When we talk about representation and diversity on television, we often point out only what we see on-screen. While there has been a rise in the number of South Asians on TV, it’s important to know about those heroes that work off-screen to bring us these characters.
There are many directors, writers, producers of South Asian descent who are working hard to create their niche in the entertainment world. Not only are they making shows and movies that portray desis accurately but even beyond that, they’re making work that is universally acclaimed.
Diversity behind-the-scenes is equally, if not more, important than on-screen because its only then can we expect authentic representation. Here are a few writers, producers, and directors who have given us some of our favorite shows and are working towards bringing us more.
1. Nisha Ganatra
A prolific director, Indo-Canadian Ganatra has gifted us movies like “Chutney Popcorn,” “Cake,” and “Cosmopolitan” on the big screen. However, her talent has churned some of the finest episodes of various TV shows including “Brooklyn 99,” “Dear White People,” “The Mindy Project,” “Better Things,” “Transparent,” and more. Ganatra is also the co-executive producer of the latter two shows along with “You Me Her.” Her work always exudes finesse.
2. Geeta Patel
Patel wrote and directed the well-known documentary, “Meet the Patels,” with her brother Ravi Patel. It focused on their parents pressurizing Ravi for an arranged marriage and his meetings with various women they chose for him. It was a smashing success and led her to sign a deal with FOX/Searchlight. She has directed episodes for various TV shows like “The Mindy Project,” “Superstore,” “Speechless,” and “The Mick.” Her 2008 documentary “Project Kashmir” was an investigative look at the ongoing war in the state from the perspective of two American friends.
3. Jay Chandrasekhar
Indian-American Chandrasekhar is a multi-talented powerhouse who has 51 directing credits including episodes of “The Goldbergs,” “New Girl,” “Community,” “Psych,” “Royal Pains,” and more TV shows. He’s an actor who’s appeared on “Speechless,” “Family Guy,” and “Franklin & Bash” among others. He also formed the comedy troupe Broken Lizard, through which he has writing credits for “Club Dread,” “Beerfest,” and more. Chandrasekhar is the writer for the “Super Troopers” movies, as well. Clearly, he knows how to pick winners.
4. Kabir Akhtar
The cousin of noted Bollywood actor Farhan Akhtar, Kabir has aced the skill of editing. He won an Emmy Award for the Best Single-Camera Picture Editing in 2016 for his work on the “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” pilot, a show which just wrapped up its third season and for which he is also the associate producer and director. His editing work, raking up 57 credits, includes shows like “New Girl,” “Awkward,” and “Arrested Development.” Akhtar’s career kicked off by directing Comedy Central’s “The Showbiz with David Spade” in 2005 and since then, he has directed segments for award shows like the Emmy’s and the Oscars, and the British show “Mumbai Calling.”
5. Ajay Sahgal
Sahgal, who is currently working on a pilot for CBS about a family of Indian doctors called “Pandas in New York,” has written for and produced shows like “The Carmichael Show” and “Friend Me,” TV Movies like “Nevermind Nirvana” and “The Angriest Man in Suburbia.” His work often reflects the realities of South Asian immigrants, which is why we’re excited to see what he does with his new show comedy on CBS.
6. Sanjay Shah
The co-executive producer of the ABC comedy “Fresh off the Boat” signed a deal last year with 20th TV to not only continue his work on FOTB but also produce new content for the studio, which includes his upcoming pilot “Model Minorities,” a single-camera comedy about a family of Indian-Americans. If the excellent depiction of the Chinese-American lifestyle on FOTB is proof, “Model Minorities” promises to be a delight. Shah got his start with the animated show “King of the Hill,” followed by writing for TV shows like “Cougar Town,” “1600 Penn,” and “Enlisted.”
7. Lakshmi Sundaram
As a writer for “Brooklyn 99,” one of TV’s funniest comedies on-air right now, Sundaram has already proven her might. She’s also a series editor for the show. She’s the story editor for an episode of “Master of None,” season 2’s “Door #3.” Beyond her work off-screen, she’s appeared on the Netflix comedy as Tanvi, Dev’s (Aziz Ansari) friend.
8. Jaffar Mahmood
Pakistani-American screenwriter Mahmood’s claim-to-fame is his 2008 movie “Shades of Ray,” which is inspired by his own life and dealing with dual identities. Since then, Mahmood, who won the CAPE New Writers Award for Screenwriting in 2010, has written episodes of the show “Courtside.” He expanded his skills to directing, working on various episodes of “The Middle,” “Brooklyn 99,” “LA to Vegas,” “Young Sheldon,” “Modern Family,” among others.
9. Sono Patel
Patel was on the Forbes 30 unded 30 list this year because of her many achievements. She’s a producer-writer on The CW’s musical dramedy “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” where she has not only written episodes for the show but also helped with writing original songs alongside series star Rachel Bloom. She also works as the story editor for the show. She got her start on the web-series “Ginger Snaps.” Patel moved to Los Angeles from New York City in 2014 and found work as the writer for NBC’s short-lived comedy “A to Z.” Her future projects include a new show with Aline Brosh McKenna and a movie musical for DreamWorks Animation.
10. Rachna Fruchbom
South Asian-American Fruchbom soared to success as a story editor for the final two seasons of the hit comedy “Parks and Recreation,” for which she also wrote two episodes. Immediately after that, she became the executive story editor, writer, and co-producer of “Fresh off the Boat,” a comedy that gives us an accurate, fresh perspective of a Chinese-American family. She is taking those skills with her for her upcoming ABC pilot, the remake of “The Greatest American Hero” but with a spin. It stars Hannah Simone as an Indian-American superhero. We can’t wait to see all the action, literally.
11. Aseem Batra
In her years long career, Batra has produced famous shows like “Scrubs,” “The Cleveland Show,” “Animal Practice,” and “Marlon,” which she has also written for. Her most recent comedy pilot has been ordered by NBC, which she’s working on with Amy Poehler. It’s based on the book “I Feel Bad: All Day. Every Day. About Everything.”
12. Devanshi Patel
Patel has written for groundbreaking and hilarious shows like “Blackish” and “Ground Floor.” The writer has been working on a new show for The CW, “Make Divya Great Again.” It centers on Indian-American Divya, who tries to avoid her family’s attempt to get her to marry by inventing the perfect desi boyfriend. She described it as “a very fun world of eccentric with a heart and a unique point of view.”
13. Sharat Raju
Raju has not only directed some of the finest episodes of famous TV shows like “Scandal,” “Criminal Minds,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” but he uses his platform to make documentaries about important social issues like solitary confinement in prison and immigration raids. His short film “Oak Creek: In Memoriam” was a tribute to the 2012 mass shooting at a Gurudwara in Wisconsin. He often collaborates with his wife Valarie Kaul, a civil rights activist and lawyer.