Kumail Nanjiani is best known for his work on HBO’s “Silicon Valley” but on June 23, his new movie The Big Sick opens which he co-wrote with his wife, Emily Gordon. The film is based on their real-life, interfaith relationship — Kumail hails from a Muslim family in Pakistan, and Emily is from North Carolina. Kumail portrays a version of himself in the film with actress Zoe Kazan playing the Emily character.
Los Angeles Times says that “Nanjiani’s work both as a writer and star of ‘The Big Sick’ represents a significant step forward in representing Muslim culture on screen…. The film’s most dynamic element might be the spot-on specificity of its Pakistani family, including the devout Muslim parents (played by Zenobia Shroff and Anupam Kher) and a brother (Adeel Akhtar) happily married to a wife (Shenaz Treasurywala) he met through an arranged marriage. They are by turns caring and disapproving, funny, weird and exasperating — in other words, a typical family.”
“We knew from the beginning that the movie would be good or bad depending on the family,” says Kumail. “If we show a truly loving family, then the stakes for the relationship are that much higher. If it’s a family that’s strict and cold — which is what you see from stereotypical portrayals of Muslim families — then it’s going to be a disservice, both to my actual parents and to the movie itself.”
Producer Judd Apatow says that they didn’t set out to make a political film but he’s glad it exists. “I’m also glad we didn’t make it in this environment because maybe we would have done it differently. It doesn’t have a chip on its shoulder in any way. It’s just showing a normal, loving family. It’s unfortunate that there have been so few portrayals of Muslim families in America.”