Life of Pi actor Suraj Sharma: Authentic onscreen representation of people of colour still missing in the West
Actor Suraj Sharma feels that even though Hollywood is on its way to becoming an inclusive place, what’s still missing is authentic representation of people of colour. And he believes that adding diverse behind the camera will steer the industry in the right direction now.
“We have a long way to go. I feel what’s missing is authentic representation of colour on screen in stories, and the general narrative of the world be it history books or wherever you look at it. That’s what is missing,” Sharma tells us.
When it comes to Hollywood, lack of talent is not an issue, but lack of people driving the content strategy.
He explains, “In terms of the industry (in the West), there are lots of actors that are exceptionally talented. That’s not the problem, the problem, or more like the solution is, in people of colour being behind the screen. In decision making places, and places where stories are told. Because at the end of the day, an actor acts on what’s in the script. The script is controlled by someone who writes it or the producers. If people of colour find themselves more in those circumstances and situations, the stories being told will become more true… And then that becomes the perspective of that certain social strata in the world. I feel that is missing right now.”
However, the Delhi-born actor is optimistic as he can see things changing for good. “That is what is happening right now — evolving, and growing more and more. And (if) that keeps going we’re in a good place,” he adds.
Sharma grabbed attention in Hollywood when he made his debut with Oscar winning Life of Pi in 2012, following it up Million Dollar Arm, Homeland and now a series regular in sitcom, How I Met Your Father, which streams on Disney+ Hotstar in India.
The one thing which won’t work at this point is tokenism over true reflection. He picks an example of his show, which is a spin-off of hugely popular How I Met Your Mother, to explain.
“The diversity is a huge positive for the show as they try to portray New York in a realistic manner. And that can’t happen without showing how the world is. Tokenism is a thing, but is not always the best thing. In this case, it doesn’t feel like tokenism. It feels like true honest characters that deserve and rightfully live in this story. That’s the difference, which is why it is so important,” concludes the Phillauri actor.