Kal Penn Optimistic For Diverse Hollywood

Kal Penn with co-star Zuleikha Robinson in the film "The Namesake"
Fox Searchlight
Indians and other minorities have not yet broken out of their stereotypes in mainstream Hollywood. But Kal Penn is optimistic.

"That is changing slowly," "The Namesake" star said. "It is a two-fold problem, Hollywood is not as diverse as it should be, but on the flip side the Indian community doesn't encourage many of its members to go into fields like the arts so you can't place all the blame on Hollywood needing the change."

Penn grew up in Montclair, N.J., and is the son of immigrant parents who came from western India. His father is an engineer, a common vocation for Indians living in the U.S.

2Indians are often seen as convenience store owners and doctors on screen. They are made to put on heavy accents and are often only cast when the script specifically demands an Indian character.

Tejaswini Ganti, assistant professor of anthropology at NYU, says that Indians are barely even represented by their stereotypes.

"It took them forever to have an Indian doctor on 'ER' when a large proportion of doctors in the United States are of Indian origin," she says.

Penn is one of the few actors of Indian origin who are seen in mainstream American television and movies along with Parminder Nagra of "ER," Sendhil Ramamurthy of "Heroes" and Maulik Pancholi of "30 Rock."

3Ganti also says that there are very few shows and movies in Hollywood where characters of minority origin are cast despite their ethnicity.

"I do remember watching one episode of 'Law and Order' that was based on an Indian family that were cast regardless of their ethnic identification and Kal Penn was actually in the episode," she said.

Penn is extremely positive about his career in Hollywood with ragingly successful films like "The Namesake" and "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" he has proved that he is here to stay and will be part of changing Hollywood.

By Sakshi Didwania