Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Indian characters in NBC's Heroes

I normally don't watch TV shows, but I do read comic books quite a bit and so it is with great interest that I watch NBC's breakout fall hit Heroes. This show has an interesting spectrum of international characters (well, Japanese and Indian in any case - which is plenty for a mainstream show, Bravo NBC!). It often feels like a ripoff of X-men, but there is some interesting territory that the show explores. It's an ensemble superhero drama with a super villian who appears to be a serial killer.

In any case, actor Sendhil Ramamurthy plays Mohinder Suresh, a genetics professor with mixed feelings about his Dad's seminal research into people with extraordinary abilities. His Dad is brutally murdered in the US, which leads Mohinder to New York. He is still engaged in his Dad's research, but we're a bit unsure if he's trying to prove his Dad's theories right or if he wants to bury them by proving them to be wrong. He wants a bit of both it seems, either option would satisfy a part of him.

The last episode (11/13) showed him congregating his father's ashes at Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of the Indian subcontinent. He encounters an uncle, his mother, his dad (in a flashback) and a fetching colleague called Mira, played by Kavi Ladnier. The interesting thing about this is that you immediately notice that the Indian characters move and talk in decidely non-Indian ways. In fact, they're downright American in the way they interact with each other. You could always make the argument that a multitude of Indians have grown up with very Western social norms, but to have the entire lot of them exhibit the emotional spectrum of John Wayne is a bit hard to swallow.

I understand that in every global story, a writer must look for themes that resonate locally. And characters must be translated and mapped in some way that mainstream audiences can relate to. I love NBC's globalization of the series and applaud it. But to assume that American audiences want to relate only to characters that act, walk and talk like them is a bit insulting to American audiences. It's along the nefarious lines of Disney making Hercules a red headed, blue eyed all American boy in its animated movie about the dark-skinned, dark-haired hero.

3 comments:

Sharon said...

*so* true.

I find the accents particularly infuriating. Yes, Indian accents can sometimes sound a bit like English accents, but Mohinder Suresh's accent doesn't sound remotely Indian!

Anonymous said...

his accent in the first episode is a little annoying as it sounds very indian and i really couldnt stand it!! but fortunately his accent has improved in later episodes. thank god!

Aspi said...

@Anon, you're right his accent has gotten much more consistent. Its a real improvement although he still sounds more English than Indian. I'm sure there is a good way of doing a decent Indian accent without making it a typical caricature and one of these days, some smart actor will do it for us.