Meeting the legend (again)…On Thursday, June 23rd, we celebrated the remarkable career of Al Pacino in a one night only fundraiser benefiting the Shakespeare Center Los Angeles. No surprise, Pacino enthralled the audience with insights on his memorable roles, a no-holds barred Q&A session, and also a dramatic reading of “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” from Julius Caesar by the Bard. Topping it off was a private meet-and-greet where we also flipped through some private photos of the exact spot (the Rostra Romanum) where the Mark Antony would’ve delivered the eulogy.
The GLAAD Media Awards were back in full swing on Saturday, April 2nd at the historic Beverly Hilton Hotel. Dhalla attended the celeb-packed event with friend, Pooja Batra (former Miss India, and Bollywood actress). The dynamic non-profit works tirelessly through entertainment, news, and digital media to share stories from the LGBTQ community that accelerate acceptance and equality. This year’s attendees included actress, Mj Rodriguez, singer-songwriter, Kacey Musgraves, and actor, Andrew Garfield.
Lata Mangeskhar — the saintly lady in white, unmarried, devoted to her art, almost prudish — is an unlikely guiding diva for queers, but in some sense she was like Edith Piaf to French or Barbara Streisand to Americans. Sandip Roy interviews Dhalla for KALW to explore Lata’s indelible influence. Listen HERE
Pinch me! Just spent an intimate afternoon with the legend himself as we watched his 1979 movie, “And Justice For All.” More than four decades ago, this movie presented a raw commentary on greed, brutality, and racial and social justice in a way that few movies can nowadays. There’s a reason they call it a “classic.”
Shot on location in Los Angeles and Kenya, it features a cast including Sakina Jaffrey (House of Cards, The Mindy Project), Sachin Bhatt (Bollywood Beats), Wilson Cruz (Star Trek: Discovery, My So-Called Life), Rebecca Hazlewood (The Good Place), Parvesh Cheena (Outsourced) and Anil Kumar (24, The Cape).
The Ode premiered to a sold-out audience at the OUTFEST Film Festival in Los Angeles (July 2008), and was showcased at festivals around the world to tremendous acclaim. Largely unseen outside the festival circuit, for a limited time, the movie is finally available for you to see (link below, click on blue Vimeo button).
Praise for “THE ODE” —
“A beautiful portrait of the American experience for many first and second-generation Indian-Americans” (CineQueer, 18 July 2008)
“A film with performances that are “memorable” and filled with “cinematic intensity” (Planet Homo, 19 July 2008).
“Inspires after-film contemplation” (The UCLA Asia Institute)
“Performances that are “noteworthy” (Asia Pacific Arts, 8 August 2008).
On Sept 6th, India’s Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality as it struck down Section 377. India’s leading daily newspapers, The Indian Express and The Free Press Journal both listed Dhalla’s novel “The Exiles” (HarperCollins) as part of their list of must-read books reflecting the LGBTQ journey.
In a response to The Telegraph, another leading paper, Dhalla said, “By making this groundbreaking decision, the Supreme Court has taken an important step in dismantling the “closet” which is destructive not only to LGBTQ people, but equally to heterosexuals. When people are not given the dignity and freedom to live authentically, they create a web of deceit that impacts not only their own lives, but also the lives of other people and the society they inhabit. Cases of partners who feel duped and betrayed when they discover their spouses are gay are not unusual, and often, we blame only the so-called deceitful, closeted individual. But, are we also not to blame as a society for refusing to recognize their right to live freely and proudly, and thereby enforcing the closet?
“Let’s be clear on one thing: Hinduism has never seen homosexuality as a religious sin. The normalcy of same-sex desire, which had always been evident — even celebrated — in Hindu scriptures was perverted only recently by the British, who ironically, have long moved on from their own draconian laws. It’s about time that India, too, which is doing such a commendable job of recognizing the destruction that colonialism caused, shake off this legacy of human oppression.”
Embrace, a short film written and directed by Dhalla, and starring Rebecca Hazlewood (Outsourced) and Ajay Mehta (The Mindy Project, Royal Pains) is now available for free streaming on platforms like PLEX and Filmocracy.
Based on a true story of the 2008 Mumbai Terror attacks, Embrace was an official selection at festivals including NYIFF, Louisville International Film Festival, and IFFCA — where it won the Audience Choice – Best Director Award. It was the first ever dramatization of the tragedy, and was filmed in under 2 days.
The Huffington Post praises Embrace as a movie that “captures the raw intensity of two ordinary people — a couple — caught in hotel crossfire that lasted three days…How they held each other in the midst of Hell was a fascinating glimpse of humanity in crisis. The film delivers a message of the defeat of evil and triumph over adversity.”
Hazlewood, who plays Meera, says, “She’s a wife, she’s a daughter, but ultimately she’s a Mother. She’s a lioness. She goes from being a victim and potentially falling apart to making a difficult choice so that her child isn’t orphaned by the brutal terror attack. She makes the ultimate sacrifice and I have incredible respect for her.”
“Ali (the protagonist) has come a long way from his native Kenya to a hostile Los Angeles. His life is divided between his love for his mother’s curries, his devotion to the filmi music of the great Lata Mangeshkar and his desire to belong to a society that doesn’t seem to notice his presence. The author weaves a story that is torn between the crudest realism and fragments of a quasi-dreamlike nature…nostalgia mingles with the desire for freedom. Ali never finds what he had come for and never gets rid of what he was escaping.” — M.J. Lorenzo
Full Spanish article below:
Dhalla’s debut novel, Ode to Lata has been featured in the May 2018 edition of Afribuku – Cultura Aficana Contemporánea, Spain’s leading magazine on African culture and art. Included are also two chapters from the novel’s Spanish version which was published by Baphala Ediciones in 2017.
Editor, Mariana Jorge Lozano says, “The eroticism in Oda to Lata make it a key work in our catalog. The representation that Ghalib Shiraz Dhalla makes of his characters — actively sexual beings, full of compassion and realism — offer a vision of queer Africa that, unfortunately, is still scarce.”
Read the feature HERE.