Karan Soni finds the Apu controversy “cool”.
The Deadpool actor of Indian origin weighed in on being a person of colour in Hollywood.
“I think it is a great time [as a person of colour] in the entertainment industry. I am very lucky to live in Los Angeles, which is a diverse place [and] where it is great to be different,” Soni said.
“In America in general...I know there are a lot of parts where may be it is not that great to be brown or black. So, it is good specifically in Hollywood, and in general, it depends [on] where you are in America and who voted for whom,” he added.
Soni, who got noticed as Deadpool’s Indian cab driver Dopinder in the first part, also weighed in on the Apu controversy — Apu, a thickly accented Kwik-E-Mart owner in The Simpsons has been criticised as racist — saying it will initiate a positive change. Apu had to grapple with the troubling stereotype of a convenience store clerk with an exaggerated, fake Indian accent — voiced by white actor Hank Azaria — since the show’s inception.
“The controversy over the character is completely justified simply because in 2018 it is weird to have a white actor doing an Indian accent on a TV show. There are so many Indian actors who can do that part and do it better.”
However, he doesn’t blame the makers of the series.
“It has been on for 20-plus season. Back then I don’t know if they tried to look for Indian actors for that part or they didn’t even try.
“In a weird way, I think it is a positive controversy because people don’t want a white actor doing an Indian accent or playing an Indian character in 2018. People are upset because they want to see actors from that ethnicity to play that part instead of giving it to someone who is not.”
Soni feels things would have been different if The Simpsons was made in recent times.
“If the show was made this year and there was an Indian or Asian character, they would not give it to a white actor. It is cool that the controversy happened.”
Nevertheless, he is proud that the Deadpool makers understood the importance of having a diverse cast.
The film tells the story of a superhero with a twisted sense of humour. His role was short, but it didn’t go unnoticed.
Based on Marvel Comics’ most unconventional anti-hero, Deadpool is the original story of a former Special Forces operative who turns into a mercenary and is now out to seek revenge against the man who nearly destroyed his life.
“The makers always wanted the movie to be diverse because Deadpool takes place in the X-Men universe. The mutants are kind of outcast, the minorities as compared to human race. They recognised it well that the cast needs to be diverse.”
In the second part, Dopinder is seen doing more than just driving Deadpool around. He has joined his army and is seen partaking in some action too.
There was a Bollywood twist in Deadpool in 2016 with songs like Mera joota hai Japani featuring in the opening credit, and Tumse achha kaun hai also finding a place in the narrative. But Soni says there are “fewer Indian references” in the second chapter.
Soni, who was born and brought up in Delhi, hopes to see an Indian superhero crossing boundaries and entering Hollywood “in his lifetime”.
“If we look at Black Panther, it did so well. There were a bunch of supporting black characters in the movies for years and then it took a long time, but finally they did make that.
“I am just happy to be part of the initial steps. I hope in my lifetime we will get to see an Indian superhero for sure,” said Soni, who studied at the University of South California and found a way into showbiz soon after.
He has featured in projects like Safety Not Guaranteed, The Neighbors, Goosebumps and Ghostbusters. What’s next?
“From being in Deadpool to then going to be an Angel with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe in Miracle Workers to then getting stuck in a cage with Sharon Stone in Corporate Animals — there are different kinds of things.”