Mindy first got noticed on TV for her role in The Office and later gained popularity with her own show The Mindy Project.
Hollywood’s dramedy queen Mindy Kaling has struck the big screen once again as a lead in this season’s Hollywood blockbuster Ocean’s 8. While Mindy is quite popular in the US, what many closer to home don’t know is that she’s actually of Indian origin. Mindy, born as Vera Mindy Chokalingam, has a Tamil father and Bengali mother. It is during her improv days that the star modified her surname to Kaling by removing the ‘cho’ and ‘am’, to help others pronounce it better.
Mindy first got noticed on TV for her role in The Office and later gained popularity with her own show The Mindy Project. Though she has appeared in films like A Wrinkle in Time, Ocean’s 8 has put her on the global map. In the movie, she plays one of the protagonists alongside industry stalwarts like Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett and Rihanna.
Her role in this film is indeed a turning point for Asian actors in America. Last month, another American of Indian origin Karan Soni played Ryan Reynolds’ sidekick Dopinder in Deadpool 2. While Karan’s accent and demeanour in Deadpool 2 were caricatural, Mindy, as the Punjabi heist-perpetrator Amita in Ocean’s 8, is given no cultural quirks and speech eccentricities. Mindy had to learn Hindi for a scene with her screen mother. But that apart, her cultural identity did not make a difference to her role and her function in the plot.
Maybe now, South Asians can stop playing cab drivers with singsong accents.
Anupam Kher, who has been part of several major Hollywood films, thinks this is the best time to be an Indian actor. “The world is looking at us and not as singing, dancing eccentric people. It’s finally time for Indian and other Asian actors to be part of global cinema.”