The YouTube series is written by Vishal Reddy, who also plays the lead character Nikhil, a bisexual escort.
If you were to watch a new six-part mini-series titled Insomnia on YouTube, you will meet the tall, handsome, 20-something protagonist who suffers from insomnia, doubles up as an escort and is a bisexual. But wait before you hear more, the lead actor Nikhil is also a South Asian American.
Perhaps for the first time ever in American entertainment, one would get to watch an Indian American gay character who plays an escort unapologetically. The fact that the character also suffers from insomnia, a common disorder but rarely spoken or acknowledged in the South Asian community, much like depression, opens another realm about representation in this intelligently scripted new series by writer Vishal Reddy.
Insomnia is the debut work of the New York-based Indian American actor and writer, who was brought up in Tennessee. Reddy felt frustrated with the depiction of Indian American characters and took to writing and producing his own screenplays. A bisexual himself, Reddy understood the need for inclusion and right representation. His goal through Insomnia was to tell the stories of the LGBTQ community from within the Indian American and Asian community in the United States, an attempt that may have not been made before.
And looks like, Reddy may have nailed the portrayal of a bisexual Indian escort, who is lovable and sensitive at the same time. In the mini-series, which can be watched on YouTube, he plays the central character of Nikhil.
Nikhil also suffers from insomnia and has an aunt suffering from multiple sclerosis. He uses his nocturnal trysts to support his aunt by doubling up as an escort. And during his many furtive adventures as an escort, he expertly portrays the many layers of racism, prejudices and representation in America.
Among an array of Nikhil’s clients, we see some who empathize with the situation and are all for legal and consensual sex. And then there are some, who are racist without a realization. During the series, one also sees Nikhil meeting a few clients who point out the dangers of him being out there and being a minority in terms of representation.
But perhaps, as a viewer, for me, the biggest win of the series remained the fact that it gave a fresh and honest perspective on the millennial Indian American generation. There was no hint of tradition needlessly being dragged into the storyline, no classical music playing in the background just so as to emphasize the characters’ ethnic roots, no delicious but unnecessary mention of curries or naans, but just the story of young queer, insomniac guy who happens to be an Indian American – just like so many of us out there.