Aziz Ansari, ‘Master of None’ and the MGR connection

King of comedy: Aziz Ansari, with his relative Dr. Habibullah, during a visit to Chennai.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The first Asian to win the Golden Globe Award for the Best Actor — Television Series Musical or Comedy, Aziz Ansari traces his roots to verdant Tirunelveli. His parents Shoukath Ansari, a gastroenterologist, and Fatima immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s.

In Master of None, a comedy series on Netflix, Ansari plays Dev Shah, a struggling actor in New York, and is loosely based on Ansari’s own experiences.

Ansari’s parents stepped forward to play his on-screen parents in the popular series. The conversations include snatches of Tamil.

MGR songs

The series has has caught the attention of critics for its sensitive and effective use of music, especially period tracks such as the MGR song Ponnanthi Maalaipozhuthu.

“Dr Shoukath Ansari, who is from Vasudevanallur, was one of the students of the first batch of Tirunelveli Medical College,” said Dr. Habibullah, a paediatrician and a relative of Mr Ansari. Aziz Ansari’s mother, Fatima, is the daughter of Fakrudeen Adam, a public prosecutor from Edalakkudi in Kanyakumari district.

“Aziz visits his grandmother Dilsath and other relatives. He can converse in Tamil and during a recent visit to Kovalam near Thiruvanathapuram, he replied in Tamil to the questions from fans,” Dr Habibullah told The Hindu.

Aziz Ansari was born in the U.S. and graduated from New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“Aziz is a simple and reserved man [but] transforms himself completely in front of the camera. The daughters of former U.S. President Barack Obama are great fans of his and he has been invited to the White House a couple of times,” said Dr Habibullah, who moved from Chennai to his native Nagercoil recently.

The exclamations in Tamil add an authentic touch to the immigrant experience in Master of None. Shoukath Ansari remarks in a scene, “Ayyo Dr. Ramasami is visiting… He will be wandering and eating pretzels.”

In another episode, Dr. Ansari requests Aziz to set right his iPad. When Aziz responds with, “I am not your computer guy”, the father is transported back to 1958 when he was a child in Tirunelveli, doing mathematical calculations on his abacus with an MGR song playing in the background.

As the scene progresses, a friend asks, “Ennada ithu? (What is this?).”

“Abacus-da,” replies the young Dr. Ansari. Suddenly the friend snatches the board and crushes it with his legs. It is followed by a scene in which Dr. Ansari is seen telling his father, “Appa naan doctorukku paddikka poren. (Father I want to study medicine).”

Namma campanile velai par (Work in our company),” replies the father.

True-blue son

Aziz Ansari thanked his parents for all their support while accepting his Golden Globe. He was up against Anthony Anderson of (Black-ish), Kevin Bacon (I Love Dick), William H. Macy (Shameless) and Eric McCormack (Will and Grace).

He had been nominated in the same category for a Golden Globe in 2016.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 3:50:08 PM |

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