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Not enough roles for diverse actors? Find out what this mom did to change that

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Nikki Shah stars as a woman out for revenge in the indie film “Paid in Full,” which will show Sunday and next week at the Riviera Cinema in Farmington Hills. (Photo: Nipa Shah)

Nikki Shah stars as a woman out for revenge in the indie film “Paid in Full,” which will show Sunday and next week at the Riviera Cinema in Farmington Hills.
(Photo: Nipa Shah)

DETROIT (Diya TV) — When Nipa Shah came to America from India following an arranged marriage at age 21, she never pictured her future 30 years later as an actress and sex trafficking activist.

Her first film, “Paid in Full,” was created in an effort to give her adult daughter, Nikki Shah, a job, she said. Nikki had been tirelessly looking for work in the film industry for a decade in Michigan and New York.

“She wasn’t getting good roles,” said Shah of her daughter. “Most Hollywood films won’t have any major roles for non-Hollywood people. All of the roles are puny, or crappy, or they’re roles that are pretty much degrading and exploiting women. We were 110 percent behind our daughter wanting to get into films, but we didn’t want her to take any roles that exploited her.”

“We were in New York on the subway and I asked her, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ ” said Shah. “And I said OK then, I’ll make a movie for you. Sometimes you say these things and the universe makes it happen.”

Operating as the film’s executive producer, Shah cast her daughter as the lead role of Rani Chopra, a vengeful woman looking to avenge the life of her sister, who was forced into sex trafficking and killed in the process. Her son, Jay Shah, was also listed as a production assistant for the film.

The film also stars Jonathan Bennett, the actor known for playing Lindsay Lohan’s love interest in the film “Mean Girls.” James Russo and singer Ginuwine also starred in the film. “Paid in Full” was directed by Lance Kawas and written by Marc Prey. In all, the film carried a 40-person crew.

Next week, Shah’s film will premiere at a local cinema in Farmington Hills, MI. She rented the theatre for a sold-out red carpet premiere, and the crime drama will continue to be shown at the theatre for a one-week run. Shah is also working on distribution, hoping to promote it through multiple platforms such as Amazon, Hulu and other video-on-demand outlets.

“I spent so much more money than originally planned … my husband calls it an expensive learning experience,” said Shah.

The underlying theme of the film, as mentioned previously, is sex trafficking, “a story that needs to be told,” she said.

“When we talk about sex trafficking, we think India, Nepal, eastern Europe, but this is domestic sex trafficking where these girls have fallen into a situation and they’re imprisoned by these pimps. It’s not just runaway girls … these girls can come from affluent families.”

Arts & Culture

U.S. and India conduct joint military drill on Diego Garcia in Indian Ocean

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Indian Ocean drill

DIEGO GARCIA, Indian Ocean (Diya TV) — The U.S. and Indian Navies went submarine hunting in the Indian Ocean, their first bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise since a signing pact to work more closely together last fall.

India’s exports to China are up in 2019, while imports declined, leading to a $10 billion reduction in India’s trade deficit with China. Analysts say the current Washington-Beijing trade war has also opened things up for India.

The Jallianwala Massacre 100 years ago that left hundreds dead and 1200 injured at the hands of British troops is considered a key turning point towards a free India. British prime minister Theresa May marked the occasion by expressing “deep regret”, but there are still no apologies.

An effort by an American and British companies to help Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal save the airline from collapse dissolved after Etihad Airways and TPG Capital threatened to walk away themselves if Goyal was part of the deal.

And comedian Hasan Minhaj, who won a 2017 Peabody Award, received another Peabody nomination in the entertainment category for his Netflix show, “Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj.”

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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Women filmmakers shine at the 2019 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

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IFFLA staff with the 2019 festival winners

LOS ANGELES (Diya TV) — The 17th annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA) concluded Sunday night with the zany slice-of-life film, The Odds, directed by Megha Ramaswamy. Complete with a glamorous closing night red carpet, and an awards ceremony, the festival ended with an after party at the Spice Affair in Beverly Hills.

(From Left to Right) Praveen Morchale, Christina Marouda, Shazia Iqbal, Anand Patwardhan, Nitin Sonawane , Divya Kohli Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

IFFLA was only four days this year (compared to five days in previous years), but there was still so much to see during that time. In addition to the curated set of films, there was an incredible panel discussion, Breaking in Brown: Making it to Series in TV’s Golden Age, that featured panelists working in various fields in the television industry and their struggles to rise up through the ranks in the Hollywood while being brown.

Panel Discussion Breaking in Brown. Courtesy: Javeed Sheikh Photography

This year’s film lineup boasted five world premieres, two North American premieres, two U.S. premieres and eleven Los Angeles Premieres, with films presented in nine different languages. The overall atmosphere was very relaxed, even with films that tackled difficult subject matters. Roughly fifty percent of the films were directed by women. Filmmakers and staff alike hoped for a future where it will be normal to have women and men equally making films.

Kicking off the awards ceremony, Director of Programming, Mike Dougherty, announced the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature, Widow of Silence.

“We present the Grand Jury prize to a film that illuminates a condition that most of the world doesn’t get to see and shines a light on the characters that live through it everyday…This filmmaker’s civic disobedience illustrates their love and compassion for their country and their people, and the craft of their film-making was beautifully wise and refined.”

Director Praveen Morchhale was visibly surprised as he walked up to receive his award. The film he said was about those, “that nobody talks about and nobody treats them as a human.” Even though it was Morchhale’s first time at IFFLA, he felt as if he had been coming here for many years. He credited his win to the women in Kashmir the film portrayed.

The Audience Award for Best Feature went to Reason. Director Anand Patwardhan received a standing ovation when he went to collect his award. Patwardhan said, “most of the time our film is getting thrown out of festivals, I wasn’t expecting this.” He added that it meant a lot for the film to be well received at IFFLA and how that will hopefully impact its reception in India.

Shazia Iqbal’s Bebaak was a crowd favorite winning the Audience Award For Best Short Film. The jury mentioned how she almost gave up on filming because she was getting thrown out of mosques. Iqbal spoke about how when people think of Muslims, they only think of Muslim men and not women, many of whom experience tremendous misogyny. She hopes people will be able to “see beyond what misogyny and religion does to people.” Iqbal added, “a director is nothing without their team.”

“a layered portrait of a woman determined to pursue her needs and impulses,” the Grand Jury awarded their prize for Best Short to The Field from director Sandhya Suri. “the film takes images that normally evoke a sense of fear and flips the narrative on its head redefining a new more empowered world for the female protagonist and exploring an often unseen story of a woman’s drive and agency over her own body and life,” the jury added.

After the awards, Dougherty introduced the closing night film, The Odds by saying the film was the “perfect way to close IFFLA on a celebratory note.”


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Arts & Culture

One-on-One with Prime Minister Modi

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One-on-One with Modi

NEW DELHI (Diya TV) — In a rare sit-down interview in the middle of an election, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi discusses his first term and what he plans to accomplish if he is elected to a second term. Watch the full interview tonight on a special Diya TV Dialogue at 7 pm.

Two U.S. Senators are urging more negotiations with India over a Trump administration plan to end preferential imports because it could raise costs for American consumers.

Meanwhile, India purchased a missile system from Russia. Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is hopeful the deal will avoid sanctions and scrutiny from the U.S.

Thiru Vignarajah a former federal prosecutor, who also once served as deputy Attorney General in the state of Maryland, announced he is running for mayor of Baltimore as a Democrat.

And our entertainment reporter, Kari Lane will take you behind the scenes at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, an event proudly sponsored by Diya TV, full of some of the brightest stars you will soon see on the silver screen.

Ravi Kapur & Alejandro Quintana contributed to this report.

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