Embracing Shakti: Hindu Women’s Journey to Empowerment and Unity

Preity Upala has lived a diverse life, transitioning from an investment banker in Australia to pursuing her passion for film in the United States, where she starred in both Bollywood and Hollywood productions, before settling as a film producer and podcast host in Los Angeles. Alongside her entertainment career, she is sought after as a global strategist for her insights into international diplomacy and foreign policy. Upala, a Hindu, sees her various endeavors as harmonious, drawing inspiration from the multifaceted aspects of the divine feminine within her tradition.

In her words, “The goddess worship is so prevalent in our culture, but the goddess has many faces. There are many goddesses. It’s not just the devout wife or devotee, it is the fierce Kali or the Saraswati, who is all about knowledge.”

She emphasizes the concept of Shakti, the primordial cosmic energy embodying the divine feminine, which flows through all beings, manifesting in diverse forms. “That Shakti, the life force, moves through us and it shows itself in different forms,” Upala explains, reflecting on her own experiences.

Hindu women, like Upala, often seek guidance on modern feminism from ancient scriptures. “The beauty with Shakti is, she doesn’t need to give herself up in order to fight for space,” she says. “She holds her own, she knows her place, and no one’s gonna take that away from her. Her job is just to shine and be glorious.”

The concept of feminine power has deep roots in Hindu philosophy, with Shakti regarded as the force from which the universe emanates, akin to a nurturing mother birthing her children. Hindu theologian Rita Sherma elaborates on the dynamic nature of the feminine divine, which transcends gender binaries, encompassing attributes ranging from aggression to nurturing.

Sherma underscores the complementary relationship between masculine and feminine energies, emphasizing the importance of both. “The two are complementary binaries,” she explains. “The feminine divine is certainly dynamic and creative, even in gentle-appearing feminine divine like Radha.”

Like Upala, Sherma experienced a career shift, attributing her transformation to the guiding force of Shakti. She advocates for the reclamation of scriptures such as the Devi Mahatmya, highlighting their empowerment of women throughout history.

Shakti Redding, a yogi and mystic psychologist, recounts her journey of embracing the feminine divine after encountering the Devi Mahatmya and Tantra philosophy. Renaming herself Shakti, she found solace and empowerment in reconnecting with nature and the divine feminine.

Reflecting on her personal struggles, including a terminated pregnancy, Redding emphasizes the healing power of Shakti, which enabled her to overcome grief and shame. She stresses the importance of acknowledging women’s collective experiences and potential for forgiveness and reconciliation.

Redding elucidates the significance of the Tandava, the traditional dance of Shiva and Shakti, symbolizing the balance of feminine and masculine energies in life. She believes that understanding this balance is crucial for healing societal divides and fostering unity.

Upala echoes Redding’s sentiments, advocating for a return to authentic expressions of masculinity and femininity rooted in Hindu principles. She emphasizes the need for men to embrace the divine feminine and support women’s empowerment.

She envisions a future where Hindu women assert their voices and contribute positively to society. “We don’t have to learn or relearn anything,” Upala asserts. “The knowledge is actually in us. And it is for us to enjoy, celebrate and actually share that to the world.”

Karisma Kapoor Speaks At India Conference At Harvard

Bollywood actress Karisma Kapoor was a speaker at the India Conference at the prestigious Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts. Her sister, actress Kareena Kapoor also joined her for an online chat. Sharing the photos, Karisma thanked the team for having her. BFF Malaika Arora, Natasha Poonawalla, Sanjay Kapoor, Maheep Kapoor and others congratulated Lolo on the honor.

On Monday, Karisma took to her Instagram and shared pictures from the Harvard Business School in Boston. The actress spoke about the soft power of Bollywood. In the pictures, she can be seen dressed in a beige Indian attire and a long coat.

Karisma wrote in the caption: “It was an absolute pleasure and honor to be a speaker at the India Conference at Harvard. Shout out to @kareenakapoorkhan for joining us for an impromptu but insightful chat. Thank you to @sunnysandhu24 and team #HarvardIndiaConference for being so wonderful. This was truly special.”

The post also garnered mixed reactions. A troll commented, “So many female scientists, achievers, entrepreneurs this country has produced.. yet Harvard is inviting those who lip-synced to songs and danced around trees to motivate them… it’s sad and hilarious.”Defending the actress, a fan hit back, “You can write a paragraph but cannot read a few words on that screen. It was about Bollywood so why would they invite scientists or entrepreneurs?”

An X user called out Harvard Business School for inviting Karisma Kapoor to speak on ‘soft power of Bollywood’ despite the fact that she isn’t a graduate.

However, another user defended Karisma by commenting, “Uninformed Bewfkoof aurat (dumb woman)! It may interest you to know that Harvard University offers a prominent undergraduate degree program known as ‘Art, Film, and Visual Studies.’ This information is provided to address any gaps in your awareness.”

Another user posted, “From when did graduation became equivalent of wisdom? Why is a woman bashing another woman? (laughing with tears emoji) Jealous?” A third user echoed the thought and commented, “Knowledge is much more than certificates and degrees – at the time when she was active in Bollywood she was way ahead of his time as compare to others actresses #KarishmaKapoor.”

Meanwhile, on the work front, the actress will be soon seen in the upcoming streaming thriller film ‘Murder Mubarak’. The film will drop on Netflix on March 15. (IANS)

Reforming Bollywood: Screenwriters Seek Fairer Contracts to Improve Working Conditions

Crafting stories for the big screen in India’s Bollywood can be a solitary and often financially unrewarding pursuit. The dream of landing a breakthrough project, where a screenwriter receives due credit and financial compensation, keeps many in the industry driven. However, the harsh reality is that until such a milestone is achieved, money and opportunities remain elusive, primarily due to what writers claim are unfair contracts designed to favor producers.

Anjum Rajabali, a senior member of the Screenwriters Association (SWA), India’s counterpart to the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which boasts over 55,000 members nationwide, sheds light on the challenges writers face. Rajabali points to what he describes as “harsh contracts,” characterized by arbitrary termination clauses and meager fees, especially for newcomers. Furthermore, he asserts that these contracts often fail to remunerate writers for reworking drafts and grant producers the authority to determine whether a writer deserves credit for their contributions. Some agreements even go so far as to prohibit writers from seeking union intervention in the event of a dispute with the producer.

Rajabali, a vocal advocate for writers’ rights, emphasizes the need for change. He explains, “Most contracts have arbitrary termination clauses and offer paltry fees, especially to newcomers.” He highlights the power dynamics within the industry, stating, “They also don’t pay writers for reworking drafts and give producers the right to decide whether a writer should be credited for their work or not.” Rajabali points out the restrictive nature of some contracts, noting, “some contracts even ban writers from approaching the union if there’s a dispute with the producer.”

The SWA, a longstanding proponent of writers’ rights, has recently embarked on a more assertive approach to address the perceived imbalance of power between producers and writers. In December, the association convened a meeting to deliberate on the modifications writers desire in their contracts. Over 100 writers participated, including notable Bollywood figures such as Abbas Tyrewala and Sriram Raghavan.

Rajabali outlines the strategy moving forward, stating, “The plan now is to invite producers to sit across the table and work with us to make contracts more equitable.” He suggests that many producers recognize the need for improved compensation and job security for writers. The SWA’s initiative signals a shift towards collaboration, fostering a dialogue to bring about positive changes in the industry.

The BBC sought input from the Producers Guild of India regarding these concerns but, as of now, has not received a response. The industry awaits the producers’ perspective on the matter, as the conversation around fairer contracts gains momentum.

The challenges faced by Bollywood screenwriters highlight the urgent need for contract reform. The Screenwriters Association’s proactive approach and the willingness of influential writers to engage in the conversation demonstrate a collective effort to reshape the landscape of the industry. As the industry navigates these discussions, the hope is that a collaborative effort between writers and producers will lead to contracts that better reflect the contributions and rights of the creative minds behind the screenplays that captivate audiences worldwide.

‘Thor: Love And Thunder’ Nets Rs 64.80 Cr In First 4 Days

By, Akshay Acharya

Even as Bollywood still struggles at the box office, Hollywood and South Indian tentpoles continue to soar to unprecedented heights.

The recently released superhero film ‘Thor: Love and Thunder’, led by a shirtless Chris Hemsworth and Christian Bale thrown in for good measure, netted Rs 64.80 crore domestically (Rs 83.61 crore minus GST) in the first four days of its theatrical run, according to trade sources.

Considering that the much-hyped Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Samrat Prithviraj’, to quote figures from the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), was able to gross Rs 82.3 crore during its entire theatrical run, despite being made tax-free in three major states, the movie-going public in India clearly like their superheroes to be winners.

Independent film trade analyst Sumit Kadel, commenting on the figures, said ‘Thor’ has seen fifth-highest opening weekend ever for a Hollywood film in India.

“From Bollywood, only the Kartik Aaryan-starrer ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ managed to net Rs 65 crore in its opening weekend”, he said. He credited the powerful cast of ‘Thor’ and the brand value of Marvel Studios for pulling in the crowds.

Even the sleeper hit, ‘The Kashmir Files’, had a lukewarm opening weekend, but picked up because of the positive word-of-mouth. ‘The Kashmir Files’, ‘Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2’ and ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ are the only Hindi films in the IMDb Top 10.

The Indian box-office numbers for ‘Thor’, incidentally, mirrored those of the United States, where the film raked in $143 million in its opening weekend, making it the third most profitable release after ‘Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ ($187.4 million) and ‘Jurassic World Dominion’ ($145 million).

Will ‘Thor’ be able to sustain its opening surge? It is likely to see a drop in collections, but it will still cross the safe zone of Rs 100 crore. That will be significantly behind the Rs 217.52 crore made by ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, but closer to Rs 127.31 crore garnered by ‘Dr Strange in the Multiverse of Madness’ — both films are Marvel releases, incidentally.

So, how are Bollywood’s forthcoming big releases likely to fare in this market? According to Kadel, ‘Shamshera’ may bring some respite, given that it’s an ‘event film’ and the buzz around its music can ensure a good opening.

The stakes, though, are high for both Ranbir Kapoor, who is returning to the big screen after four years, and YRF, the Aditya Chopra-helmed production house which has seen three of its recent releases — ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’, ‘Jayeshbhai Jordaar’, and ‘Samrat Prithviraj’ getting mauled at the box office.

Talking about Mani Ratnam’s upcoming epic, ‘Ponniyin Selvan: I’, Kadel said the film has been mounted on a grand scale with a good cast to back up the high production values. It is most likely to further strengthen South Indian cinema’s grip on the pan-India box office.

As for the clash that will unfold next month with the release of the Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Laal Singh Chaddha’ and Akshay Kumar’s ‘Raksha Bandhan’ on the Independence Day long weekend, both films will offer tough competition to each other, but will either make the box office ring with joy? (IANS)

Priyanka Chopra Wants to give Hollywood an influx of Indian talent

Priyanka Chopra Jonas detailed her plans for her production company, Purple Pebble Pictures, which is working in both India and the United States across languages and platforms. Priyanka Chopra Jonas, who has transitioned from a successful Bollywood career to make a mark in the American film and television industry over the past decade, said on Friday that she has a new dream: Flood Hollywood with Indian talent.

At the 18th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Chopra Jonas and her pop icon husband Nick Jonas spoke on a raft of subjects, including the importance of streaming platforms, shooting movies amid a pandemic, and their abiding love for India.

Chopra Jonas detailed her plans for her production company, Purple Pebble Pictures, which is working in both India and the United States across languages and platforms. The actor is managing a full-plate of roles, starring in movies ranging from White Tiger to The Matrix 4.

“My greatest joy with Purple Pebble is to create all-South Asian cast for movies and TV shows in Hollywood. We haven’t seen that very often,” she said. “It is really my quest to try and influx Hollywood with Indian talent as much as I can.”

In their session – the couple’s first joint interview with an Indian media outlet – the entertainment icons also stressed on the romance and magic of big-screen cinema, but insisted that streaming services were here to stay, especially because of the pandemic that has claimed 1.5 million lives worldwide.

And, Chopra Jonas announced plans for her next Hindi film, scheduled sometime next year.  To Jonas, whose production Dash and Lily is streaming on Netflix, over-the-top platforms are a great alternative experience to cinema at a time when going out isn’t always possible.

“There’s certainly room for both…when things go back to a version of normal, the experience of going to a movie theatre, having a popcorn and a drink and watching a great movie is something that is so unique and such a special thing,” he said.

“I am excited to go back to the theatre, she (Chopra Jonas) knows I am a sucker for popcorn in the theatre so I’ll be looking forward to that.”

Chopra Jonas agreed, adding that streaming services are already an essential part of the evolution of entertainment, especially because many people in India still have no access to television or fixed-line electricity and consume content on their phones, using internet data.

“It’s intelligent and smart to get ahead of it…we should be on the right side of it. I certainly am,” she added.

She argued that theatrical releases have an inherent romance and charm but it was not a mutually exclusive choice – go out when you want and stay in when you don’t want to.

“I feel that sometimes in India we think of streaming services as second best to theatre when it comes to storytelling. I disagree with that,” she said.

She also liked that platforms individually curate feeds, and praised the independence to create any kind of content while knowing that there’s going to a viewership through it, through a streaming service. “There’s a power in that.”

Jonas, who recently reprised his role as a mentor in the long-running American talent show The Voice, said it was great to get back to shooting but added that it was very different on set from the previous season a year ago.

“To be able to come back and be on set, it’s a nice thing. Everyone’s taking the necessary protocols and taking this seriously,” he said. “The fact that it can be done in a safe way…there’s an exuberance on set….it’s great to see that we are able to be back on the set.”

When asked about her future plans, Chopra Jonas spoke about the White Tiger, an upcoming movie on Netflix based on Aravind Adiga’s Booker-winning 2008 novel.

“I really want to do a Hindi film…I am hoping I will be able to do one end of the coming year. I am in conversation with a few people and we are trying to come together to make a really fun Hindi movie,” she said.

Jonas also touched on his love for India, where he got married in a fairytale wedding in 2018 – and being called “jiju” (brother-in-law) by everyone.

The couple has been back several times, including for Holi and Diwali, and Jonas shared his love for Indian food.

“And so many ladoos stuffed in your face. Jiju’s been given so many ladoos,” Chopra Jonas cut in.  But why universally “jiju”? Jonas had an explanation. “Priyanka is the sister to the country in a way and I am happy to be the sister’s husband… it’s a beautiful thing,” he said.

To this, Chopra Jonas burst into laughter and said, “I have become the sister since you married me… I wasn’t a sister before.”