Sanjaya Malakar, a Product of the Times?

By The News Apr 09, 2007

Indian stars are on the rise, USAToday reported Sunday:

It’s not just Apu anymore. After years of relative anonymity, performers of Indian heritage are establishing a small but growing presence in TV and film, breaking stereotypes along the way. From Sanjaya Malakar of American Idol to actors on some of TV’s most popular shows, U.S. viewers are seeing a broader range of performers who trace their roots to the world’s second most populous country.

Okay this is good news, but you know something’s wrong when an American Idol star is being used to signify the progress of a racial group. At times, this well-meaning article sounds a bit off tune:

Oddly, acting opportunities grew in the aftermath of 9/11 as films and TV cast actors of Indian heritage as Middle Eastern characters, says [Sendhil] Ramamurthy, a Chicago native who speaks in Indian-accented English on Heroes.

But the story ends on the right note highlighting that inclusion hasn’t meant freedom of expression for many Indian artists who are typecast as doctors.

[Karen] Narasaki wants to see Asian-Americans getting to play all roles, such as Penn’s stereotype-defying stoner in Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, and not just those that fit a newer stereotype, such as "the model minority." TV also needs more diversity on its writing staffs, she says.