Bye bye Apu from the Simpsons, hello Sugar Sammy from Montreal.
From first generation immigrants to their second generation offspring and those born in the Motherland, South Asians are making their presence seen on the world stage.
If you belong to this minority group you’ve definitely witnessed a change in the face of entertainment over the past 20 years. Roles themselves have become less about portraying old stereotypes and more about showcasing diversity.
Maybe the discourse around Apu’s widely criticized and racially charged character has become a catalyst for change but this year alone I’ve seen a significant growth in Indian entertainers. The other day I came across a show called I Feel Bad starring Indian American actress Sarayu Rao Blue. The show, written and produced by Aseem Batra along with Amy Poehler, rarely makes reference to her heritage. Instead, it focuses on the difficulties of balancing motherhood with work and life through the lens of her mixed-race family (it’s like looking in the mirror!).
I followed up the sitcom with Showtime comedy special Just Another Immigrant: Romesh At The Greek that had me and my Italian-Canadian husband laughing out loud. British born Romesh Ranganathan of Sri Lankan descent performs to a disappointing crowd of 400 in a venue that seats close to 6,000. Although visibly annoyed, the 40-year-old gets the entire audience on stage and doesn’t displease. His jokes about parenting and marriage have turned me into a fan.
But it doesn’t stop there. Comedians like Montreal native Sugar Sammy aren’t just putting on fake accents to please a predominantly white crowd, but providing hilarious commentary on everyday life. And if anyone doesn’t know the name Hasan Minhaj, you will after watching his keynote address at the 2017 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Classics like the Mindy Project created by and starring hilariously funny Mindy Kaling and “oldie” Kal Penn have definitely paved the way for newcomers to showcase their talent. And, the major success of Crazy Rich Asians is also proof that the world, particularly the west, has an appetite for a new breed of entertainers. Who knows, this could be the start of a successful franchise with the sequel entitled Crazy Rich Indians starring Deepika Padukone and Kunal Nayyar.
That said, if Hollywood insists on typecasting South Asians then maybe their next series should be about an Indian immigrant kicking ass in Silicon Valley. Whatever the story line, this Indo-Canadian is proud!