Hyderabadis in Blackface?

It’s been an adjustment, to experience this website’s growth and witness our readership change. People leave, others join, many lurk. While I miss some of our now-absent personalities who were prolific with their pondering (Punjabi Boy, Jai Singh, DesiDancer and Espressa come to mind), I’m thrilled about our new commenters, who are expanding our discussion and bringing their unique points of view to our cacophonous, rowdy, online adda. I’m especially looking at our first-gen contributors, like Runa and Malathi, because for stories like the one I’m trying to blog, I think their perspective is invaluable, for helping us find nuance and context. What I’m trying to say is, HELP.

Al Mujahid for Debauchery left this on our news tab:

Unbelievable. Pakistani actor Moin Akhtar (a muhajir/Indian origin himself) plays Hyderabadis from India in blackface in this ‘comedy’ show.

Wait, WHAT? And here is where the DBDs come in, because I don’t understand the clip below or know who these actors are, and as I’ve stated before, I like to get as much information as possible before I get my outrage on– and believe me, I could rage about actors in blackface.

What on earth is going on? And would someone who watches desi tv please tell me that this an uncommon practice? I fast forwarded through the clip, but I don’t get the greasy, huge-black-glasses-equipped, buck-toothed character, and by “don’t get”, I mean my spider sense is tingling. What, if anything, do all of you know?

568 thoughts on “Hyderabadis in Blackface?

  1. Smaller cities just have an indian association. When numbers grow, they form tamil sangams, gujju associations, telugu asso etc.

    Reminds me of an old joke in the des :

    Question: What do you get when you have two (Insert community of choice here)* on a deserted island? Answer: Three (community of choice) associations

    • Select from:
    • Bengalis
    • Gujaratis -Tamilians -Punjabis -Maharashtrians etc etc
  2. telUgu, not telEgu telUgu, not telEgu telUgu, not telEgu telUgu, not telEgu telUgu, not telEgu telUgu, not telEgu telUgu, not telEgu Does it matter when one is transliterating from a language that does not use a Roman alphabet?

    Yes, because the two are pronounced differently. And TelUgu would be the correct pronunciation, according to the Telugu alphabet.

    And then there’s the matter of showing respect.

    Who made the E/U mix-up though? I checked my posts but there’s no way I make that mistake :P

  3. my plan ot sell mexican fast food to desis hits a snag…

    It is also late by about 18-20 years.

    In Madras, opposite Ethiraj College, there used to be a place called ‘Taco Tavern.’ Not a fast food joint. Apparently it was started by a TamBrahm return-from-the-US.

    I was young and impressionable. I remember the place looked nice, different, sort of dark what with all the dark wooden interior decor, and dark bamboo chairs (?) etc. I was a fan of Louis L’Amour and Westerns in my mid teens, so I appreciatively eyed the wooden plates, bowls, cups, etc. How authentic the effect was, I may not have known. Neither would we (my friends and I) have known whether the (corn?) tacos and beans were really authentic or not (I can’t remember what else was served. I am sure there was some rice).

    But this we definitely understood to be bizarre: that the entire menu was vegetarian.

    The place closed down too soon.

  4. 496 Puliogre in da USA Poughkeepsie! u from up there?


    no–but have friends from there–ibm’ers

  5. Yes, because the two are pronounced differently. And TelUgu would be the correct pronunciation, according to the Telugu alphabet.

    Thank you. That was the clarification I was looking for.

  6. the rich have always looked down on the poor…thats nothing new.

    That may be true, but I suspect it’s more than just that going on with EU/Turkey. Whatever objections to Turkey joining the EU (human rights, economic practices, political freedom, whatever else) seem to be quantities that every non-Muslim European country satisfies. I genuinely wonder whether the reasons offered are some EU politicians’ unstated way of saying “You’re the wrong religion, so you can’t join”.

  7. I was young and impressionable. I remember the place looked nice, different, sort of dark what with all the dark wooden interior decor, and dark bamboo chairs (?) etc.

    Malathi, the way you narrated that made me sort of steel myself for a harrowing account about how you were molested or something. I’m mighty relieved that it was just a restaurant description.

    (Yes, the fact that I associate “I was young and impressionable” with misadventures reflects more about me).

  8. Yes there were benefits to these horrible things, but the US isnt developed because we had slavery. A lot of places had slavery that are still backwards.

    True. but take away those horrible things, and the other forces that did foment this development would have been severly impeded.

    And it’s not just slavery, I’d say, of the 3, colonization is the most influential on economic development.

  9. Madras, opposite Ethiraj College, there used to be a place called ‘Taco Tavern

    Also a Casa Picola(?) opposite the Taj served MExican fast food as recently as 6 years ago ….

  10. Also a Casa Picola(?) opposite the Taj served MExican fast food as recently as 6 years ago ….

    Rings a bell. Was it on Khader Nawaz Khan Road?

  11. A developed India will be more like what European Union wants to be in the future, single currency, single defence force, single political entity with multiple and flourishing cultures / languages / food habits etc.. etc..

    multiple ethinicity, religion, languages are great. Noone has any problems with that.

    While our democracy and unity in diversity are our great strengths, we must not allow it to become an excuse for not working together in the larger national interest. On eve of 60th independence day, Indians should think of India first.

  12. Edit. last sentence should be Indians should think of India first, ALWAYS (not just on Independence Day)

  13. Who made the E/U mix-up though? I checked my posts but there’s no way I make that mistake :P

    True :) but I think there were a couple telegu/telugu mix-ups up the thread.

    Sorry if I went all psycho but it really annoys me whenever I see that mistake.

    To make my comment at least somewhat on topic ;) , I watched the video clip and..Hau, I do think it was a pretty well-done spoof of the Hyderabadi accent but really, what’s with the kaala mooh and buck teeth? I feel like Javed Jaffrey is talented enough that he shouldn’t have to rely on them for humor.

  14. re: hindi vs. english as a national language.

    well, i have some vicarious experience with language issues, my family is from bangladesh and many of our family friends were from pakistan, and they would rehash the language issues. here is a funny exchange:

    punjabi urdu proponent: you should have accepted urdu as the lingua franca, after all, a nation needs unity my father: more than half the nation spoke bengali in 1970, why not go with the majority language? punjabi urdu proponent: well, that’s different. urdu is well known in the west, bengali is not, it is easier for us…. my father: easier for you, what about the majority of the population which speaks bengali and doesn’t have much experience with urdu? (note: urdu is closer to punjabi and sindhi than bengali from what i know)

    i think that hindi as a nation language for indo-aryan speaking india is plausible. but it seems asinine to impose it on the south. i can’t make heads or tales of south indian languages, but i can of hindi (as a bengali speaker). but one assumes that no matter how smart south indians are they return the favor in finding north indian languages a chore to learn. with english it is equally hard and equally accessible, and this matters for things like government appointments and jobs at major companies.

  15. Edit. last sentence should be Indians should think of India first, ALWAYS (not just on Independence Day)

    If countries were large phone companies, we would have no guilt switching allegiance.

    OK, that was just some lazy end-of-the-day thought despite not actually following the etire conversation/context. Don’t dissect it too seriously, please. And if you do, I won’t be here to defend myself.

  16. On eve of 60th independence day, Indians should think of India first.

    yeah. of course. but you can’t expect an americo-brown site to go along with that. we speak english here already. i know many pakistani americans of punjabi origin who know urdu but not punjabi because their parents make a choice about what second language they should have. i assume that some gujarati americans are similar with hindi. but a lot of people don’t give a crap about hindi here aside from watching bollywood. so note that perspective.

  17. (Yes, the fact that I associate “I was young and impressionable” with misadventures reflects more about me).

    You are not alone, kiddo. My misadventures can fill a book…that is yet to be begun.

  18. A developed India will be more like what European Union wants to be in the future, single currency, single defence force, single political entity with multiple and flourishing cultures / languages / food habits etc.. etc.. India should be compared with Europe and not a mono ethnic / mono lingual state.

    This was proposed in the Anandpur Sahib Resolution back in 1971!!! But they were called seditionists.

    i assume that some gujarati americans are similar with hindi.

    Razib, most of the Gujarati ABDs I know speak Gujarati a lot better than Hindi. But Punjabi Hindus certainly speak Hindi much better than Punjabi. For the same reason that you said, that parents make a choice for them. Getting back to Hyderabad, I was astounded when I met a 2nd gen Hyderabadi Muslim girl from Long Island, who (in her words) ‘likes to speak proper Urdu like they do in Pakistan’ rather than in the Hyderabadi style.

  19. who (in her words) ‘likes to speak proper Urdu like they do in Pakistan’ rather than in the Hyderabadi style.

    well, some bangladeshis like to speak kolkatta basha ;-) though i gues it is kind of weird since the heartland of urdu was around delhi, right?

    some people ask “why fuss about languages?” well, i’m illiterate in bengali. so are my siblings. we speak baby talk. we have lost access to an entire literary corpus and the voice of our ancestral culture. i don’t care much myself, but that is what is at stake. as people turn their native tongues into “kitchen languages” they will lose access to their cultural patrimony in an immediate sense. this applies both to the spread of english or hindi.

    p.s. most of our ancestors spoke a whole host of languages, and their voices are obviously silent. this is nothing new.

  20. moisture evaporator language.

    this is not looking so great for the gf search. plus, as the meet-up is approaching, i suggest you refrain from such comments until after saturday ;)

    budugu, may i ask to what does your handle refer – the name of a dialect?

    Poughkeepsie!

    for some reason, i know a high number of people from hopewell junction (it’s near there, right?)…

  21. this is not looking so great for the gf search. plus, as the meet-up is approaching, i suggest you refrain from such comments until after saturday ;)

    oh but ak, I thought we were all just supposed to ‘be ourselves’?

  22. Unbelievable. Pakistani actor Moin Akhtar (a muhajir/Indian origin himself) plays Hyderabadis from India in blackface in this ‘comedy’ show.

    .

    He is not actually a pakistani actor, he is infact a bollywood actor, javed jaffrey, who is also a dancer, comedian and a judge on at least one of the popular reality television shows on mainstream indian tv.

    He does a lot of “impersonations” in his comedy routines/skits and probably thought this was a harmless one more so out of ignorance like many other folks in the indian media than out of racism.

  23. oh but ak, I thought we were all just supposed to ‘be ourselves’?

    true. plus, we will all be buying our own drinks, so none of that pretentious stuff, right? ;) honestly, sometimes i feel even more free to talk at SM on certain issues than i do with social groups in person. and yes, in light of all of Pinda’s (and your) other comments, i shall overlook this star trek/star wars love affair between the two of you…

  24. A few commenters have claimed that only the ABDs are talking about the confederate South. Not true. There are large numbers of DBDs who would easily prefer to be a separate nation. But then DBDs dont normally talk about this in the public sphere in India. So this is not just an ABD phenomenon. Is a separate Southern / Western India economically / geographically viable? Yes of course. A break up will help the successful states to become developed and maybe even join the OECD within a generation of seceding. A Balkanization of India is good for the winners (eg South India) bad for the losers ( BIMARU). Will a secession happen? Yes, maybe it will happen in my lifetime. Already there are rumblings how the Govt of India is run by the dumb fellows from the BIMARU states. To a South Indian – Hindi is as much a foreign language as English. Am happy to learn one foreign language – not two. Maybe the Hindi chaps can learn a foreign language as well. The position of Himanshu is a classic reason why South India needs to be separate.

  25. Malayalam is not dying any time soon. The language of romance is still Malayalam – not English. As long this continues, Malalyalam is not dying. Listen to any teenage couple flirting and you will find the language is not English.

  26. For the same reason that you said, that parents make a choice for them.

    Most Punjabi Hindus are urban dwellers – a very large number live in Delhi, where Hindi was much more widely spoken, so it made eminent sense to choose Hindi over Punjabi. There was also nationalist feeling at play: Lala Lajpat Rai felt that Hindu Punjabis were better off siding with nation over region. Given the secessionist tendencies in the Punjab that later developed, that too seems to have made eminent sense. I heard just a week ago claim that the Punjab is under “seige” and what prevails in India today is sort of like what prevailed in the USSR. Just as the Ukranians and Kakazkhs are no longer Soviet, one day the Punjabis will no longer be Indian. Chooising Hindi also limited the land the potential secessionists were able to credibly claim – a pea of the former unified Punjab. This too was sensible. What would have the fate of Hindus been in Sikh-cleric controlled Khalistan? Language is only one component of identity, not the “essence” that some people here are claiming.

  27. Yes there were benefits to these horrible things, but the US isnt developed because we had slavery. A lot of places had slavery that are still backwards.

    Oh pinda, this is a can of worms! Firstly, from an economic history perspective, I disagree (especially in the context of the U.S.). Secondly, I’ll stop there b/c it’s OT :)

    I actually hope not! Judging by the attitudes of Europe towards Turkey and to a lesser extent towards Slavic countries, it sometimes seems to me like the EU is trying to be some sort of exclusivist club.
    the rich have always looked down on the poor…thats nothing new.

    I don’t think it’s really a rich/poor dynamic. Until WWI the Ottoman Empire was one of the richest states in the region, and the Slavic/Baltic countries were holding their own.

    Edit. last sentence should be Indians should think of India first, ALWAYS (not just on Independence Day)

    So the argument is basically for brute nationalism, regardless of whom it steamrollers? I think this is precisely one of the things that’s really going to hold India back. Honestly, there is less of an incentive to be regionalistic if you don’t feel like someone is forcibly trying to get rid of your cultural history, languages, etc. Any way, I’ll desist. I’m an ABD and have no allegiance to India.

  28. budugu, may i ask to what does your handle refer – the name of a dialect?

    budugu (pronounced: buDuGu) is a yesteryears Telugu cartoon character, a cute and precocious kid, a Telugu version of Dennis the Menace of sorts. (The comic strip was created by an amazingly talented cartoonist-writer-duo Baapu and Ramana)

  29. someone explain the northification of all sasa’s, i’ve never understood it

    if anyone really wants to see the north/south divide, attend a sasa meeting and watch the tamil freshmen squirm

  30. Milli @135, I am sorry you had to go through the experience. I am bengali (should I categorize myself as North Indian or East Indian ? I rather like it just ‘Indian’) and suffered the same from (unfortunately) Tamil people: I went to a party and got stuck in a conversation with some people (in US) and after every 5 minutes they kept on harping: ohh you don’t know Tamizh …haa…haa..haa. And there is a friend from Karnataka, who has a passion for insulting my language (unfortunately for him, I have less accent in my English than he does). On the other hand I am always irritated by the habits of some hindi speakers who make it their point to correct every word I say ( and my Hindi is not bad either).

    I honestly think that in our upbringing we MUST impart respect for other culture and language. Whenever I hear someone making idiotic comments about anyone’s culture/language, I but cannot help but think that the person is immature (and lacks quite a bit a culture himself). And if he is a guy, he is absolutely below the league of all the cool girls I know. And if you are dating one such, please re-consider, because it is going to be quite a hell later.

  31. Nien Numb, who copiloted the Millenium Falcon along with Lando Calrissian, during the Battle of Endor, spoke a little bit of Swahili.

    HMF, it’s Nien Nunb, not “Numb.” Plus, the language he spoke was Haya, not Swahili.

    Are you throwing a starwars gauntlet down?

    Your overconfidence is your weakness. Yo mama fight!

  32. “HMF, it’s Nien Nunb, not “Numb.” Plus, the language he spoke was Haya, not Swahili.”

    That’s true, I did see both spellings used, and Nien Nunb is the correct one, and from what I remember the language was actually an amalgum, including some kiswahili along with it. This is not captured in the wiki link, but was part of the ROTJ special features.

    But are you throwing the gauntlet down now? Name me the main character’s name, in the original draft of the script.

  33. I honestly think that in our upbringing we MUST impart respect for other culture and language.

    I think you nailed it…the entire point of this whole thread boils down to this.

    By the way, 500+ comment threads used to impress me not so long ago…

  34. for some reason, i know a high number of people from hopewell junction (it’s near there, right?)…

    wow…my little hood (pough) is famous.

    light of all of Pinda’s (and your) other comments, i shall overlook this star trek/star wars love affair between the two of you…

    thanks. im slightly less geeky in real life. its the difference between my high shcool self and my post college self. i actually got a directive to be less geeky when i started working in sales. i complied. not sure if thats good or bad….

  35. Name me the main character’s name, in the original draft of the script.

    in the interest of getting play at some point in the future, i refuse to incriminate myself…

  36. Listen to any teenage couple flirting

    see….this is why i need to date more south indian grls. the only kannada/tamil that i ever spoke was at home with my family. im not even sure what flirting in kannada or tamil sounds like….its always been like a secret code language i could talk to my family in.

  37. in the interest of getting play at some point in the future, i refuse to incriminate myself…

    Do you seriously know it? I realized that with the advent of the web and google it makes these types of questions pretty moot, as the hottest cheerleader could easily google the starwars script. But you did answer the evap question pretty fast, but if you knew the answer to that Q off the top of your head…

  38. but if you knew the answer to that Q off the top of your head…

    sadly…yes…sigh…one of my friends in elementary school or junior high bought me this star wars encyclopedia thing. i read it. now…unfortunately, my mind is like a steel trap. i remember every book i read in pretty good detail.

  39. wait…i would have gotten that question wrong. the name i was thinking of was actually his species. i stand corrected.

  40. oh….starkiller. never mind. i misread your question….i was trying to think of an alternate name for nein nunmb. never mind.

  41. Im sure the Sullustians had lingusitic gripes with say, the Mon Calamaris, or the Rodians.

  42. and after every 5 minutes they kept on harping: ohh you don’t know Tamizh

    which is odd given that tamil isnt a very common language in the US (even amongst the brown crowd).

  43. He is not actually a pakistani actor, he is infact a bollywood actor, javed jaffrey, who is also a dancer, comedian and a judge on at least one of the popular reality television shows on mainstream indian tv.

    Javed Jaffrey is one of the two guests. Moin Akhtar is the other guest.

  44. There are large numbers of DBDs who would easily prefer to be a separate nation. But then DBDs dont normally talk about this in the public sphere in India. So this is not just an ABD phenomenon. Is a separate Southern / Western India economically / geographically viable? Yes of course. A break up will help the successful states to become developed and maybe even join the OECD within a generation of seceding. A Balkanization of India is good for the winners (eg South India) bad for the losers ( BIMARU).

    melbourne desi, i am not sure where you come from, but it is not true that large number of dbds prefer balkanization. there is no hush hush conspiracy happening. the far right in tamil nadu wants a south-north split, but they don’t even have electoral voice in tn. as for the rest of the south—what is in store? hindi is replaced by tamil being pushed down the throats of everyone else? the issue is not with hindi, the issue is that we haven’t found the best tradeoff between the convenience of uniformity on the one hand and regional aspirations and identity on the other.

    sure, south and west will be economically viable, but they are still better off with the northern “losers” as you call them. look at call centers in the south—they are very well represented by north indians as well. not all north indians are insular. for every one who is insular, there is one who contributes to the local culture.

    on a macroeconomic level, northern markets are huge. agriculture is more feasible in the northern plains, and opportunities improve for everyone all round in a large country. as india moves more into private enterprise and organized retailing picks up, these things become even more important.

    regional differences are not as vast as you think. i am south indian, and every girlfriend of mine has been from the north. in my undergrad class back home in india, there were some students who were remarkable—off the charts good i have never seen anywhere else since—and there was no correlation b/w south indian or bihari there. if you hit on someone each time they are down, you get nowhere.

    Already there are rumblings how the Govt of India is run by the dumb fellows from the BIMARU states.

    re: politics—coalition politics is the way every interest group in india gets a voice. for all that you complain about the “dumb fellows from the bimaru states”, real devolution of power to everyone has happened there, probably better than in AP. and blanket statements like this are completely unwarranted.