8 Indian Characters In Hollywood That Shattered Stereotypes And Won Hearts

For years, South Asian culture has been unfairly subjected to numerous stereotypes from the West, which inevitably seeped into Hollywood's portrayal of Indian characters. However, with these characters, the winds of change have begun to blow.

Published On Apr 21, 2024 | Updated On Apr 21, 2024


India, being a part of Asia, has long been subjected to stereotypes by countries in the West. Due to a lack of familiarity with our culture, traditions, and behaviour, stereotypes were perpetuated that limited the understanding of the diverse ethnicity. This pattern was mirrored in Hollywood as well. Initially, there was minimal representation of Indians in Hollywood, and when they were depicted, it often relied on the same tired stereotypes to shape their personalities. Unfortunately, this resulted in a somewhat inauthentic portrayal.

However, as awareness about different cultures grows, Hollywood has begun to reflect this shift in its on-screen presentations. In recent years, steps have been taken to rectify the misrepresentation of cultures, and Indian characters are now being crafted with a fresh perspective that breaks away from the age-old stereotypes seen before. This more realistic approach ensures a richer and more nuanced representation of Indian culture in Hollywood, fostering a greater appreciation and understanding of our diverse heritage.

Here are 8 Indian characters in Hollywood that were portrayed in a refreshing light

Bridgerton, a captivating drama set in England's Regency era, took the world by storm, captivating audiences everywhere. Produced by Netflix, this series has enjoyed immense popularity since its debut, with the second season receiving an equally enthusiastic reception. In this season, the spotlight falls on Anthony Bridgerton and his pursuit of love.
What truly sets Bridgerton apart from other period dramas is its groundbreaking inclusion of Indian characters in pivotal roles, particularly in the lead female role of Kate Sharma played by Simone Ashley as the love interest of the male protagonist. Unlike many similar shows, Bridgerton doesn't rely on unnecessary stereotypes and instead focuses on portraying the Indian characters authentically, acknowledging their heritage and traditions with respect.

This refreshing approach makes Bridgerton’s representation of Indian culture a significant and commendable step forward in Hollywood. The series showcases a well-crafted and positive portrayal, making it one of the finest examples of Indian culture's representation in a major way on the global stage.

The momentous day when Priyanka Chopra was cast to play the protagonist Alex Parrish in this action series is etched in our memories. It marked a significant milestone for the Indian community in the West, as the role broke away from the conventional portrayal of Indian characters as mere side roles. The series skillfully balanced Priyanka Chopra's character's Indian heritage with the depth of her overall personality. Unlike previous portrayals, the series offered a well-rounded character that went beyond the stereotypes and showcased her as a multi-faceted individual, celebrating her Indian background alongside other aspects of her persona.

In this medical drama, Anupam Kher delivered a remarkable performance as a neurologist Dr Vijay Kapoor, captivating audiences throughout seasons 1 to 3. What made his portrayal stand out was the series' conscious decision not to centre the character's ethnicity as the primary focus of his overall personality. Instead, it was treated as one of the many aspects that shaped the doctor's identity. The series chose to highlight his expertise and humanity, making his character feel more authentic to the tone of the medical drama. This balanced approach to his portrayal contributed to a realistic and compelling depiction of the character.

In the hit Netflix series, Never Have I Ever, Maitreyi Ramakrishnan shines as the lead actress, portraying a high school girl Devi Vishwakumar, in the United States. What sets her character apart is the refreshing approach that doesn't define her entire personality solely based on her Indian ethnicity. Maitreyi's portrayal remains grounded and realistic, earning her praise for her exceptional talent. Created by Mindy Kaling, the series broke from the idea of model minorities, letting the character of Devi be portrayed realistically, with all her teenage angst and growth as a person. 

The much-loved series where Mindy Kaling was initially hired as a writer eventually turned into one of her biggest roles. The mockumentary-styled series played beautifully on the stereotypes to create humour. Mindy Kaling's Kelly Kapoor is a customer service representative, who was supposed to be an exaggerated version of how ethnic characters have generally been written in Hollywood. For Mindy Kaling, the show turned out to be a game-changer. Not only did it catapult her into the limelight, but she and other producers were also nominated consecutively five times for the prestigious Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Comedy Series. 

Dev Patel has been a prominent figure in Hollywood ever since his breakthrough performance in Slumdog Millionaire. Renowned for his exceptional acting skills and ability to embody diverse roles, he has consistently earned praise from fellow professionals and critics alike.
In the movie Lion, Dev Patel takes on the role of an Indian boy, Saroo, who was adopted by an Australian couple. Based on true events, the film and particularly Dev Patel's portrayal were lauded for their authentic depiction of every nuance of the character. Unlike succumbing to stereotypes, Patel brought depth and realism to the role, creating a character that resonated deeply with audiences and stood as a testament to his remarkable talent.

Aziz Ansari, a talented comic and actor of Indian descent, served as both the creator and lead star of the comedy-drama series, Master of None. The show centres around the character Dev Shah, a 30-year-old actor, for its first two seasons. Master of None has garnered widespread praise, critical acclaim, and numerous awards. Ansari's portrayal of the character is a perfect balance, expertly weaving the character's persona with his Indian ethnicity.
Such was his brilliance that he made history by becoming the first Asian American to win a Golden Globe for the series. Furthermore, Ansari's exceptional performance has earned him multiple Emmy Awards for the show, cementing his status as an outstanding talent in the entertainment industry.

Suraj Sharma's acting journey began with the critically acclaimed film Life Of Pi.  Since then, he has established himself as a well-known actor. Presently, he is part of the ensemble cast of the series How I Met Your Father, a spin-off of the popular show How I Met Your Mother.
In this new role, Sharma has delivered a nuanced performance, steering clear of tired old stereotypes. His portrayal of Sid is refreshing, keeping the characterization authentic and in sync with contemporary times. By bringing depth and realism to his character, he continues to captivate audiences and showcase his remarkable talent as an actor.

Photo: Instagram/bridgerton, maitreyiramakrishnan