A few years ago, it would be exciting for Indian audiences to come across an Indian face on an American show. But now the association of an Indian with an American TV show is a daily deal with some even dominating American prime-time.
The earliest association of Indian faces and voices with American TV takes us to the yellow flood splashing on our screens with the Simpsons in 1990s; the animated television series which portrayed the character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon as an illegal immigrant from India. It is 2017 and the ‘Indo-American TV ties’ have grown stronger, with more American shows featuring Indians in significant roles. Recently, shows like ‘Quantico’ and ‘24’ have been making headlines in India because of Bollywood biggies Priyanka Chopra and Anil Kapoor playing the lead roles. But, while the home-grown stardom pumped the popularity of these shows, some shows and stars have been grabbing eyeballs in the US besides the hundreds and thousands of them in India.
Kunal Nayyar, Big Bang Theory
British-Indian actor, Kunal Nayyar plays Raj Koothrappali, an astrophysicist, in ‘The Big Bang Theory’. This sitcom revolves around protons, electrons, neutrons besides other complicated science stuff and four complicated friends who are surviving a dysfunctional friendship square. In the show, Nayyar is just another geek who is trying to be social and ‘socially charming’, but like his other friends, is winning at science and failing at girls. Nayyar, who moved from to the US from India in 1999 to study business, made his Big Bang breakthrough in 2007, a year after finishing his master’s degree in fine arts.
Dev Patel, Newsroom
The news anchor at a TV station is suddenly stunted off the routine when the newsroom undergoes some changes in its workings and morals as a new team is brought in. The ‘Newsroom’ is a drama based on the inner workings of a television news channel wherein Indo-British actor, Dev Patel plays Neal Sampat – a researcher for the news team. “He’s the new age of news-casting; he uses Facebook and Twitter, he’s youthful and idealistic,” Patel himself was quoted saying about his character. Patel has also starred in ‘Skins’, ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ and its sequel ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. He was also a part of the Oscar-winning film, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.
Parvesh Singh Cheena, Outsourced
This workplace comedy series has an American manager sent to run a call centre in India. The truth of the existing cultural and linguistic differences dawns on this manager, quite early in the show and also the fact that he is in not just up for a big cultural swap/exchange/shock but also everyday (comic) struggles to make his not-so-obedient employees work. Parvesh Singh Cheena is one such employee who plays the character of Gupta. Gupta is an attention seeker, a very talkative employee and usually roams around nagging people who in turn run away from him. On the other hand, in real life, Cheena has garnered much fandom with his work in ‘Transformers’, ‘Rescue Boats’ and ‘Crazy ex-Girlfriend’.
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Aziz Ansari is playing a 30-year-old actor, Dev, in the comedy series ‘Master of None’. Dev’s life goes by in a humorous yet meaningful sequence of event in the ever-shining New York City. Everything he does is usually related to hanging out with his three friends, finding a relationship, or getting ahead in his career. The show is the winner of the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy series and is a creation of Ansari who is also its writer. Ansari has created the show along with Alan Yang.
This is just a trending list of the names that are revolving around on TV screens in the US and in India, and of course on Netflix. Hannah Simone in ‘New Girl’, Annet Mahendru in ‘The Americans’, Noureen DeWulf in ‘Anger Management’ and Archie Panjabi in ‘The Good Wife’ have strong hold of the ground too. Roles played by Indian actors in American TV shows have been appreciated across continents and the ‘international fame quotient’ doesn’t seem to stop here. With more and more Indian faces, even from Bollywood, aspiring to live the ‘American dream’, Hollywood seems to be reciprocating on equal terms.