Diwali in mainstream U.S. media

A scene from the popular sitcom The Office, where actors in the show including Steve Carell try some bhangra moves for Diwali celebrations. Photo: videograb from YouTube

Diwali has entered the world of mainstream television entertainment.  Episode six of the third season of the comedy show ‘The Office’ featured Diwali in a fictional office in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  The credit of making mainstream American audiences aware of an important Indian custom goes to the writer, and actor of the series, Mindi Kaling.  It is a known fact that the original episode was to be about Halloween.  Kaling who is of Indian descent, wrote the particular episode about Diwali based on a joint idea of her and the show’s producer Greg Daniels who attended a Diwali party thrown by Kaling.  Directed by Miguel Arteta, the episode became very popular and was watched by more than eight million viewers according to Nielson reports.

The episode, written in the typical Kaling humorous style, was about Kelly Kapoor, the character played by Kaling in the show, inviting the whole staff to a Diwali party at her home.  What follows is comedy of errors with someone confusing it as Indian Halloween, someone trying to win someone over, and someone breaking into a Happy Diwali song, much in the style of  Kaling’s wry humor.  The episode was rated four point two out of ten among viewers aged eighteen to forty nine.

Disney Junior channel, on the other hand, has been doing tremendous work of introducing the young to other cultures of the world, much in its typical fashion of ‘It’s a small world after all’.  Its recent new series “Mira, the royal detective” introduces the Indian culture to the young, and has an entire episode dedicated to Diwali.  In the episode, Mira gives ‘laddoos’ to her friends and her father talks of lighting ‘deeyas’.  And then follows a song Mira sings explaining Diwali, “Clean the house and decorate, brand-new clothes to celebrate….” written by songwriters Jeannie Lurie and Matthew Tishler.

And now Diwali has also come to music concerts.  Indian actor Priyanka Chopra has been celebrating Diwali at her home with her husband Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers music group.  Jonas also has shared wishes for a happy Diwali with his concert audiences.

Along with media mentioning Diwali, people in New York have been celebrating Diwali along with Indian Americans with ‘Diwali Mela’ which used to be held at South Street Seaport with fireworks until 2001.  Now they get the same experience of participating at the Times Square where Diwali is celebrated much in the flash mob style dance performances and lighting of lamps and food stalls, before the pandemic.  This year, Diwali on Times Square will be celebrated again.  Diwali will be celebrated at many temples and many organizations.



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