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Ready for dolls that are Diverse, Ambitious and Feminist? This Harvard grad says, its about time!

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Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.41.52 PMSTATEN ISLAND (Diya TV) — Neha Chauhan Woodward, an Indian-American Staten Island native, created a startup toy company with a specific vision: Create dolls that more accurately reflect the modern girl.

Woodward, 29, said she came up with the idea while she was a Stanford MBA student — a degree she pursued after a brief career as an investment banking analyst at JP Morgan and completing her undergraduate studies in economics at Harvard. She recalled playing with barbies growing up, dolls which accessorized hairbrushes to match the dolls shoes, and rode around in a bright pink Jeep.

She and her friends fancied themselves as ambitious professionals from a very young age, and these dolls didn’t reflect how they viewed themselves when growing up, she said.Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 1.40.55 PM

“The toys I played with had such an impact on me, but they weren’t a great reflection of me or my friends, who were so smart and so diverse in their interests and backgrounds. I knew we needed to do better.”

She drew inspiration for her company, Willowbrook Girls, after remembering a doll store that neighbored a coffee shop she frequented during college. This store, she said, embodied and embraced the same message in their dolls that she and her friends called into question so many years ago.

“Next door to the coffee shop I studied in was a very popular doll store,” she said. “The emphasis on appearances, with these doll hair salons and doll tea parties that parents were expected to bring their kids to really upset me. If anything, this company had a huge opportunity to empower girls.”

Woodward spent years working in e-commerce, logging tenure with sites such as Blue Apron and Diapers.com, and decided to use her tech market savvy to form the concept for Willowbrook Girls. Her company currently produces seven dolls, each reflective and complete with a story series that is based off the similarly ambitious childhood friends she grew up with on Willowbrook Road. When fully funded, each doll will have a corresponding book about their endeavors. The first book will be about the Willowbrook Girls starting a business at their school, she said.

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Growing up Indian-American, Woodward made paramount the issue of diversity in her dolls — she’s all too familiar with the diversity her dolls were lacking while growing up, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by people of color, she said.

“A lot of girls I spoke to said that they wanted dolls that looked like them,” she said. “They wanted characters that were relatable. You have to see something to know that you can be it.”

Though Willowbrook Girls aren’t for sale yet, Woodward said she is nearing the completion of her Kickstarter Campaign, in an effort to raise money for the first doll, Cara, a half-Latina with brown eyes and long blond hair, who is an entrepreneur and is always coming up with new company ideas. She’s crafty, curious, opinionated and sharp. After Cara becomes available for sale, Woodward hopes to use the proceeds to begin bringing other dolls to the market.

“I’ve always had a very entrepreneurial spirit, and this was a mission that I cared about,” she said. “This was the right time to do it, and it’s something that I really wanted to see happen.”

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Promising to be the film fest for “woke desis”, NYC SAFF to debut this November

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NYCSAFF Film Line-up

NEW YORK (Diya TV) — Promising to be the fest for “contemporary, aware, woke desis”, NYC SAFF is set to make its debut this fall at the Altman building in New York City. After the roaring success of the 5th annual Dallas-Fort Worth South Asian Film Festival (DFW SAFF), JINGO Media presents its second film festival in the United States, the New York City South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF), gearing up to make its debut in mid-November at various venues around Chelsea in Manhattan. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival (NYC SAFF) opens with a collection of gut-punches, knee slappers, and laughing gags. Running over 3 days, be sure to bring out your inner cinephile.

Opening the fest is Rohit Karn Batra’s directorial debut Line of Descent a white-knuckled cop thriller starring Brendan Fraser, and Abhay Deol. The story follows a mafia family dispute caught in the crosshairs of a police officer who guides their tragic downfall, and an arms dealer with a spy on the inside. The centerpiece film is the painstakingly painted ‘Bollywood Rose‘ based on true events, it tells the story of a forbidden love in a ruthless city. ‘Kaamyaab‘ which as recently screened at the the Chicago South Asian Film Festival(CSAFF) makes its way into NYC SAFF followed by other festival favorites like Ephemera, Khejdi, and Agency bolstering an already stellar line up. Expect to meet indie stars Tannishtha Chatterjee & Nawazuddin Siddiqui at the closing night film, Roam Rome Mein, a story that follows Reena who has run away to Italy in order to escape her overly strict parents, however, her brother, Raj in the turmoils of his own awakening sets out on a journey to find her.

The short film selection features Eliezer Vergaras ‘Fractured Souls‘; a baffling self revelation that unfolds as one mans frustration leads him into cascading tragedies. Vick Krishnas ‘Freak‘, a father must cope with unexpected news on his daughters surprise birthday. The feature lineup has a cup for everyone be it feature, documentary, fiction, or nonfiction. ‘Namdev Bhau‘ a man so flustered by the noise of Delhi vows to not speak and undertakes a pilgrimage of silence until a young boy decides to tag along. The disturbing Mai Ghat’ is based on the true story of two police officers who wrongly arrest a boy and tortured him to death. Its a powerhouse film exploring the violent act putting to question our personal and social conscience. It wouldn’t be a proper a film festival without films that challenge us and make us question ourselves.

Discussing topics that are too often swept under the rug like LGBT, womens rights and the societal oppression.The Last Letter‘ follows Mohan, a 70-year old gay man who has remained in the closet, that is, until the comfort he built for himself comes tumbling down. The Unexpected tells the story of a woman who despite achieving everything in life cannot conceive a child. Through its range of films, NYCSAFF aims to challenge, entertain, inspire and enrich.

Presented by Toyota and produced by JINGO Media, a NYC and Dallas-based events and public relations company, the inaugural, three-day festival boasts world, U.S. and New York City premieres of more than 25 shorts, documentaries and feature films focused on the unique stories of the South Asian Diaspora and those of our brothers and sisters back home. JINGO Media is also the parent company of DFW SAFF, which was conceptualized and created in 2015. 

“We are so proud to create yet another platform for world-class independent cinema from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives,” said Jitin Hingorani, CEO/Principal of JINGO Media, a public relations company that launched in New York City in 2010. “We’re coming full circle with this festival because Manhattan is where it all began for us almost 10 years ago. We are certain that the community-at-large will embrace us and celebrate our joyous homecoming.” 

NYC SAFF has also partnered with The India Center Foundation (ICF), a New York City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of the Indian subcontinent, the promotion of its cultural life and the unique relationship between India and the United States. “To partner with NYC SAFF means that ICF is reaching the audience we wish to serve: contemporary, aware, woke desis and lovers of Indian and Diasporic creativity and storytelling. As a filmmaker whose film was so lovingly received at DFW SAFF, I know we are working with a staff who is dedicated and eager to give New Yorkers the film experience they deserve when it comes to screening South Asian cinema. We are looking forward to partnering on great conversations and panels around the films we see together,” said Priya Giri Desai, Founding Director of ICF.

Complete with an opening night red carpet , a curated set of film screenings and a closing night after party, this New York debut of an indie fest, is looking to leave you bruised with heartache, emotional bliss and a belly full of laughter, gasping for more. The first ever New York South Asian Film Festival promises one for the books!

It all goes down from November 15th though the 17th at The Altman Building. With the film screenings occurring throughout the weekend at AMC 34th street 14.

Diya TV is a proud media partner for the event, and will be onsite covering the fest. For tickets and information: https://www.nycsaff.com/tickets

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Indian Ambassador, Shringla speaks to U.S. Congress about Kashmir

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AMB. Shringla speaks to congress about Kashmir | Diya TV News

WASHINGTON (Diya TV)  — Indian Ambassador to the U.S. Harsh Shringla met with members of Congress at a private roundtable briefing, hosted by Southern California Congressman Brad Sherman. Sherman, who has been a supporter of India, took to Twitter recently to share his concerns about Kashmir and said serious questions about Kashmir were asked at the briefing.

President Trump is being urged to fix the H1-B visa process and do away with country-specific limits, with the latest effort for reform being spearheaded by 60 U.S. business school deans and CEO’s.

In an earthquake, seconds matter. So on the anniversary of the deadly 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked Northern California, state officials announced the launch of America’s first statewide earthquake early warning system.

Tabla Maestro Zakir Hussain will be coming to Boston next month to perform at the Berklee India Exchange, where he will also be conferred with an honorary doctorate by the esteemed music school. A Zakir Hussain Scholarship at Berklee is also being established.

And we have incredible video of three kids from India rescuing their dog from a snake that’s equal parts courageous and nuts.

Ravi Kapur contributed to this report.

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Celebrity Chef, Vikas Khanna’s ‘The Last Color’ to open 10th annual CSAFF

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Celebrity Chef, Vikas Khanna's 'The Last Color' to open 10th annual CSAFF

CHICAGO (Diya TV) – Celebrity Chef, Vikas Khanna’s lastest film venture, ‘The Last Color’ will open the 10th annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival (CSAFF). And if that didn’t get your attention, the Michelin-starred chef will also cater the opening night reception. With a densely-packed and competitive lineup of over 50 films ranging in scope from documentary, features and shorts the fest promises a weekend full of entertainment for Chicagoland.

The Festival will showcase films from and about South Asia, spanning countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan. Through this extensive array of cinema, audiences will be able to take a deep dive into these rich cultures and experience the intimate complexities and stories within them. 

Vikas Khanna’s ‘The Last Color’ to open the 10th annual Chicago South Asian Film Festival

The Opening Night Film: The Last Color is produced, written, and directed by Michelin-starred chef, Vikas Khanna, and stars veteran actor Neena Gupta. The film tells the story of 9-year old Chhoti, a tightrope walker, struggling to survive and make ends meet while she dreams of attending school. In the midst of her toils Chhoti meets Noor, a widow who struggles a life of abstinence and isolation, together their friendship must stand the test of taboos and age-old beliefs that perforate Varanasi, India. Festival manager, Jigar Shah said, “This Opening Night film will shed light on both the complexities and the beauty of certain areas of South Asian Culture.”

The centerpiece for this year, award winning director Hardik Mehta’s Kaamyaab – a story about a washed up side actor from the hey days of Bollywood, who realises that he ‘retired’ on the verge of a rare milestone – he had featured in 499 Hindi films!

Hardik Mehta’s Kaamyaab will be the centerpiece film at the 10th annual festival with Rohena Gera’s Sir as the closing night film.
A Destruction follows the life of 11-year old Humera as she grows up in a village in Pakistan

In this broad palette of emotions and themes are films that are fearless on speaking about social issues within the community, stories about women’s empowerment, social justice and more. Nagarkirtan, tells the story of a boy growing up in rural Bengal who soon realizes he is a woman with the physique of a man forcing him to flee to a world that will accept him for his inner truths. The documentary A Destruction focuses on 11-year old Humera growing up in a coastal village near Karachi, Pakistan, as she dreams of one day becoming a doctor. However, when tensions spill into the village and threaten the only school to shut down, she must face the intense pressure of foregoing her dreams for an arranged marriage.

Another influential gem, at this fest this year, is the film Kaifinama, which details the life and art of Kaifi Azmi, an Urdu progressive poet who became one of the foremost lyricists in the Hindi Film industry out of meager beginnings. His daughter, veteran actress, Shabana Azmi is slated to be in attendance for the fest.

Providing bursts of levity and grace between the full length features are the stellar and bite-sized shorts such as Rahul Chaturvedi’s hilariously quirky Forbidden Tikka Masala, Nirav Bhakta’s HBO APA winner Halwa. Another must-see screening would be Nikhil Singh Rajputt’s Blood Buddhas – a documentary about India’s quest to repatriate cultural, historical artifacts, that “purloined during colonial times,”.

From traditional wide-screen theaters to Virtual Reality booths, Documentary features to short features; Afghanistan to Bangladesh, Nepal to Sri lanka, CSAFF aims to be a conflux of cultures, and ideas, as well as an examination of challenges and change.

Alongside post-film Q&A discussions, award ceremonies, the 10th annual CSAFF promies to be the best ever yet! If a glamorous Red Carpet, a chance to rub shoulders with film makers, actors and cinephiles wasn’t enough, CSAFF knows how to throw down, Chi-town style! The Festival after party will be headlined by celebrity musician DJ Karsh Kale.

It all takes place from September 19th through the 22nd at the VENUE SIX10 in the Spertus Institute. With more than 50 other films that will be screened throughout the weekend at the Showplace ICON Theater and DePaul University.

Diya TV is a proud media partner for the event, and will be onsite covering the fest. For tickets and information: https://www.csaff.org/tickets/

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