Indian culture soars at M!M!M!

Photograph of Bollywood / Indian actor Abhay Deol at Masala!Mehndi!Masti! in Toronto

Indian actor Abhay Deol at Masala!Mehndi!Masti! in Toronto

Interviewing Abhay Deol was a highlight of M!M!M!

Masala!Mehndi!Masti! is the premier Indian cultural event in Toronto, and each year it seems to get bigger and better. I’ve been going for about five years, and I have seen Nandita Das and Lisa Ray interviewed; I’ve watched Bollywood and Odissi dancing; I’ve listened to sitar music and Autorickshaw; I’ve bought jewelry and eaten dosas, and, perhaps most of all, I’ve enjoyed a weekend of immersing myself in the masala milieu. Every year, it’s a bit like a mini-trip to India.

Festival founder and director Abhishek Mathur wrote, “Just like a sacred thread, M!M!M! ties and binds the diverse parts of the culture, connecting and creating continuity, while not compromising the uniqueness of each part.” And that is exactly what it is like. At the opening reception, I came to realize what a labour of love M!M!M! is for Abhishek and his dedicated team. I was stunned to find out this massive festival, with three solid days of programming, is completely volunteer run. No wonder they continually take time out to thank their sponsors (including OMNI TV, Toyota, WestJet, TourismToronto etc.)

Some of the hard-working volunteers at M!M!M!

This year, for the first time, I had the honour of being invited to be part of M!M!M! I was on a literary panel, called Eyes on India, that was sponsored and presented by MyBindi, the leading South Asian arts, events and community website in Toronto. Myself, writer Sylvia Fraser (author of The Rope in the Water — read my blog Understanding the Indian Rope Trick) and blogger Katherine Matthews (Totally Filmi) were interviewed on stage by the dynamic Syerah Virani, of MyBindi. We chatted about our experiences both traveling in India and writing about India. Syerah was a fabulous moderator, keeping three spell-bound India lovers on track (her toughest job was reining me in!), and we responded to some interesting questions from both Syerah and the audience, such as how we react to “white privilege” in India and whether the gurus we’ve encountered were genuine.

Photograph of Bollywood actor Abhay Deol and me after our interview

Abhay Deol and me after our interview

Several years ago, M!M!M! added a feature, called M!M!M! Movies that spotlights an Indian actor. This year, 2011, they featured rising star Abhay Deol, who has appeared in movies such as Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Road, Movie and the recent hit Zindagi Milgra Na Dobha. I had the opportunity of interviewing Abhay privately, for more than half an hour, about a wide range of subjects such as the influence of the rise of the urban middle class on movie making in India, social activism and whether he is taken seriously as a “celebrity who cares,” and the ascendancy of India and Indian culture around the globe. I will be publishing this interview on Breathedreamgo, which was recorded on video by Alicia Taggio (my co-partner in  Toronto Travel Massive). Later, Abhay was interviewed on stage by the handsome and urbane Mohit Rajhans of OMNI TV and Bollywood Boulevard.

And Abhay Deol was not the only charming young actor I had the pleasure of interviewing! I also had a short interview with Vinay Virmani, after his “In Conversation” chat on stage with Roz Weston of ET Canada. I have already blogged about the film he wrote and stars in — see my blog Counting down to opening of  Breakaway — which opens September 2011. I hope it’s a great success for several reasons — not the least of which is that Vinay is a disarmingly open, enthusiastic and genuinely nice person. He obviously wrote the film from his heart, and continues to wear his heart on his sleeve in interview.

Photograph of Roz Weston and Vinay Virmani of Breakaway at M!M!M!

Roz Weston “In conversation” with Vinay Virmani of Breakaway at M!M!M!

The live music and dance are really the heart of M!M!M! This year I was lucky to catch the Shillong Chamber Choir, one of the stars of this year’s M!M!M! They won India’s Got Talent and I could see why: not only are they talented, they also have a gift for captivating an audience. Their repertoire includes an eclectic range of styles from jazz to Bollywood to western classical. Also caught Kaminari, a shimmering fusion of sitar and didgideroo played by husband and wife Yoshi and Chie Yamano of Japan (see video, below). As always, I enjoyed my day at M!M!M! and I applaud the organizers for continuing to put on a really great show. Did you go, or have you been – what did you like? How do you feel about a festival that showcases Indian culture?


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4 Responses to Indian culture soars at M!M!M!

  1. Mariellen August 24, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Likewise Syerah! You are a force of nature, in the best sense. Dynamic, passionate, polished — you have it ALL going on. I’m a fan of MyBindi and of you.

  2. Syerah Virani August 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Thank you Mariellen for your kind words. It was a real pleasure to work with you. I have great admiration for what you do and the integrity that you bring to your work.

    I look forward to working with you again on future opportunities and thank you for all your support for

    Warmest regards,


  3. Jyoti Rana August 29, 2011 at 4:15 am #

    Mariellen, your words are a delight to read. Thank you – not for writing this – but for attending and giving the festival a voice of your own.

    We are all volunteers, as you have rightly mentioned, and sincerely appreciate it when others notice the efforts the team put in to give back to the world.

    Our long time partner, Mybindi, is one of our dearest colleagues, friends and supporters. Syerah truly is a force to be reckoned with.

    We hope to see you again and again every year.

    Warm regards,

  4. Mariellen August 29, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Thanks Jyoti! I meant every word – your team, and MyBindi, should be very proud of yourselves. I love M!M!M!

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