Day 1: Slowly But Surely Pakistani Artists Are Changing the Hollywood Landscape

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In Hollywood history, we’ve rarely seen South Asian representation—in fact, we’ve seen South Asian roles played by non-South Asian actors. Take, for example, Apu from “The Simpsons,” voiced by a white actor Hank Azaria – who not only missed an opportunity to play one of the very few roles South Asian actors were offered, but kept them going. racial stereotypes.

And even seeing Pakistani talent on the big screen is rare within the South Asian diaspora. A study by the University of Southern California that looked at the prevalence and depiction of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) in 1,300 popular films found that only 1.4% of API actors were Pakistani. That’s why the likes of Riz Ahmed and Jameela Jamil are integral to the diversity of Hollywood.

Today we are starting to see a change that is long overdue. However, the numbers are still pretty low – Asian and Pacific Islanders make up less than 6% of speaking roles and less than 4% of lead and co-leaders. Only 3.5% of the movies had an API director and 2.5% had an API producer.

In filmmaking, a variety of talents, from top of the line to below the line, are essential to push the needle further in the right direction and enable younger generations and promising talents to realize themselves and their potential. in industry.

Riza Ahmed

Riz Ahmed, whose real name is Rizwan Ahmed, recently won the Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film for “The Long Goodbye” – which felt like a big win. Not only because it is a very important story about togetherness in extremely divided times, but also because it is a short film co-written by Ahmed himself and inspired by his album of the same name. In fact, parts of the film were improvised, giving the film an original and sincere feel.

Speaking at the Oscars, Ahmed said, “In such divided times, we believe the role of the story is to remind us that there is no us and them. There is only us. And this is for anyone who feels like they don’t belong, like they’re stuck… you’re not alone, we’ll meet you there. That’s where the future is, peace.”

Ahmed is no stranger to accolades, having previously been nominated for an Oscar for his lead role in “Sound of Metal,” winning an Emmy for “The Night Of,” a BAFTA Film Award for “Girls,” along with a BAFTA Film Award, AACTA International Award, Screen Actors Guild Award, and numerous was nominated.

Kumail Nanjiani

Pakistani-American comedian, actor and screenwriter Kumail Nanjiani, who grew up in Karachi before moving to the United States at the age of 18, made his film debut in 2010 with the romantic comedy “Life As We Know It”. Before her big television debut with HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” she followed suit with several minor roles in other movies. And then with the movie “The Big Sick,” based on a real-life love story with his wife, Emily V. Gordon. Not only did he act in the movie, he also wrote the captivating film with his wife, which explores heavy topics from everyday relationship problems to illness, religion, navigating different cultures and intergenerational conflicts.

Najiani has also been recognized for her outstanding talent with an Emmy nomination for her work on “The Twilight Zone,” an NAACP Image Awards nomination for “The Rock,” and multiple nominations and awards for Best Screenplay for “The Big Sick.”

Jameela Jamil

Pakistani-British actress Jameela Jamil had our living rooms bursting with laughter as Tahani in “The Good Place.” She started her acting career after moving from London to Los Angeles and taking a role in Parks and Recreation with no previous acting experience. She went on to voice Aunt Pushpa in “Mira, Royal Detective” and used her voice-over skills in many TV series such as “Rugrats”, “Harley Quinn” and “Animaniacs” she.

Not only is she a talented actress with impeccable comedy timing, she’s also an advocate for body positivity, racial inclusivity, and women’s achievement.

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In her podcast, titled “Weighing Out with Jameela Jamil,” she celebrates progress, not perfection—challenging societal norms through thought-provoking, entertaining, and vulnerable conversations about mental health. What started as a social media post against unrealistic standards of beauty and body size has grown into a mental health movement with her popular podcast.

Jamil has always been one to call out to the entertainment and media industry for her unhealthy standards and expectations from women, especially when it comes to promoting unhealthy body ideals, and that’s why we love her.

Day 1 Slowly But Surely Pakistani Artists Are Changing the Day 1: Slowly But Surely Pakistani Artists Are Changing the Hollywood Landscape
Mir Zafar Ali

Mir Zafar Ali

Visual effects artist Mir Zafar Ali, who traveled from Karachi to Hollywood, won three Oscars, first for his work on 2007’s “The Golden Compass”, then for “The Life of Pi” and finally for Best Visual Effects. “Frozen.” He has worked on a number of other movies, including “X-Men: First Class”, “Spider-Man 3” and “Percy Jackson: Sea of ​​Monsters”.

It specializes in reproducing natural phenomena such as water, fire, snow or destruction. And does it ever do it well? He played Richard Parker in “Life of Pi”, gave Elsa the power to create snowfall, and created the terrifying tsunami in New York City in “The Day After Tomorrow.”

Hopefully this progress is the beginning of a change in Hollywood that has led to more South Asian artists taking on roles both on and behind the scenes.

Jia Wertz is a documentary maker, podcaster, author and entrepreneur. She pursues stories that explore false beliefs in order to preserve social order. His award-winning debut film “Conviction” chronicles the whims and inconsistencies of the American criminal justice system through the story of Jeffrey Deskovic, wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. Jia is from Calgary, Alberta and currently lives in New York with her husband and son.