The turban shone on global ramp, a local beauty catwalked her way to international fame. Pollywood gathered for a historic celebration in Toronto, a tale of rural state farmers won hearts of global film connoisseurs, City Beautiful became a muse of a Hollywood biggie and an ageless athlete inspired the youth world over. The region took a global flight in the year 2012, halting at several places and allowing the world to savour its many flavours.
1 Haute turbanator: Ace French designer Jean Paul Gaultier gave the turban a fashionable twist with his Sikh-inspired menswear showcased in Paris in June 2012. The haute couture celebrity designer, who has styled Madonna and Nicole Kidman, dressed up his male models in Sikh-styled turbans, teamed with shorts, blazers, tuxedos, t-shirts and overcoats, and completed the look with stick-on beards. The designer, who swears by all things Indian, not only displayed his love for the country but also glorified this Sikh tradition on international ramp. What’s more, another well-known Italian designer, Kean Etro, too clad his male models in turban-esque wraps and breezy bottoms in his Spring 2013 Menswear Collection.
2 Hollywood’s choice: Select locales of Chandigarh and Punjab grabbed eyeballs globally with the premiere of the film Zero Dark Thirty on December 18 in Los Angeles. For this Hollywood venture, based on Osama bin Laden’s capture by US Navy Seals following a decade-long hunt after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the team camped here for over 20 days early this year. Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow transformed several local spots to resemble Lahore and Abbottabad, Pakistan—a move that was accompanied by controversy, as local protestors expressed anti-Osama and anti-Pakistan sentiments while objecting to the portrayal of India as Pakistan.
3 Beauty from Jalandhar: Jalandhar girl Vanya Mishra gave the local beauties a newfound confidence as she emerged as one of the top contenders for the global Miss World pageant in March 2012. Even at the glittering final ceremony on August 18 held in Beijing, Vanya made it to the top seven (as many as 116 countries had participated) and was being touted as one of the probable winners all the way. This 24-year-old undergraduate student of electrical engineering at PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh, though losing the pageant to China’s Wenxia Yu, bagged the titles of Miss Social Media and Beauty With a Purpose. What impressed the judges and catapulted her to the league of seven finalists was her mujra-style dance on the famous track Dil Cheez Kya Hai from the 1981 film Umrao Jaan in the semi-final round.
4 Pollywood pride: It was the realisation of an ambitious dream when Toronto witnessed the very first Punjabi International Film Academy Awards this August. At a glittering ceremony held at Air Canada Centre, the premier sports and entertainment venue and home of Toronto, dignitaries from Punjabi cinema gathered to celebrate this growing industry and honour those taking it to new heights. An initiative of Rajinder Saini of Pravasi entertainment and media group, the mega event saw the backing of veterans such as Om Puri and Dharmendra. Others who added spark to the dazzling ceremony included actors Prem Chopra, Jimmy Sheirgill, Neeru Bajwa, Sonu Sood, Divya Dutta, Diljit Dosanjh, Gippy Grewal, Surveen Chawla, Gurpreet Ghuggi and Kapil Sharma, to name a few. The local Ontario government represented by Hon Vic Dhillon, Hon Harinder Thakkar and many dignitaries attended the function.
5 Cinema with substance: Made with a modest budget, sans big names, Punjabi film Anhey Ghore Da Daan did to Punjabi cinema this year that none other has done so far. It won three National awards (best feature film, direction and cinematography). Becoming the first regional film to travel to so many international film festivals, this film on Punjab’s Dalit farmers premiered in the Orizzonti section (Horizons) at the 68th Venice International Film Festival, won the Special Jury Award and the $50,000 Black Pearl trophy at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, and was shown at the 55th BFI London Film Festival. An adaptation of Bathinda-based author Gurdial Singh’s 1976 novel of the same name, the film has been directed by FTII (Pune) alumnus Gurvinder Singh (pic no. O5) and funded by National Film Development Corporation of India.
6 Dil kabaddi: The Third World Kabaddi Cup hosted by Punjab government became bigger this year. Besides India, men teams from 15 countries (an increase from 13 foreign teams last year) and women teams from six countries (a rise from four foreign teams in 2011) landed in the state early December for the 15-day tournament. While men teams from Afghanistan, Argentina, Canada, Denmark, England, India, Iran, Italy, Kenya, Norway, Pakistan, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, United States and New Zealand competed for prize money of R2 crore (double the prize of 2011), women teams from India, Malaysia, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Turkmenistan and Denmark vied for a cash prize of R50 lakh (double the prize of 2011). India won the cup in both categories consecutively for the third year. While Bollywood actors Akshay Kumar and Asin opened the gala with their performances, Katrina Kaif graced the final ceremony held in Ludhiana on December 15 with a dance performance.
7 Savoury delight: Global culinary star from Punjab, Vikas Khanna, popular for his food and killer looks alike, added another feather to his already studded hat as he was awarded the Michelin star for his restaurant Junoon by Michelin Guide for 2012. Raised in Amritsar on large family feats and fresh produce from Punjab’s fields, Vikas is today a world-renowned chef with a number of awards and recognitions to his credit. Host of MasterChef India Season 2, Vikas has cooked for presidents and celebrities world over.
8 Master foodie: Deepinder Goyal, 29-year-old entrepreneur from Muktsar, founded India’s biggest restaurant guide, zomato.com. Currently, the site gets more than 3.5 million visitors a month from India alone, with more than 30,000 restaurants listed on Zomato, which launched its Dubai section in September this year. In a span of three months, it has over 200,000 users visiting Zomato Dubai every month. Zomato has strengthened its presence in the Middle East with the launch of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah business along with a foray into Sri Lanka last month. Globally, Zomato is one of the top five restaurant discovery services.
9 Ageless athlete: The never-say-die Punjabi spirit drew the loudest cheers at the Olympics Torch Relay this year with the participation of record-holder centenarian marathon Fauja Singh, a moment described by admirers and onlookers as “a moment of history”. Jalandhar-born and London-based Fauja Singh, aged 101, was driven to running only in his 80s, following the untimely death of his eldest son Kuldeep Singh in an accident. Early in December 2012, Fauja was also invited as a special guest in Malaysia for the 2nd Annual Chardikala Fun Run at Padang Astaka, Malaysia. In his honour, the run was given the theme ‘101 and running’.
10 Gutsy Guardsman: When Jatenderpal Singh Bhullar, 25, paraded outside Buckingham Palace wearing a turban instead of the famous bearskin in December, he became the first guardsman in the 180 years of tradition to do so. While the Scots Guardsman himself described the moment as “the best thing” in his life, a UK newspaper called it as “a glimpse into the changing face of Britain”. “Conducting public duties while being a practising Sikh and wearing my turban is a great honour for me,” Bhullar told the paper.
11 Dhaba tales in Canada’s Parliament: That the famed Punjabi dhaba enjoys a wider fan base than thought became known when a dignitary no less than Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper listed a dhaba visit as a must in his itinerary on a one-day trip to Chandigarh in November. Even as the much-speculated meal was had at Chandigarh’s Deluxe Dhaba instead of the earlier planned Pal Dhaba, what emerged as the winner was the savoury Punjbai fare—Dal, Palak Paneer, Lemon Chicken, Malai Kofta and Butter Naan.
12 Canada’s He-Man: The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Arjan Bhullar, 25, became the first Canadian of South Asian descent to compete for freestyle wrestling in the Olympics. He competed at the London Olympics and is a five-time member of the national team. His father Avtar Singh was a former national-level wrestler, who attained success in India as well as Canada. About 30 years later, his son carries the proverbial family torch as a regular member of the Canadian team. Their family originally hails from Jalandhar.