Soap Opera Weekly: Blogging With Mala

I gave it a few weeks before I came to an official verdict, and, now, I can say without any reservations that I love OLTL’s Vimal and Rama! Love. I want to draw little hearts around their names. I want to invite them over to my house for chai and samosas. I basically want to be Rama when I grow up.

I mean, folks, this is the first time in my thirty-odd years of life that I can recall front-burner Indian characters on a U.S. daytime soap. (I said “daytime,” because, of course, I wouldn’t forget GH: NIGHT SHIFT’s Saira!) There have been Indian actors, like Kabir Bedi playing Omar on B&B or Sabine Singh playing Greenlee on AMC, but characters…? I really think this is a “Mala’s Dream Come True!” moment.

And, hey, it could’ve just as easily been a nightmare. Diversity doesn’t always mean good representation. Like any other minority community, South Asians often have to make do with tokenization, or with caricatures — ala Apu on THE SIMPSONS and the gang on OUTSOURCED. So I was braced for Vimal and Rama to be sort of hollow, maybe even mildly offensive. But they’re awesome! A few fans have compared the Patels to DAYS’ Craig and Nancy Wesley, and that’s incredibly apt! They’re that same kind of give-and-take team, although Vimal’s decidedly less shady than Craig was. Nick Choksi plays Vimal as this affable, earnest sweetheart. A bit dim, but good-hearted….which is no different from how Joey is written. And Shenaz Treasurywala‘s Rama is a classic soap vixen! When Rama faced off against Aubrey yesterday, I cheered! That arch look she gave Aubrey when she replied to her “I’m sorry” with “not as sorry as you will be,” was priceless. The writing for this couple is great, and pretty authentic. They have conversations like any other soap couple, laced with just enough cultural markers to set them apart. I laughed myself silly when Vimal was babbling to Clint about only telling Rama about the paternity test switch and he quickly covered, insisting he meant the seventh avatar of Vishnu.

I know I’m awfully hard on my soaps sometimes, particularly when it comes to issues of racial, sexual and religious diversity, but I also don’t hesitate to say when the soaps get it right. So, bahut, bahut shukriya to OLTL, Frank Valentini and Ron Carlivati and the writing team! (That’s Hindi for “thank you very much!”)

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