Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Indian "Heroes" on American TV

I know in the past there have been a few discussions in the Indian blogosphere about desis appearing on American television programs. For example, there was the desi couple that was one of the first two teams to get booted from this season's "Amazing Race." I don't watch much MTV these days, but a student told me about a couple of desis on an MTV show called "My Super Sweet 16" where rich girls' parents spoil them on their 16th birthdays. So I looked into it, and sure enough, in episode 25 there were Priya and Divya. The summary of the episode begins like this:

Texas has two princesses when 15 year old Priya and 18 year old sister, Divya, throw a bash for a birthday and graduation. As one of the richest families in the city, the two only want the most extravagant World Indian-themed party there is.

For another take on Priya and Divya (and an account of a more modest sweet 16 birthday, see this archived post at Sepia Mutiny).

My real point in this frivolous post (I'll get back to more serious topics in the coming days) is that there is a hugely popular show this television season the entire premise of which is based on a professor of genetics from Chennai who begins tracking down "ordinary people who ... possess extraordinary abilities" (from the show's tag line). Of course, these people with extraordinary abilities (e.g., teleportation, spontaneous self-healing, flight, etc.) are all Americans. But Mohinder, the Indian character's name (played by Sendhil Ramamurthy), returns to Chennai in later episodes after momentarily giving up on figuring out the mystery of his father's death (it was his father who first hypothesized that evolution has produced people with special abilities).

Now, this is no low-budget TV show. It's on NBC, in a primetime slot, and has proven to be a big hit. Yet it seems as if the producers have cut all the corners possible in shooting the scenes that are supposed to be in India.

In the scene below, from the pilot episode, you can get a sense of what I mean:

(Sorry, I'm having trouble embedding YouTube video in Blogger beta. For now, here's the link.)

Be sure to watch at least a couple minutes in, until you get to the part where Mohinder is lecturing to students, presumably at the University of Madras. Then keep watching to see the scene where Mohinder walks through a supposed monsoon rain.

In later episodes there are quaint shots of Mohinder in a "bustling" Chennai market. I put bustling in quotes because the market in the scene bustles nothing at all like a real Indian market. Sure, the show probably didn't have the budget to go and shoot in India, but they could have gotten some better consultants to help them re-create some more believable Chennai-like scenes.

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Gracchi said...

I think its a really odd mish-mash of things- I found the mysticism irritating. The other thing is the careless identity of India as the land of mystical knowledge.
Thanks for bringing it to my attention though.

Abi said...

Then there's this large billboard that says "Dead Body Anywhere" (or something like that...) I really wonder what it is.

Thanks for the pointer.

Prasanth said...

Hi Stephen,

Totally off topic but thought you will be interested in some of the recent posts on http://savekerala.blogspot.com