It seems that no actor of non US origin has escaped the subjectivity of racism in his struggling days. From the roles offered, to the dialogues on the scripts, racist remarks were sure to be present, enough to deter the confidence and skill of any actor. In fact, when the US born colored individuals themselves struggle to cope with the level of racism they face on a day to day basis, the question of easy recognition and stardom for a non-native citizen is like expecting an easy escape when the actual situation is fraught with danger.
Twitter faced a similar uproar as actor, Kal Penn, shared his age old audition scripts when he was finding his feet in the American film industry. This Indian American actor was offered roles such as a “Gandhi lookalike”, “snake charmer”, and an “Indian lab buddy” wherein he was expected to speak in a pronounced accent to make the dialogues seem funnier.
He was repeatedly asked to speak with an accent for many auditions, like for that of Jenji Kohan’s series The Stones or for Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In fact, he was mocked so much so that while auditioning for a role, “Careem”, he was urged to sound more “authentic”, “with a Hindi accent” and speak like the cartoon character Apu from the animated TV series, The Simpsons, who by the way is voiced by non Indian actor, Hank Azaria.
Although there is a huge difference in the kinds of roles this actor is now offered to those given to him during his initial days, it clearly shows that he too has witnessed and survived some horribly trying times. However, he been one of the lucky ones and has prevailed to become a household name with stints on successful television series like House and How I Met Your Mother and more recently, Designated Survivor.
It is not just Kal Penn, but many actors of Indian origin such as Aziz Ansari, Parminder Nagra and Mindy Kaling who have faced racism when they were first starting out in the industry. It is a sad irony that the fraternity that calls itself the most elite and the most talented group sometimes fails to identify and encourage a true star early in their career and thus restrains a number of brilliant projects coming their way.