Hollywood movies

The lady with the shaved head and other Indian characters in ‘Star Trek’

Persis Khambatta remains the best-known Indian face on the long-running television series, and a few Indians have popped up here and there in the movies.

Not too many Indians have boarded the USS Entreprise that roams the ends of the universe in the Star Trek series, but the few that have are Persis Khambatta, Kavi Raz and Lal Singh.

But that was a very long time ago.

The American science fiction franchise originally began as a television series in 1966 before being developed as a highly lucrative franchise of films, books and video games. There are so many over-laps since then that only time travel can unravel its own mammoth universe. The reboot began with Star Trek (2009). After Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), the next edition, Star Trek Beyond, will be released in 2016. A fourth movie has been scheduled for 2019. In a video clip promoting the upcoming Star Trek Beyond (2016) and the chance to appear in it, the absence of an actor of Indian origin makes the project look incomplete, but die-hard Indian fans could turn the tables and swell the ranks of local actors on the Star Trek roster.

The Indian-origin actor from Nairobi, Deep Roy, has appeared as Keenser in Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). Hyderabad-born actor Ravi Valleti got an uncredited part as a cadet standing at a trial in Star Trek (2009). Mumbai-born Nazneen Contractor appeared briefly in Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) as Rima Harewood. Punjabi-born Harpreet Sandhu will be seen in Star Trek Beyond (2016) as a crew member. None of them seems to have a fleshed-out part, and their being Indian is incidental.

Play

Among the few Indian actors who briefly appeared in the series and in a movie was the Parsi model and actor from Mumbai, Persis Khambatta. She played the bald Deltan navigator Lieutenant Ilia in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). Khambatta was initially thought to be of Italian or Spanish extraction. No one regarded her looks as Indian, even more so when producer Gene Roddenberry told her she would have to shave her head. She was determined to grab the part. This video documents the historic moment when she lost her curls. A nervous-looking Khambatta puts on a brave show of her acting skills – but the tears are ultimately unstoppable.

Play

The movie was very successful, and Khambatta went on to become one of the few Indian actors to appear in both American films and television. She started her career in Hindi films as a cabaret dancer named Lily in director KA Abbas’s Bambai Raat Ki Bahon Mein (1967) after she won the Miss India crown. The role didn’t do much for her, and she headed West. In 1975, Khambatta had bit roles in Conduct Unbecoming and The Wilby Conspiracy. After Star Trek, she became the first Indian to present an Academy Award in 1980, where she made a stunning appearance.

One character that sounded Indian was Khan Noonien Singh, referred to as Khan in Star Trek: The Original Series in the episode titled Space Seed. But the role went to Mexican actor Ricardo Montalban. Khan’s origins were never discussed on the spaceship and only later, when author Greg Cox wrote three Star Trek novels, did it emerge that Khan came from a family of Sikhs in north India. Khan is the title the character adopts after his admiration for Genghis Khan; his adoptive parents come from Chandigarh and are described as eugenic scientists. Khan’s un-turbaned wig tied into a man-bun didn’t come in the way of his villainy, and he featured prominently in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). It still did not occur to the makers to hire an Indian actor to play an Indian character. Even in the reboot, Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), Benedict Cumberbatch was cast as Khan, which did not sit well with critics and fans alike.

Play

Kavi Raz, a British actor with roots in Punjab, briefly popped up in the series. Raz had previously appeared in several American television shows, starting with a recurring role in St Elsewhere (1982) as Doctor Vijay Kochar, and parts in The A-Team, M*A*S*H, and Ugly Betty. Raz had a guest appearance in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) as an engineer named Singh. He appears in this video clip from the Lonely Among Us episode. His character is killed, ending Raz’s Star Trek sojourn.

Play

Reginald Lal Singh, an Indian-origin actor from British Guiana, played Captain Nensi Chandra in the television episode Court Martial (1967), serving as a board member of a jury conducting the court martial of Captain James T Kirk. Singh can be seen at the extreme left of the panel in this video clip. He does not say a word, nor does he give the customary head nod. Still a long way off!

Play
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Not just for experts: How videography is poised for a disruption

Digital solutions are making sure it’s easier than ever to express your creativity in moving images.

Where was the last time you saw art? Chances are on a screen, either on your phone or your computer. Stunning photography and intricate doodles are a frequent occurrence in the social feeds of many. That’s the defining feature of art in the 21st century - it fits in your pocket, pretty much everyone’s pocket. It is no more dictated by just a few elite players - renowned artists, museum curators, art critics, art fair promoters and powerful gallery owners. The digital age is spawning creators who choose to be defined by their creativity more than their skills. The negligible incubation time of digital art has enabled experimentation at staggering levels. Just a few minutes of browsing on the online art community, DeviantArt, is enough to gauge the scope of what digital art can achieve.

Sure enough, in the 21st century, entire creative industries are getting democratised like never before. Take photography, for example. Digital photography enabled everyone to capture a memory, and then convert it into personalised artwork with a plethora of editing options. Apps like Instagram reduced the learning curve even further with its set of filters that could lend character to even unremarkable snaps. Prisma further helped to make photos look like paintings, shaving off several more steps in the editing process. Now, yet another industry is showing similar signs of disruption – videography.

Once burdened by unreliable film, bulky cameras and prohibitive production costs, videography is now accessible to anyone with a smartphone and a decent Internet bandwidth. A lay person casually using social media today has so many video types and platforms to choose from - looping Vine videos, staccato Musical.lys, GIFs, Instagram stories, YouTube channels and many more. Videos are indeed fast emerging as the next front of expression online, and so are the digital solutions to support video creation.

One such example is Vizmato, an app which enables anyone with a smartphone to create professional-looking videos minus the learning curve required to master heavy, desktop software. It makes it easy to shoot 720p or 1080p HD videos with a choice of more than 40 visual effects. This fuss- free app is essentially like three apps built into one - a camcorder with live effects, a feature-rich video editor and a video sharing platform.

With Vizmato, the creative process starts at the shooting stage itself as it enables live application of themes and effects. Choose from hip hop, noir, haunted, vintage and many more.

The variety of filters available on Vizmato
The variety of filters available on Vizmato

Or you can simply choose to unleash your creativity at the editing stage; the possibilities are endless. Vizmato simplifies the core editing process by making it easier to apply cuts and join and reverse clips so your video can flow exactly the way you envisioned. Once the video is edited, you can use a variety of interesting effects to give your video that extra edge.

The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.
The RGB split, Inset and Fluidic effects.

You can even choose music and sound effects to go with your clip; there’s nothing like applause at the right moment, or a laugh track at the crack of the worst joke.

Or just annotated GIFs customised for each moment.

Vizmato is the latest offering from Global Delight, which builds cross-platform audio, video and photography applications. It is the Indian developer that created award-winning iPhone apps such as Camera Plus, Camera Plus Pro and the Boom series. Vizmato is an upgrade of its hugely popular app Game Your Video, one of the winners of the Macworld Best of Show 2012. The overhauled Vizmato, in essence, brings the Instagram functionality to videos. With instant themes, filters and effects at your disposal, you can feel like the director of a sci-fi film, horror movie or a romance drama, all within a single video clip. It even provides an in-built video-sharing platform, Popular, to which you can upload your creations and gain visibility and feedback.

Play

So, whether you’re into making the most interesting Vines or shooting your take on Ed Sheeran’s ‘Shape of You’, experience for yourself how Vizmato has made video creation addictively simple. Android users can download the app here and iOS users will have their version in January.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Vizmato and not by the Scroll editorial team.