Thought Box



by Vinta Nanda January 1 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 8 mins, 27 secs

In a world dominated by mainstream narratives and established structures, the celebration of independent art, business, social work, and literary endeavours is a necessary acknowledgment of the vast reservoir of talent existing beyond conventional norms, writes Vinta Nanda

Independent endeavour’s represent the creativity that the mainstream may find challenging to accommodate. Whether it's an artist experimenting with unconventional mediums or a start-up challenging industry norms, these ventures push boundaries, introducing fresh concepts that redefine the many dated functions of the mainstream. The mainstream is built upon traditions and conventions reinforced over time and its framework tends to favour what is familiar, making it difficult for radical or unconventional ideas to penetrate and find acceptance.

Independent initiatives give voice to marginalized communities, advocate for social causes, and shed light on issues that most often go unnoticed or are deliberately brushed under the carpet for the mainstream to retain its shine.

The honesty with which the independent authors, journalists, filmmakers and festival directors, I have chosen to showcase this year, approach their work creates a sense of realism and truth that are often compromised in the homogenized offerings of the mainstream. The alternative space offers a nurturing environment where artists, entrepreneurs, writers and social workers can refine their skills and experiment fearlessly.

As we bring in the new year 2024, I honour the essence of authenticity in 2023, that defined the human experience. Over then, to my list of the nine most powerful people I admire…


Anand Patwardhan’s documentaries focus on critical social and political issues in India. He delves into topics such as caste discrimination, religious fundamentalism, activism, and social change, showcasing a deep understanding of these complex issues. Patwardhan fearlessly confronts controversial subjects. He doesn't shy away from criticizing the government or powerful institutions, often putting himself at personal risk to uncover truths and challenge established norms.

His films are meticulously researched, featuring extensive interviews, archival footage, and on-the-ground investigations. Reason (2018), also known as Vivek, explored the rise of religious fundamentalism and attacks on free speech and secularism in India. His award winning and critically acclaimed film The World Is Family (2023)  harks back to the freedom struggle through the lens of interviews with his family, and its deep connection to the movement, and builds an intimate portrait of his late parents.


Ravish Kumar, a journalist and television anchor, is regarded as a revolutionary figure in the field of journalism. He is known for his bold reporting style, addresses critical issues and challenges prevailing narratives, even in the face of threats and pressure. His reporting sheds light on the everyday challenges faced by ordinary people. He brings attention to marginalized voices that are often ignored by mainstream media.

Ravish is vocal about the shortcomings of the media industry and its role in shaping public opinion. He critiques the sensationalism and biases prevalent in mainstream media, calling for responsible journalism. His storytelling often connects with viewers on an emotional level. He actively addresses misinformation and fake news, advocating for truth and fact-based reporting.

His contributions to journalism have been recognized with several prestigious awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award, which is considered Asia's Nobel Prize. His dedication to ethical journalism, his courage to speak truth to power, and his commitment to representing the voiceless have contributed to his reputation as a revolutionary figure in the field of journalism. Ravish Kumar’s work has made a significant impact on the media landscape in India. If you haven’t already, do watch the film While We Watched (2023) - a turbulent newsroom drama intimately chronicling the working days of Ravish Kumar as he navigates a spiralling world of truth and disinformation. It’s directed by Vinay Shukla.


Documentarians and authors often bring unique perspectives to their work, shedding light on important issues or presenting stories that resonate with audiences. Joy Bimal Roy is both a filmmaker and author, and therefore his book Ramblings Of A Bandra Boy (2023) has a unique quality that sets him apart from all other writers I know. It is a delightful compilation of his articulate Facebook posts that recall episodes from his daily life, both recent and past.

Joy brings to life a cast of characters from celebrities to household staff, who scheme and hatch plots, trying to present a particular version of themselves to the world but eventually revealing their true natures. He is very much part of these happenings, sometimes playing the main character who extricates himself and flees the scene and at other times an extra who gets roped into the action. He recalls his childhood and his love for his mother and the house in which he and his siblings had a joyful childhood. Joy mentions his struggles with mental health and his dislike of studying and the world of business. As an insider in the film industry, being the son of one of India’s greatest filmmakers, Bimal Roy, Joy has witnessed and interacted with many legends of the film world. He recounts juicy stories using discrete codes and it is fun to puzzle out who some of the key figures are. 

Joy makes it to my list of most powerful people of 2023 because he not only released his book independently, but has also marketed it personally to make it one of the bestsellers of the year. It is a piece of literature, although specific to one part of the great city of Mumbai, that everyone across the country is taking about!


Shabnam Hashmi is recognized as a prominent social activist in India due to her tireless advocacy for human rights, particularly for marginalized communities, women, and minorities. She has been a vocal advocate for the rights of religious and ethnic minorities in India.

She founded ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), a non-profit organization, through which she has been actively involved in various initiatives aimed at fostering social cohesion and unity. She works towards ensuring gender equality, addressing gender-based violence, and advocating for better opportunities and rights for women across different segments of society. She has been involved in highlighting issues related to poverty, displacement, communal violence, and social justice.

Shabnam Hashmi has led various campaigns and uses her platform to raise awareness, educate people, and mobilize support. Despite facing challenges and opposition, she has shown immense courage to voice concerns against injustices and inequalities in society. In 2023, she launched a successful campaign ‘Mere Ghar Aake Toh Dekho’ (I welcome you to my home), encouraging families from diverse communities to visit each other and see that the commonalities between them overshadow all the differences, and that coexistence is the most humane way to live.


Rita Meher, the founder of the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival, Seattle, is a remarkable individual known for her contributions to the promotion of South Asian cinema and culture. Her dedication to showcasing and promoting South Asian cinema highlights her commitment to preserving and celebrating the diverse cultural heritage of the region.

Meher's focus on cinema as a tool for empowerment and social change is evident in her efforts to bring attention to thought-provoking films that address social issues, cultural nuances, and stories from diverse perspectives.

As the founder of the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival, Meher's vision has been instrumental in shaping the festival into a platform that promotes dialogue, understanding, and appreciation for South Asian cinema on a global scale. By curating a diverse selection of films that represent various regions, languages, and perspectives from South Asia, she highlights the richness and diversity of the region's cinema. Her unique ability to use cinema as a medium to bridge cultures has made her a significant figure in the realm of cultural advocacy.


Sridhar Rangayan and Saagar Gupta are indeed significant figures in India's LGBTQ+ community, known for their pioneering efforts in promoting LGBTQ+ visibility and advocacy through the KASHISH Mumbai Pride Film Festival.

Sridhar Rangayan  is a filmmaker, writer, and LGBTQ+ activist. He has been actively involved in advocating for LGBTQ+ rights in India for decades. He directed ground-breaking films like Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror), Breaking Free and the more recent Evening Shadows, which shed light on LGBTQ+ issues.

Saagar Gupta, the co-founder of the festival has been an integral part of organizing and curating the festival and providing a platform for LGBTQ+ filmmakers. The KASHISH Mumbai Pride Film Festival has played a crucial role in providing visibility to LGBTQ+ stories, experiences, and talents. It serves as a platform for LGBTQ+ filmmakers from India and around the world to showcase their films and has fostered a sense of community among LGBTQ+ individuals, allies, artists, and activists by providing a safe and inclusive space for dialogue, discussions, and cultural exchange.


Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, a notable author, is known for her impactful writing and advocacy for women's issues, particularly the representation and empowerment of single women. Kundu's writing often portrays the lives, struggles, and aspirations of single women in contemporary society. Her books explore themes of independence, identity, relationships, and societal expectations. From Sita’s Curse: The Language of Desire, Status Single: The Truth About Being Single Woman in India and Cut, to her latest book, Everything Changes: A Memoir, Kundu has consistently challenged stereotypes. She actively engages in discussions, interviews, and public forums. Her books and articles have made a significant impact on readers, fostering empathy, understanding, and conversations around the complexities of being a single woman in modern society.



Salim Asgarally, a fashion designer and founder of Sals Organics, is known for his inclusive designs that celebrate diversity. He has showcased a commitment to creating fashion embracing fluidity and inclusivity in his designs. As a trans-woman Salim has used his influence and platform to raise awareness about transgender rights and issues.

By advocating for diversity and representation, he sets an example for the industry to embrace and celebrate differences. He routes for equality and acceptance, which make him a positive role model for transgender individuals within the fashion and food world and beyond.  

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.