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“Amu” will be shown on June 10.

Who says there isn’t life after Bollywood? Or beyond Bollywood for that matter

Take “Beyond Bollywood: The 12th annual South Asian Film Festival” to be held from June 10-12 at the Enzian Theater (1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland) in the Orlando area. Presented by the theater and Asian Cultural Association, it proves that the Indian-influenced film industry doesn’t need Bollywood to survive.

Novelist Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s novel “The Mistress of Spices” escorts Aishwarya Rai to the Enzian screen on June 10 (at 11:30 a.m.) and June 12 (at 7 p.m.). The 92-minute film was directed by Paul Mayeda Berges, husband of Gurinder Chadha of “Bend It Like Beckham” fame.

The 102-minute “Amu,” a social and political tragedy that highlights cover-ups after the 1984 massacre of Sikhs, was directed by Shonali Bose. It will be shown on June 10 (at 1:45 p.m.)

Two documentaries, “Bombay Calling,” directed by Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal, and “Lucky,” by Avie Luthra will be shown on June 11 (at 11:15 a.m.)

Deepa Mehta’s controversial “Water” hits the Enzian Theater on June 11 (at 1:30 p.m.)

For more information, call Asian Cultural Association ( at (407) 333-3667 or the Enzian Theater ( box-office at (407) 629-1088.

The Taj Mahal serves as the backdrop for the Demystifying India fundraiser in Tampa.

More than $125,000 was raised on May 13 toward the ongoing cultural education initiative, Demystifying India. The fundraiser, organized by the INDOUS Chamber of Commerce and Museum of Science & Industry, was attended by about 250 people at MOSI.

“We look to raise another $100,000 more toward the effort,” said Prash Pavagadhi, president of the INDOUS Chamber.

Prash Pavagadhi
Besides showing the IMAX film, “Mystic India” to schoolchildren from the Tampa Bay area, the project includes an educational exhibit at MOSI that will highlight the Indus Valley, Moghul empire, contributions of famous Indians and present and modern day India. “We want to patch into this quilt that the U.S. is,” said Santosh Govindaraju, chairman of the chamber’s board of directors.

Akshay Desai, president of Universal Health Care in St. Petersburg, is one of the sponsors of the project. “India is at a major crossroad of globalization,” he said. “How do we bridge the disconnect between mainstream America and the achievements made by India? The Demystifying India project is a small step in the right direction. Through it, we can educate our neighbor, friend, teacher, student.”

For more information, click on


Donor Annika Mulaney and Chandresh Saraiya, president of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of the U.S.
Story provided by Ekal Vidyalaya

Annika Mulaney didn’t just donate to help children get education; she fished out $36.72, emptying her purse down to the last cent. “I want to help them get to school,” said the young donor, a guest at the latest Ekal Vidyalaya fundraising event that combined music and a fashion show for a cause.

The Ekal Team of Tampa raised $115,000 to support one-teacher schools in India. Money started pouring in following the plea for the support by Tampa’s volunteer team. “Every family should support one school,” said Jawahar Taunk, Ekal’s regional vice president of Florida. “We have a goal support 1,500 schools this year from our region,” said Taunk.

The evening was attended by about 320 guests/supporters in the Tampa Bay area. The performers, Kumar Sunil Mungee (vocalist), Hemant Mahavar (tabla player) and Indrajit Choudhry (sitar player) started the evening with popular songs inspiring nostalgic memories for the Indian Americans.

A team of nearly a dozen brightly dressed children who had just been let out of class then performed a play, “Yakshgana,” based on the story of Ram and Sita. The play was written, directed and choreographed by Raghuram Shetty, a local software business consultant.

“You represent the spirit of Ekal Vidyalaya. Ekal Vidyalaya is all about dance, play and children, and you set a fine example of our theme” said Chandresh Saraiya, president of the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of the U.S., following the performance.

There are 16,322 Ekal Vidyalayas operating across India providing education to more than 450,000 children in tribal and rural areas, Saraiya continued. He then showed a film of rural children in Andhra Pradesh that contrasted the quality of education received by these children as opposed to children living in more urban environments.

The highlight of the evening was a fashion show by Satya Paul, one of India’s leading and most celebrated designers who has dressed famous Bollywood celebrities such as Aishwarya Rai and Bipasha Basu. Fifteen models displayed sarees, Western and Indian outfits and jewelry. These items also were available for sale from which some funding will go to support the charity.

Ekal Vidyalaya volunteers were encouraged by the support of the community. On May 18, the Bhartiaya Samaj of Central Florida held a similar event in Lakeland with the same artists and fashion show team. Nearly 200 guests attended the weeknight event that raised funds to support 50 schools.

On May 20, a music-charity program in Gainesville also raised funds for 30 one-teacher schools. The program was arranged by Prabhakar Keskar and other volunteers and was attended by nearly 140 guests. On May 21, Jacksonville team of Ekal volunteers led by Dilip Kothekar and Sudhir Prabhoo organized a music charity event, which was attended by 165 guests and resulted in funds to support 50 one-teacher schools.

For more information about Ekal Vidyalaya, visit or e-mail Jawahar Taunk at


About 1,200 people attended the annual India Fest held by the Hindu Society of North East Florida in Orange Park/Jacksonville on April 29.
Story provided by Uma Eyyunni

More than 1,200 people dropped in at the India Fest organized by the Hindu Society of North East Florida (HSNEF) on April 29. The theme of the annual event, at 714 Park Ave., Orange Park/Jacksonville, was “Unity among Diversity” as different states of India came under one banner.

While feasting on various North and South Indian delicacies, visitors had a visual feast of performances of dances and skits. Youth on the outdoor stage presented devotional bhajans and music. Many women enjoyed the exhibition of beads and jewels along with handicrafts.

The highlight of the festival was the Visa camp, which was organized for the first time in the Orange Park/Jacksonville area. Officers from the Indian Consulate in Houston processed about 180 applications.

The Indo American Medical Forum organized a health care along with nutrition consultation services.

The scholars of Math & Spelling Bee competitions, conducted earlier in the year, were honored.

While everyone waited with bated breath, a lucky couple won the raffle for a BMW and went home in shocked excitement.

Ravi Sankar and President Bush.

For the last 2 ½ years, every Sunday, Ravi Sankar of Oviedo (in the Orlando area) has been helping students prepare for SAT by teaching math at the Chinmaya Mission of Central Florida. At a magnet school in the area, he also teaches students who cannot afford to enroll in private SAT courses.

The 15-year-old’s dedication to the community recently earned him President Bush’s Volunteer Service Award. In fact, Sankar is one of only five outstanding individuals to be picked for the honor.

“It was indeed a big surprise,” said the teenager in an exclusive interview with Khaas Baat. And just last year, Sankar had received a Governor’s Point of Light Award from Jeb Bush for volunteer service.

A Trinity Preparatory school freshman, Sankar scored a perfect 800 on the math portion of the SAT.

About his plans for the future, the Central Florida resident said, “I have a couple of options such as business, engineering or medicine.” His father, Shan, is a pharmacist and his mother, Girija, is a nurse.

And what does Sankar like to do in his spare time? “Read, play video games, watch TV.”

The next time you see Sankar, pat him on the back for his contributions specifically targeted to better the lives of other children.



Opening a new store or restaurant? Expanding or relocating? Has your business won an award or a mention in your local newspaper? We want to hear from you as Khaas Baat kicks off yet another new column to meet the rising needs of businesses and our readers. Call Nitish S. Rele at (813) 758-1786 or e-mail us at


NS Food & Gifts in Tampa is celebrating its 10-year anniversary.

A decade ago, Vijaya and Nagu Shankar opened NS Food & Gifts in the Tampa Bay area. Since then, there has been no looking back for the couple, who have degrees in mechanical engineering, science and education.

“We started the store with just two small tables,” reminisced Nagu Shankar. “At that time, ours was the only store/restaurant serving fresh vegetarian South Indian food and soon people began coming from Orlando, Gainesville and even Jacksonville to our place.”

Within a year, the Shankars expanded the store to its present 1,600 square feet. They serve fresh specialty foods such as dosa, uttapa, idli, vada, etc. from noon to 6:30 p.m. Lunch buffet, which begins at noon, continues “till the food is over,” said Nagu Shankar. The grocery store is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

On the eve of the 10-year anniversary, the Shankars want to pay their gratitude to Arcadia, who has worked at NS Food & Gifts since 1998. “A native of Panama City, she barely spoke English when we met her,” said Nagu Shankar. “But now, she cooks everything we serve at NS Food as well as takes care of the grocery sales when we aren’t available.”

Open seven days a week, NS Food & Gifts is at 5522 Hanley Road, Suite 105, Tampa, FL 33634 or call (813) 243-1522.


Sanju Rajak must have every reason to smile. The 29-year-old’s new restaurant, Cilantro Indian Cuisine, has received rave accolades in Jacksonville’s Florida Times-Union daily newspaper.

“The Cilantro menu is overwhelming, with no less than a dozen breads, vegetarian specials, tandoori dishes, chicken, lamb, seafood, goat and rice,” wrote Erica Burks about this restaurant, which offers a fusion of Indian, Chinese and Thai food. Burks was all praise for the aloo paratha, dosa, Chicken Chettinad and kulfi.

For more information on the eatery at 9825 San Jose Blvd. in Jacksonville, call (904) 262-9577.


Now, Carrollwood in the Tampa Bay area has its own specialty Indian grocery store. Saikrishna Groceries, located next to Outback Steakhouse on North Dale Mabry Highway, recently opened its doors.

The 1,700-square-foot store offers Indian groceries, clothing, jewelry, and arts and crafts. “We have a collection of 1,800 DVDs in Tamil, Hindi, Kannada and Telugu,” said owner Hari Pattisapu. “We also provide fast and easy money transfer to India and other countries in the world through Western Union Money Transfer. Also, we carry authentic Indian-packaged, ready-to-eat foods and brands, plus native spices.”

Saikrishna Groceries, at 11636A N. Dale Mabry Highway, is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For information, call (813) 963-0902.

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