Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been keeping up with Indian Idol fairly religiously. (You can catch up on all the episodes here, if you’re so inclined.) I don’t even understand Hindi all that well, but I love the music, the contestants are entertaining to watch, and the show doesn’t take itself nearly as seriously as American Idol does. Needless to say, I’m hooked.
I’m already placing my bets on one contestant in particular — Meiyang Chang. Unlike the other contestants I’ve seen (even those on American Idol), I actually feel moved by his voice. He’s that impressive. Not to mention that he’s also articulate, he writes well, and he looks good in fitted t-shirts. He’s quickly attracted a steady following.
Yet despite his appeal, the show is fairly obsessed with reminding us brown people that Chang is (gasp!) not quite one of “us.” Although Chang was born and raised in India, the Indian Idol website promotes him as the “contestant from China.” The show’s co-host first introduced him by stating, “His surname is Chinese, but his heart is Indian.” Even more embarrassing is this condescending exchange between the judges and Chang during the duet round, in which Anu Malik tells him, “You’ve just proven that music knows no language.” Thanks, Indian Idol, I had no idea that Chinese people could actually sing.
I can only imagine the sort of outrage that would follow in our community had the producers of American Idol promoted Sanjaya as “The Indian,” “The Contestant from India,” or “The Brown Guy Who’s Really an American at Heart.” But I have to give credit to Chang, though — in spite of the ignorant comments, he only smiles and nods, never protesting or showing frustration. Poor guy. And I thought I had it rough growing up in southern California.
Here’s a clip from the theater rounds: