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What Can Brown Do For You…in US Popular Culture?

By August 08, 2013 , , , , , , , , , ,

The South Asian community comprises a large portion of the US population, yet there has been little presence of South Asians in popular American entertainment, much less an accurate portrayal of their “desi-ness”. In the last few years, however, some artists have started making their place in mainstream American entertainment. For better or worse, here are my thoughts on the top personalities that come to mind.
Clockwise from top: Mindy Kaling, Jay Sean, Priyanka Chopra, Kal Penn
Kal Penn
Kal Penn first got his fame through his hilarious portrayal of Kumar in Harold and Kumar Go to Whitecastle. While it was great to see an Indian as a central character in a movie, his name was the extent of the “Indian-ness” portrayed  (and perhaps fairly so, because ethnicity wasn’t a central aspect of the movie). In the years following, Kal Penn has developed an even bigger name for himself with his roles in The Namesake and Robin’s funny boyfriend/therapist in How I Met Your Mother, and perhaps more importantly, as an active democrat working for President Obama. It’s great to see him gain success but I’m left wanting more from him regarding some ownership of his Indian pride.
Mindy Kaling
Where Kal Penn left off, Minday Kaling picks up and runs with it! Mindy first gained popularity in the hit show The Office, but it’s her recent show The Mindy Project that has me hooked. It is so refreshing to see a brown female succeed as a comedian/artist and not ignore her ethnicity in the process! While Mindy’s character doesn’t revolve around her being Indian, there are meaningful nods to her background. I especially love her relationship with her brother Rishi on the show and her botched attempts at Indian cooking.
Jay Sean
Jay Sean gained popularity in the South Asian underground music scene in Britain back in 2003 with the release of his song “Dance With You”. The song quickly topped the music charts, but it was his immensely catchy song “Down” that made him popular in the US. Not only is he talented (and good looking), he’s been able to successfully blend his South Asian roots with hip hop/RnB music. I hear that he recently released a new song which I can’t wait to listen to!
Priyanka Chopra
A household name in India due to her immense fame in Bollywood, Priyanka Chopra is a newbie in US popular culture. Last year, she decided to foray into the singing world with the release of her song “In My City” during NFL Thursday Night Football. She also just recently released a new song “Exotic” in collaboration with Pitbull. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of either of the songs. It’s great to see her presence in the US pop scene, but her songs aren’t cutting it for me. Firstly, how can anyone “feel so exotic” – you either ARE exotic or you’re not. Secondly, it is just perpetuating the stereotypical notion of India being an “exotic” far-off land. I also feel like she is not using her strengths – why would she forgo her excellent dancing abilities and settle on some silly hand moves in the music video? Regardless, she does look smoking, and I guess there are plenty of other folks who love it her songs and music videos.
Who are the top actors/singers that have made an impact on you recently? Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the increasing popularity (and rightfully so!) of Indian fashion designers! 

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5 comments

  1. I'd like to see more Rishi on the Mindy Project. Great show, but I wonder if she'll ever date any Indian guys on there? Also, you forgot Aziz!
    - Don Mega.

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    Replies
    1. Probably not, now that she has run off to Haiti with churchboy! And yes, I can't believe I forgot Aziz and his swag! Thanks for the reminder Jit!

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  2. Mindy is cool, have been following her since The Office..must say I like her spontaneity. PC's video I liked, she looks chic, the song nt so much..too much of a wannabe-types. but then again hats off to her, she has achieved all this on her own ability..I mean she is a pioneer for sure!
    Good job with this post gals!
    ~ashy
    http://thezingofmylife.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. mindy project started airing recently in india..i wish the timing was different as it clashes with the 1st half of breaking bad. i love watching it though.
    as for priyanak's exotic song i totally agree with you. it is a ridiculous attempt at god knows what.

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  4. God..i cant stand PC's song..!its irritates me big time.

    Aditi
    So-Saree
    www.sosaree.blogspot.in

    ReplyDelete

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