Interview Rewind: Kal Parekh ("Pan Am")

You might recall my interview with Kal Parekh about The Spectacular Jihad of Taz Rahim a few weeks ago. As I’d written in that post, that wasn’t the first time I’d interviewed Parekh; years ago, I interviewed him about his role on ABC’s jet-set show Pan Am, which really played with my emotions, as you can see in this archived set of recaps I wrote for my old site, Moniqueblog. In those recaps, you can also see where I highlighted the moments featuring Sanjeev (or as I used to call him, The ‘Jeev). Those moments were what got me in contact with Parekh (I also landed a spot on the podcast The Secrets of Pan Am led by SQPN’s Fr. Roderick, which was pretty cool).

Anyways, I’m writing all of this to set up this interview way back from 2011 or 2012 or somesuch, when I got to pick Parekh’s brain about playing Sanjeev, what he thought Sanjeev might be dealing with in the 1960s, and what he hoped would happen with Sanjeev if the show made it to a second season. 


 

From what I’ve seen on my own site as well as other sites, Sanjeev has become really popular. How do you feel about your success on the show?

It is quite surprising to me that a minor character such as Sanjeev has gotten this much attention, I still don’t understand it. I was recently at a agency party and an African American actress recognized me and told me how wonderful it was to see a character like Sanjeev on a tv show like Pan Am. she said that it gave her hope , that one day she can book a role like that. It was very cool and encouraging.

What background were you given for your character in terms of his job?

Sanjeev was suppose to be a one episode character, so I really wasn’t given much. He was the navigator of the Clipper Majestic and the three of them had some history together, but nothing was really explained. I think both the writers and myself figured out the character as we shot the episodes. We are still figuring him out.

Sanjeev is the only member of the crew who is a person of color. How do you think this, along with the fact that the time period is the tumultuous ’60s, affects your character?

I myself questioned this, and also had asked Jack Orman (writer, producer). He simply said Pan Am was International, so why not! That was it. Yes the time period was full of exciting changes and tragedy but Indians were allowed to immigrate to the U.S. after 1946 in small numbers. Many of them were educated in U.K. and would come to the U.S. for some time. From what I have heard from family members, by the 60’s Indians were assimilating into the American Culture. They weren’t fighting for a cause and didn’t go through racism as much as other minority group. It may be rare, but having a character like Sanjeev is not impossible. If the show makes it to another season and they decide to explore Sanjeev’s character, it would be great to see how the major events in that decade affect him and what his back story is.

Kal-Parekh-Pan-Am-2

About a year ago, I interviewed Michael Benyaer, who voiced Hadji during the first season of the ’90s cartoon “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest.” He talked not only about how great it was to voice a positive Indian character, but that he hoped that the next stage for Hollywood when it comes to creating Indian/South Asian characters would be to feature some that do not have the accent of their ethnicity. Sanjeev, is, in fact, such a character. How would you explain to viewers of “Pan Am” as to why an accent (or the lack of one) is important in American entertainment?

Thats very cool, it was nice to see an Indian character growing up. I felt like people like me were accepted in some way. I think It is very important. I understand if a character is from another country and that it is established in the show. He may have an accent, that is fine. But when it is used freely for no reason other than to get a laugh, it shows a lack of creativity and understanding of the world we live in today. There are aspiring actors and kids out there that might see a character like Sanjeev and can see themselves being on such a show or even want to be a pilot. They can relate, have hope! I thank the writers and producers of Pan Am for creating such a character. However small the role maybe , it has clearly made an impression and got people talking. Hopefully other shows will write more non-stereotypical roles in the near future.

If possible, what would you like to see Sanjeev do in later episodes?

Like many of the fans , I would love to see Sanjeev’s backstory, it would explain a lot of things. I wouldn’t mind if he got all caught up in the whole spy, espionage storyline. Wow, that would be crazy fun, both for fans and myself.

Any final thoughts?

Thank you very much for your questions, they were very thought provoking. I hope you see Sanjeev again before its all said and done. Keep Watching