Comedian Hari Kondabolu takes issue with 'The Simpsons' character Apu

Hari Kondabolu's movie, "The Problem With Apu," premieres later this month.

November 13, 2017, 7:42 PM

— -- In 1990, fans of "The Simpsons" first met Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, a friendly convenience store owner with a thick accent provided by actor Hank Azaria.

Hari Kondabolu, a comedian and filmmaker, has long taken issue with the character, whom he claims is one-dimensional, belittling and racist.

In fact, Apu was so problematic for Kondabolu that he documented his concerns in the upcoming film, "The Problem With Apu," which is set to premiere on truTV on Nov. 19.

"There's an identity aspect to it but part of it to me is also, when you think of 9/11 and post-9/11 backlash, it's not just as simple as people are ignorant, they see brown people and they attack them. To get to that point, you have to not humanize that person and you can't humanize that person because you haven't seen them as human," Kondabolu told ABC News' Amna Nawaz for her "Uncomfortable" podcast. "You're either a cartoon that is weak -- that has no control of their lives -- or you're a terrorist or you're a cab driver... in the servant class. You're not someone that's actually expressing range. What's that cab driver's experience? What is that convenience store owner's experience? ... That's never relevant because they're props."

For the film, Kondabolu, 35, spoke to celebrities including Kal Penn, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Aasif Mandvi, all of whom shared his feelings about Apu. Kondabolu also pointed out the negative impact that Apu has had on the lives and careers of South Asian performers. In the movie's trailer, actors Maulik Pancholy and Sakina Jaffrey of "Star Trek: Discovery" and "House of Cards," respectively, mentioned auditions in which actors were expected to mimic Azaria's exaggerated, stereotypical accent.

Conversely, however, Kondabolu told ABC News that he does find hope in Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari who have helmed their own TV shows.

"Aziz and Mindy are groundbreaking figures," he said. "It doesn't matter if theyr'e saying groundbreaking thngs or not. They exist and they have control and a certain degree of dignity that we didn't have before."

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