Full disclaimer: This is not my area of expertise.
Which is why Ada Tseng and Brian Hu asked me to join them for the first episode of season six of their amazing Saturday School Podcast. The podcast is an exploration of Asian American pop culture, that gets into the nostalgia, the talent and the amazing people who have brought us to this powerful place, this “Crazy Rich Asians,” Mindy Kaling, Hasan Minhaj, “Fresh Off the Boat” era. This season, Ada and Brian are revisiting films from Asia that portray the US, starting with the 2003 classic “Kal Ho Naa Ho.”
I can’t remember the first time I saw a Bollywood film, but I do know that I spent a lot of time actively disliking them. It took Ada and Brian, two Taiwanese American friends, to show me the virtues of Indian blockbuster films — and more specifically, to show me the glory of Shah Rukh Khan.
(Aside: For those uninitiated in SRK, here’s a story Ada wrote for Global Nation that serves as a good primer. While this piece might send you down a rabbit hole that makes you miss your deadlines or your family obligations, it’s probably more efficient than searching the internet and scrolling through 100 Buzzfeed listicles. Unless, of course, you’re like many SRK fans and are looking for that sort of thing.)
I have a complicated relationship with Bollywood, one that is about immigration, shame, pride, joy and family all at once. Ada and Brian really got me to dig deep and tell that story. And laugh with me (at me?) along the way.
To my desi friends, my immigrant friends, to anyone who has ever felt like an oddity in the US, maybe you can relate. Is there something in your pop culture history that was really uncomfortable when you were young but became inexplicably empowering as you grew older? I’d love to hear about it.
Here’s where you can subscribe to Saturday School, which is part of the awesome Potluck Podcast Collective. It’s a wonderful, joyful journey to be part of!
Saturday School is in its sixth season — amazing! If you’re looking for a new podcast where you can show your love, check out Naomi Gingold and Jacky Ahn Yang’s startup long form narrative podcast about Asia: Not the Hello Kitty Show. (Audiophile journalist friends, they’re looking for pitches too!)