Tag Archives: Tina Desai

Bollywood slayers on American TV #TheJuice #Listicle

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor The Juice.

There is no denying that after Priyanka Chopra had her ‘YAS QUEEN!’ moment starring as the ass-kicking lead of a primetime American TV series in Quantico, the floodgates finally and definitively opened for desi talent from the heart of ‘Bollywood’ to cross over into the homes – and hearts – of a global audience.

Yes, of course, Indian-origin talent from Mindy Kaling (The Mindy Project) and Indira Verma (Game of Thrones) to Aziz Ansari (Master of None) and Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory) had already jostled their way through many struggles on to the front and center stage. But Quantico represents the first time that Indian talent from Indian cinema has been picked to be the lead of a major network series, paving the way for authentic desi flavor to take over the taste buds of American TV audiences.

Already, on the heels of Priyanka slaying it on everything from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner red carpet to the Oscar stage, Netflix has become the harbinger of more good news for Indian audiences worldwide, by announcing an original TV series set in India. A Hindi and English-language adaptation of acclaimed author Vikram Chandra’s bestselling novel, Sacred Games, the series will be produced by Phantom Films, the production company founded by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena.

It will be exciting to see which Indian actors make the cut in this already-buzzed about series, as a leading role would immediately put them on the world map. But even before we start rallying behind whoever’s announced, there are a bunch of desi actors from Bollywood who’ve been surreptitiously playing strong parts in ongoing American shows, with some even in parallel leads!

The gorgeous Nimrat Kaur, who made her big screen leading-role debut with the beautifully-crafted The Lunchbox, has only been since in one Hindi film since, this year’s blockbuster hit, Airlift. But the reason for her unhurried Bollywood career is that she’s been busy kicking killing it with her strong supporting roles in popular American shows. She played a badass Pakistani spy in season 4 of the popular Homeland, and she’s just wrapped up a parallel lead role in season 2 of Manoj Night Shyamalan’s series, Wayward Pines! The American audiences can’t have enough of her, and neither can we.

Ex-model Tina Desai made her Bollywood debut with the suspect ‘Sahi Dhande Galat Dhande’ and followed it up with a couple of even more questionable films. It is then even more inspiring that she managed to break into international cinema with the sleeper hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, opposite Dev Patel. And while she’s only done the film’s sequel in the movies since, she’s been making quite a mark on TV. As one of the eight parallel leads of the critically acclaimed Netflix series, Sense8, Tina Desai has worked with the legendary Wachowski siblings – Lana and Lilly for two seasons now, with the second season scheduled to air sometime later this year.

One of the very first international young Indian actors from India, Rahul Khanna, along with Rahul Bose, was one of the first few faces of crossover cinema. He dabbled in a few Bollywood films since, but after a brief lull, Khanna’s back in a big way with the Emmy-nominated series, The Americans. Playing a Pakistani agent in the period spy drama, Khanna’s arc was extended from an episode to an entire season after a fabulous performance that required him to show off not only his acting talent, but also his bottoms, in a graphic sex scene (alert: ladies!).

After starring opposite Aamir Khan in the cult Delhi Belly, Poorna Jagannathan was only seen in a brief cameo in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani in 2013. But that’s because for the past three years, she’s been filming a crime drama series for premium cable channel, HBO. A part of the critical smash hit, The Night Of, was first shot with late actor James Gandolfini but after his untimely demise, Jon Turtletaub took his role and the series began work all over again. In the series that’s currently on air, Poorna plays the mother of a 20-something Pakistani boy, wrongly convicted of murder, and has received glowing reviews for her measured performance.

Actor Arjun Mathur has been at the receiving end of much attention for his countless ads as well as for his MTV series, Bring on the Night. But the actor, who stole scenes in Luck By Chance, Barah Anna, My Name is Khan and the recent Angry Indian Goddesses, has added another ace up his sleeve with a supporting role in the PBS series, Indian Summers. The series also stars many veteran Indian actors like Lilette Dubey and Roshan Seth, but Arjun’s standout performance has been particularly spoken of by critics.

BOX: Where else to spot Indian actors on American TV

Anil Kapoor – After playing Omar Hassan, the President of ‘Kamistan’, Anil Kapoor made a Jhakaas appearance in the ongoing season of Family Guy in the episode titled ‘Road to India’

Purab Kohli and Anupam Kher – The charming Purab Kohli has a strong supporting role in Sense8 as the fiancé of Tina Desai’s character, while veteran Anupam Kher plays her father.

Sikandar Kher – News is that Anupam Kher’s step-son Sikandar Kher has been tapped into playing the negative lead on the second season of Sense8.

Sugandha Garg – The Jaane Tu Ya Jaana Na actress, who has been consistently starring in acclaimed crossover Indian movies, can be seen in a supporting role, along with Arjun Mathur, in Indian Summers.

Shenaz Treasury – Besides starring in around 50 episodes of the daytime soap opera, One Life to Live, the former MTV VJ and actress Shenaz Treasury can be seen as a recurring contributor on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Freida Pinto – The first Indian actress to get leading roles in Hollywood, Freida Pinto has signed up opposite Idris Elba in a prestigious mini series Guerrilla, to be written, directed and produced by 12 Years a Slave writer, John Ridley.

Irrfan Khan – Yes, India’s most famous international export Irrfan Khan will be back again on TV after his breakout role in the HBO series, In Treament. Khan has signed up to star in an international mini-series on World War II.

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Liked/disliked the piece? Leave your comments below!
Note: This piece first appeared in The Juice in the August 2016 issue.
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.



Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Man’s World Magazine in December 2015 and is the fifth article of a monthly column on international TV.

It’s early days yet but 2015 could be the year that changed the game for Indian actors in mainstream American media. This is the year where Indians have been part of three of the top five performing movies globally: Irrfan Khan had a meaty supporting role in the worldwide smash hit Jurassic World, which is sitting at a pretty global box office of $ 1.6 Billion, Ali Fazal had more than just a blink-and-miss-it appearance in another blockbuster, Furious 7, that’s raked in $1.51 Bilion, while Mindy Kaling was among the lead voice cast of Inside Out, the Pixar animated film that’s made. $831.7 Million. Nargis Fakhri-starrer Spy didn’t rake in as much money as the rest, but at a $236.4 million box office, she’d have certainly been well-noticed in the comedy herself.

And then there’s television, where Indian actors have played prominent supporting roles in cult shows over the last few years, including Nimrat Kaur and Suraj Sharma in Homeland, Kunal Nayyar in The Big Bang Theory, Hannah Simone in New Girl, Archie Panjabi in The Good Wife, Dev Patel in The Newsroom and Danny Pudi in Community. Comedian Mindy Kaling has long been the first and only Indian to front her own show, the sitcom The Mindy Project, but by the time this year ends, she’d be part of a considerable list.

With two months to go in this year, there’ve already been four TV shows to feature Indian actors in the lead. Tina Desai in Sense8, Avan Jogia in Tut, Karan Soni in Other Space and Raza Jaffrey in Code Black have all been starring roles, but it is Priyanka Chopra and Aziz Ansari, two of the biggest global icons in their own right, who are all set to make the kind of impact that the others didn’t so far: to finally entrench Indians truly and deeply in international pop culture.

Chopra, who plays the feisty and self-assured Indian-American FBI Agent Alex Parish, in ABC network’s big fall TV series, Quantico, has had a slow but steady rise to being a global icon. She was already a National Award winner and a superstar in India before she looked west, to perhaps truly be the Miss World that she was crowned back in 2000. Debuting internationally as a pop singer with the single, In My City, for which she worked with Will.i.Am, Chopra then collaborated with Pitbull, sang live at the NFL, voiced a character in the Disney movie, Planes, and also became the first Indian brand ambassador for Guess internationally, featuring in a campaign shot by Bryan Adams.

When she decided to do a TV drama instead of looking for a movie, it was looked upon by Indian critics as a misstep. But Quantico was a script that the sharp actress had handpicked from 26 scripts that were pitched to her by ABC, and a month since its debut, the thriller series about a terrorist attack on New York soil, has proved all naysayers wrong by turning out to be one of the channel’s big hits this season. And the American public and critics can’t have enough of her: The New York Times called her ‘charismatic and commanding’, Variety called her an ‘arresting lead’ while The Wrap said she had a ‘poise and sexual spark as FBI agent Alex Parrish’.

Where Chopra is only just finding her calling as a global sensation, comedian Aziz Ansari has already been there, done that. He made his way onto the radar of American audiences with the sitcom, Parks and Recreation, where he was able to hold on to his own in a cast featuring the who’s who of comedy, including Amy Poehler, Chris Pratt, Nick Offerman and Aubrey Plaza. This led to roles in movies Funny People, Get Him To The Greek, 30 Minutes or Less and This is The End and made him a force to reckon with.

But it was his comedy specials, Dangerously Delicious and Buried Alive were runaway critical and commercial hits, and his stand up tours that really got the American public to sit up and take notice of the quirky, weird, and fiercely original first generation American-Indian comedian. His success has already led him to many laurels, including a BFF in Kanye West, but 2015 is the year he’s really taking it to the next level.

In June, Ansari came out with a book called Modern Romance: An Investigation that explores how the internet and technology have affected modern relationships. And in November, Netflix will premiere the comedy Master of None, which Ansari has written, produced and starred in, and that follows the romantic travails of his alter ego ‘Dev’ in modern day New York.

The clout of Ansari will be on showcase in the show, where his own parents have been cast in supporting roles, and where a bunch of celebrity cameos are to be expected. But more than that, along with Quantico, the show will also be a testament of changing times in American media, where race and colour are only functions of background. As more Indian actors get hungrier to find wider canvasses and bigger platforms to showcase their talent, expect your television screens to be crowded with familiar faces sooner than you’d think.

Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:

@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

Liked/disliked the piece? Think there are  better actors that I’ve not spoken about? Leave your comments below 🙂
Note: This piece first appeared in Man’s World Magazine in the December 2015 issue.
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.