by Aditya Desai
I don’t get much time to watch TV, and so one can imagine that I wouldn’t have much interest in tuning into the Emmy Awards. However, I was very delighted to read the headlines and see that British Indian actress Archie Panjabi snagged the award for Best Supporting Actress Drama for her role in CBS’s The Good Wife.
Upon learning this, I clicked over to the show’s IMDb page and main website to see what type of character she portrayed: Kalinda Sharma, a sexy, confident, stiletto-clad private investigator for the show’s Chicago legal firm. She wears smart outfits, dishes clever words with the judges and lawyers, and is supposedly by fan speculation a closeted lesbian.
Here now I, who had zero interest in the show five minutes prior, applaud such a strong and well-defined character of Indian descent. And what is even more commendable, the show’s writers did not retroactively make her Indian upon casting Panjabi. Rather, she was originally written as a “Bollywood Erin Brockovich private investigator” as told in this LA Times interview.
This comes from a steadily growing presence of Desi characters on television, well-known examples being Kelli Kapoor from The Office or Mohinder Suresh from Heroes. But now with an Emmy win, the industry has, intentionally or not, acknowledged the Indian community’s presence in the legal world, typically portrayed in the media as being affluent and high-powered.
So I raise my glass in kudos to both Archie Panjabi and The Good Wife’s writers and production team for creating an Indian American character that simply inhabits the same great personalities played by mainstream actresses without making it about the ethnicity.
I may just decide to make some time in the schedule to tune in to a couple episodes.