Make room Apu, Raj is here — there actually, considering we are talking about the entry of another desi figure in the American pop culture universe. Many moanies have made their presence felt by frowning at Western depictions of Indians — from Hollywood hopeful Hrundi V Bakshi in the 1968 film, The Party, and Ranjit Singh and Jamila Ranjha in the
1970s Brit-com, Mind Your Language, to the proprietor of the Springfield Kwik-E-Mart, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, in the hit TV series The Simpsons.
Their lament has always been that Indians have been portrayed as accent-heavy, head-shaking stereotypes. Well, ‘Goddang!’, as the Stetson-wearing Texan would say, the new desis being shown on the phoren block aren’t the Gunga Din-remixed versions that we were getting used to. The latest desi appearance in the far pavilions is Raj Patel, who appears as a new entry in Riverdale and is Archie Andrews’ new friend. Perhaps inspired by M Night Shyamalan, Raj’s creator Fernando Ruiz, has made films the new boy’s obsession — thus, Raj’s perennial camcorder is Jughead’s perennial hamburger.
Unlike, say, Pavitr Prabhakar a.k.a. desi Spiderman, Raj has been created by an American for regular American consumption. (Pavitr was created in India and made a paperback appearance in the US a year after he was introduced to Indians in four issues.) And Raj’s dad is no cornershop owner or taxi driver, but a doctor. Following Asha Bhonsle’s entry into Manhattan’s club scene, Indian soft power has now entered Riverdale High. Next stop: Rakhi Sawant on Oprah.