For one of the most binge-worthy and nuttiest TV shows in the world (this is perhaps arguable considering there is “Big Boss India” & “Vanderpump Rules”), race has been an ideology that “The Bachelor” hasn’t quite grasped. From incredibly racist and tone-deaf tweets by contestants, to the indefensible (and rather poor, might I add) defense of hateful rhetoric, to the lack of diversity in casting (there have been more Laurens cast than brown people), the TV show about love hasn’t really shown a lot of love to people of colour.
I would be remiss not to mention the incredible Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, or the all-encompassing (and too good for the show) Seinne Flemming, whose raw and impactful conversation about wanting a fairytale ending as a black woman touched so many. But these wonderful people of colour are scarce in the so-called “Bachelor nation.” As a fan of the show and as a proud brown woman, I was elated to see Marikh Mathias, a woman with a similar amount of melanin as me, on season 22 of “The Bachelor.” I was able to catch the stunning restaurateur/model/reality TV star to talk about being the first woman of Indian descent on the popular show.
If I were to tell my pretty liberal parents about wanting to be part of a reality TV show— which entails full-on make-out sessions with a man (who also happens to be kissing 21 other pairs of lips)—let’s just say elated or supportive wouldn’t be the emotions they would have. It would more likely resemble—hmmm—angry Kirron Kher in every angry Kirron Kher movie.
And just imagine the judgmental Aunty Jis and Uncle Jis! Luckily for Mathias, this didn’t matter as much. She quipped:
Well, I was really lucky enough to have parents who were super supportive in me finding love, with my mom being part of my intro video.
While she added that she was very much aware of the stigma reality TV plays within certain conservative sects of the Indian-American community, Mathias saw the opportunity to go on “The Bachelor” as opening more doors for brown girls in general.
I do want to reiterate that I didn’t see myself as a role model for brown girls, but I saw the opportunity for being the first female of Indian descent on “The Bachelor” as me being representative of the large brown community in the States.
Seeing a brown woman on a reality TV show, which predominantly shows white women, allows desi women to not be minimized to the stereotypical roles shown on TV: science and math nerds/a brown girl secretly dating a white guy her very conservative immigrant parents do not approve of/a brown girl rejected by a brown guy in favour of a white girl.
Honestly, I didn’t have any tone-deaf comments or stereotypically/casually racist comments thrown at me and in that aspect, I was lucky—although people can be a bit curious about my overall experience on “The Bachelor” as the first brown girl being cast. I’ve also haven’t received hate on social media due to my race, which of course should be the norm, but unfortunately isn’t in this political climate.
Speaking of politics, I asked her about being a person of colour in Trump’s America.
Well 2008 was a year of such progression with Obama being the first black president and I definitely don’t want our country to regress any further. Things are looking bleak but the silver lining is that a lot of people are becoming more and more conscious about different races and cultures—people are taking an effort to be more well-informed, which is a step in the right direction.
I was also curious about Mathias’s life as a brown woman in Utah, an unwaveringly red state with a large Mormon and white population.
Growing up, sometimes it was hard to relate with a particular group of people, I always felt as if I wasn’t Indian enough for the Indian kids and yet, I wasn’t white enough for the white kids. Sometimes I did feel like I was more connected to the white kids because I am Christian—me being Christian has also helped me connect with white guys, too. At times, I did feel like I could connect with the Indian kids more because of certain foods my parents made at home and other simple things like that. I guess I’ve never wanted to isolate and or pigeonhole myself to one culture and the best way I see myself is being multicultural.
Mathias told me about how much she appreciates her multicultural heritage and views it as an innate advantage, especially with her tight-knit “Bachelor” family, which consists of mostly white women.
What’s so nice about the show is that I made such incredible lifelong friendships and even though I didn’t find love there, I’ve gotten to have an amazing group of friends. I definitely do see slight differences in terms of my upbringing or the way I look at things, but it’s never hindered me from creating genuine friendships with my Bachelor friends.
“You know, Arie never really asked me about my race and I never really brought it up in our conversations, unlike Sienne,” Mathias answered when I asked about whether she and the Bachelor himself had a conversation about her race. “My race is a significant part of my identity but I also didn’t want my time on “The Bachelor” to just be clouded by my heritage. In a way, I wanted to remove the stereotypes and stigma Indians-Americans face by portraying how diverse our community is. Yes, being Indian-American and being brown is important to me, but it isn’t the only thing that defines me,” she explained.
“Had I gotten the opportunity to move forward in my relationship with Arie, I would have definitely shared all the beautiful things about my Indian culture, whether it was eating different Indian foods, wearing Indian clothes or even watching a Bollywood movie – I didn’t get to that place with him.”
Marikh was eliminated after week 5, in Fort Lauderdale.
Speaking of Indian clothing, Mathias told me about how much she loves the diversity and richness of Indian attire.
I’ve always wanted to promote Indian fashion and I’ve actually worked to with a company, which works to promote Indian artisans globally. I was also part of Maxim India, which was a great opportunity too! Unfortunately, I don’t get a lot of chances to wear traditional Desi clothes as much as I would like.
To wrap up the interview, I asked Mathias some quick questions.
“So, favourite Indian snack.”
“Hmm, I’m not such a snacky person so I’m going to say something common: samosas.”
“How about favourite Indian dish?”
“Right now, a good coconut korma curry!” she exclaimed.
“And favourite Bollywood movie?”
“Oh, definitely ‘Devdas.’”
“What? It’s so sad,” I gasped.
“I know I know, but the costumes, the set, the screenplay—it’s so perfect! And Aishwarya Rai literally looks like a doll, I love it so much,” Mathias gushed.
Indian-American commercial real estate and land consultant Anita Verma-Lallian launched Camelback Productions at an event held in Paradise Valley, Arizona, Jan. 7. Billed as the state’s first women-and South Asian-owned film production and entertainment company, it will focus on South Asian representation and storytelling, according to a press statement issued by Verma-Lallian. The announcement follows “Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s $125 million film tax credit for film and TV production that was introduced in July 2022, “ the statement added.
The Jan. 7 private launch party and meet and greet introduced investors and supporters to what’s ahead for Camelback Productions.
Noting the “major push to see minority groups represented in the media over the past few years,” Verma-Lallian said she wants to see more South Asians represented. “I want my children to see themselves when they watch TV. I want my daughter’s dream to become an actress to become a reality. Skin color shouldn’t be a barrier to that.”
The event opened with remarks from Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who has served as the city’s 62nd mayor since 2019. She welcomes the company to “the greater Phoenix community.” She expressed confidence that “the team will attract some of the country’s top talent to the Valley.”
Guests at the event included actor and comedian Lilly Singh, actor Nik Dodani, Aparna of Netflix’s “Indian Matchmaking,” Bali Chainani and Anisha Ramakrishna of Bravo’s “Family Karma” fame, and Paramount+ executive P. Sean Gupta, to name a few.
The company is Verma-Lallian’s first venture into the film industry. She is known for providing full concierge services for land seekers and developers of all types of sites and assists investors in discovering viable properties in the Phoenix area through her company, Arizona Land Consulting, the statement added.
Named in honor of the iconic Camelback Mountain in the Valley, Verma-Lallian says she wants her production company to have the same indestructible foundation. Camelback Productions plans to begin its first project later this summer.
“How could the British bring the Indians without the cows?”That’s one of the jokes you’re very likely to hear at comedian Priya Guyadeen’s show. In fact, the 53-year-old just wrapped up a set of shows with her troupe: Cougar Comedy Collective. The Guyanese-born comic spearheads the group of mostly women of “a certain age,” as she puts it.
She says the group was formed in 2021 but she started dishing out jokes back in 2020 during the pandemic, over Zoom. She was always labeled the “funny one” in her family and decided to take her jokes to a virtual open mic, hosted by her friend, where she says failure was less daunting.
Cut to 2023, and the comic was able to take her show on the road. Guyadeen and her fellow performers recently hit the East coast for a set of shows called “Cougars on the Loose!” The shows even featured two male comics.
Guyadeen’s comedy routines touch on her Indo Guyanese background, highlighting stereotypes and a clash of cultures. In one of her jokes, she tells her audience that her Guyanese mom is bad with names when she introduces her white boyfriend, Randy, and he gets called Ramesh.
Out in the Bay Area — where she spends her days now — she tries to connect the sparsely Caribbean population to her jokes.
That includes talking about the 1978 Jonestown Massacre which had ties to San Francisco and ended in Guyana. She uses this as a reference point — trying to connect her audience to her background with historical context. She says this does come with its challenges, though.
The single mom also practices clean jokes. Once she finishes up her daily routine with her eight-year-old son and day job as a project manager for a biotechnology company, she tries to find time to write her material.
It’s a balancing act. I’m like the day job-Priya for a few hours or for a chunk of time. And then I’ve got to put on my comedian hat and do that for a period of time because with comedy, I’m not just performing. I’m also producing, managing the shows, booking talent, seeking venues.
Though it’s not easy, she says she’s learning through it all — the business side of comedy and discipline.
Guyadeen, who’s lived in Brazil and Canada, says her young son really contributes to her comedy. A lot of her material focuses on jokes for parents, and single parents like herself, because she feels:
[We live] in a society that doesn’t really create a support system for single parents.
Her nonprofit, Cougar Comedy Collective, was born out of all the great reception she received. She noticed a “niche market” of women in their 50s who loved to get dressed up and come out to the shows to hear jokes that related to their own lives that aren’t typically touched on. These were jokes about menopause, aging and being an empty nester. Guyadeen says her nonprofit,
…bring[s] talent together in our age group to celebrate this time of life; celebrate this particular juncture in a person’s life.
As Guyadeen continues her comedic journey, she says she hopes she’ll be a role model for other Caribbean women to follow their dreams despite their age. She also hopes to see more Caribbean people carving out their space in the entertainment industry.
Featured Image of Priya Guyadeen taken by Elisa Cicinelli Photography
Weddings, huh? Talk about a stress fest. And for the bride, it’s like a 24/7 walk on eggshells. However, add in a paranoid and overprotective sister, and you’ve got a recipe for a completely different degree of drama. In “Polite Society,” Ria Khan (Priya Kansara) and her gang of clumsy pals take the phrase “till death do us part” to a whole new level as they plot to “steal” the bride — aka Ria’s own sister, Lena (Ritu Arya), during her shaadi reception. But with a wedding hall packed with guests, a mother-in-law from hell, and a groom with more shades of fraud than a rainbow, this heist is anything but smooth sailing.
It goes without saying but “Polite Society” comes with a cast of wacky characters, gut-busting one-liners, and an action-packed heist sequence, making it a must-watch for anyone who loves a good comedy. I mean who hasn’t dealt with some serious wedding drama, am I right?
Lead actress Kansara agrees wholeheartedly. “I definitely have!” she chuckles, as I catch up with her at Soho Hotel in London. Despite the rubbish weather outside, Kansara is a ray of sunshine with her infectious enthusiasm.
The minute I read the script, I thought to myself…wow, playing Ria is going to be one wild ride!
And wild is definitely the right word to describe her character. Ria is a British-Pakistani martial artist-in-training from London, determined to become a professional stuntwoman. Her sister, Lena, who dropped out of uni, often ends up being the guinea pig for filming Ria’s stunts for YouTube, including one lovingly dubbed “the fury.” She reveals
I’d never done martial arts before this film. The stunt training started from the day I got the role, and it was three to four times a week all the way until we finished filming. It was a seven-week period in total, and boy, was it physically demanding. Oh my God, I think I can add a whole new skills section to my CV! But on a serious note, it was so much fun and we had an amazing stunt team. They, including my stunt double, taught me so much. It was important to me to do my own stunts as much as possible, but also strike a healthy balance.
For South Asian women, who are often expected to be quiet and agreeable, all that punching and kicking on set must have been cathartic, right?
Honestly, it was like anger management at work! I got to kick and throw things around — it was the perfect balance.
What sets Kansara apart from other actors starting out in the industry is her ability to draw from her own life experiences to bring authenticity to her characters on screen. Her career began with a degree from UCL and a communications job at a pharmaceutical company. But today, her versatile range and unwavering commitment to her craft have propelled her to the forefront of British comedy, portraying defiant South Asian women we’d love to see in real life.
From my own experience as a South Asian woman, I’ve always been told to do what’s ‘proper’ and think twice before speaking up. Playing a character like Ria and putting myself in her shoes, I felt like I was doing and saying things that I wish I had done at her age. It was almost like living through her and speaking my mind about things I never did.
Without a doubt, every South Asian woman on this planet wishes she cared more about herself and less about what other people think.
Ria totally inspired me. If only I had her mindset when I was younger, my career path would have taken off way sooner instead of worrying about other people’s opinions.
The chemistry between the cast members on and off-screen is so apparent, especially the sisterhood between Ria and Lena. The wild adventures of a bride, and her paranoid maid of honour navigating through family drama, are bound to create some unforgettable moments on set.
We both confess our love and admiration for Nimra Bucha’s portrayal of Raheela, Lena’s evil mother-in-law and share a teenage fangirling moment:
I’m obsessed with that woman. There’s something terrifying yet ultra sexy about her character in “Polite Society” that’s mesmerising. I absolutely loved the dance sequence. As South Asians, we’ve all grown up watching Bollywood films and idolising Madhuri Dixit’s iconic dance moves. “Polite Society” gave me my Bollywood heroine moment, and it was a dream come true with the costumes and jewellery.
It’s definitely a unique experience for Kansara, considering her former career was worlds apart from entertainment. So, what advice does she have for aspiring actors who may secretly wish to pursue the same path, but are unsure of the next steps? Kansara advises, drawing from her character’s heist-planning skills.
I believe starting small and honing your craft is an underrated superpower. If you’re passionate about acting, make short-form videos, and build your portfolio. You never know who might be watching.
So, grab your popcorn and your sense of humour, and get ready for “Polite Society” — the film that proves that sometimes, the most polite thing to do is kick some butt and save the day. It released in cinemas on April 28th, and I highly recommend it.