Cover of Slumdog Millionaire [Blu-ray]
Cover of Pink Panther 2
Dev Patel, the 20 year old Indian N.R.I (Non-Indian Resident) Actor, who shot to fame with the biggest hit of 2008-”Slumdog Millionaire”, is yet again the center of attention after his latest comments regarding Hollywood, which he calls is racist. The vegetarian actor’s recent release “The Last Airbender”, is his second venture after ‘Slumdog’. Being barely two films old, Dev has lashed out at Hollywood as being biased and unfair!
The August 12, 2010 HT City edition, of the daily (English) Indian newspaper- Hindustan Times; carries a front page news, titled- “Hollywood is RACIST”. The article has a large picture of Dev Patel in a black tuxedo. The published content explains that according to Dev, Hollywood is an institution which is racist towards “Asians”, and thus, Asians are offered small and limited roles such as that of “terrorists, taxi drivers or geeks”. Dev further says that, due to shortageof decent roles, he is currently “jobless” and frustrated. Further, as if speaking on behalf of the entire Asian Actors’ community, he informs the public that, Asian actors are not sent Hollywood scripts that are substantial and/or challenging. From his personal perspective he says, he’s most likely to receive roles that of terrorists, cab drivers and smart geeks. He cries to inform all, that he wants to show the world that, he has versatility! He further goes on to say that he hopes the industry changes, and Asian actors such as him are able to make it through the door;with not much focus of the casting directors, on the actor’s ‘colour’, but more on talent.
Though Dev Patel may be hopeful on getting better scripts, he has definitely touched upon a very sensitive issue of “Racism” and discrimination against people, particularly the Asians, when it comes to the matter of ‘jobs’. I personally am in full agreement with Dev since this is an issue which is quiet true and prominent, if one ponders over it, through a sociological perspective. It is worth questioning that, in recent times, how many Indian/Bollywood actors have made it big in Hollywood, through Hollywood movies? Take the case of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. Aish is considered as the epitome of the Indian film industry and one who perfectly represents everything ‘Indian’ at the global front. She is also considered as one of the world’s most beautiful women alive and has been credited with an immense number of successful films in Bollywood. Her beauty and acting skills are beyond compare, and when the two amalgamate on-screen, it is pure magic and pleasure to ones senses! However, keeping today’s issue in mind, it seemed absolutely foolish and as if insulting, to see her in the 2009 film “Pink Panther-2″. The film included her name in the main cast list, but with not as much a significant role and on-screen time, as it would and surely was expected! Sonia Solandres, the criminology expert, that Aish played was a role that any member of the crew or for that matter even a newcomer could do. Why bring such a beautiful human all the way from Mumbai, India and humiliate her with a role, fit for any tom, dick or harry? Why on Earth was Aish not given the role of Emily Mortimer, who is the love of the leading male, whose played by Steve Martin? Further, the on-screentime for Aishwarya was also minimal as compared to all the other actors. Correction is definitely required if this phrase is wrong; “Aishwarya and another Asian actor named Yuki Matsuzaki, who played a ‘ techno wiz-kid’; were the only two actors in the film, who had the least on-screen time”. It would not be wrong to suggest that there was definitely racism involved in this case, since this is but obvious; seeing the reel-time that the two Asian actors were given in the movie!
Moreover, it is strange how none of our Indian actors these days, are offered; as Dev Patel says- “substantial and challenging roles”! I mean, we here in Bollywood have got, some of the most fabulously talented actors, in both the male and female categories. For instance in the ladies we have Kangna Ranaut, Bipasha Basu, PriyankaChopra, Vidya Balan, Konkona Sen Sharma, Celina Jaitley, Preity Zinta and many more. And in the gentlemen section, we have actors such as John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan and Salman Khan. These are some of India’s finest actors and actresses who are, according to me, capable of handling the most complex character roles ever made! They can dance, shout, cry, laugh, fight and above all “ACT”; only because they have “TALENT” and they know how to utilise it! Our leading ladies who are currently paid millions of Rupees, are as good as any of your Angelina Jolie, Jessica Alba, Drew Barrymore(who resembles Preity Zinta), Reese Witherspoon etc., who the Americans look up to in awe! Our ”meat-shop men” ; like Johny boy and Sallu are equally talented in comparison to you Brad Pit and Richard Gere etc. Then why aren’t these Indian hottes approached for international projects that require out-of-the-box acting abilities? Why are Indians discriminated against, when it comes to casting? Is there a perception that we Indians are way inferior to all the other races in the world, or is it just pure disgust or something called as ”jealousy” ? It has been seen that Hollywood movies give a fair chance of acting to actors who belong from Africa and Latin America but not as much fairness takes place, when it comes to actors from India and other Asian countries such as China, Japan or Honk Kong.
Just as I am thinking really hard of recent instances of racism against Indians in the movie and television world, I immediately remember an instance or more like a scene from an international television show, I saw months ago. This was the famous children’s show ‘The Suite Life on Deck’, that even today airs on Disney Channel. Now, those of you who have already seen the show are faithfully aware of the characters and the way the show is shot and also to whom it caters to! But for those who are absolutely alien to this show and are not aware of it; I am honestly sorry since, I am not in the mood to detail out each and every fact of the show; so those of you who belong to the latter category, go do some homework!
Being a big Disney fan since, I don’t know time immemorial, I have never missed out on any of ‘The Suite Life on Deck’ episodes. This one, is with regard to one of the earliest episodes of that show. In one such episode, the scene shows that London Tipton enters her room on the SS Tipton and finds a girl in her room. The dusky cheerful girl in reality is her room mate. The ‘girl’ who plays the character called Padma, in complete reality is an upcoming Indian actress called Tiya Sircar. London, on seeing her, comments ” Ugh, how hideous “. Padma says ” What? you don’t like the room “, to which London says “ No, your clothes “. To this, Padma looks at her clothing with shame and pity. London further goes on to say ” Do I really have to talk to daddy about these new ‘maid-outfits’? On hearing this, Padma pauses and clarifies ” Oh! You think I’m (a maid)? Oh no, no, no. I’m Padma, your room mate.” London in shock, says “Room mate? Isn’t it bad enough that daddy is making me go on this stupid sea school, and now he’s making me share a room with a MAID.” On hearing this Padma says ” Pardon me, its ‘Student’ ” to which London says, in a crying manner ” A student-MAID? I HATE training a new maid. ” The scene further shows, that in order to get rid of her room mate, London bribes Padma by telling her to select anything from her collection of expensive diamond jewellery. The scene ends, by showing Padma, dancing and repeatedly singing- ” I’m filthy rich! “
This clearly shows, of what kind of an image of Indians, has and is being built in America. Padma, an Indian, is shown as a poor and distastefully dressed young girl, who can be easily bribed, in order to get done, what one wants! She further being repeatedly referred to as a ‘MAID’, a servant, is completely objectionable, disgusting and intolerable. Since, it is an insult not just to her, but also to the entire Indian community, in America as well as in India, and in all other countries where Indians live and where the show is telecast! Further, regarding the continuity of Padma’s character in the show; it is noteworthy that Padma is never ever shown on the show, after this episode. So it can be guessed that Tiya Sircar(who plays Padma) had just a guest appearance. Was the fact that she, Tiya was an “Indian” , enough to make the show producers, not to cast her in any future episodes. Further, what was the motive behind projecting Padma, the way she was projected? These are things which no one will come out to clarify. But we have minds enough, to do the math!
Further, it has always been seen that Indian actors; if ever are cast in any Hollywood film; have a very minute and blink-and-miss role! Some say, they are given ’side-kick’ roles, but others say, they are given ‘no roles’ at all! Further, it is not just the issue of the injustice that is taking place as Dev Patel points out. The matter takes a much more serious and ‘favouring-injustice’ turn, when Indian actors AGREE to do such crappy and shitty roles! The actors should; like Dev; put their foot down, and say NO to roles that are most likely, to be seen as that of a ’side-kick’, such as the role that Aishwarya Rai did in ‘The Pink Panther-2′. Until and unless the role is truly worth it; actors should not give a green signal, by just looking at the cash, being offered! Its about time Actors as well as Directors, understood that quality, has a much more prominent place in films, than pure quantity!