Like many Indian-Americans, I grew up watching Bollywood movies. I would sometimes try to get my non-Desi friends to watch the glitzy, musical-number laden films, to mixed responses. But I was overjoyed when the films that were so near and dear to my heart caught the American public’s attention – with the Academy Award nomination for the epic Lagaan (English: Land Tax) in 2001, and the “Jai Ho” fervor in the wake of Slumdog Millionaire.
NBC’s musical hit Smash decided to join the craze with a Bollywood-themed episode, and I was excited – until I saw the episode’s title: “A Thousand and One Nights.”
All of my other criticisms of Smash aside, this conflation of Indian and Arabic cultures is wrong in nearly 1,001 ways. I mean, I love Aladdin, but come on – not all brown people are the same! The tribute to Bollywood is supposed to be in honor of character Karen Cartwright’s (played by Katharine McPhee of American Idol fame) British-Indian boyfriend Dev Sundaram, played by real-life British-Indian Raza Jaffrey. That’s all well and good, but when you have an episode honoring Indian culture, giving it the name of an incredibly well-known Arabic collection of tales (hello, they’re called the Arabian Nights!) is a huge no-no.
I really want to love this, but I don’t think I can. Come April 23rd, I might just mute the TV and just take in the glam Indian costumes. Will you be tuning in?
Smash airs on Mondays at 10pm EST on NBC; “A Thousand and One Nights” airs April 23
(Photo via ew.com)