Category Archives: Television

‘Master of None’ Aziz Ansari makes history

33-year-old becomes first Indian-American actor to land a lead comedy-acting Emmy nomination

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Aziz Ansari has made history as he has become the first Indian-American actor to land a lead comedy-acting Emmy nomination for his seriesMaster of None. Ansari is also just the fifth person of South Asian descent to be nominated in an acting category.

“I am very happy but it is a very specific accomplishment,” Ansari told USA Today after the nominations were announced on Thursday. Ansari, who is also nominated for writing and directing Master of None, co-created the Netflix comedy with Alan Yang.

The 33-year-old actor plays Dev, an actor trying to make it in New York. Master of None, which is up for best comedy, crystallised diversity challenges in Hollywood in the show’s fourth episode, titled Indians on TV.

“I think every minority actor runs into that. You hear people say things like, ‘Oh, they already got the black guy.’ Or, ‘Oh, they already got their Asian lady.’ It kind of feels like, to minority actors that I’ve spoken with, once they have one (minority actor cast) they’re like, OK, we’ve placated the ‘diversity issue.’ That was coming from a real place,” Ansari said.

Casual racism has also been also addressed in the show.

“If you’re a minority, you’re experiencing all sorts of casual racism all the time. And at a certain point, you just get numb to a lot of it, and you’re like, whatever.” Ansari said he he and Yang are currently busy writing season 2 of Master of None, which will debut on Netflix next.

Ansari was born in Columbia, South Carolina, to a Tamil Muslim family from Tamil Nadu. His mother, Fatima, works in a medical office, and his father, Shoukath, is a gastroenterologist. Ansari grew up in Bennettsville, South Carolina, where he attended Marlboro Academy as well as the South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics. He graduated from the New York University Stern School of Business with a major in marketing.

Besides Dev Shah in Master of None, Ansari is known for his roles as Tom Haverford on the NBC series Parks and Recreation (2009–2015).

Ansari began his career performing stand-up comedy in New York City during the summer of 2000 while attending New York University. In 2007, he created and starred in the MTV sketch comedy show Human Giant, which ran for two seasons. This led to acting roles in feature films, including Funny People; I Love You, Man; Observe and Report; and 30 Minutes or Less.

In addition to his acting work, Ansari has continued to work as a stand-up comedian. He released his debut CD/DVD, entitled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening, in January 2010 on Comedy Central Records, and still tours nationally between acting commitments. In 2010 and 2011, he performed his Dangerously Delicious tour. This tour was self-released for download on his website in March 2012 and debuted on Comedy Central in May 2012. He completed his third major tour of new material, Buried Alive, in the summer of 2013. His fourth major comedy special, Live at Madison Square Garden, was released on Netflix in 2015.

His first book, Modern Romance: An Investigation, was released in June last year.

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Poorna Jagannathan to be a regular in HBO series ‘The Night Of’

Indian American actress will be seen playing the role of Naz’s mother Safar Khan on the show, which premiered in India on Star World Premiere HD on July 13

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Remember the short-haired Delhi girl trying to get a divorce from her very ‘Delhi,’ hot-headed bully of a husband (played by Imran Khan) in the movie Delhi Belly? After playing roles in various popular international TV shows like House of Cards, Law and Order and The Game, Indian American actress Poorna Jagannathan will be featured in HBO’s TV show The Night Of as a series regular.

The Night Of follows the journey of lawyer Jack Stone (John Turturro), who seeks to absolve a young Pakistani-American student, Naz (Riz Ahmed) accused of brutally murdering a girl on the Upper West Side. As the drama unfolds, the audiences are let in on the pitfalls of the judicial system while they go through a whirlwind of different emotions ranging from empathy to utter outrage.

Jagannathan will be seen playing the role of Naz’s mother Safar Khan on the show, which will premiere in India on Star World Premiere HD on July 13.

She says she is “very proud” to be a part of American television.

Asked if she feels television could surpass cinema, Jagannathan told IANS from Los Angeles on the phone: “Yes, I think so. I go to the movies now with my son. Whenever I am in a theatre, I would be wearing 3-D glasses. I don’t engage with cinema in theatres the way I used to. There has to be an exception.”

“I am very proud to be a part of American television,” she added.

Talking about the show’s storyline and its relevance in modern America, the actress said: “We are a middle-class Muslim family in New York… It is a vital storyline. It couldn’t be a more significant time for The Night Of to drop, and it couldn’t be politically a more relevant time (for it to air).”

Her acting ventures on the big screen include The Circle, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, due for release later in 2016.

Jagannathan also initiated and produced the play Nirbhaya by Yael Farber, which won the ‘2013 Amnesty International Award’ and was called by The Telegraph as the “One of the most powerful pieces of theatre you’ll ever see”. She was featured among the top 10 in Femina magazine’s ‘India’s 50 most beautiful women’ in 2012 and, in 2014, she was named among the top 50 most powerful women in India.

The daughter of a diplomat, Jagannathan was born in Tunis, Tunisia but grew up in Pakistan, Ireland, India, Brazil and Argentina. She began her college education at the University of Brasilia, Brazil but graduated in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. On scholarship, she started her Master’s from The Actor’s Studio, one of the world’s top drama schools, but left after the first year.

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This Standford grad swapped cushy job at McKinsey & Company for a shot at Hollywood, and trust us, she’s doing great

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Melanie Chandra is also a national-level karate champion; a former Miss India America; and co-founder of the NGO, Hospital for Hope, which provides medical care for the underprivileged in Jharkhand… Whew!

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For those TV addicts who have had to chance to watch Code Black, the CBS medical drama series that premiered in the US on September 30 last year, will immediately recall the character of Dr Malaya Pineda, a first-year resident at Angels Memorial.

Well, the character is played by a second-generation Indian American from New York, Melanie Chandra nee Kannokada. Her superb acting apart, what stands the 29-year-old apart is her background. Born and raised in a very conservative Malyali household in the Midwest, Melanie recently got married to her longtime friend, Neeraj Chandra, who is the managing director at Tiger Global Management.

Before finding her true calling in acting, Chandra worked towards a mechanical engineering degree at Stanford, where she was a member of the university’s cheerleading squad and also served as the student body president in her senior year.

She was also a recipient of the prestigious Mayfield Fellows Program, which is given to tech entrepreneurs, and the Book Award, for her service and contribution to the university.

But hang on, she is more than your average geek. Melanie is also a second-degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and a two-time bronze medalist in the Pan Asian Games, where she represented the United States in sparring as part of the United States Junior National Karate Team in Sao Paolo in 2000, Caracas in 2001 and Orlando in 2002.

“I focused on school and got accepted to my dream school, Stanford, where I pulled countless all-nighters to receive my Mechanical Engineering degree. Along the way, I started practicing karate, religiously. By the age of 14, I had my 2nd degree black belt. I still didn’t know how to talk to guys, but I at least knew I could take them in a fight. Karate was my vehicle to travel around the world, by competing in international tournaments,” she wrote on her personal website.

At Stanford, Chandra participated in social entrepreneurship initiatives. In her freshman year, she volunteered at Jagriti Vihara, a non-government organisation in Jharkhand, India. She then continued work for the NGO through her own co-founded Hospital for Hope, a non-profit providing health care services in rural India.

She modelled and competed for Miss India America 2007—and won, officially opening doors for her in the entertainment world.

For a brief period, she also worked at McKinsey and Company as a Business Analyst. Before starting her “real job” at McKinsey, she even worked for Sahara One. She was the lead anchor for the channel’s show, Bollywood Hollywood, which was dedicated to the latest film news from the East and the West.

She debuted as a lead actress in 2012 Indian American independent romantic comedy film Love, Lies and Seeta, where she played Seeta. The movie premiered at the India International Film Festival (IIFF) of Tampa Bay. Additionally, despite the language barrier, she worked in a Tollywood movie D for Dopidi.

“After a year or so of working in corporate America, I made the decision to leave my job and explore that childhood dream: acting. It was a huge life change to say the least. Parents were concerned. I knew nothing about the entertainment industry. There was no ‘right answer’ or formula to succeed. But I was determined to make it happen. Years later, I’m very grateful to say that I’m a full-time actor,” she wrote on her website.

She is rising to prominence now with her plum roles in The Brink (as Fareeda, acting alongside Jack Black, Tim Robbins, and Aasif Mandvi) and Code Black, but she has been in the spotlight in the West for a long time. Melanie has been featured as a model for numerous brands such as Bare Escentuals, Kohls, Crocs, and Verizon. She has also played prominent roles on American TV shows including How to Make it in America, Rules of Engagement, The Nine Lives of Chloe King, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

In her website, Melanie wrote: “I’m a daughter to immigrant parents who got their start in America by humble means. As a young child, I was overcome with passion to become the best version of myself – I dreamt of becoming an international actress, finding true love, traveling the world, and making a large impact on my community.”

She added: “My early years didn’t show much promise in those arenas. I was terrified to speak up in class. I was a socially awkward, introverted girl who had no clue how to talk to boys. I was that ‘Indian girl’ in an all-white school and was constantly being judged because of my skin color and hairy arms… We couldn’t afford to travel or take exotic vacations, minus a few road trips through endless cornfields leading to Wisconsin.”

But look, where she is today. “There is still so much I want to accomplish, experience, and share with the world. I do believe that one’s goal can be to realise their fullest potential. Almost anything is possible, if you dream big, focus, and work hard,” she added.

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Pics courtesy: www.melaniekchandra.com

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