Sunday, June 17, 2012

Indian Characters American Sitcoms


Today, it is almost impossible to find a popular American sitcom without an Indian character in it. The obsession with Indians might have grown because of our “weird accent”, our “strange traditions” or our “peculiar economy” consisting of “the very rich and the very poor”. Whatever the reason, these characters seem to make the plots more interesting. Here are some of my favourite Indian characters from some of the well- liked shows.

1.      Dr. Rajesh Kootrapalli- Big Bang Theory

KunalNayyar’s quirky portrayal of Dr. Raj Kootrapalli has earned him female fans across the world. One of the crazy things about this character that makes him so lovable is his selective mutism! The guy just cannot open his mouth around a girl! There are instances in the show, though where it seems like all that Americans know about us is that we worship cows and are not scared of snakes! But let’s just forget that part because this sitcom like others that have Indians in them has put “the Indian guy next door” on a global map!

2.      Cecelia Meyers- New Girl

This character is one breath of fresh air! Unlike the other Indian girls on popular sitcoms, she is not overweight and does not speak with an accent. Cece is a supermodel (played by ex- supermodel Hannah Simone) and she is best friends with the lead, Jess (Zooey Deschnel). Her weird yet perfect chemistry with Schmidt makes you go “awww”! She is independent, beautiful and falls for a “douche bag”. She happens to be the best Indian (Indian-looking) girl in American TV for me, besides Perminder Nagra on ER.

3.      Timmy Patel- Rules of Engagement

Timmy Patel, another “not-afraid-of-snakes-Indian-guy” from the show Rules of Engagement, is played by Adhir Kalyan. This guy stands out because of his out of this world sarcasm. This “best assistant in the world” bonds more with his boss than with girls around. May be that’s because he works for Russell! Kalyan’s straight faced delivery of witty dialogues makes this character all the more hilarious.

4.      Others

Some of the other Indian characters that play significant parts on TV shows are Principal Figgins from Glee, driver Ranjeet from How I Met Your Mother and Dev from Smash. Figgins is a wacky Principal at McKinley High who is more concerned about odd problems than the main issues that students face in the school. Iqbal Theba has struck a chord with the viewers in this show after a well remembered doctor’s role on one of the episodes of the popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. (in the episode 'The One Hundredth')

Ranjeet, the driver from HIMYM is always available for the crazy gang. Wherever they want to go, he takes them. This show had one more Indian character Dr.Kevin, played by Kal Penn. I always thought Robin should end up with this guy because he was “oh-so-perfect” for her. Anyway (SPOILER ALERT!), seems like not many people agree with me.

Smash, another hit series has Dev, Karen’s Indian boyfriend. The first season has an episode on bollywood too. Dev is the rich, smart, tall guy who is in love with one of the protagonists on the show. (SPOILER ALERT) He goes on to betray her near the end of the season which is really sad because, they made a real cute couple! (Watch the bollywood theme video here. )

I think it is better that we stop seeing so many Indian characters on western shows. Too much Indianising can be harmful as the mystery that is associated with our culture will be lost otherwise. Also, westerners don’t really like seeing too many of us on their TVs like in the case of Raj on Big Bang. His character could not have a decent Indian girlfriend because as my sis Pinti points out, one of the crew members passed a not-so-great comment on such a development in the show.

Let’s just hope that these characters “continue” to put us in some “good light”!

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