Friday, September 10, 2004

Asif Mandvi on His Faith and His Craft

The NYT ran an interesting profile of Asif Mandvi, one of the first desi actors to make it into mainstream this past weekend.
Mandvi's first lesson on the racism that can come with living in a community where you are different should have prepared him for his second. As a small Indian-born schoolboy in the working-class town of Bradford, England, he was often taunted and chased home from school by "the white boys." The experience, fading over time, rushed back to him after the attacks of 9/11, which produced a backlash that made him, as a Muslim, again feel the sting of being "an outsider."

But Mr. Mandvi, an actor, has reacted to what he sees as the current assault on Islam - born of indiscriminate fear and suspicion - by identifying with those who are attacked rather than those who are doing the attacking. "I never heard the word 'jihad' until it came out of the mouth of an American television reporter," he said, "and I was raised Muslim. I was never interested in being a political artist, but all this has forced me to become a more political artist. And it has made me a better artist.

I want to do work that is honest, work that allows people to see another dimension of life." To that end, Mr. Mandvi, who says he is in his 30's, is turning his one-man show, "Sakina's Restaurant," for which he won an Obie Award, into a film. "Sakina's Restaurant" is a comedy that chronicles life in a family-owned Indian restaurant, which in the movie will be set in Jackson Heights, Queens. "I think it is possible to portray Muslims without having to set them against the backdrop of a post-9/11 world," he said. "This is the story of an American family that happens to be Muslim."

Wouldn't it be great if we could return to this frame-of-mind?

Click here to read the full story.


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