Top Indian Americans in entertainment industry in 2017

Aziz Ansari

NEW YORK – Indian Americans exceeded in the field of entertainment in 2017. While some won awards, others tried to just get their point across.

Here are a few top Indian Americans who made headlines in 2017:

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari was nominated in four categories at the Emmys in September for his show “Master of None” on Netflix and won the Emmy for “outstanding writing for a comedy series” for the “Thanksgiving” episode in the first season.

He is also nominated in three categories at the Golden Globe Awards including “best actor in a TV series, comedy,”“best TV movie or limited release” and “best TV series, musical or comedy” and was the first Indian American to host “Saturday Night Live” on Jan. 21, earlier this year.

The most memorable episode from the second season of Ansari’s “Master of None” was “Religion” where the audience sees Ansari’s character, Dev Shah, eating bacon for the first time as a kid.

When his mom calls at the friend’s house where Dev is and tells him “we’re Muslim – we’re not allowed to eat pork,” Dev hesitates but ends up eating it anyway while Tupac’s “Only God Can Judge Me” begins to play in the background.

The episode was a relatable one for all as it started off with scenes of Christian, Hindu and Jewish kids all complaining to parents about having to go to their regular religious services.

Riz Ahmed

Riz Ahmed won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie for “The Night Of” which tackles the issues of race and Islamophobia. He is the first Muslim-British actor of Pakistani descent to win such an award.

For nearly seven decades, a South Asian man had never won an Emmy in an acting category and the only other South Asian star who has won an acting award before was Archie Panjabi for her role in “The Good Wife” in 2010.

“It’s always strange reaping the rewards of a story that’s based on real world suffering. But if this show has shown a light on some of the prejudice in our society, Islamophobia, some of the injustice in our justice system, then maybe that’s something,” Ahmed said in his acceptance speech.

“What we’re starting to see is more awareness around how beneficial it can be to tell a diverse range of stories and to tell them in a way that’s authentic and I think awareness is the first step to real change,” Ahmed told The Washington Post.

Ahmed is also a new member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization that gives out the Oscars.

Hasan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj headlined the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April, which President Donald Trump decided to not attend. Minhaj roasted Trump and his administration and made some of the harshest jokes according to the Washington Post.

Minhaj also released his own Netflix special called “Homecoming King” where he discusses his struggle of growing up as an Indian American Muslim in a white dominant, Californian town.

In the 72-minutes-long special directed by Christopher Storer, Minhaj focuses on his childhood and how he had to live alone with his father until the age of 8 after his parents immigrated to the United States and was not aware that he had a sister because she came back with his mother who was still in India, obtaining her medical degree.

Minhaj also talked about the difficulties he faced in school and what his family had to go through the day after the 9/11 attacks when some men called at their house with threats and slurs and then destroyed their Toyota Camry, recalling the moment when he and his father went outside to pick up the broken pieces of glass.

“That’s the price we pay for being here,” his dad told him.

Mindy Kaling

Mindy Kaling was invited to dinner back in March by United States Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J but has not accepted the invitation yet.

In July though, Oprah Winfrey announced that Kaling was pregnant which Kaling herself confirmed the month after telling Ellen DeGeneres that “I’ve had a pretty great time of it so far, but I think I took a lot for granted before this, now that I’m in my current situation. Like, sitting. I’m obsessed with sitting and even when I was standing back there I was looking at this chair and I was like, ‘Awww, can’t wait to sit in that chair!’”

Also on the “Today Show” she said “I know I’m going to be the dorky mom.”

She recently gave birth to a baby girl on December 15 in Los Angeles and named her child Katherine Swati Kaling, but did not reveal the name of the father.

CBS has reported that Kaling will be starring in “Ocean’s 8” along with Sandra Bullock and Cate

Blanchett as well as “A Wrinkle in Time” with Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon.

Dev Patel in a still from the movie Lion

Dev Patel

Dev Patel received the 2017 Asia Game Changers award for his role in his debut film Slumdog Millionaire.

His performance in “Lion” earned him an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor earlier this year.

Patel, who divides his time between Los Angeles and the UK, also starred in a film called “Hotel Mumbai” which was based on the 2008 terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, and said that it was a “harrowing experience.”

“I feel especially when you are tackling a project that is about real events, that affected real human lives, in a massive catastrophic way, there is great responsibility in that,” he told IANS.

Patel will be playing the lead in Michael Winterbottom’s “The Wedding Guest.”

New Delhi: Indian-origin Canadian YouTube star Lilly Singh who is appointed as UNICEF’s new Global Goodwill Ambassador during a programme in New Delhi on July 15, 2017. (Photo: IANS)

Lilly Singh 

YouTube sensation Lilly Singh, a Canadian Indian, released her debut book ‘How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life’ on March 28.

Known as “Superwoman” online, Singh has over 11 million subscribers and is the highest-paid woman on YouTube, raking in $7.5 million last year, according to Forbes.

Much of the book is targeted to the millennial audience who is accustomed to viewing life through social media.

“It’s hard to grow up in a world where you’re constantly seeing everyone’s accomplishments or highlight reels,” she said. “I want to bring this back to, ‘Hey, don’t focus on that picture. Work hard.’ ”

Singh was also ranked No.1 on Forbes Magazine’s Top Influencers List in the entertainment category.

“There are certain things you cannot put on YouTube, certain content you cannot post on your channel, and you have to play by those rules because that is not your platform. So, ultimately, I think if you are doing things in the public eye, you do have to play by some rules,” she told IANS in July.

“I always believed that you should come up (with content) which you love… If you watch something and that offends you I do believe that you should just watch something that does not offend you,” she added.

DJ Rekha spinning (Courtesy: Facebook)

DJ Rekha

The New York City-based DJ Rekha called it quits in August to pursue other creative projects and further studies, marking the end of Basement Bhangra.

Her hip-hop and bhangra fusion beats made everyone dance before Panjabi MC made everyone in New York City groove to his song “Mundian To Bach Ke.”

Rekha started Basement Bhangra in 1997 after the first wave of immigrants arrived from India and Pakistan though she won’t stop spinning.

Some other South Asian-origin entertainers who made headlines in 2017:

  • Arjun Ivatury, who is up for a Grammy nomination for his song titled “1-800-273-8255.”
  • Nimesh Patel, who was hired to be one of the writers on NBC’s hit show Saturday Night Live.
  • Neil Patel, who helped bring “Time and the Conways” to life on Broadway.
  • S. Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad, who launched the first ever Hijab Barbie in November.
  • Vidya Vox, who released her album “Kuthu Fire.”
Miss India Manushi Chhillar waves onstage after being crowned Miss World -reuters

Indian Celebrities who made headlines in 2017:

Manushi Chhillar

Manushi Chhillar was crowned Miss World 2017.

Chhillar is from Haryana and is the sixth Indian to win the title and the first since Priyanka Chopra won the crown in 2000.

The feeling is still sinking in and I am very excited to make India proud too. I’m also looking forward to the year ahead,” Manushi said in a statement after the win.

In the question-and-answer round she was asked: “Which profession deserves the highest salary and why?” and her response was “a mother deserves it most.”

Priyanka Chopra in Quantico

Priyanka Chopra

Former Miss World Priyanka Chopra made her Hollywood debut in the film Baywatch as well as continued with the ABC network show Quantico for which she won another People’s Choice Award.

Chopra also spoke up for girl empowerment at the UN and felicitated an Indian woman working towards supporting acid attack victims, at the Global Goals Awards.

She was also named the world’s sexiest Asian woman for the fifth time by a UK-based magazine and will be producing an American comedy series based on Bollywood actress Madhuri Dixit’s life in America.



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