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    Posted Oct 27, 2011, 1:24 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne
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DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis

posted Oct 27, 2011, 1:24 PM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

by Diana Rohini La Vigne-Gupta
It is back ladies and gentlemen, our annual list of South Asian movers and shakers in the mainstream for 2005. This year saw many amazing successes and noteworthy accomplishments, which will influence millions of people.

DesiClub.com's Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2005

Back by overwhelming popularity, we are bringing you the most anticipated list of the year, The Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2005! With so many cool Desis in the US, UK and Canada, it was hard to narrow down the list to just 50. Just like last year, 2005 was an incredible year for South Asians in the West and this could have easily been a top 500 coolest Desis list without any hesitation. The Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2004 was a tough list to beat, however, 2005 brings together Desis that could possibly top last year's list. These individuals all have extraordinary talents and achieved major success, which led to their addition on this distinguished list.

People don't make the top 50 list because they are wealthy or their name is mentioned in the headlines. Sure, that helps us identify noteworthy talent, but this list screens the rich and famous and does its best to only include those who are doing something meaningful with their fame or success. We all know that doing something meaningful for your community has a positive effect on those inside and outside of it. Whether it's bringing cutting edge music to the mainstream, being a community activist, or making significant medical and business contributions to society, these individuals are 2005's top-most productive, prominent and influential Desis.

It has long been argued that America, UK, and Canada lack recognition opportunities for Desis in the mainstream. In conjunction with our DesiClub.com South Asian Media Awards, this list was created to publicly acknowledge those who deserve a pat on the back for their hard work and efforts. This list was created to inspire and educate the world around us, Desis are not only smart and cool, but are a part of the fabric that makes up our global community. Our success in North America and the UK is independent from being a South Asian, but being South Asian-Americans and British-Asians.

What makes a cool Desi? There isn't an easy answer to this question. It could be the way they raised awareness for a cause, the way they climbed to the top of the corporate ladder despite being the only one with brown skin, or it could be the way they used their own culture and creative talents and brought them to the mainstream. As we've mentioned, this list isn't about excluding the hundreds of other truly cool and deserving Desis but appreciating the few top ones on an annual basis.

These South Asians act as role models in the community and provide everyone with the success stories that are so important to hear, pass along and be inspired by. Cool isn't a style, an age, a type of occupation. Cool is what you do with what you have! These Desis are doing the most with their talents, skills, and influence and our hats are off to their perseverance and dedication.

Without further ado, let's celebrate together with the outstanding Top 50 Coolest Desis of 2005!

50. Akshay Buddiga50. Akshay Buddiga
Location: Colorado, USA
Who Is He: Student
Why Is He Cool: Akshay is an unlikely cool Desi but became popular after he fainted on-stage when asked to spell "alopecoid" during the 77th Annual Scripps Spelling Bee. He subsequently got back up, spelled it correctly, and went on to capture second place in the competition. He became an overnight celebrity with his appearances on Oprah and Letterman. At just 13 years old, Akshay is the youngest Top 50 Coolest Desi of 2005!
What's Next: Next year, he'll figure out the latest fainting prevention methods and go home with the spelling bee first place trophy and title! Everyone is routing for him, but even if he doesn't win, he will always be everyone's little hero!
Cool Fun Fact: It's cool enough that we had Akshay on this list, but it should come as no surprise that he is an avid reader, enjoys playing harp, chess, basketball, and video games. Also, his brother, Pratyush, is the 2002 national champion, but he never fainted.

49. Radhika Nagpal49. Radhika Nagpal
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Who Is She: Professor of Computer Science at Harvard University
Why Is She Cool: In 2005, Radhika won $200,000 from Microsoft's New Faculty Fellowship Awards. Her research interest is in engineering self-organizing, self-repairing systems, using inspiration from biology, and better understanding robust collective behavior in biological systems. The Microsoft New Faculty Fellowship Awards program offers awards to early-career university professors who demonstrate exceptional talent for novel research and leadership in their discipline.
What's Next: Radhika will continue her in-depth research and make earth-shattering revelations about collective behavior.
Cool Fun Fact: This young brainy educator is also the founder of the award-winning MIT Bhangra team, The Punjab Club.

48. Lubna Khalid48. Lubna Khalid
Location: California, USA
Who Is She: Founder of Real Cosmetics, Filmmaker
Why Is She Cool: The young filmmaker and entrepreneur, Lubna has taken her cosmetic line for Desi skin tones to another level. The company, Real Cosmetics, has been featured in Oprah, W, Shape, and Cosmo Magazines and has distribution deals throughout the United States. Its about time South Asian women get the kind of attention from cosmetic companies that they deserve, and Lubna has surely done her part to bring awareness to this market and its needs.
What's Next: Lubna will be looking at launching new film projects in the coming year.
Cool Fun Fact: This beautiful Pakistani-American started her career as a fashion model before moving into film-making and then founding Real Cosmetics.

47. Suresh Joachim47. Suresh Joachim
Location: Toronto, Canada
Who Is He: Humanitarian & World Record Breaker
Why Is He Cool: Suresh is using the publicity around breaking world records to help bring awareness for peace and the end of world poverty. He's achieved 18 world records, which include a run for 1,000 consecutive hours, balancing on 1 foot for over 76 hours, travelling on an escalator for 7 days, performing 84 hours of continuous drumming, broadcasting on the radio for 120 consecutive hours and his 2005 ended with breaking a dancing world record. Suresh smashed the record by dancing non-stop without sleep for 100 hours with over 1,500 songs having been played. He started a petition calling for world peace and this platform is getting him the attention needed for his causes.
What's Next: Suresh is looking to break 150 records in 8 years so he has his work cut out for him. Some of the records he'll shoot for are most roles played in one Hollywood movie, which are 35 characters, to golf 401 holes in 24 hours, to sing Elvis songs for 100-plus hours, and to swim the English Channel in 27 hours.
Cool Fun Fact: This young Sri Lankan-born guy's motto is "No poverty. No Disease. No War." Very cool indeed!

46. Lata Krishnan46. Lata Krishnan
Location: California, USA
Who Is She: President of AIF & CFO of Smart Modular
Why Is She Cool: After founding a company, having children, becoming the President of the nation's largest Indian non-profit, American Indian Foundation (AIF), and successfully beating the odds against cancer, Lata lives ever so vividly to tell her tale. She was selected as Citizen of the Year and contributes a lot of time towards charitable causes, while maintaining a healthy balanced home life. She has inspired all those who've worked with her and gives hope to victims of cancer. She is a strong role model for women, and greatly respected by both genders for her achievements in 2005.
What's Next: Lata is a business woman and strives to grab more of the marketplace. Both her and her husband will probably build a few more companies in the coming years just for fun; however, she would personally be most vested in helping raise her child.
Cool Fun Fact: Lata became the highest-compensated woman executive among the largest publicly traded companies in Silicon Valley. She's married to Ajay Shah who is her partner at work too!

45. Fred Hassan45. Fred Hassan
Location: New Jersey, USA
Who Is He: CEO of Schering-Plough Corporation
Why Is He Cool: Fred is the highest paid Indian executive in America and rightly so. With Schering-Plough getting notoriety in many areas from being named one of the Top 10 places to work for mothers, to numerous new drug patents coming down the line, Fred is making an impact in the health and drug industry. Ofcourse, with a name like Fred Hassan, you know he's cool!
What's Next: Fred will continue introducing useful prescription medicines and consumer health products, which will all leave his legacy as being the one to give Pfizer a run for their money!
Cool Fun Fact: Fred currently serves on the Board of Directors of Avon Products, Inc.

44. Gurdeep Singh Pall44. Gurdeep Singh Pall
Location: Washington, USA
Who Is He: Corporate VP at Microsoft
Why Is He Cool: Gurdeep is the Corporate Vice President of the Live Communications Team in the Real-Time Collaboration Group at Microsoft. He climbed his way from the lowest to one of the highest ranks on the Microsoft corporate ladder in less than fifteen years. He has also become the first Sikh to be appointed to one of Microsoft's top echelons.
What's Next: At Thirty-Eight years old and successfully navigating the Microsoft landscape, Pall might just become Co-Captain to Bill Gates one day and sooner than you think.
Cool Fun Fact: Gurdeep did his M.S. thesis research on "RAGA: Musical Gantt Charts for Scheduling in Distributed Real-Time Systems." Okay!

43. Ravi Bansal43. Ravi Bansal
Location: California, USA
Who Is He: Hollywood Concept Illustrator, Designer
Why Is He Cool: Ravi is flying well below the radar, but he will not remain there for long. In just 2005, the films that he has worked on as the Concept Illustrator or Designer include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Batman Begins. During 2005, Ravi also started work on upcoming films Eragon, The Return of Zoom and Flyboys, which will all be released in 2006. It's hard to miss his name as the only senior level Desi working on these mainstream films and his creative talents will surely bring him from behind the scenes to the spotlight!
What's Next: Ravi is looking forward to working on an untitled Sci-Fi thriller about a team of astronauts set out on a mission to re-ignite a part of the dying sun.
Cool Fun Fact: How many people can say they worked on a James Bond, Star Wars, and Harry Potter film? Ravi has an incredible talent that applies to all types of films, making him very cool! Look out for his name in the credits!

42. Raj Mathai42. Raj Mathai
Location: California, USA
Who Is He: Broadcast Sports Anchor and Producer for NBC
Why Is He Cool: Two-time Emmy winner, Raj serves as sports director for NBC11, a top-rated Sports Sunday program in California. Raj is also one of the most committed community supporters in the Bay Area of California. A sign of his popularity with the people, a local business group recently invited him to emcee but his schedule was booked solid for over 3 months. Talk about celebrity status! Ofcourse, he could've made this list for his name alone - mathai, Yummy!
What's Next: After covering the Olympics for NBC in early 2006, Raj is in a good position to make 2006 another Emmy-award winning year.
Cool Fun Fact: Raj always dresses impeccably and recently entertained a group of journalists who watched him eat a dosa with a full suit on, minutes before going on-air and never spilling a drop on himself. Try to beat that!

41. Mana Bhatt41. Mana Bhatt
Location: New Jersey, USA
Who Is She: Singer & Song Writer
Why Is She Cool: Newcomer musician, Mana left her promising corporate financial job with HSBC Bank, made a CD and video, which got airtime on every major Desi media outlet in America in less than three weeks from release and to top it off, she snagged a record deal all within one month. Of the Top 50 Coolest Desis, she is number one in the newcomer category.
What's Next: Mana is working on new material already and it's no doubt Hollywood and Bollywood will be knocking at her door soon for the opportunity to feature her music on their soundtracks.
Cool Fun Fact: Mana has kept her family close by during her rise in the music industry. Her father is her manager and her mother co-wrote some lyrics for her album. With such a talented and devoted network surrounding this 23-year old beauty, she's bound to skyrocket towards success.

40. Shiv Vydyula40. Shiv Vydyula
Location: New Jersey, USA
Who Is He: Host of TheShivShow.com
Why Is He Cool: If you watch his show, you will know why he's cool. Being original is one thing, but when people think you're crazy and talented at the same time, it is quite an accomplishment. Shiv puts together a brilliant show with the right blend of ad-libbing and intelligent wit. His show is something we will be seeing more of as the older generation recedes and the younger generation dictates the type of entertainment we will see on the TV.
What's Next: The Shiv Show is a broadband show, which can now be seen on AVS. We can now expect Shiv's talent to sore to greater heights and receive the kind of support it deserves.
Cool Fun Fact: Shiv was once attacked by a laundry basket, seriously.

39. Manan Katohora39. Manan Katohora
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Writer, Director
Why Is He Cool: Manan was able to put together a low-budget film, Arya, and bring it very large scale notoriety. The film was a critic favorite and generated quite a buzz in the South Asian-American scene. Unlike its counterparts, the film has had a lot of staying power. Arya also helped bring recognition to American-based South Asian filmmakers and actors. Its lead actress, Shetal Shah won the Best Actress award at the 2005 DC SAMAs. The film was such a buzzworthy favorite that you can now get it on Netflix as well as other mainstream Hollywood outlets.
What's Next: Manan continues to work on some short-films and involve himself in many, many upcoming projects.
Cool Fun Fact: Manan runs the very popular cult-like Whacky Wednesdays Yahoo Group, which has all of the industry heads subscribing to it.

38. Gotham Chopra38. Gotham Chopra
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Host of "Current Soul" TV show
Why Is He Cool: Gotham was named one of the "most powerful and influential" South Asians worth watching by Newsweek. A former Channel One News anchor, he has also published three works including the comic book Bulletproof Monk and now hosting the popular television show, Current Soul on Current.TV. He's gotten some good press, which helps show a mainstream image of South Asians to the mass market.
What's Next: He is looking to launch Current Soul into television history by grabbing a large viewership in the coming years.
Cool Fun Fact: He has interviewed many leaders including Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama. And ofcourse, we have to mention that he is the son of the high-profile bestselling author, Deepak Chopra.

37. DJ Lost Soul37. DJ Lost Soul
Location: Washington DC, DC
Who Is He: XM Satellite Radio DJ
Why Is He Cool: Lost Soul has a program on XM Radio Channel 67, which makes him the only South Asian DJ with mix shows airing on XM Satellite Radio, AOL Radio & Direct TV Music Choice. Recently, he released "Lost Soul's Pt. 8," which was a major hit in the club and nightlife circuit. He is a good example of someone who has remained true to his passion and achieved success through it, paving the way for other original South Asian DJs.
What's Next: In his words, he will be producing new beats and he'll still be making hot CDs.
Cool Fun Fact: He got the name 'Lost Soul' from a 2Pac song called Lost Souls. He is also known as LS and his production company is NextUP Music. His real name is Raj Vasa.

36. Rishi Rich36. Rishi Rich
Location: London, UK
Who Is He: Producer & Songwriter
Why Is He Cool: As an International personality that is helping bring Bhangra to mainstream music, Rishi was born and raised in London. Following a job as a recording studio runner at age eleven, Rishi signed his first record deal under the production moniker '2 Kool' at age fourteen. One year later, he released his first single "Bombay Jungle" followed by the smash hit album "Love 2 Love," which launched him into the spotlight. He went on to produce a number of albums at regular intervals over the next few years. He has been producing music ever since, leading up to his trist with the Rishi Rich Project, the title and music that launched the careers of Jay Sean and Juggy D.
What's Next: He stands to be The Pharrell (the most sought-after hip-hop producer) for Desis! He will continue producing Bhangra-influenced mainstream music.
Cool Fun Fact: Rishi learned to play classical Indian instruments when he was a young child. And he took a picture with Britney Spears, leading to rumors of you know what.

35. Pooja Kumar35. Pooja Kumar
Location: New York, USA
Who Is She: Host of "Movies for the ImaginAsian" on ImaginAsian TV
Why Is She Cool: Having starred in Kaadhal Rojave, Little Magician 3D, and Flavors, Pooja is on the move! She's not just the host of 'Movies for the ImaginAsian' but also a writer and one of the supervisors of programming. This young talent was the only person of South Asian origin to make it to the Top 20 USA Today list. This year, she also starred in America's First Pakistani American Film, Night of Henna. She was also nominated for Best Actress at the DesiClub.com South Asian Media Awards.
What's Next: Pooja wants to move more into original programming and with her aptitude, she has the ability!
Cool Fun Fact: It's easy to see that she was once a former Miss India USA. Pooja is also a trained dancer! No lack of talent here!

34. Kashif34. Kashif
Location: Quebec, Canada
Who Is He: Singer, Song Writer
Why Is He Cool: Kashif made an impact on the North American scene with his debut mixtape featuring him singing newer versions of classic songs as well as some of his own. His talent and voice clearly impressed many people and we are all waiting for him to release his album now. His previous work with the group Inmotion in Montreal also paved the way for his solo launch.
What's Next: His debut solo album will be launching shortly and we can all expect to be blown away by his energetic and charming talent.
Cool Fun Fact: His friends have several nicknames for him, but his favorite is when his mom calls him by his given name, Kashif.

33. Ajay33. Ajay
Location: London, UK
Who Is He: Singer, Song Writer
Why Is He Cool: Ajay released his EP to a smashing response and geared himself up for mainstream respect and popularity. His music speaks for itself and his talent speaks even louder to the capabilities and boundaries he has surpassed. You will definitely be hearing this name more often in the new year. You know you're cool when you can hold your own on stage with Shahrukh Khan, who he sang a impromptu duet with.
What's Next: Ajay is currently promoting his EP and preparing to promote his upcoming album, which will be in stores everywhere, the places "Sitting Down Too Long" will have reached will be tremendous.
Cool Fun Fact: No one knows Ajay's last name, do you?

32. Sumeet32. Sumeet
Location: Ontario, Canada
Who Is She: Singer, TV Host
Why Is She Cool: Sumeet dazzled a lot of people with her amazing performance at the DC SAMAs in 2005, she was one of the most popular South Asian-Canadian/American female singers to hit the scene and she has maintained her presence and promotion through out 2005. Its not easy to maintain popularity long after having a hit single, but Sumeet has done just that. Towards the end of the year, she started hosting V-Desi, a New York based TV show, and her fans have been loving her ever since.
What's Next: Sumeet is planning on promoting herself in Europe and Japan, as well as having more presence on the screen.
Cool Fun Fact: Sumeet is one of the most down to earth people you will ever come across in the entertainment business, and one of the sweetest at that.

31. Vivek Kamath31. Vivek Kamath
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Musician
Why Is He Cool: As a professional violinist, Vivek was chosen to be part of the prestigious New York Philharmonic. He won awards at both the Washington International String Competition and the Irving Klein International String Competition. Talk about a unique career for a Desi? Unique and cool!
What's Next: In his own words, becoming a composer isn't in the picture. It's more likely Vivek will find himself fulfilling every chamber members' dream: To become a soloist.
Cool Fun Fact: Vivek began his career at the young age of six years old with violin lessons.

30. Bikram Singh30. Bikram Singh
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Singer, Song Writer
Why Is He Cool: Bikram has the cool distinction of being the only original Bhangra singer from the United States. He redefines what the world has come to know as Bhangra and takes it to the next level with his original sound and talent. Bikram has been gaining popularity on a national level and it is only a matter of time before he breaks onto the global scene.
What's Next: He will be going on tour to promote his new release, 'American Jugni.'
Cool Fun Fact: He writes and composes all his own material.



29. Kavitha Sreeharsha29. Kavitha Sreeharsha
Location: California, USA
Who Is She: Attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO)
Why Is She Cool: Kavitha's work is concentrated in the area of domestic violence impacting the South Asian immigrant community and has handled some very major sex trafficking cases this year. Additionally, Ford Foundation is sponsoring one of her projects to ensure that women entering the US from Asia on a family-based Visa will receive information on attaining resources about their legal rights should they become the victim of domestic violence.
What's Next: Kavitha's work will result in new precautions and regulations put in place to prevent sex trafficking. She will continue to work with the Ford Foundation and promote her agenda against domestic violence.
Cool Fun Fact: She is the Board President of Narika, which assists South Asian victims of domestic violence.

28. Aashna Patel28. Aashna Patel
Location: California, USA
Who Is She: TV Host, Singer, Actress
Why Is She Cool: Aashna is probably one of the most talented South Asian females on TV. Not only is she a host on the Travel Channel, but she is also an actress and singer. But what makes Aashna really stand out is her vivacious, endearing personality and charm. She is the true essence of a media personality and if you spend more than 30 seconds with her, you will become an immediate fan! She has broken the mold for many other South Asian females to land on mainstream TV.
What's Next: We will continue seeing Aashna on TV and even in some upcoming movies.
Cool Fun Fact: This girl can dance!

27. Desh Deshpande27. Desh Deshpande
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Who Is He: Co-Founder and Chairman of Sycamore Networks, Inc.
Why Is He Cool: Desh is one of the most talked about Desis on this list. In 2005, Indus Entrepreneurs, which is run by Desh, launched its first initiative for youth called TiE Young Entrepreneurs. Being the wealthist Indian in America, Desh has decided to put his money where his mouth is and invest in today's youth. He has brains, power and heart all-in-one.
What's Next: Desh donated $20 million to MIT to create The Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation at MIT and the funds have been distributed to 47 research teams. The world is watching as these research teams start to emerge in the coming years with new innovations through the support of Desh.
Cool Fun Fact: His full name is Gururaj "Desh" Deshpande.

26. Anand Jon26. Anand Jon
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Fashion Designer, Certified Ladies Man
Why Is He Cool: 2005 was Anand's biggest year, he was on the cover of several magazines and he won the award for Designer of the Year at the DesiClub.com South Asian Media Awards. Towards the end of the year, he launched Anand Jon Jeans, which we can expect all the hot ladies to be wearing. Anand is an intelligent and creative South Asian who has achieved success in the mainstream by leaps and bounds.
What's Next: He will be promoting his AJ Jeans throughout the year and we will continue seeing him with his harem of female escorts.
Cool Fun Fact: Anand is very close to his family, even though his image is that of a socialite and fashion mover and shaker.

25. Sanjay Sanghoee25. Sanjay Sanghoee
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Author
Why Is He Cool: Sanjay is the author of the suspenseful financial thriller Merger. Merger is a high-stakes novel set in the world of media conglomerates, investment banks, and Capitol Hill. This Thirty-Two year old has also completed special episodes for 'Law & Order' and 'Without a Trace' and is developing a new TV drama called 'The Commission'. Sanjay is also the Chairman of the Media & Entertainment Committee of Columbia Business School's Alumni Club. This is all noteworthy, but how cool is it that a former investment banker is now pursuing his passion, writing. Sanjay gets extra points for making the move to explore his creative side.
What's Next: Sanjay is currently working on his second novel, an international thriller about art theft and terrorism. Sounds good already!
Cool Fun Fact: In one person's well-put words, Sanjay broke the cardinal rule in banking, he refused to be boring.

24. Vikram Chatwal24. Vikram Chatwal
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Hotelier, Actor
Why Is He Cool: Vikram Chatwal is best known for being the only rich socialite Sikh male among the elite non-Desi crowd. Tattooing a "G" to his arm after dating Gisele Bundchen, and being a major hotelier, are two other cool facts. He hasn't actually backed away from his Playboy lifestyle, but he's really focusing on the business side of his world. In October, Chatwal started working with Deepak Chopra and David LaChapelle, on Dream NY hotel. His level of coolness shot up when he announced his upcoming wedding to Indian hottie, Priya Sachdeva.
What's Next: Vikram wants to be the first Sikh billionaire. End of story!
Cool Fun Fact: In his words, he was busted a couple of times for shoplifting, because that was the cool thing to do. Now marrying a drop-dead gorgeous lady and making millions makes him cool! He also starred in a Bollywood film with Amitabh Bachchan, can you say cool?

23. Raj Bhakta23. Raj Bhakta
Location: Pennsylvania, USA
Who Is He: "The Apprentice" Finalist, Real Estate Investor
Why Is He Cool: Okay, Raj was taken from obscurity to fame by way of "The Apprentice" and known for his grand gestures like his bow ties, walking stick, and the time he hit on Donald Trump's receptionist. But this 30-year old is now entering the political arena and hopes to win a seat in congress in Pennsylvania's 13th district. Some think he's strange, but unique is in and this effort at the end of the year on his part helped make him cooler than previously thought.
What's Next: After attempting a Congressional run and only in his early 30's, what more is left for him to do? He is a showboat so we are sure he will stick around looking for more on-camera time.
Cool Fun Fact: Raj carries and uses a walking stick, however this is merely a fashion statement and not to aid in walking. As if!

22. Juggy D22. Juggy D
Location: London, UK
Who Is He: Singer, Song Writer
Why Is He Cool: Juggy D has been performing since the age of fourteen when he won a talent competition judged by Punjabi superstar Channi. His albums have been very popular and well-received all over the world. He has broken into the mainstream of South Asians with his Punjabi singing and raw talent. Quite a unique accomplishment, considering his target market is attracted to a gamut of artists who sing mainly in English. Juggy D is also a part of the Rishi Rich Project.
What's Next: Juggy D will be promoting his upcoming album in the coming year.
Cool Fun Fact: This amazing singer has produced tracks with Craig David, Ricky Martin, Britney Spears and Mary J. Blige.

21. Jay Sean21. Jay Sean
Location: London, UK
Who Is He: R&B Singer
Why Is He Cool: What makes Jay special is his witty and distinct personality and his powerful talent for singing and music. He is one of the few South Asians who has broken into the mainstream pop world. The ladies especially adore him and guys like him because he has that cool factor. Jay Sean is what is mainstream about the next generation of South Asians. He is also an integral part of the Rishi Rich Project.
What's Next: Jay is currently working on his second album.
Cool Fun Fact: Fondly referred to as the 'Asian Craig David', Jay worked with Bipasha Basu on the video 'Stolen'. Jay also gave up a promising medical career to pursue singing.

20. Vimal Verma20. Vimal Verma
Location: New Jersey, USA
Who Is He: CEO of American Desi TV
Why Is He Cool: Verma runs a 24 hour English-language television network for South Asian Americans, which was launched in January, 2005. This channel is available via the DISH Network and has become very popular with the progressive minded market of South Asians. Competing against giants like ZEE, SONY and TV Asia, especially with the dominant older generation sticking so strongly to these channels, Verma deserves a great deal of respect and applause for his progressive efforts.
What's Next: With rolling out American Desi TV this year, Vimal's challenge for the coming years is to make a long-term place in television for it. He will be focusing his efforts on quality programming, improving operations and promotion of the station.
Cool Fun Fact: He is a fanatic Cricket fan and was elected the President of the Cricket League of New Jersey (CLNJ).

19. Asif Kapadia19. Asif Kapadia
Location: London, UK
Who Is He: Writer, Director
Why Is He Cool: Asif directed the critic favorite "The Warrior," which released to an impressive response in 2005. Prior to his debut release, Asif has won awards at the BAFTAs and many other notable ceremonies have honored his talent. He's done a tremendous job making such a unique non-glorified film and the stars are shining bright above his head. People are looking for his next work to be released quite anxiously.
What's Next: Asif is working on some upcoming film projects, which we will be hearing about shortly.
Cool Fun Fact: Asif grew up in Hackney, which is in East London and known for its extremely hard to understand accent.

18. Vikram Sheel Kumar18. Vikram Sheel Kumar
Location: Massachussetts, USA
Who Is He: Founder of Dimagi, Doctor
Why Is He Cool: South Asian-American Doctor, Vikram will join the ranks of former US president Bill Clinton, entrepreneur Henry Ford and rock legend Elvis Presley as recipient of the "Ten Outstanding Young Americans (TOYA)" award. He was also previously named one of the 'World's 100 Top Innovators Under 35' in biotechnology and medicine. His contribution in erasing the boundaries between life sciences and information technologies has made him a legend. Through his clinic, 29-year old Vikram provides much needed healthcare to people in South Africa. Some of his work has produced products like DiaBetNet, a community-based wireless game for Type I diabetic children, and HiRoller, a self-monitoring aid for patients with bipolar disorder.
What's Next: Vikram is working hard on technology products that have medical benefits. His research focuses on building a class of preventive medicine using portable and wireless tools that empower patients. Specifically, he is studying how handhelds can be used to provide meaningful representations of data to assist rural health workers in India to promote healthy behaviors amongst mothers and children.
Cool Fun Fact: Vikram dropped out of IIT Delhi to move to America, and a decade later, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Not bad for an IIT drop-out!

17. Saira Mohan17. Saira Mohan
Location: Canadian Rockies, Canada
Who Is She: Model, Actress
Why Is She Cool: Saira is cool because not only is she beautiful, but she is a very classy person who happens to be a great humanitarian. She's been on countless magazine covers and is now starting to act in films. She won the Favorite Model award at the DC SAMAs in 2005 and in the upcoming year, we will see her surpassing even her wildest dreams, simply because she can. If you visit her website, you can see the deep thoughts Saira possesses, which show her to be the anti-model.
What's Next: We will be seeing Saira in a Bollywood film in the very near future in addition to more magazine covers and yes, even more magazine covers.
Cool Fun Fact: She was on the cover of Newsweek as having "The Perfect Face."

16. Indra Nooyi16. Indra Nooyi
Location: Connecticut, USA
Who Is She: President & CFO of PepsiCo, Inc.
Why Is She Cool: In this position, Indra is responsible for all of PepsiCo's corporate functions, including finance, strategy, business process optimization, corporate platforms and innovation, procurement, investor relations and information technology. Ms. Nooyi has been ranked as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in America by Fortune Magazine and is the highest-ranking Indian born woman in corporate America.
What's Next: Indra will move to be number one on the 50 most powerful women in America.
Cool Fun Fact: Nooyi attends formal PepsiCo events dressed in a saree. That's why she has the edge!

15. Indira Verma15. Indira Verma
Location: London, UK
Who Is She: Actress
Why Is She Cool: Besides the fact that she is super-gorgeous, having both Bollywood and Hollywood appeal, Indira Verma is the actress to watch. Hotter than hot in Kama Sutra (1996) and lovely in Bride and Prejudice (2004), fame has fit this actress nicely. In 2005, she impressed critics and fans alike as she portrayed a very prominent character for the new HBO series, Rome.
What's Next: Her mass appeal will land her major roles opposite both Bollywood and Hollywood leading men. Her combination of talent and acting skills along with her looks will have us seeing a lot more of her in 2006.
Cool Fun Fact: She has not only turned the heads of hot-blooded males, but females too. Some of her scenes in Kama Sutra were woman to woman and she has proven to be a sexual goddess for all genders! She is hot, indeed!

14. Anoushka Shankar14. Anoushka Shankar
Location: New York, USA
Who Is She: Musician
Why Is She Cool: Anoushka's latest album 'Rise', released in September 2005, was nominated for a Grammy award. It's no secret that she was also named in Time Magazine's "Asia's Heroes: The Top 20 Under 40" list. Her claim to fame is far more substantive than just her namesake. She is quite a talent and we have not seen anything yet!
What's Next: Anoushka has just started to come from underneath the shadow of her father's work and will continue to promote herself as a musician with outstanding talents of her own. Her music is truly unique from other sitar artists and she's making sure everyone knows it!
Cool Fun Fact: Well, it's hard to miss the fact that she's the daughter of the world's best sitar player! Yes, her father is THE Ravi Shankar. Another notable fact is that she played on Sting's album "Sacred Love." Lastly, she has a very beautiful star tattoo on her lower back, which she got with her half-sister, Norah Jones in 1999.

13. Irshad Manji13. Irshad Manji
Location: Toronto, Canada
Who Is She: Author, Activist
Why Is She Cool: Irshad Manji is the best-selling author of "The Trouble with Islam Today." It has been published internationally, including in Pakistan. She's also a lesbian activist. Irshad produced and hosted "Queer Television" on Toronto's City TV. This was the world's first program on commercial airwaves to explore the lives of gay and lesbian people. She's cool simply because she talks about issues that no one likes to talk about.
What's Next: After finishing promotions for her book, she will continue her advocacy efforts for reform in the Muslim world.
Cool Fun Fact: She once said, "I actually don't live my life in fear. I deliberately did not bring my bodyguard to Britain with me against the better judgement of many people who want to see me alive." Yes, she's a tough cookie!

12. Jay Chandrasekhar12. Jay Chandrasekhar
Location: Illinois, USA
Who Is He: Director, Actor
Why Is He Cool: As Director of Dukes of Hazzard, Jay got to work with heart-throb Jessica Simpson and singing legend Willie Nelson at the same time! He has also directed three successful Broken Lizard comedies including Paddle Cruiser, Super Troopers and Club Dread. I bet many of you did not know that the director of Dukes of Hazzard was a Desi!
What's Next: His next film is in pre-production and hopes to start filming in early 2006. It's entitled Beerfest and is based around Germany's annual celebration, Oktoberfest.
Cool Fun Fact: The movie Dukes of Hazzard was finished 26 years almost to the very day that shooting began for "One Armed Bandits," the very first episode of the original TV series "The Dukes of Hazzard" in 1979. Jay is also a writer and an actor, he played State Trooper Arcot 'Thorny' Ramathorn in Super Troopers.

11. Sania Mirza11. Sania Mirza
Location: Hyderabad, India
Who Is She: Tennis Pro
Why Is She Cool: Sania is not from America, Canada or the UK, but she is definitely making waves in these regions as an attractive, athletic and talented professional giving American and European Tennis players a run for their money. She is no doubt inspiring a lot of young females to pursue their dreams. Sania was ranked 31 in her Career High of the Singles and she dazzled the crowd at the 2005 US Open.
What's Next: Sania hopes to beat more of her competition and make a bigger name for herself, something we all hope she does.
Cool Fun Fact: Well, this isn't really cool, but it is a fact. Some extremist groups in India and elsewhere have demanded she stop wearing those short skirts as "she is corrupting the youth of India." Talk about Uncool! But Sania is cool because she continues to look amazing on the court, shunning her critics!

10. Asra Nomani10. Asra Nomani
Location: West Virginia, USA
Who Is She: Author, Journalist, Activist
Why Is She Cool: Asra isn't just an author with a new book about Islam; she is an activist and does what she says! Despite two recent death threats, the Mumbai-born journalist is determined to challenge tradition by advocating women-led prayers in mosques around the U.S. In fact, she has finished the first phase of the Muslim Women's Freedom Tour '05. Nomani was also involved in a highly publicized international story when her Wall Street Journal co-worker, Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped after a dinner with Nomani, her boyfriend and Pearl's wife, Marianne.
What's Next: As an activist, she will continue her Muslim Women's Freedom Tour and promote equality for all women. Asra is set to accomplish a lot of great things in life and people are starting to really pay attention.
Cool Fun Fact: According to Asra, her informal reputation among fellow reporters at the Wall Street Journal was being the staff sex reporter. It seems editors believed in her ability to grapple with these complex subjects.

9. Raghav9. Raghav
Location: Calgary, Canada
Who Is He: Singer, Song Writer
Why Is He Cool: Raghav is no-doubt one of the most sought after Desi men with his musical talent, unprecedented success and stunning looks. Everything about Raghav spells cool, but his accomplishments aren't to be overlooked here. At the not-yet-legal age of 16, he won an award for Top Original Song from the National Songwriters Association of America. His album went platinum in India. He also recently won an Asian Achievers Award, the Best Musician Award at the DC South Asian Media Awards, and was nominated for three Urban Music Awards. And most impressive of all, he's only 23 years old!
What's Next: By his mid-20's this international star will be setting himself up for lifetime achievement awards!
Cool Fun Fact: He used to study with the great Seth Riggs, vocal coach to Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. His full name is Raghav Mathur. He studied Indian Classical Music in Canada. Abhishekh Bachchan is also a big fan of Raghav's. Talk about star power! We must also mention that Raghav is a very genuine and endearing person.

8. Parminder Nagra8. Parminder Nagra
Location: London, UK
Who Is She: Actress
Why Is She Cool: Parminder was selected as one of the Top 10 beauties under 30 by People Magazine in 2005! Her coming out film, Bend it Like Beckham, brought her into mainstream commercial American film. Additionally, she was announced as a nominee for Outstanding Newcomer Award to be presented at the 2006 Asian Excellence Awards as well as Best Actress at the DesiClub.com South Asian Media Awards. Ofcourse, she has increased her exposure a great deal by being the latest cast addition to the award winning and top-rated series, ER.
What's Next: Having been named one of the most eligible British women, I think there might be a few guys looking to change her eligibility for that title. Regarding her film career, Parminder has a good chance of taking home the Outstanding Newcomer Award at the 2006 Asian Excellence Awards and the girl's got no place but stardom land to go!
Cool Fun Fact: Her nickname is "Mindi" and Parminder, which means 'supreme goddess', just turned thirty this past year. She can't live without Thai food, but she can do without reality television.

7. Rena Golden7. Rena Golden
Location: Georgia, USA
Who Is She: Senior VP of CNN international
Why Is She Cool: In 2005, Rena helped launch the first live coverage from Petra, one of the world's most famous tourist destinations. At CNN International, she oversees the editorial production, program development, talent and day-to-day operations, which encompasses five English-language CNN networks and reaches an audience of 160+ million television households worldwide in 200+ countries. Fox News who?
What's Next: Rena is in a great place to change the face of world news as head of CNN International. It's no doubt she will be at the head of bringing global news coverage to a whole new level.
Cool Fun Fact: Rena has had 13 jobs in the past 16 years and all with the same company, CNN. Everyone in her family followed in her father's medical footsteps, except Rena. Even without the title doctor, she has turned out to be one very impressive Desi!

6. Nusrat Durrani6. Nusrat Durrani
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Senior VP and Gen. Manager of MTV World, MTV Desi
Why Is He Cool: Nusrat started at MTV as an intern and is now heading up one of its most aggressive efforts in the North American market. MTV World, parent to MTV Desi, a channel that has created such a buzz among the entertainment-identity hungry South Asian youth in America. Nusrat is a clear example of a successful South Asian who came to America at a young age, worked hard and has now left his mark in the business of entertainment.
What's Next: Nusrat plans on making MTV Desi available to every South Asian household in America through the popular DISH network.
Cool Fun Fact: Nusrat's office became sieged with phone calls and visitors once word got out that MTV Desi was about to launch. Fun Fact #2: Nusrat is commonly confused with being a member of a rock band, due to his very cool and hip appearance.

5. Salman Rushdie5. Salman Rushdie
Location: New York, USA
Who Is He: Author
Why Is He Cool: Salman became a household name in 1989, when Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's death. Khomeini believed Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses," blasphemed Islam. Shortly thereafter, Rushdie went into hiding for the next nine years. In 2005, he won the Whitbread Novel Award for his book, "Shalimar The Clown." Okay, having a girlfriend like sexy Padma Lakshmi on your arm also helps raise your coolness level too!
What's Next: In the author's own words, "First the writer invents the books; then, perhaps, the books invent the writer." So look for the next book to re-invent the writer.
Cool Fun Fact: An only son and eldest child, Salman's personal philosophy is "if somebody's trying to shut you up, sing louder and, if possible, better." He is a ball of fire!

4. Dr. Sanjay Gupta4. Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Location: Georgia, USA
Who Is He: CNN Senior Med. Correspondent, Doctor
Why Is He Cool: Not only did Sanjay make our 2004 list, but he is back for a double header. In 2005, we saw Dr. Sanjay Gupta increase his airtime almost 2-fold and do such memorable stories as the medical emergencies in Iraq and the recent Earthquake relief effort in Pakistan. Sanjay is perhaps the most popular South Asian face on mainstream TV news and has most certainly influenced a whole lot of South Asian youth to pursue a career in medicine and/or journalism. It's a sweet achievement when your work has such an effect.
What's Next: Sanjay continues to bring us interesting life-related stories on a daily basis on CNN and we hope to continue seeing him on this powerful platform.
Cool Fun Fact: In 1997, Sanjay was chosen as a White House Fellow, one of only 15 fellows appointed. He served as special advisor to the first lady. Talk about access!

3. Russell Peters3. Russell Peters
Location: Ontario, Canada
Who Is He: Comedian, Actor
Why Is He Cool: Russell Peters is the very first South Asian to get his own sitcom, which will be shown on the WB. Russell has been nominated for 4 Gemini Awards, Canada's version of the Emmy Awards. After years on the stand up circuit, Russell has hit the big time and we mean big! Every single show he has performed at in 2005 has been sold out. This guy is on fire and no one can put it out! It will be great to see him reaching even greater heights in 2006 and finally watching a South Asian face regularly on a sitcom.
What's Next: Russell has just gotten started and is taking his role as international spokesperson on clashing cultures seriously. He will span the globe looking to spread infectious laughter along the way. But his immediate future projects are to produce and release a live DVD and CD of his popular acts.
Cool Fun Fact: Russell is well tought in the art of Butt-Kicking. He is a trained martial artist.

2. Kal Penn2. Kal Penn
Location: New Jersey, USA
Who Is He: Actor
Why Is He Cool: Kal is probably the most popular South Asian-American Hollywood actor to date. Having started in the cult-classic "American Desi," Kal has surpassed every expectation set for him every year since. In 2005, he played notable and leading roles in A Lot Like Love, Son of the Mask and Dancing in Twilight. This is by no means a small achievement, he is arguably the sole person responsible for the diminishing of the type-cast roles given to South Asian-American actors.
What's Next: Kal has not even started to impress us, some of his upcoming films include Man About Town, The Namesake, Superman Returns, Van Wilder 2 and Harold and Kumar Go to Amsterdam - talk about anticipating entertainment!
Cool Fun Fact: Kal Penn started his acting career when he was in 8th grade in a school production of the musical, The Wiz.

1. Bhairavi Desai1. Bhairavi Desai
Location: New York, USA
Who Is She: Director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA)
Why Is She Cool: Bhairavi doesn't seek the limelight, just the opposite. But when an everyday woman takes on New York City government and organized crime and law enforcement for the sake of taxi drivers, it puts her right in the spotlight. She received the Ford Foundation Leadership Award in 2005 for her work with the taxi union and activism. Bhairavi actually co-founded the NYTWA in 1998 and continues to be the leader paving the way for taxi drivers in the big apple. Some people refer to her as that "crazy Indian lady" who is always confronting some issue or another, but her work has helped countless working class people and for that, we honor Bhairavi with being THE coolest Desi of 2005!
What's Next: Bhairavi plans to organize a South Asian Labor Alliance, linking workers in the U.S. with those on the Sub-Continent.
Cool Fun Fact: Thirty-two years old, Bhairavi admits she has a major weakness, television. One Life To Live is her favorite television addiction fix.

Meera Kahen

posted Oct 23, 2010, 12:06 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Oct 23, 2010, 12:50 PM ]

Album Name: Meera Kahen
Format: CD
Music Composer: Ajay-Stul
Executive Producer: Russel J. Aiello
Produced by: Kosmic Music (
www.kosmicmusic.com)
Review By: Diana Rohini LaVigne, Indian Life & Style Magazine

The devotional lyrics of Lord Krishna are the perfect foundation for this musical journey that will please your ears and give your mind a delightful treat. The spiritual collection is well organized with a softer style introduction that moves into more complex tunes later in the work. As the music dancing in your ears and the magnificent combination of  the veena, woodwinds, percussions, tabla, violin and cello with vocals makes Meera Kahen something very unique. The music is serious but also a fun exploration into the life of Krishna who was both spiritual and extremely passionate. It’s a rare collection of songs that will delight listeners. The melodies touch the heart and bring listeners to a beautiful calming place. A enjoying work of art and much praise to the musicians who brought this collection together. Meera Kahen is a great work of art.

Peace in Progress

posted Oct 23, 2010, 12:05 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Oct 23, 2010, 12:50 PM ]

Album Name: Peace in Progress
Singer: Manisha Shahane
Format: CD
Produced by: Notable Productions (notable.com)
Review by: Diana Rohini LaVigne, Indian Life & Style Magazine

Shahane uses her brilliant musical talent to bridge the gaps in understanding between people, lands and cultures.  She mixes in striking lyrics, in both English and some in her homeland  tongue Marathi, to create a peaceful sound that delivers a glimmer of hope for so many conflicts humanity sees in both daily life and in areas of the world that live with bigger overlying conflicts.Her capabilities go beyond her strong vocals and extend to instruments such as guitar and piano. Her piano playing sets the tone in many songs for relaxation and for addressing a situation at hand in other songs.Being a musical journey with a wide variety of selections, Shyam Rao-chi Mulgee (The Daughter of Shyam Rao) and Willows clearly stick out as the top of the pack. Each song has the perfect introduction to the music, an exceptional full bodied sound to the song and a grand use of space between the notes. Simplistically amazing! Manish Shahane is a multi-talented woman who is true to her musical side. By making music, she leads others into her land of hope for the future and her realization of the hardships of life. Her vocals make the words jump to life and the musicians blend together to support a marvelous voyage into peace in progress. We are eagerly awaiting her next release which promises to take the singer even higher in terms of musical talent and notoriety. She is absolutely someone to watch on the music scene.

Chakra Dhyana; A musical path to meditation

posted Oct 23, 2010, 12:05 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne   [ updated Oct 23, 2010, 12:50 PM ]

Album Name: Chakra Dhyana; A musical path to meditation
Produced By: Kosmic Music, Inc. (
www.kosmicmusic.com)
Chanting By: Sri Krishnaraj Bhagavaddasa
Executive Producer: Russell J. Aiello
Format: CD
Review By: Diana Rohini LaVigne, Indian Life & Style Magazine

This 46-minute cd is a peaceful and calming way to explore meditation. The chanting is softly done with peaceful background sounds that help the process of rejuvenating the listeners body in just minutes. But it is so relaxing that you will want to spend at least 30-minutes daily with this musical collaboration to truly connect with your inner most consciousness.
The use of classic, ancient mantras is skillfully done to bring out the best in your body and energize your mind and body and protect it against the grin of today’s lifestyle. Focusing from one  chakra to another, the body is willing and able to easily respond positively to the music. It truly brings your mind to another dimension.
In addition to the powerful cd, they offer a free download of the guide to chakra meditation so beginners can reap the full rewards from listening to this masterpiece.  If you want to treat your body and mind to the relaxing and clarity it deserves, Chakra Dhyana is the best way to travel.

Drowned Out

posted Oct 23, 2010, 12:03 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

Title: Drowned Out (2002)
Starring: Nina Wadia 
Director: Franny Armstrong 
Format: DVD
Review By: Diana Rohini LaVigne, Indian Life & Style Magazine

The scary reality of Indians living in the path of progression is brought to life by the expert talents of director Franny Armstrong. Rather than leave their home which is slated for destruction to make room for the newly created Narmada dam, they decide to stay and face being drowned by the rising waters.  The filmmakers produce a well-balanced look at the dilemma and explore the difficult challenges faced by the region which includes police brutality, hunger strikes and an ongoing court case about this situation. As the river water rises, film viewers take a look at the horrific situation emerging day by day.Drowned Out is a valuable film for understanding the down side to India’s ever-growing obsession with dam building and brings up the finer reasons that dams are not only a solution, but also dams are a major problem. Drowned Out encourages viewers to take another look at the human side of dam building.It was visually powerful and a compassionate look at those who suffer the most at the hands of the industrialization of the area. It is a film worth seeing many times!

Panihari: The Water Women of India

posted Oct 23, 2010, 12:02 AM by Diana Rohini LaVigne

Title: Panihari: The Water Women of India
Format: DVD
Directed By: Abi Devan & Sudhi Rajagopal
ISBN 978-1-933724-01-0

Breathtaking and heartbreaking. Panihari is a film that explores the life of Rajasthani women whose lives center around their daily journey to fetch water. The extreme challenges these women and their families face are shown via the expert cinematic talent of Indian-American directors Abi Devan and Sudhi Rajagopal. The film brought the reality of India’s situation with a water shortage into the eyes and minds of viewers and stands to bring international attention to a much overlooked topic. The DVD strives to achieve more than most with a guidebook, lesson plan and director’s commentary to encourage people to engage, discuss and become aware. Looking into the eyes of the women who face life’s harsh reality brings their plight into the focus of viewers. It was a film with some contrasts with such beautiful spans of the landscape, yet the realization that the beauty of the desert is not just a charm but also a curse. Filmmakers bring home the point that this issue is critical to bring into the spotlight and long overdue for serious brainstorming for a solution. Panihari was easy to comprehend and allowed those affected to tell their story in a documentary style way. It was informative and has inspired me to pass along my newly found information. This is a film that should be a mandatory film for educators working in South Asian studies and for any cultural exploration education and training. Understanding these women and their ‘walk for water’ is such an important issue that I highly recommend everyone to see this excellent film.

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