“We have reached the moon and back, but yet you people only feel we have reached as far as the Indian rope trick.” – Akshay Kumar, Namastey London
So much for stereotyping, but being a first generation, Bollywood loving, arranged-marriage skeptic Indo-American, there is no better way to sum up Hari Kondabolu’s documentary ‘The Problem With Apu’ than this famous dialogue from Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif starrer ‘Namastey London‘.
In this highly-personal, insightful and timely exploration of minority media representation, Kondabolu speaks with prominent South Asian actors about the damaging legacy of Apu from the cult television series ‘The Simpsons‘. Aziz Ansari, Kal Penn, Aasif Mandvi, Hasan Minjaj, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Aparna Nancherla, Russell Peters, Sakina Jaffrey, Ajay Naidu and Maulik Pancholy share poignant stories about their own experiences with Apu and the broader questions about the comedy and representation he evokes. With additional interviews with EGOT-winner Whoopi Goldberg, W. Kamau Bell, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Mallika Rao, and many more, ‘The Problem With Apu‘ speaks of the distorted image of South Asians in “Post-Apu America”.
Having come to America at the age of 10, I share several of experiences faced by Kondabolu’s panel of prominent South Asian-Americans. I recall watching ‘The Simpsons‘ for the first time, being introduced to Apu and thinking to myself “oh hey that’s an Indian!” I found Apu to be the quickest and easiest segway into most of my conversations at school or at the playground. And then I thought to myself, “Hey, this is funny!” And it was funny, until one day I became Apu. Like the thousands of South Asians living in New York City, I began wearing a label pressed on me by a two-dimensional motion picture which was created by a group of people who knew nothing about me or my culture.
No, my parents didn’t own a store – my dad is a lawyer and my mom a nurse. No, my mother doesn’t wear “a dot” on her head – I’m a Christian. Of course I know English and don’t have an accent – I went to a convent school in Gujarat. It just wasn’t funny anymore. I wanted to be seen as the person I was and not the overly exaggerated, sole image of Indians to ever exist in the western world. That is just a part of my story. To catch everyone else’s be sure to check out ‘The Problem With Apu‘ which premieres on truTV Sunday, November 19 at 10PM ET/PT and will be available on all platforms following its linear premiere on truTV on November 19.