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Girl likes Indian food, what can I say?

30 Apr

Aziz Ansari has been killing it lately on Parks and Recreation. He’s always hilarious, but the above clip puts him into one of my all-time favorite sitcom characters. I hate when Indians anglicize their names so normally his character changing his name to ‘Tom Haverford’ would give me pause, but as usual his explanation makes me love him more (From):

LESLIE: You’re not from here, right?
TOM: No, I’m from South Carolina.
LESLIE: But you moved to South Carolina from where?
TOM: My mother’s uterus.
LESLIE: But you were conceived in… Libya, right?
TOM: Wow, no. I was conceived in America, my parents are Indian.
LESLIE: Where’d the name Haverford come from?
TOM: My birth name is Darwish Sabir Ismael Gani and I changed it to Tom Haverford because, you know, brown guys with funny sounding Muslim names don’t get really far in politics.
(pause)
LESLIE: What about Barack Obama?
TOM: Fine, Barack Obama. If I knew a dude named Barack Obama was gonna be elected president, yeah, maybe I wouldn’t have changed my name.

Never fall in love with the Jersey Shore

17 Apr

From huffingtonpost.com

I loved Jersey Shore when it first premiered. I laughed through every episode and promoted the show’s merits to my dubious friends. I even defended the show from media attacks in this article and speculated about spinoffs for different ethnicities. I was convinced the show was campy fun, sweet junk food for the brain.

The second season dissolved into a live breakdown of a destructive relationship. The third season continued the drama of Ronnie and Sam, two individuals who couldn’t be less suited for each other. Possible drug abuse and physical abuse occurred behind the scenes. I was shocked MTV continued to the center the show around the pair, without a suggestion that such behavior was not normal, and not entertaining.

The third season also brought out the extreme sexism of the show’s males. Always hovering in the background, the men clearly had double standards when it came to “hooking up” and weren’t shy about sharing their opinions.

To my chagrin, a catalyst in yet another Ron/Sam fight was a former paramour of Sam’s, an Indian American friend named Arvin. I was not pleased a member of my community was associated with the negative turn Jersey Shore had taken.

Arvin Lal and Sammi "Sweetheart"

Surprisingly, Arvin contacted the editors of Brown Girl Magazine last week and suggested an interview. Though I planned to seriously question his pride in appearing on the show, Arvin was extremely polite and respectful during our phone conversation. I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.

Talking to Arvin convinced me the cast of Jersey Shore are all good kids at heart, but have been twisted into caricatures by their extreme popularity. The group travels to Italy next season and though I might regret it, I’ll still be watching.

Read my interview with Arvin here.

Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose

12 Feb

My high school journalism advisor loved sports writing and recommended the book Friday Night Lights to me back then. I hated sports but the story of football’s importance in a small Texas town and the saga of the player’s lives touched me.  It helped me understand how powerful writing could be, no matter the subject.

I never saw the movie based on the book but noticed the television show was available on Netflix Instant recently.  Though the television show has marked differences from the book, the first season is one of the best I have ever seen. I fell in love with the characters, the dialogue is perfect, and I even found myself watching the game scenes with interest.  Good writing and acting can break preconceived notions about sports and competition.

The first season finale shows the team celebrating winning the state championship while the Daniel Johnston song “Devil Town” covered by Bright Eyes plays. The score and songs used for the show are all fantastic, but the song choice in this scene is brilliant. (note: the video below is a collection of scenes from several seasons)

Irrfan Khan “In Treatment”

5 Jan

Originally published at Brown Girl Magazine

I’ve recently become a fan of the HBO show, In Treatment.  My cable company offered me a trial of HBO and the show hooked me from the first episode.  The show features therapy sessions with four of Dr. Paul Weston’s (Gabriel Byrne) patients. Thirty minutes of sitting and talking is my kind of entertainment (and also explains my lack of enthusiasm for most popular movies). 

Critics agree the breakout star of the show is Irrfan Khan, playing Sunil, a retired math professor from Calcutta who comes to live with his son in Brooklyn after his wife’s unexpected death.  Jhumpa Lahiri is a consultant to the show and the detail of how Sunil’s wife died – a reaction to the anesthesia during a routine surgery – mirrors how Ruma’s mother died in the title story in her latest story collection, Unaccustomed Earth. Viewers might recognize Khan as the policeman from Slumdog Millionaire or Gogol’s father from The Namesake

Khan plays older for the role and the details for his character are perfect – the process of preparing his hand rolled cigarettes, the way he fiercely defends his family’s honor, and dislike for his American daughter-in-law’s lack of modesty.  Khan’s Sunil struggles to adjust to life in his son’s home – he is uncomfortable with the way his son has Americanized himself – changing his name from Arun to Aaron, marrying an American woman and allowing her to run the house.  Sunil is convinced his daughter-in-law is having an affair and reveals troubling details of a romance in his youth, the one time in his life he defied his parents.

The first two seasons of In Treatment were based on Be’Tipul, the Hebrew name of the series that originated in Israel and played there for just two years.  (I highly recommend the first two seasons as well – many episodes are available on youtube.) Gabriel Bryne’s portrayal of protagonist therapist Paul is superb; Sunil overcomes his disdain towards therapy after observing Paul’s respect for him – by not pushing questions and letting him smoke during sessions.  The last episode reveals a twist that cast each of Sunil’s actions in a new light. 

In Treatment is a fascinating, precise show, made infinitely better by Khan’s excellent acting and compelling storyline. I recommend the show to anyone interested in quiet drama and the inner workings of talk therapy. 

Photo of Sunil from hbo.com

TV getting more brown

1 Feb

Danny Pudi with Joel McHale on Community. Photo from timeoutny.com

The Hollywood Reporter is the latest media outlet to notice network television is finally becoming more diverse. Among new shows which currently feature an Indian character are Parks and Recreation: Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford, The Office: Mindy Kaling as Kelly Kapoor, CommunityDanny Pudi as Abed, Glee: Iqbal Theba as Principal Higgins, The Big Bang Theory: Kunal Nayyar as Raj, The Good Wife: Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma.  Did I miss anyone?

According to the article, more projects are in the works — a pilot called Nirvana starring Kal Penn, Outsourced, a comedy about an American sent to work in India, an as yet unnamed pilot written by and featuring The Office’s Mindy Kaling, and a US version of the British Comedy The Kumars at No. 42.

Aziz Ansari with the hilarious Amy Poehler on Parks and Recreation. Photo from eonline.com

Television reaches such a wide audience, it’s wonderful to see Indians (and not just stereotypical doctos or vixens) being exposed to the American public. 

Archie Panjabi with Julianna Marguiles on The Good Wife. Photo from tvguide.com

Team Coco, obviously

21 Jan

"Heh heh look at this guy. Everyone is fat and stupid!" "How much longer do I have to stand here?"

I wrote last year about loving Conan O’Brien and hating Jay Leno.  At the time, I was looking forward to Conan taking over The Tonight Show.  I predicted at the time Jay would not go gently into that good night…

And now that Conan has made a deal with NBC, with a sizable compensation for his staff, I am assured he is not only a nice guy but one who cannot be pushed around.  As he would say, rawr!  Everyone seems to be upset NBC will be taking ownership of his characters, including Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and Pimpbot, but O’Brien is truly funny (unlike Jay), I’m sure any new show and characters he creates will be just fine.

I’m grateful for your goosebumps: Wisdom from Mr. Rogers

7 Aug

Like most kids, I grew up watching Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on TV. Maybe more than most growing up in the 90s because we didn’t have cable and only received 5 channels (sometimes 6 on a good day, when my brother made me hold the antenna at a certain angle).  

I always found him comforting; his slow, deliberate actions and purposeful way of speaking reminded me of my dad.  It took me years before I realized he also voiced the puppets in Make-Believe Land.  And he taught me how crayons were made!

I’ve been a little anxious lately and Phil made me watch the video above.  In 1969, President Nixon wanted to cut funding for the fairly new Public Broadcasting Stations and divert the funds to the Vietnam War.  Mr. Rogers eloquently explains the need for children to hear his messages of “being special just the way they are” and how talking about and dealing with feelings is an important skill.

The video made me realize his message isn’t just for children and everybody needs to be reminded of their worth now and again.

Just for kicks, here is an animated Mr. Rogers on another great (not just for kids!) show, Arthur: