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Changing Hollywood landscape welcomes increased South Asian representation at Oscars

  • This year, 10 South Asians walked down the Academy Awards red carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, making history as the largest group of South Asians to be nominated for Oscars. 

  • Priyanka Chopra co-hosted a pre-Oscars celebration last week alongside Mindy Kaling, Kumail Nanjiani, Anjula Acharia, Maneesh K. Goyal, Shruti Ganguly and Bela Bajaria to honor South Asian excellence in film and entertainment.

  • Chopra looked back to her early days in Hollywood, sharing a personal story of how she was once one of only two South Asians at a Golden Globes after-party. 

  • Twice-nominated Riz Ahmed emphasized that the movement to increase minority representation — and the challenges that come with it — is a communal one, citing the event as a “platform” for both solidarity and celebration. 

This year, 10 South Asians walked down the Academy Awards red carpet at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, making history as the largest group of South Asians to be nominated for Oscars. 

Among this year’s South Asian nominees were Pawo Choyning Dorji from “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom;” Aneil Karia for “The Long Goodbye;” Elizabeth Mirzaei and Gulistan Mirzaei for “Three Songs for Benazir;” Joseph Patel for his documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised);” Rintu Thomas, Sushmit Ghosh and Anurima Bhargava for the documentary “Writing With Fire;” Suroosh Alvi for “Flee;” and Riz Ahmed, who was nominated twice for “Flee” and “The Long Goodbye. 

“Today, I stand amongst peers, amongst colleagues, amongst South Asian excellence. I have goosebumps, I am emotional,” said Priyanka Chopra Jonas at a Wednesday evening pre-Oscars celebration. Chopra Jonas co-hosted the event alongside Mindy Kaling, Kumail Nanjiani, Anjula Acharia, Maneesh K. Goyal, Shruti Ganguly and Bela Bajaria. The new mother donned a black saree while taking photos with this year’s nominees, whom she told to “bring home the gold” in a recent Instagram post about the event. 

 

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“[Wednesday] night gave me all the feels, and filled me with so much pride for how far our community has come. The future of entertainment is looking bright,” she wrote in the post.

A crowd of over 125 gathered at the event to listen to honoree speeches, including ones from Richa Moorjani and Poorna Jagannathan, who, respectively, played the protagonist’s cousin and mother in the recent Netflix hit series “Never Have I Ever.”

As much as it was a celebration of the recent strides made by South Asian stars in the film and television industry, the event also acknowledged how much more remains to be done to increase representation. Chopra looked back to her early days in Hollywood, sharing a personal story of how she was once one of only two South Asians at a Golden Globes after-party. 

The “Barfi” actress also explained that the scope of representation should extend beyond spotlight roles, noting the importance of having more South Asian executives and “people behind the cameras” who are willing to tell multicultural stories and challenges. Of the 10 South Asian nominees at this year’s Academy Awards, Patel was the only one to take home an Oscar, as a producer of the Best Original Documentary “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently made efforts to address minority underrepresentation by diversifying its membership of voters. Under the A2020 initiative launched in 2015, 36% of the newly recruited members from 2015 to 2020 were from underrepresented ethnic or racial communities, 49% identified as international and 45% were female. The number of active female members rose to more than double that in 2015. Today the Academy has over 10,000 members, more than 9,000 who have the eligibility to vote. However, these statistics belie the fact that women and ethnic minorities continue to make up a smaller percentage of the overall membership, at 33% and 19%, respectively — bringing into question whether such aforementioned initiatives are actually leading to more diversity in terms of Oscar winners. 

Attendees of Wednesday’s pre-Oscars bash were excited by the changing landscape of Hollywood. Twice-nominated Riz Ahmed emphasized that the movement to increase minority representation — and the challenges that come with it — is a communal one, citing the event as a “platform” for both solidarity and celebration. 

The 94th annual Academy Award returned this year on Sunday with co-hosts Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, and Wanda Sykes, after three years of host-less celebrations.

 

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