HomeIndian AmericanDisney Film "Spin" Explores The Indian/South Asian American Identity

Disney Film “Spin” Explores The Indian/South Asian American Identity

By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer

Creating DJ mixes that blend the rich textures of South Asian culture and American pop culture is the focus of Disney film Spin. The film is one of if not the first Disney movie to feature dominantly South Asian Americans in front and behind the camera. Its theme blending of cultures shows the uniqueness of Indian/South Asian American culture which is navigated through the life of Rhea Kumar (Avantika Vandanapu) and it follows her journey in balancing, family responsibilities, schooling, falling in love and making her passion of DJ mixing Indian music with her world a reality.

If anyone has watched films coming out of Bollywood – music, dance and vibrant colors are front and center of the storylines. And at Indian festivals such as Diwali and Holi (Festival of Colors) the colors invoke happiness, community and celebrations. This is what makes Spin unique in that it is able to convey the vibrancy of culture and intertwining it into the journey of a teenager finding her way.

As part of the release of Spin tonight on the Disney Channel, both Vandanapu who plays “Rhea Kumar” and Aryan Simhadri who plays “Rohan Kumar” spoke to AsAmNews about what the release of Spin means to them as proud Indian/South Asian Americans and to the broader Asian American community.

“I think this movie gives reassurances to Indian and Asian Americans who may have conflict with their identity,” said Vandanapu. “Spin is a movie which shows how an Indian American teenager is comfortable with her identity which can become a role model to those who are struggling with their identity. Kumar is able to intertwine her Indian culture in what she wears and in her DJ mixes. This is the definition of being comfortable in their own skin and showing pride in their culture.”

Simhardri was focused on talking about the significance of the film Spin in influencing younger generations of Indian/South Asian American kids. He is still young, but at his age showed his wisdom in being comfortable with his own Indian American identity.

“I have the attention span of a gold fish, and I am pretty sure many 4,5 and 6 years olds are the same. Sometimes it can be hard to watch movies and finding out that you can’t relate to it or the movie doesn’t draw you into a familiar world. Series like Never have I ever on Netflix is one which we can relate to because we watch it and think “oh, yes I totally get that”. This is what young Indian/South Asian kids need and I hope Spin will give them a sense of value and worth and that they can find something they can relate to.”

Disney photo. Spin starring Aryan Simhadri

In order to achieve familiarity and draw Indian/South Asian American and Asian American kids, teenagers and adults into a world they can relate to, visibility in front and behind the camera is important. The in front of the camera is the most visible aspect, but there needs to be cultural diversity behind the camera, in decision making roles in order to make the film culturally sound in all aspects and areas. Spin achieves this, with Manjari Makijany who is Indian and the director for the film.

Disney Photo

“What is amazing about the film is that it is the first South Asian lead film on the Disney Channel. Disney has been around for so long and we are just seeing this happening now. I think what makes this even more special is that the director being Indian understands all the intricacies and how to appropriately add our culture into the film”, says Vandanapu.

“This all goes to show how we are making progress and strides and paves the way for more Disney Channel films to produce more films like Spin.”

Simhadri echoed similar sentiments expressed by Vandanapu , and added that there is a stereotype where Indian style films are expected to be “over done” and be “extreme” with its colors and music.

“To be part of this film is so surreal, and it is important to show us being Indian but also being regular Americans trying to find our way. There is a stereotype that Indian movies are only about the festivals, celebrations and colors being thrown everywhere, so a film like Spin breaks that stereotype. Having overdone stereotypes puts Indian/South Asian Americans in a hard position and they feel they must choose to either be more “Indian/South Asian” or to be more “American”. “

It is nice that “Spin doesn’t do this and having directors like Makijany ensures that everything is accurately done and spot on in terms of the costumes, the Indian restaurant and all the minor thing, most people will not notice.”

Disney’s Spin can be seen tonight on the Disney Channel.

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story or making a contribution

AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out our new Instagram account. Go to our Twitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff, or submitting a story or making a contribution

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