While we’ve seen more representation of great South Asian characters in movies and television in the past decade than ever before, a triple-threat writer/director/actor debut like Sujata Day’s Definition Please remains a rarity and magic trick in Hollywood. The Insecure actress put out her first feature film in 2020 with the intention to depict Indian American characters outside the stereotypical. And this expanded to the development of a South Asian mom character.
CinemaBlend’s own Law Sharma spoke to Sujata Day about Definition Please now that the independent film is available to stream with a Netflix subscription. One particularly noticeable deviation from the typical depiction of Indian-American families is the mother of Day’s Monica, who becomes sick during the film. Day shared her thoughts on penning a “cool” mom for the movie:
When stories use the same stereotypes and tropes over and over, they can become harmful and heavily influence the way in which the public views a culture. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of disapproving Indian parents, but Sujata Day wanted to depict women like her mother and aunties who did not fit into the mold that many Hollywood productions have established. She continued:
Not only did the filmmaker bring something new to the table with Anna Khaja’s Jaya, she also created a new opportunity for the actress to play a type of role that she'd ever been able to try. This is why representation behind the scenes matters so much!
The film, which is on the 2022 Netflix movie schedule, is about a former spelling bee champion who is having a rough time living up to her potential as an adult. When her mother get sick, her estranged brother, Sonny (played by Ritesh Rajan), enters the picture to help take care of her. The flick not only has a depiction of an Indian-American family that steers away from tropes, it's also movie that honestly discusses the struggles that come with mental illness, as Sonny lives with bipolar disorder.
Definition Please was made with the help of Ava DuVernay’s production company ARRAY. The Selma filmmaker has additionally opened doors for the production of 2020 drama Funny Boy from Indian-Canadian writer/director Deepa Mehta and 2021’s Donkeyhead from Indian-Canadian writer/director Agam Darshi. It’s great to see more diverse filmmakers taking the helm with movies like Sujata Day's to bring more authentic stories to the screen and push back against a cycle of stereotypes in movies and television.
YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.
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