. Fortunately, amazing musicians like A.R. Rahman and Sonu Nigam recognized her talent and the rest is history.

The last time I saw Jonita, a group of us were having Punjabi style pizza at her parent’s place.

TDD. What was it about her that struck you? First impressions?

Vikas: It’s always refreshing when you work with a singer that is professionally trained, understands both western and Indian music and doesn’t need autotune!

TDD. Should young creative desis stuck studying business and science ditch all that to pursue music like Jonita?

Vikas: Well, if you’re “stuck” in anything you should consider a change. Music is amazing but not the only thing. Good business sense is critical because artists are fundamentally entrepreneurs. And science is just plain awesome. When I’m not working in my studio, my getaway is reading about chaos theory, behavioural economics, physics and anything that gets us closer to Star Trek 🙂

TDD. What makes Jonita tick?

Vikas: She shines when giving a live performance. It’s more than her voice. It’s also her ability to engage the crowd because that’s where her heart is. She cares about giving an amazing show, and she does every

TDD. Who’s got the crazy, untamed side, Jonita or yourself?

Vikas: Isn’t everyone a little bit crazy?

8) What can folks expect at #BollywoodMonster Mashup (BMM) this year?

Vikas Kohli

Vikas Kohli, founder/artistic director, Bollywood Monster Mashup.

Vikas: Thousands of happy people eating delicious food, getting free Bollywood dance lessons, having fun in our free KidZone, and hundreds of the best artists, comedians, a VIP reception, andthree massive free concerts.

We’ve gone crazy this year with Jonita flying in straight from the IIFAs, Kamal Khan famous for Ishq Sufiana flying in straight from taping the Voice of Punjab finale, and Aakanksha Sharma famous for Sunny Leone’s voice in Main Adhoora for her first ever performance in Canada.

And special Canada 150 programming, including three massive orchestras performing hit Bollywood and Canadian songs. There’s too much to talk about, so find out more on our website

And Desi Diaries readers get a chance to meet our Bollywood stars, get discounts on hotels, and other free offers when they go to and use coupon code Desi . Why? Because we love our audience.

Gee, thanks, BMM.

Re: Who’s crazier? Our bet is on Vikas, because we can’t think of a single person that reads chaos theory for recreation, except for the fictitious Dr. Sheldon Cooper ~Toronto Desi Diaries.

#BMM events will kick off Friday, July 21. Jonita will take over the stage, Saturday, July 22. Finale events start at 6 p.m., but Celebration Square will be abuzz from 2 p.m. onward.



Odysseo brings the ‘wow’ factor out for its audience in Toronto

danharper cavalia

Cavalia’s Odysseo is a show that features horses, acrobats, stilt-walkers and more. Show’s running at the Hershey Centre in Mississauga until July 16. Photo by Dan Haper/Cavalia

So, while I do realize the event I am recommending doesn’t have any South Asian element to it, but nevertheless, I feel obliged to share this because quite frankly, I have not seen a show of this calibre. It took my breath away.

First, a disclaimer: I was offered a pair of complimentary tickets to catch the Cavalia’s Odysseo show in Mississauga recently.

What I write here is my purely my personal experience.

So, what’s Odysseo?

It’s a two-and-half-hour show featuring horses, stilt-walkers, dancers, acrobats and musicians. To me, it felt as though all my senses were on assault. The sheer beauty of all the elements coming together was a sight to behold.

Chris Waits Cavalia

An acrobat performs a stunt. Odysseo is a show that features horses, human and technology. Show running until July 16 at the Big Top next to Hershey Centre. Photo by Chris Waits/Cavalia

The audience’s standing ovation for the cast, both human and the equine, told me that the feeling was universal.

If you have watched Cirque du Soleil, now reimagine that with beautiful horses, live music faintly reminiscent of a Anya playlist, set designs that are jaw-dropping and never-seen-before death-defying acts.

In this show, the horses dance, prance, trot, gallop and more, in synchronized choreography against a larger-than-life screen that transports you to places—deserts, snow, mountains…drums and vocals added a mystical element.

The show features 65 sleek beauties (horses), 48 artists and demonstrates the beautiful relationship and trust between man and horse.

Cavalia Inc., the Montreal headquartered entertainment company was founded by Normand Latourelle and Dominique Day. I thought it was a perfect way to celebrate Canada’s 150 birthday.

At the show I was at, there were 1,000 Syrian refugees in the Big Top all equally enthralled. Cavalia had generously given away tickets away to the newcomers in the spirit of everything Canada stands for.

Tickets are priced from $39.50 to $139.50 + applicable taxes and fees.

Matinee and evening performances for Odysseo are scheduled through July 16 and are now on sale online at or by calling 1-866-999-8111.

Happy 150th Canada! Let’s party desi style and celebrate the true north



P-South Asian Canada Day-WS-7

Sana Umer is at the 2nd annual South Asian Canada Day held at Mississauga Valley Park in this file photo. Photo by Claudio Cugiliari, courtesy of Mississauga News

Saturday, July 1

Event: Little India: Village of Dreams
Details: Nina Beveridge’s intimate documentary Little India: Village Of Dreams, will premier on TVO at 9 p.m. The film captures the stresses of old world conflicts and New World challenges that have reshaped Little India on a stretch of Gerrard Street.
Contact: Here

Event: Odyesso-Cavalia
Details: This spectacular equestrian event featuring acrobats, stage-art and more is happening at the White Big Top, adjacent to the Hershey Centre, 5399 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga until July 16.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 8

Event: Ehsaas
Details: Ehsaas: A Feeling of Eternal Love, a live concert features Bhavin Shastri and will kick off at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. Brampton at 8 p.m. Shashtri will deliver a mix of old Bollywood songs as well as some Sufiana ones.
Contact: Here

Sunday, July 9

Event: Rung De’ One
Details: The Holi-type event celebrating Canada’s diversity will take place outside Sheridan College in Mississauga, 4218 Living Arts Dr. from noon until 6 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, July 14

Event: Vibrant Brampton
Details: Garden Square in Downtown Brampton be filled with samples of South Asian culture July 14 to 15. Organized by Arts and Culture Initiative of South Asian (ACISA) Vibrant Brampton.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 15

Event: BMM does Brampton
Details: Bollywood Monster Mashup (BMM) does Brampton is an evening of stand-up comedy, spoken word and urban music showcase. Action starts and ends at the Rose Theatre, 1 Theatre Ln. at 4:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

July 15 to 17

Event: Punyah Krishna
Details: Sampradaya Dance Academy will present Home Season production Punyah Krishna other works by Parshwanath Upadhye at the dance academy’s theatre, 3250 Ridgeway Drive – Unit #4, Mississauga.
Contact: Here

Saturday, July 22
Event: BMM Concert
Details: Bollywood Monster Mashup, a hit summer staple, is back again with its characteristic masti. The concert portion featuring a celebration of Bollywood includes Brampton gal Jonita Gandhi, Aakanksha Sharma, the voice of Sunny Leone in “Main Adhoora to the main stage. Events start at 2 p.m.
Contact: Here

Make some ‘Noyz’ for this hip-hop artist


Amrit Singh aka “Noyz” continues to create waves in the hip-hop scene in Toronto. Supplied photo.

When you have to rely on tone, cadence and a stream of words, without a medley of instruments, you have to be pretty darn good at what you do.

That’s probably why Noyz seems to be on everyone’s playlist these days.

Having never met him, but just exchanged few emails and a phone chat, I can say with absolute degree of certainty Amrit Singh, 30, aka Noyz, a rising hip-hop star is not only a great wordsmith, MC, producer and mental health advocate, but Mr. Nice Guy: polite and modest to boot.

Two solo projects, a few albums created in collaboration with like-minded artists (God Degree, Grey Matter, Degrees of Freedom etc.) and dozens of concerts appear to have solidified his brand.

Early this year, Noyz dropped his first EP with B Magic (Movin’ Cool) So Far Gone.

“What makes rap such an effective medium is that the MC speaks in a conversational way, so as a listener, it’s as if you’re getting direct insight to the person’s thoughts,” he explained. “The lyrics are written in an honest way. So, you’ve to go deep into your own experiences to truthfully tell the story.”

Noyz began writing rhymes in Grade 6. He was influenced at that time by the music his cousins heard (Tupac, Biggie, Nas).

Young Amrit inexplicably was drawn to boom rap and R&B. (Boom rap, for those unfamiliar, is a style of production in the hip-hop genre. Drum sounds sort of dominate the music and hence the name.)

Phil Witmer, a writer for Noisey, an interactive music magazine, was at a Toronto concert featuring Noyz and B Magic and watched the duo bring the crowd to its feet.

Hip-Hop artist Amrit Singh aka Noyz is making waves in Toronto. Submitted photo.

“Their chemistry (Noyz and B Magic) resulted in an old-school-modelled presence that managed to transport the previously unmotivated crowd from the bar onto the floor,” wrote Witmer. “The duo prowled the stage as one unit, reading each other as they nonchalantly traded bars and emphasized the other’s punch-lines even on their own solo material. It was a block party, Brampton-style.”

30-year-old Noyz has experienced depression, but before he was handed the official diagnosis, he struggled with the symptoms and idiosyncrasies of a mind that well, had a mind of its own.

So, when he realized there was a need to educate the South Asian diaspora about mental health and remove the shame and stigma tethered to the issue, he used his voice. His video for #BellLetsTalk last year raked some serious views.

Growing up, Noyz admits to watching Bollywood movies, but he didn’t have the same deep connection with it as he did with hip-hop. His songs tackle oppression immigrant experience, mental health and what not.

“There’s so much space to be filled in a 16-bar rap verse that MCs have to go deep into their own minds and experiences to truthfully tell the story,” he said. “Because of the breadth of writing that needed for each verse, song and album, you get an insight into who the MCs are as people.”

When I was researching Noyz’s music, I came across a video of a Brampton Cypher. Cyphers are hip-hop jam sessions, BTW. Enjoy. Visit for his music.






Eid events and urban desiFEST take over June 2017 in Toronto

11th Annual Desi Fest

The 11th annual Desi Fest is happening Saturday, June 3 at the Yonge-Dundas Square. Photo by Shahaab Sheikh

Saturday, June 3

Event: DesiFest 2017
Details: Canada’s # 1 urban desi festival, the 2017 desiFEST is a 12-hour entertainment bonanza running from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. at the Yonge-Dundas Square. Hosted by Sathish Bala/CEO/founder. This year’s line-up includes Mizz Taj, Raj and the Martin Express, Hash, Lady Kash and others.
Contact: Here

Sunday, June 4


Anjali Patil

Event: Aroha Arts Workshop
Details: Anjali Patil is hosting a fine arts workshop: Emotions and expressions in Dance at The Citadel, 304 Parliament St. at 2 p.m. Class is open to professional and pre-professional dancers 18 and above.
Contact: Here

Saturday, June 10

Event: Eid Festival

Details: OK, so, the largest Eid Festival in the GTA is a two-part, 11-day affair. On June 10-11 the event is at the Sagan Banquet Hall, 7180 Edwards Blvd. from 1 p.m. till 12 a.m. (midnight). There will be a fashion show, food, henna and more.
Contact: Here

Saturday, June 17

Event: Eid Festival 2017

Details: Organizers are calling this, “the largest Eid Festival” and inviting you to Maple Banquet Hall, 1325 Eglinton Ave. E. Food, fashion, entertainment and music are all in the cards. Runs from June 17 to 25.
Contact: Here

Tuesday, June 20

Golf flyerEvent: Indo-Canadian Golf
Details: The Indo-Canadian Golf Association Charity Tournament will take place, Glencairn Golf Club, 9807 Regional Rd. 25 in Milton at 10:30 a.m. This year is the 20th year. Proceeds will support Trillium Health Partners.
Contact: Here

Friday, June 23

Event: Eid Bazaar

Details: PGA International will be hosting an Eid Bazaar at the National Banquet Hall, 7355 Torbram Rd., in Mississauga from 2 to 11 p.m.
Contact: Here


Event: Chhakka
Details: “Fire up your femme and fierce, because you’re about to get blessed,” reads the blurb on the website. Chhakka is Canada’s biggest queer Bollywood event and a fitting start to the Pride weekend. It’s all happening at Club 120 at 120 Church St. from 10 p.m. onward.
Contact: Here

Saturday, June 24

Event: Yugpurush

Details: A Hindi play chronicling the life of Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi will be showcased at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, 190 Princes’ Blvd. Toronto at 3 p.m. Play has been directed by Rajesh Joshi.
Contact: Here

Documentary peels off the taboo surrounding sex and sexuality


Ask_the_Sexpert_PosterOne film featured in the 2017 Toronto Hot Docs Fest that caught my eye was Ask the Sexpert.

Produced by Mridu Chandra and directed by Vaishali Sinha, Ask the Sexpert, chronicles the life of the 93-year-old Dr. Mahinder Watsa, a gynecologist/advice columnist and sex expert for the Mumbai Mirror.

The blurb featured “India” and “sex” in the same sentence, so I decided to see for myself Vaishali’s treatment of the subject. As I watched the film, I was struck by Dr. Watsa’s inimitable and wry sense of humour and his honest diagnosis of the dilemmas posed to him.

Mind you, some questions were so outrageous I almost choked on the tea I was sipping. Then, it hit me: In India, sex and sex education are both relegated to tawdry corners of the Internet and sleazy magazines. Understandably there’s this vacuum. This chasm, to me, has unleashed several horrifying consequences such as rape, the objectification on women in Bollywood films and this whole taboo around sex.

Dr. Watsa’s role in de-mystifying the human sexuality should be applauded instead we are told there are at least half-a-dozen lawsuits filed against the good man and the daily he writes for.

In the nine years he has been doling advice, Dr. Watsa has tackled some 40,000 letters. He started his career as a columnist in the 60s as a medical columnist for several women’s magazines. He quit that when one of the editors insisted on censoring the questions.

Dr. Watsa_Couch

Dr. Mahinder Watsa, 93, a sex columnist for an English daily in India, was the subject of the documentary, Ask the Sexpert. The film featured in the 2017 Toronto Hot Docs festival. Supplied photo.


Toronto Desi Diaries (TDD) chatted with Vaishali Sinha, 37, director, Ask the Sexpert

TDD: Tell me about yourself?
VS: I’m Mumbai-born filmmaker currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Filmmaking is what brought me to the U.S. This is where my independent show-making career flourished, simply, because in the U.S. there is more support for the arts than in India. The U.S. still has a ways to go in supporting the arts, especially in these times.

TDD: What drew you to the subject of Dr. Watsa?
VS: I was interested in exploring a film on sex and sexuality in urban India especially through the lens of therapist because talking about sex is such a taboo.

TDD: Once you became interested, how did you envision you would tackle the issue of sex considering India’s a prude?
VS: I wanted a character-driven story to be a lens into larger society tackling issues of sexuality. Dr. Wasta and his work went above and beyond my expectations.

TDD: Every film/story has one point/element that changes the trajectory of the narrative, what was yours with this project?
VS: I was fortunate that I ended up with finding characters I was hoping to find to be able to tell the story I was hoping to tell. To find so many people speak candidly and openly about these controversial issues was a pleasure.
What I did not prepare myself for was the enormous personality of Dr. Watsa. The depth and breadth of his work is astounding. Telling the story through his lens allowed me to bring in another element, another character.


Vaishali Sinha, director, Ask the Sexpert

TDD: What were some of the challenges?
VS: The topic of Sexuality is an ever-growing one in India and I want to make sure my film speaks to the timeless aspects of it. Finding a balance between topical and timeless elements was hard work.

TDD: Who funded the project and how long did it take you to make it?
VS: Funding trickled in over the course of three and a half years. Early funders include:  Catapult Fund, MacArthur Foundation, Tribeca Film Institute and the iTVS (co-production partner).

TDD: Were you hoping to ruffle feathers with this film?
VS: Stylistically, character-driven stories are my forte.I wanted to make a film that would push sex education and sex positivity to the forefront of the conversation.
Dr. Watsa is such an iconic personality in India and this is the first ever film on him. I’m happy those two interests, of character and sexuality, were able to come together in Ask the Sexpert.

TDD: Anything else?
VS: Ask the Sexpert is an universal story even though it’s situated in India, I hope this opens a conversation in a positive manner not just in our community, but other communities too.

TDD: Is the film screening anywhere in India? Where can people watch, if they are interested? VS: Not yet, but keep your eyes and ears open.


Let’s all get filmy in Toronto this May


May ’17 South Asian events in Toronto offer a heady and healthy mix of films, theatre, music and dance. Check out our desi events calendar.

Monday, May 1

Event: IFFSA
Details: Controversial film Lipstick Under my Burkha, Shahrbanoo Sadat’s Wolf and Sheep and dozens of others are part of the line-up. Guess what? Akshay Roy ‘s Meri Pyaari Bindu starring Parineeti Chopra and Ayushman will make its North American premiere e May 15 at the festival. IFFSA runs 11 to 22.
Contact: Here

Event: Ask the Sexpert
Details: Toronto’s International documentary festival 2017 Hot Docs will showcase an array of documentaries from across the globe including Vaishali Sinha’s Ask the Sexpert, a film is about Dr. Mahinder Watsa, a highly popular 93-year-old sex columnist for Mumbai Mirror. The film will screen at Hot Docs May 1 to 3 at the TIFF Bell Lighthouse. Festival runs until Sunday, May 7
Contact: Here 

Friday, May 6

Students from Nachdi Jawani showcase their dance at the Carassauga Festival of Cultures. Photo by Rob Beintema

Event: Nachdi Jawani
Details: Punjabi Virsa Arts and Culture Academy will be hosting its 17th annual Nachdi Jawani Youth Festival, at 1370 Williams Pkwy. Brampton from 10 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Event will feature gidha and bhangra competitions.
Contact: Here

Event: Taraang
Details: Enjoy a Bollywood musical concert at Glenforest Secondary School, 3575 Fieldgate Dr. Mississauga. The Taraang Ek Sureela Kaarvaan starts at 6 p.m.
Contact: Here

Sunday, May 7

Event: Gujarati Comedy Show
Details: Enjoy a Gujju comedy show at Chinguacousy Secondary School, 1370 Williams Parkway, Brampton at 5 p.m. The three-hour LOL riot features Dr. Jagdish Trivedi.
Contact: Here

Thursday, May 13

Event: Hindustani Music Concert
Details: Raag-Mala Music Society presents Hidayat Khan (sitar) and Manjusha Patil (vocals) at this spring concert at McLeod Auditorium, Medical Sciences bldg., 1 King’s College Circle at 7 p.m.
Contact: Here

Saturday, May 20

Event: Zumba Party
Details: A Bollywood-themed Zumba fitness party is happening at the Harold Braithwaite Secondary School, 415 Great Lakes Dr. in Brampton at 4 p.m.
Contact: Here

Friday, May 26

Event: Carrasauga
Details: Mississauga’s festival of cultures beckons you to take a trip around the world for chump change. While you’re globetrotting, stop by the India pavilion at the Hershey Centre, community rinks at 5500 Rose Cherry Place, Mississauga. Festival runs until Sunday, May 28.
Contact: Here

Saturday, May 27

Event: Malhar SpringFest
Details: Malhar Group will present its annual SpringFest at the Molson Canadian Studio at Hamilton Place, 1 Summers Ln. Hamilton, at 6:30 p.m. Concert will feature: Subhranil Sarkar (sitar), Kaivalya Kumar (vocals), Abhijeet Banerjee (tabla) and Sanatan Goswami (harmonium)
Contact: Here