Do South Asians really matter in US Politics? Let's find out….
Posted by Samachari News on Friday, November 2, 2018
Many Indian Americans who have had success in the United States live in bubbles and don’t see injustices other minorities are subjected to, says the actor.
Indian American actor Omi Vaidya, who first shot to fame with the Bollywood blockbuster 3 Idiots, recently completed a 10-part comedy news show Samachari News. The news comedy dissects current events and the issues affecting Indian and South Asian American communities, in the manner of John Oliver.
The actor doesn’t mince words when it comes to politics and social issues. In an interview, just days before the midterm election, he spoke to the American Bazaar about the show, politics, and his future projects, among other topics. Here are edited excerpts:
What are takeaways from the Season 1 on Samachari News?
In the show, we tried to highlight many issues that affect the Indian American community. Many of them are issues that they don’t get to think about a lot and don’t discuss in depth. Indian Americans don’t have a forum, where we group with other South Asians and minority groups [to discuss] issues that affect us. On the show, I talk about Indians in politics, immigration, affirmative action, South Asian health and [prevalence of diabetes] is very important. These are all the topics we have dealt with.
We are not informed enough. I believe that if we are more informed, and if information is told in an entertaining way, it might make us think. I don’t know I can change minds but I am hoping that I can make someone analyze and do some critical thinking. I want people to do a little bit of critical thinking. Before they decide to vote or if they are going to vote, I want them to just think about all that.
RELATED: Watch Omi Vaidya’s hilarious take on immigration (November 1, 2018)
When we vote, I think we vote thinking about taxes, thinking about employment. These are the things everyone votes about but there are things that we particularly South Asians are affected by and those things, we should know as much as we can about them.
You highlight a lot of social issues on the show. For example, Indians’ fascination with skin whitening products. What are you hoping to accomplish?
The point is to entertain, number one. But under that, if you can get some education about social issues, that would be great. I think I have the opportunity and luxury to do this [being an actor.] They don’t look up to me because I’m short. They do listen. So I might as well be the nice, strong voice on some of these issues.
In an episode on immigration you laughed at the argument made by Bhagat Singh Thind, whose citizenship was revoked on the grounds that he was not Caucasian. Thind is a revered figure in South Asian American history.
Thind might have wanted to do something for Indian people but his explanation — that he was white — was extremely terrible.
That is one of points you make constantly, that Indians don’t identify themselves with other minority groups. Can you elaborate?
In some ways, Indians identify themselves more with white people than with other minorities. Especially when they are affluent, they tend to consider themselves more like their white counterparts. And that’s why many of them vote Republican. They want fewer taxes, they don’t want the government touching their money. A lot of them are in business, so they don’t want regulations. So many Indian Americans don’t vote in the interests of the community.
Are you saying Indian Americans are voting against their interest?
In some ways, yes. Selfishly for each of these people, yes, they are voting with their interests in mind. But on the whole, in terms of their rights, on not being treated second class citizens, job opportunities, they don’t really see these things. They have struggled in India, but when they came here, they had success. So they never had to see all of those injustices other minorities are subjected to. They live in bubbles, in Indian bubbles in Indian enclaves. They enjoy their lives and many things don’t affect them. I am trying to educate them, trying to give them a little bit of context.
How would you compare your comedy from that of other Indian Americans such as, say Hasan Minhaj, whose new series, Patriot Act, premiered on Netflix last Sunday?
A lot of Hasan’s references are for a younger crowd. That’s fine. But there are a lot of older people with lots of money, lots of Indian doctors and engineers and immigrants that have come here. They need someone that explains it to them in a way that they can understand. I am trying to do that for them, and for everyone. I hope that mine is a little bit more broad.
Tell us about the first season of Samachari News.
We did 10 episodes, which were 22 minutes long with different segments. Right now, we are in the process of putting them online. If the show is popular and we get a lot of support, then we will try to do it again. It really depends on the support and interest. Comedians like Hasan Minhaj are going to do these kinds of stuff, and they are doing it for everyone; but no one is going to focus on H-1B visas and the things that are very important for the South Asians.
So you are open to doing a season 2?
We may do it. I may also take all this stuff and do a comedy tour. I am thinking of doing a comedy tour next year across many cities in the US. Not only talking about this, but also showing people that both comedy and thinking can go together. A comedy tour is a lot more work, and requires a lot of material. It will come, but may take a while. But when it does come, it will be very good.
Any new shows or projects in the pipeline?
I have a show, Metro Park, which is going to come out on one of the streaming services within three months. It’s about Indians living in Edison, New Jersey. It is very funny.
I also did a commercial for Maryland Health Connection, which is the Obamacare in of the state of Maryland. Anyone in Maryland will be seeing that constantly in the next month or two.