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Tuesday Jan 23 2018
Web Desk

Pakistani-American comedian Kumail Nanjiani nominated for Oscar

Web Desk

In a first, Pakistani-American stand-up comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani has been nominated for an Oscar for ‘The Big Sick’ in the ‘Original Screenplay’ category.

His wife, Emily V Gordon, who co-wrote the debut film, was also nominated along with him for the award.

Nanjiani, 39, was born in Karachi where attended the Karachi Grammar School. At 18, he moved to the US to attend Grinnell College in Iowa, from which he graduated in 2001.

Nanjiani was earlier known for playing snarky programmer Dinesh in HBO’s comedy “Silicon Valley.” 

The actor tweeted his reaction to the Oscar nomination, tagging his wife Emily in the post as well.

Pakistani comedian in post-9/11 America

In November 2017, the film clinched an award at the 2017 Hollywood Film Awards. 

The "Big Sick" is a drama-romance which chronicles Nanjiani's real-life romance with wife Emily Gordon. The cast includes Kumail as himself, Zoe Kazan as his girlfriend Emily while Holly Hunter and Ray Romano played Emily's parents.

It explores Nanjiani’s cultural conflict as a Pakistani Muslim comedian in a post-9/11 America. His life was further complicated when he fell in love with Gordon, played by Zoe Kazan, and goes against his family’s wishes that he marry a Pakistani woman.

Nanjiani’s family struggled with his decision to pursue comedy as they tried to arrange a suitable marriage, while he secretly dates the smart, nerdy Emily.

Nanjiani’s world was upended when Emily falls into a coma with an undiagnosed illness and he kept a bedside vigil alongside her parents.

Kumail Nanjiani with his wife Emily Gordon. -Reuters

'Big political statement'

The film was released in the US “at a time when there’s a lot of anti-Muslim sentiment, there’s a lot of Islamophobia,” Nanjiani had said in an earlier interview.

“By depicting a Muslim family as like normal people, that’s its big political statement,” he said in an earlier interview with Reuters.

In one scene from the film, Nanjiani is heckled during his stand-up comedy routine by a man calling him a terrorist. In another, Ray Romano, who plays Gordon’s father, asks Kumail about his stance on the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

“Anti. It was a tragedy,” Nanjiani said, before quipping, “I mean, we lost 19 of our best guys.”

The "Big Sick” follows other Hollywood films such as “Get Out” and “Wonder Woman” which are starting to break the white, male-dominated movie mold and show that US audiences will pay to see films with minority leads.

“It’s important for kids to see themselves in the stuff they watch. But more than that, I think it’s important that people from different points of view are behind the camera telling the stories, writing them, directing them,” Nanjiani had said.