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Slumdog ushers in Hollywood India era

MAYBE it’s the success of Slumdog Millionaire. Perhaps it’s because corporate outsourcing is now a very real — and frustrating — part of Westerners lives. Or perhaps it’s because India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world and its influences have finally spread to Hollywood.

Whatever the reason, Indian actors have officially taken Hollywood by storm, both on and off screen.
Currently, US television boasts more than a dozen Indian actors who are regular cast members on popular shows like The Office, 30 Rock, Community, Chuck, Royal Pains, The Big Bang Theory, and Covert Affairs.
Aziz Ansari, a stand-up comedian who plays a wise-cracking office worker in Parks and Recreation, was given the coveted job of hosting the MTV Movie Awards in June.
And British-born, Mumbai-raised Archie Panjabi, who plays an investigator in the hit drama The Good Wife, is nominated for a best supporting actress Emmy Award this weekend.
Capping it all is the upcoming new TV comedy Outsourced, about an American novelty goods maker whose customer service centre is moved to Mumbai. The cast is comprised almost exclusively of Indian actors.
Vik Sahay, a first generation Indian actor on Chuck, said the rise of Indian actors in Hollywood has been a “gradual growth that crystallised in the a-ha moment of the success of Slumdog Millionaire”.
The 2008 film, which won eight Academy Awards including best picture, has certainly done its part.
“It gave confidence to the US studios that a film taking place in India can work in so many different markets,” said Christina Marouda, the executive director of the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
Outsourced executive producer Ken Kwapis says the success of Slumdog had a direct effect on his show getting made.
Kwapis had initially pitched the idea for Outsourced after seeing a 2006 independent film it was based on. The development process “was a bumpy road for a while”,  according to Kwapis, until Slumdog hit.
“The film really came along at a great moment in our show’s development,” said Kwapis. “It confirmed that an American audience would find a show about Indian characters compelling.”
Not to mention the show’s subject matter itself.
“Outsourcing has made the world a smaller place,” said Kwapis. “We live in a global economy and this is a global issue.”
As a result of globalisation, having Indians part of the Western population is now common enough that Hollywood is casting them in roles that often have little to do with their ethnicity.
Take Sahay’s character of Lester Patel on “Chuck,” an employee at the local computer and electronics store. It was a role that was wide open in terms of ethnicity during the audition process. “They added his last name, Patel, after I was cast,” said Sahay. — Reuters.

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