At a time when the diversity debate in Hollywood is getting bigger with every passing moment, the Apu controversy — that emerged from the world of “The Simpsons” — is not only alive but making headlines as well. But all is not lost.
Indian-American actor Vandit Bhatt says there were many misrepresentations about people of colour, but they are being wiped out due to increasing conversations around inclusion.
The actor, who traces his roots to Hyderabad, is glad that he never had to play a stereotypical character.
Asked about the impact of the diversity debate with reference to the ongoing stir around a South Asian character called Apu from “The Simpsons”, Vandit told IANS over the phone from New York: “I will be honest with you. I feel like things are changing for the better and this is from my personal experience.
“When I started acting, there were far more misrepresentations.”
Apu had to grapple with the troubling stereotype of a convenience store clerk with an exaggerated, fake Indian accent since the show’s inception.
So, has anything changed?
“I have been acting professionally in the States for the last 10-15 years. In this time span, I feel like it has changed so much. I have had so many more opportunities. I am grateful that I never had to kind of play someone stereotypical like that (Apu). I have always had an opportunity to play human being versus stereotype. I feel very lucky about that.”
Vandit moved to the US after his mother got a job in the country. He is known for his work on “The Michael J. Fox Show”, “Mercy”, “42 Seconds of Happiness” and “Ripped”.
He will soon be seen with Indian actress Priyanka Chopra in the third season of “Quantico”, which airs in India on Star World.
The actor, the nucleus of whose family still remains in Hyderabad, is confident that change is seeping into the entertainment industry.
“I notice that ever since we started talking so much about diversity and representation, started having these conversations out loud… For the first time… Ithink real change is happening slowly but gradually.”
Vandit pointed out an example.
“I have noticed a difference between casting from last year to this year. This is the time of the year when (actors) for all the new seasons of the show are cast… I am seeing so much diversity.”
He says “someone” is paying attention to the whole diversity dialogue.
“We are having all these conversations and I think someone out there is listening to or at least paying attention to it.”
Lauding his “Quantico” co-star Priyanka for setting an example for many, he said: “What Priyanka is doing is so fantastic. She carries her show so well. I think it matters that people see someone like that in the main role on a main TV show.
“They see that it is not impossible or it is not out of character, and, in fact, it can work out successfully and it can have an impact. It is so great as far as representation of Indians go.”
Priyanka plays FBI agent Alex Parrish in the show, achieving global acclaim and also winning two People’s Choice Awards for her role. Vandit will join the show as Jagdeep Patel, a new member of the elite Black Ops team.