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#VIDEO: Romesh Gunesekera, Kamila Shamzie lead 2015 DSC Prize Shortlist

UK-based authors Romesh Gunesekera and Kamila Shamzie are among five outstanding South Asian writers shortlisted for the fifth annual DSC Prize for Literature, South Asia's biggest biggest literary awards.

British Sri Lankan writer Gunesekera is shortlisted for his latest work ‘Noon Tide Toll’ whilst Shamzie makes the cut for ‘A God in Every Stone’.

The shortlist was announced during a ceremony at the London School of Economics on Thursday night and also includes the Man Booker-nominated Indian author of ‘The Lowland’, Jhumpa Lahiri; Pakistani writer Bilal Tanweer (‘The Scatter Here Is Too Great’) as well as Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, author of ‘The Mirror of Beauty’.

Famed Indian writer and poet Keki N Daruwalla, the chair of judges, described the selections as "moving, challenging, and thought-provoking."

"There were moments of great beauty in the multiple narratives and the jury was impressed by the deep structure of each book and the way characters were developed," Daruwalla said in a statement.

Daruwalla was joined on this year’s jury by a group of judges whose backgrounds mirrored the variety of the shortlist itself:  American John Freeman, former editor of Granta books; Sri Lankan academic and campaigner Professor Maithree Wickremasinghe; Founder of the Lahore Literary Festival Razi Ahmed and Michael Worton, emeritus professor at University College London.

The jury selected the finalists from 75 novels submitted for the award, a process that was both “immensely enjoyable” and something of an “ordeal”, according to Daruwalla.

The winner of the $50,000 prize will be announced at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival in January 2015.

Watch the judges describe their reasons for choosing each of the five finalists and read excerpts from the books:

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#UKAsianReview: Salman Khan’s ‘Doctor Cabbie’

Salman Khan’s foray into crossover cinema proves better than the monstrosity that was Marigold (2007) yet is still miles off the mark.

With the potential to be the natural successor to Harold & Kumar for second-generation immigrants, Dr Cabbie fails to appeal to its natural audience. 

Dr Cabbie tells the story of an Indian doctor (Indo-Canadian actor Vinay Virmani) forced to drive taxis due to the Canadian medical system disregarding Indian qualifications.

In the meantime, he hangs out with his perverted friend Tony (Kunal Nayyer, suffering a serious bout of over-acting) and romances a twelve-foot-tall blonde woman.

The film’s most hyped cast member Isabel Kaif - younger sister of Bollywood starlet and former Salman flame Katrina Kaif - has a handful of lines, including the poignant “what is he doing?” and “no.”

Casting is completely off the mark with a Canadian actor playing the role of an Indian, and the star talent, Nayyer, in a supporting role.

Virmani’s strong Canadian accent is extremely distracting, evoking Apu from The Simpsons at times.

Virmani’s triple role as co-writer and creative producer of the film partly explains the gross miscasting.

Dr Cabbie’s script has moments of brilliance, aided by fantastic ad-libbing by Nayyer.  There are a few laugh-out loud jokes with clever undertones exploring issues such as a failing immigration system. 

It is reminiscent of Harold & Kumar’s gross-out teenage comedy underpinned by social commentary.

However, Dr Cabbie exploits offensive racial stereotypes including an American Italian named ‘Bruno Babagelata’.

The portrayal of the main romantic interest (G.I. Joe: Retaliation star Adrianne Palicki) is the exact sexism expected from a Salman Khan heroine: one dimensional breasts-on-a-stick created solely to sexually entice the male protagonist.

The juxtaposition of Rani aunty (American actress Mircea Monroe) and Vinay’s anglicized mother Nellie (Lilette Dubey) proves to be the film’s saving grace.

Monroe steals the film as a Caucasian woman obsessed with India, albeit needlessly sexualised. 

The pro-immigration message is important in the context of the rise of nationalist sentiment around the world, and is communicated subtly and without pretension.

The enjoyable aspects of Dr Cabbie are offset by a distracting and unnecessary background score.

The average comic scene might need a guitar or ukulele in the background to feel like a comedy.

Instead we are forced to endure an orchestra of crying violins which belong in a melodramatic 1990’s Khan Melodrama.

The poor man’s Honey Singh, Raftaar, makes an unwelcome appearance, fresh from his ‘Swag Mera Desi’ fame (or rather, infamy amongst hipsters who listen to him ironically).

‘Dal Makhani’ has similarly inane lyrics although it lacks the simplicity of Swag.

It was nice to hear Canadian singer Raghav return briefly from his exile in mela circuit obscurity.

Dr Cabbie could have easily become a crossover hit with its funny script and serious message, had Eros International and Khan not intervened.

The high points in the film are punctuated by gross-out teenage humour, and are offset by inappropriate music.

Dr Cabbie fails to understand the definition of a cross-over film, choosing instead to mutate an enjoyable teenage comedy into a melodramatic and cheesy Bollywood film.

The pro-immigration message is drowned out by a string quartet.

To be watched solely if suffering from a severe hangover or if it happens to be on TV.

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