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.”

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.”