YouTwoTV creators on cloud 9 as channel hits 1 million subscribers

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YouTwoTV's Jaz and Harjit pose in a goofy shot.

YouTwoTV creators Harjit (top) and Jaz have a million reasons to celebrate. The talented and funny YouTube creators have more than 1 million subscribers to their channel. Photo by YouTwoTV.

It’s Toronto Desi Diaries’ 100th blog and it’s fitting we commemorate our centennial blog post with two high-flying, super famous YouTubers—Jaz Saini and Harjit Bhandal (drumroll, please).

These YouTwoTV creators, it so happens, have a million reasons to rejoice. Their channel, launched two years ago, recently blew past 1 million subscribers. Wow! Congrats guys. Not surprising then that Jaz and Harjit’s careers have taken off like Elon Musk’s rocket launches.

“We’re really lucky that we have each other,” said Jaz. “I am grateful that I don’t have to do this alone. It’s a lot of work, it’s not easy, but it’s so worth it…”

The talented duo has fashioned a neat niche in the highly competitive YouTube space, a commendable feat, considering how many wannabes are jostling for attention in the crammed social-media platform.

No wonder then their fans break the Internet every time they drop a new video (weekly).

How’s it that these two desis from Toronto (Brampton) are able to deliver hit after hit? Their video, Back to School: Types of Students boasts 33 million views. Ditto, Types of girlfriends guys hate. Their lifetime YouTube views so far? 265.7 million. These numbers are jaw-dropping.

So, what’s the secret sauce?

It’s easy. Jaz and Harjit are a couple and the camera captures their sizzling chemistry, easy camaraderie, mutual affection and respect. Now to add to this potent mix some witty banter, a topic every individual between 18 to 34 years can relate to, voila! You have an award-winning team.

I met the superstars during their “giddy with success” phase. They had just won the iHeartRadio MMVA “Fan Fave Much Creator” award; had their names and faces splashed across various media platforms and were being courted as brand ambassadors for several well-known companies.

And yet, they were humble and untouched by the noise. It was so easy to love these two.

“I still feel like we’re just regular people, just living our dreams,” Jazz says. “It is a little hard having your whole life on the internet and people commenting about every little thing you do. We’re lucky to have a really awesome family of viewers that support what we do. It’s cool knowing what we’re doing is impacting all of these people.”

Harjit: “I feel like nothing really has changed, my views and the way I handle things are relatively the same.”

Papa kahte hai…

Initially, both their families did not understand how the whole YouTube phenomenon could be a viable career. Jaz had a diploma in marketing and her parents wanted her to opt for a 9 to 5 job, one that came with a consistent paycheck.

“There was no way to talk to them about it, but show them,” Jaz said. “When we launched our YouTwoTV, we never told our parents and cousins that this could blow up, instead we decided we would tell them of our success through articles in the newspaper, interviews on TV…”

Harjit’s parents too were clueless and questioned his decision.

“It makes sense our parents wanted us to be successful and not go through the struggles they did when they immigrated to Canada,” he said. “I think they became comfortable when they saw us becoming successful.”

Winning the coveted iHeartRadio MMVA was a turning point for these two Bramptonians whose talents came into sharp focus in the mainstream media. It was surreal.

“I see ourselves in L.A, in TV shows and movies,” Harjit said when asked about the path ahead. “We have big dreams and it’s not about ‘what-if-we-fail’ instead, we’re always thinking of what we can do next to make it even bigger.”

The pit of despair:

Last year, Jaz filmed a video, “Dear Mom” in which she talked about her mother’s struggle with depression and her death by suicide. It was a raw and poignant conversation that underscores the fragile mother-daughter relationship, the unanswered questions, the pregnant pauses and the shadow of darkness.

Jaz, like her mother, lives with a depression and is struggling to find answers about the darkness that occasionally envelopes her.

The video ( below) is a brave voice of a woman who in telling her story has made it easy for others in the South Asian community to do so.

Here’s a conversation Toronto Desi Diaries had with the YouTwoTV couple.

TDD: YouTwoTV has crossed the 1-million subscriber mark, how does this make you feel?

Jazz: It’s actually so surreal that in less than two years, we’ve somehow managed to convince 1 million people that we’re entertaining. It feels awesome to know that our hard work is paying off!

TDD: How many videos do you post per week and what’s the creative process? Do you write down the sketches, dialogues, decide location…?

Harjit: We make one video a week on YouTube and try to make 2 to 3 small skits on Instagram a week.

Jazz: As for the creative process, it’s different every week, sometimes we have an idea in our head and we spend a full day scripting and two days filming.

Harjit: Sometimes, we have no idea and spend 2-3 days thinking of a topic and have to cram filming into one day.

Jazz: We take an approach to every video differently, which keeps us on our toes.

TDD: “YouTube Stardom” is a millennial/ “Gen Z concept, how did your parents reconcile that neither of you were going to end up in a conventional profession?

Jazz: I’ve always been super independent and have done things differently than anyone else in my family, or just in the Indian culture and what my parents were used to. My Dad wasn’t really surprised when I went this route, he trusted that I knew what I was doing, but kept his distance and watched from afar.

Harjit: Up until last year, my parents were still telling me to “get a real job.” It wasn’t until I started getting awards and I was in the news that they finally supported my dreams. Now they know how many subscribers we’re at before I even do!

TDD: What topics do you avoid when it comes to the content you produce?

Jazz: We try not to limit ourselves or even censor ourselves. I feel like people can tell when you’re not being genuine or when you’re trying to be someone you’re not. We try to avoid just being fake or even copying someone else’s work. It’s hard to be original with so much content out there, but we try and make sure we’re giving something fresh and new to our viewers every week.

Harjit: That’s the most important thing to us (being ourselves), and we definitely try not to offend anyone, ha,ha.

TDD: Anything in your childhood prepared you for facing the camera so effortlessly?

Jazz: – Nothing at all

Harjit: We don’t belong here, haha!

TDD: Were you a couple when you started the show? Or did love saunter in slowly?

Jazz: –We were already madly in love before we started YouTwoTV.

TDD: Which one of your videos is closest to your heart, and why?

Jazz: “Dear Mom” is a video that we made a few months ago, it’s different than anything we’ve ever done and talks about my relationship with depression and suicide and it was the first time I’ve ever publicly spoken about how my mom passed away.

Harjit: “Dear Mom” lies really close to my heart as well for pretty obvious reasons. I’ve never really seen Jaz let herself be that vulnerable and we focused so much on the videography in that video.

TDD: Who are your role models and why?

Jazz: Harjit! He’s one of the most positive and hardworking individual I know. I’m really lucky to have found him.

Harjit: Besides Jaz, Eminem and Shah Rukh Khan are definitely my biggest role models.

Jaz and Harjit pose in front of a wall.

Super funny and super talented duo Jaz(left) and Harjit of YouTwoTV are enjoying taste of success with one million subscribers. Photo courtesy YouTwoTV.

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Nova Bhattacharya’s contemporary Bharatnatyam blurs cultural lines in Toronto

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Photo by John Launer

Toronto-based contemporary Bharatnatyam dancer Nova Bhattacharya, will be presenting a show, Decoding Bharatnatyam, Feb. 14-17 at The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance, 304 Parliament St., Toronto. Photo by John Launer.

Tucked away inside rehearsal studios and embedded among stellar theatre/dance productions around Toronto, few “artistic gems” have raised the status of their craft beyond narrow definitions of culture and language.

Case in point: Nova Bhattacharya. An award-winning Bharatnatyam dancer, choreographer and artistic director of Nova Dance.

Nova strapped on the traditional dance anklet (ghungroo), a heavy musical belt sewn with tiny brass bells, worn by classical Indian dancers at age 7. Metaphorically, she hasn’t taken them off since.

“Bharatnatyam as an art form has a rich history of repertoire and an amazing potential to say new and different things,” Nova explained. “Watching artists (from different genres) gave me the desire to use the paint box I had to paint a new and different picture. Instead of painting it as a ‘varnam’ or ‘padam,’ I wanted to create something the audiences can experience even if they don’t understand the language…”

If you’re imagining a dance performance where the dancers are garbed in brightly-coloured Kanjeevaram sarees with their hair plaited and adorned with flowers and their eyes accentuated with dark kohl, you’ll be wrong. So wrong.

Imagine then, a dancer dressed in distressed jeans and a crimson-coloured sleeveless t-shirt or a flowing black gown with thigh-high slits swaying to the beats of techno-music combined with Carnatic music ragas. Sounds exotic? It’s mesmerizing (watch the video below).

“In Decoding Bharatnatyam, I, a Bengali-Canadian will be performing a Bharatnatyam dance choreographed by a Venezuelan-Canadian, proficient in the Cunningham dance technique that isolates body parts, believes in simplistic movements set to the background of complicated scores,” Nova explains.
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Neena Jayarajan and Atri Nundy will perform Broken Lines, an award-winning dance, Feb. 14-17 at The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance, 304 Parliament St., Toronto. Photo by Ed Hanley.

The tug of dance

At age 7, renowned Bharatnatyam dancer Menaka Thakkar, accepted Nova as her student (incidentally, Nova was the first graduate of the Nrytyakala Dance Academy, Thakkar’s Toronto dance school).

And thus, began a journey fraught with ups and downs, headaches and heartaches, awards and accolades.

In her teens, Nova briefly shoved away her dreams and headed to Carleton University to pursue journalism. She dropped out after a year and was joyfully reunited with her passion when Menaka’s sister invited her to perform at a dance festival she was hosting.

Not one to remain boxed within the confines of prescribed norms, Nova broke free once she had mastered the nuances.

“I call the work I am doing as contemporary Bharatnatyam,” Nova says. “When I say contemporary, I mean the technique of Bharatnatyam, but using the tools of the art form in a different context.”

The Torontonian’s dance catalogues are experiments of the psyche woven together with compelling music, minimalistic set production and clean lines. It’s abstract storytelling. Take for instance, Infinite Storms (2017), a performance where Nova internalizes the debilitating pain of migraines into a dance routine or Akshongay for which she received a Dora nod for outstanding choreography.

Decoding Nova

Nova’s upcoming show, Decoding Bharatnatyam, unravels several layers of classical dance fused with modern sensibilities. Visualise the complex, but rigid footwork and hand movements of Bharatnatyam, flawlessly melding into the fluid moves of contemporary dance.

The show, hosted by Citadel + Compagnie (C+C) will feature three performances: Broken Lines, an award-winning duet by Neena Jayarajan and Atri Nundy; Alaap by Lucy Rupert and Calm Abiding, executed by Nova and choreographed by Venezuela-born, Montreal-based contemporary choreographer, José Navas.

“In (Broken Lines) Neena and Atri will delve deep into their (Bharatnatyam) training and improvise it,” Nova explained. “Instead of giving the artists a set choreography, I gave them a set of tasks to complete on the stage so that even if the audience does not know anything about Indian mythology, they are still able to connect to the dance through the performance of two skilled dancers.”

Decoding Bharatnatyam runs, Feb. 14-17, 2018 at The Citadel: Ross Centre for Dance, 304 Parliament St., Toronto, M5A 2Z6. Cost of tickets is $25/person and $20 (artists) and can be purchased by calling: 416-364-8011 ext. 1 or by visiting here (citadelcie.com).

Toronto singer Shweta Subram’s new single ‘Rasiya’ proves her vocal chops

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Toronto singer Shweta Subram’s new single Rasiya hits all the right notes. Photo supplied by Shweta.

With songs in Hindi and Tamil movies, performances at the IIFA Awards, Carnegie hall as well as funky YouTube covers, Shweta Subram still evades Bollywood.

So, why has this talented singer/composer has chosen to not move to Mumbai and pursue Bollywood? Read on to find out.

Shweta’s just-dropped single Rasiya clearly plays to her strengths: her training in Carnatic and Hindustani music, her musical IQ and ability to single-handedly shoulder the composition.

“I have been told I have a different timbre to my voice and that I should make sure the instrumentation does not overpower my vocals,” Shweta said in a telephonic conversation recently. “In Rasiya, I went with something that had an acoustic feel to it…it’s a song that can very easily be placed in a film.”

Playback singing has its moments

To cap off on what’s been an exciting few weeks, Shweta’s rendition Mella Mella (composed by Ghibran) in a just-released Tamil Sci-Fi film Mayavaan, has been garnering attention.

This desi singer has experienced several note-worthy moments in her career: she has won several coveted singing competitions. The prize of one included a  personalized music lesson (via Skype) with Shankar Mahadevan, an opportunity to share the stage with Salim-Sulaiman during the Toronto IIFA Awards, singing with/for Ayushman Khurana, flawlessly rendering the national anthems of both, Canada and India during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Toronto and more. So much more.

Yet, Shweta prefers to live in Canada and travel (if necessary) to India and other countries. She’s somewhat reluctant to chase the limelight. She would prefer, it (limelight) came calling for her talent.

It’s well-known music labels, studios and producers, all profit on the backs of talent. Ironic, isn’t it? When you consider the pivotal role music plays in Bollywood films. I know for a fact, artists spend hours hopping from studio to studio clutching demo tapes and flicker of hope in their hearts. It’s a long and lonely path.

Music as a calling

It’s a game Shweta doesn’t want to play. She would rather spend her time in front of a mic or collaborating or composing with like-minded individuals.

Toronto singer Shweta Subram performing to a crowd

Shweta Subram’s just-released single Rasiya showcases her powerful vocals. Photo supplied by Shweta.

“When I was in India (recently), I did go to studios,” she admits adding it wasn’t really her cup of tea. “Kudos to people who can sit (in the waiting rooms of studios) for hours on end. I have realized talent alone is not enough to succeed within the Indian music industry. It’s whom you can please…I cannot pretend to be someone I am not.”

Oh, wait, what? Did you say, Sunny Leone?

Shweta has provided the background score for Netflix’s Mostly Sunny, a film on Sunny Leone, a Canadian, making her mark in the Indian film industry.

“It was a great opportunity for me (sitting here in North America) to get a call from the studios asking if I had anything,” Shweta said. “I believe it’s kismet, having the talent, and being prepared to deliver when opportunity knocks. It’s more than being in the right place at the right time…”

But, it was a chance meeting with The Piano Guys that launched Shweta into the stratosphere. The Piano Guys, the superstars of social media are a band of musically driven men, who in their attempt to market pianos in rather unconventional ways, ended up creating a powerful brand.

The hit of all hits

So, The Piano Guys approached Shweta and asked her to compose/sing what was an Indian music inspired cover adapted from Swedish House Mafia’s tune Don’t You Worry Child.

The video, featuring John Schmidt (piano), Steven Nelson (cello) and Shweta (vocals/composition) has garnered 20 million views and still counting.

“The response, reach and reaction to the video was phenomenal,” says Shweta. “The video launched my credentials, not just to Indians, but world over. In 2015, I performed at the famed Carnegie Hall and it was an absolute-dream-come true…”

Shweta’s work ethics and talent appears to have impressed The Piano Guys.

“Shweta immediately stood out to us – her smile was so genuine and contagious,” say The Piano Guys, in their website. “She naturally emitted such an amiability in her stage presence that we were drawn to her performance. Her voice effortlessly depicted an Indian classical vibe while still being completely accessible.”

In the coming months, Shweta will be releasing more singles and doing what she’s best at—making music.

After my chat with Shweta, I realized: Fame isn’t what happens to you in Bollywood alone, sometimes, it’s what you become when you stay away from it.

Let’s all get filmy in Toronto this May

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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

 

April ’17 brings music, theatre and arts for Torontonians

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The 17th annual Kalanidhi Festival celebrating Indian dance genres runs until April 2 at the Harbourfront Centre. Photo courtesy Kalanidhi Fine Arts of Canada website.

Saturday, April 1

Event: Kalanidhi festival
Details: The 17th annual Kalanidhi Festival of Indian Dance: Whirling Streams will take place at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront Centre, March 28 to April 2.
Contact: Here

Event: Little Pretty and the Exceptional
Details: Factory theatre, 125 Bathhurst St. (at Adelaide) presents, Little Pretty and the Exceptional, a play written by Anusree Roy and directed by Brendan Healy, April 6 to 30.
Contact: Here

Event: Sikh Heritage Month
Details: Communities across the GTA will mark Sikh Heritage Month all April. In Brampton, the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA), 9 Wellington St. E. has several exhibits and shows planned. Admission is free.
Contact: Here

Friday, April 7

Event: One Brave Night
Details: SOCH, a group comprising of South Asian mental health advocates, will participate in Canadian Association of Mental Health (CAMH)’s annual fundraiser, One Brave Night. They have planned a full night of events and activities, April 7 to 8 at LAB Brampton, 60 Queen St. E. Unit 104.
Contact: Here

Friday, April 14

Event: Bhangra in the City
Details: Celebrate Vaisakhi with Bhangra Night at the Atmosfera Resto-Louge , 6781 Hurontario St. Mississauga. Some top Bhangra Djs will spin.
Contact: Here

Saturday, April 15

Event: Tabla-Taiko concert
Details: The Toronto Tabla Ensemble and the Nagata Shachu will showcase an evening of exceptional percussion in this cross-cultural concert. The show will take place at the Greenwin Theatre at the Toronto Centre for Arts, 5040 Yonge St. Toronto, M2N 6R8 at 7 p.m.
Contact: Here

Event: Baisakhi 2017
Details: Gerrard India Bazaar will be hosting a Baisakhi celebration at Little India (Gerrard and Ashdale) 4 p.m. onward.
Contact: Here

Monday, April 17

Event: The Drupadi Project
Details: Why Not theatre’s RISER Project 2017 will feature the world premieres of four new Canadian plays:The Draupadi Project, Pearle Harbour’s Chautauqua, El Retorno/I Return and Two Birds One Stone. Sharada Eswar’s The Draupadi Project is a reimagining of the ancient Indian epic, “The Mahabharata.” It will run April 17 to 18 at 7 p.m. at the BMO Incubator, The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen St. W.
Contact: Here

Thursday, April 27

Event: Shyam Selvadurai
Details: The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) GTA Young Workers Committee will host well-known author Shyam Selvadurai at the PSAC Toronto’s regional office, 90 Eglinton Ave. E. at 6:30 p.m.
Contact: Here

 

Shereen Ladha’s Roots will take you on a magical journey of colour and sound

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Roots: A Journey Through India is a show that combines dance, music and history. It comes to the Rose Theatre in Brampton, Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.

Whenever I chance upon something amazing: a good book, a watchable movie, an incredible entrée or even an interesting conversation, there’s a good chance, I will not simply shut up about it.

Sometimes, I even write a whole blog.

So pretend for a moment, these words are being delivered via a bullhorn.

I, for one, plan to stop by the Rose Theatre in Brampton, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. to watch Roots: A Journey Through India.

Having sampled a small snippet on video (you can watch the earlier post), I know it’s just the kind of thing to appeal to all my senses— high-energy dance, opulent costumes, familiar Bollywood tunes and a story line.

Shereen Ladha, 29, the director and creator of Roots as well as owner of popular YouTube channel, dancewithSL has conceived the show by combining her love for dance and choreography, India and Bollywood music.

When she started dancing at four,it was because it was, “so organic, almost like breathing.”

Then on, it was all hard work and grit and following the path.

Magnificent, mesmerizing and magical

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Shereen Ladha, creator and director of Roots: A Journey Through India is a versatile artist proficient in many genres of dance. Supplied photo

Roots can be described as a panoramic, visually stunning musical show that through Shereen’s signature vision wefts and weaves silken threads of romance, laughter and drama through several touchstones of India’s cultural heritage. The rich tapestry is sewn together with Bollywood music.

“I think what makes Roots so unique is its multi-generational and multi-cultural appeal,” said Shereen who considers Madhuri Dixit and Michael Jackson her idols. “It will remind our grandparents and parents of home; the younger generation will connect to our heritage and for people of other cultures, Roots will demonstrate the length and breath of India’s cultural diversity and richness…”

By the way, the last two shows sold-out.

Some 16 or more talented artists execute Shereen’s vision on stage. Mississauga’s Shama Kassam, 26, is one of them.

ken_5721Shama and Shereen are best buddies bound by their passion for dance. When she’s not swaying to music, Shama channelizes her energy into making the body, mind and breath connection as a yoga instructor at Power Yoga Canada Mississauga.

Roots, must be watched to be believed, she says

“I, like many Indians and non-Indians alike, grew up with a love for classic Bollywood and have always been inspired by the feminine grace of movement in Indian dance styles,” Shama said. “My parents love Bollywood music and our house is always willed with Indian music from the 70’s to modern day. I also grew up with a lot of interest in Hip-Hop music and that influences the style of dance I love, and the types of music I’m drawn to.”

Naach baliye, naach

Shereen, a Toronto native is a choreographer, dance visionary schooled in many genres: Hip-Hop, Ballet, Kathak and jazz, all of which she assimilated by the time she was 10.

“Intense dance training is really at the heart of that (dance repertoire),” said the artist whose day job is working with a strategic consulting firm. “I’m a strong believer in having a good foundation in dance. I believe a dancer really should never stop learning, a reason why I started my Master Classes in Bollywood.”

Sorry? Nah, Maafi

You probably recall Shereen from her viral hit Maafi, a cover of Justin Bieber’s chartbuster Sorry. The remix video garnered almost a million views before Sony Music grabbed the copyright.

“One my friends wanted me to do a choreography piece to Sorry by Justin Bieber as part of my regular channel videos, but I thought the original video and choreography was so good that I wanted to do something more unique and put my own spin on it,” Shereen told TDD. “So I got my music producer, J-Raj, and my team on board and Maafi was born.”

On the video going viral she says:

“I think it’s one thing to have fame, however long or short-lived it is, and another thing to make an impact,” Shereen says. “Sharing my art, educating people about my culture, and changing perceptions though dance is something I value so much more, and I feel strongly that I won’t ever compromise the quality of my work to achieve any level of fame.”

Check out Maafi!

To buy tickets for Roots, visit here or call 905-874-2800.

Jonita Gandhi sets all hearts aflutter with two back-to-back chart busters

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Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi has been creating a buzz of sorts in Bollywood with her back-to-back hits for Dangal and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

It took me weeks to de-addict myself from The Breakup Song (Ae Dil Hai Mushkil).

Just as I managed to wean myself, the Gilehriyaan track from Dangal has now ear wormed into my psyche.

Not a coincidence then that both these chart busters are from Jonita Gandhi, Toronto’s own nightingale.

A couple of years ago, I penned a blog about Jonita. This was around the time she was dipping her toes in the music industry in Bollywood. Jonita has since toured with the likes of Sonu Nigam and A.R. Rahman; worked with several top-notch composers to deliver multiple hits.

Often when journalists sit across from famous folks with our pens poised, we’re mostly unimpressed with titles or awards, what warms us is the individual’s passion for their craft and humility.

With Jonita, you can check off all those boxes.

 Here’s Jonita getting candid about success, her struggle and the smash hit : The Breakup Song

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Toronto crooner Jonita Gandhi. Supplied photo.

TDD: It seems the entire nation and desis around the world are humming your recent chartbuster – Breakup song. Tell us how did the chance to collaborate with Pritam Chakraborthy come about?

JG: Working with Pritam Da is an opportunity I always wanted. Though the Breakup Song isn’t my first release with him, I’m very thankful to have worked on this song with him. Quite a while back, I was called into the studio to record the beginning. At that time, it was just a scratch. I was called back to record the rest of the song some time later and several times after for lyrical changes, but I didn’t know until the song was released that my voice was kept in the final track.

TDD: The song’s upbeat, liberating and free, whereas breakup tunes are weepy. Your reaction when you heard the lyrics?

JG: I had so much fun recording the song because of the quirky lyrics. The dialogue at the beginning of the song is my favourite part. It gave me the opportunity to be over dramatic and playful. When I first heard it I thought, “wow this is definitely not how I would react to a breakup!” Ha!ha!ha! but I’m glad this song is what it is and I hope it helps people through their breakups.

TDD: How long have you been in Bollywood? What is it like tasting success?

JG: My debut in Bollywood happened in 2013 with the title track of Chennai Express, so it’s been three years now. I am extremely grateful for all of the opportunities since then, to work with people that I had only dreamed of working with. No matter how much I grow in my career, I try to keep myself grounded and remind myself that there’s always room to improve and that I have a long way to go.

TDD: Did you have to go through a bit of struggle too in your musical journey? What was that like?

JG: Nothing good comes easy. When I first came to India, I came in as a blank slate. I had no contacts and knew nothing about how things work here. It took a lot of perseverance, patience and an open mind to keep working towards my goals. There were times where it got overwhelming for sure. But it’s all worth it. 

TDD: From Brampton to Mumbai – the highs and lows?

JG: Life in Brampton is extremely different than life in Mumbai. We take the weather for granted in Canada and complain about the cold, but we don’t have to worry about moldy closets in rain season and food spoiling so quickly because of heat like in India.

Traffic! You have to be good at planning your commute when you have to be somewhere on time because traffic in India is nothing compared to Toronto.

• Customer service is something we take for granted in Canada because we are so used to getting things resolved after putting in a complaint. It’s quite a struggle here in India to get to the bottom of a problem.

But I have to admit I love the fact that you can order almost anything for delivery in India.

TDD: Is there any incident in Bollywood (with a celebrity/actor) that you recall that still makes you chuckle?

JG: When I was called in to record Kahaan Hoon Main, both Rahman sir and Imtiaz Ali were present at the time. That day I had food poisoning and was throwing up non-stop throughout the day. When I received the call to come in to the studio, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so I was a trooper and went in. It took some time for the studio to be setup, so I asked the engineer to let me know when I was needed and went to lie down in another room.

Shortly after being called in to start recording I had to step out for a “bathroom break,” which was really for me to puke my guts out. That memory still makes me smile from time to time because only the engineer and I know how sick I was feeling that day. Rahman sir and Imtiaz had no idea. 

TDD: Bet you miss home…

JG: Over and above anything else, I miss my family. Whatsapp comes in really handy. I wish they could be here with me all the time, but I am glad to be able to go home every once in a while, and have them visit me from time to time as well. 

 **Amir Khan starrer Dangal hit the theatres in North America, Dec. 21.**