Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Dirty Dozen, with Ali Kazimi

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Ali Kazimi

Already well-known as a filmmaker, Ali Kazimi has now turned his hand to writing, with Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru, An Illustrated History (Douglas & McIntyre). The book examines the Komagata Maru incident of 1914, where the titular ship was turned away from Canadian soil with almost 400 Indian passengers on board, all of whom were denied the right to immigrate to Canada due to their nationality. Using text and photographs, Ali tells the story of this dark period of Canadian history and the political and social motivations involved.

Today Ali speaks with Open Book as part of our Dirty Dozen series, which invites author to share twelve unexpected facts about themselves. Read on to hear from Ali about Leonard Cohen, All India Radio and his signature dishes.

  1. I heard Leonard Cohen on vinyl in India when I was sixteen. I had no idea he was Canadian until I saw him on a film set in Toronto in 1984.
  2. I grew up with cats and dogs in India. I once owned a 23 lb Norwegian Forest Cat — who fought like a sumo wrestler and caught butterflies with the grace of a ballet dancer.
  3. In college, I used to spin as a local DJ my favourite western rock and pop on All India Radio — everything from Deep Purple to the Carpenters.
  4. I was frost bitten, not in the deepest deep freeze of Toronto, but in the high altitudes of the Himalayas. I used to climb.
  5. My maternal grandfather was one of India's first Olympians and a Wimbledon journeyman tennis player for nine years.
  6. I successfully drew the great lakes on a blank map of North America and named them in my grade ten geography exam in Delhi.
  7. The first North American city I came to know about was Rochester, New York. My father worked for Kodak India.
  8. I actually enjoyed organic chemistry and still remember the thrill of understanding of Einstein’s special theory of relativity. I have a B.Sc. from Delhi University.
  9. Writing Undesirables was a far more challenging process than any film I have worked on.
  10. I am an eclectic collector — photographs, art, coins and books.
  11. I love to cook Hydrabadi style food. My signature dish is khati daal and bhagre baigan.
  12. I love archives of all kinds, personal and public. I have connected two families with their photos and home movies.


Ali Kazimi is a Toronto-based filmmaker. Born and raised in India, he came to Canada in 1983. Since then, his documentaries have been screened and broadcast internationally to critical acclaim. Continuous Journey, his 2004 feature documentary investigating the events surrounding the Komagata Maru, has garnered awards on three continents to date. Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru is his first book. Kazimi is an associate professor in the Department of Film at York University.

For more information about Undesirables: White Canada and the Komagata Maru, An Illustrated History please visit the Douglas & McIntyre website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the Dirty Dozen interviews in our archives.

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