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Kumail Nanjiani should be able to look back fondly at the 2017 film The Big Sick, which he starred in and co-wrote with wife Emily V. Gordon. The movie earned him and Gordon an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and helped advance his career as a leading man. But Nanjiani admits in an interview with Vulture that there is one aspect of the film he “completely regrets.”
Loosely based on his relationship with Gordon prior to their marriage, The Big Sick finds fictional Kumail dating fictional Emily behind his mother’s back as she tries to pair him with Pakistani women. His character goes along with the process without telling Emily, who uncovers the truth after finding a box filled with photos of women he had dated and/or dismissed.
The depiction of these women as—per the excellent profile writer E. Alex Jung—an “unappealing, disposable alternative” was criticized by audiences, and drew pushback from the Pakistan-born Nanjiani.
“I hate when it leads them to write a whole thing where they’re saying ‘Kumail doesn’t see brown women as real people,’” he said in 2017. “First of all, you don’t have to watch the movie, but you can’t have an opinion on it and express it confidently without seeing it. That’s fine, don’t see it, but then you don’t get to say that this is the political agenda of the movie.”
Four years removed from the criticism, Nanjiani’s hardened stance has shifted considerably. While the star of Marvel’s upcoming Eternals believes The Big Sick went a long way in terms of representation in film, he understands it still falls short in certain respects.
“Our movie was the first one in a long time where there were multiple Desi female characters, and the first few you see are reduced,” Nanjiani told Vulture. “People wanted to see themselves. It’s something I completely regret. I would not do it that way now.”