EXCLUSIVE: In the conversation of Asian and Asian American representation in film and TV, the South Asian community tends to be overlooked. In an effort to bolster South Asian visibility in front of and behind the camera, Reena Singh, Senior Vice President of Current Programming at Twentieth Television, and Rishi Rajani, President of Production and Development at Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions, are launching a mentorship program with The Salon, a collective of South Asian creatives in Hollywood created by literary manager Bash Naran and actor-producers Nik Dodani (Atypical) and Vinny Chhibber (The Red Line). The inaugural mentorship program is slated to kick off in October.
The year-long program will be led by Singh and Rajani and will connect aspiring South Asian talent to established members of the entertainment industry. The Salon will be accepting applications for the program starting today with an August 22 deadline. The chosen participants for the program will be announced on October 7.
“Throughout my career, I have benefited greatly from the generosity, encouragement and wisdom of my mentors,” said Singh. “While mentorship can be a key career development tool for anyone, it’s especially needed for minority groups who are often underrepresented at the top leadership levels. The Salon’s mentorship program hopes to increase the number of South Asian creatives within the industry by pairing emerging artists with experienced leaders. And what makes this program truly extraordinary is that the mentors are among the best in Hollywood and from our community.”
Rajani added, “This program is the first step towards young Brown kids being able to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories.”
The mentors for the inaugural program include an impressive list of actors, writers, directors and execs of South Asian descent: Sara Rastogi (VP, Issa Rae Productions), Nirokhi Raychaudhuri (Manager, Netflix), Nick Krishnamurthy (VP, Esmail Corp.), Anu Valia (Writer/Director, Never Have I Ever, Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens), Punam Patel (Actress, Special), Sim Hothi (Manager, Three Six Zero), Sanjay Shah (EP, Central Park), Simran Baidwan (Co-Executive Producer, Manifest), Meera Menon (Writer/Director, Farah Goes Bang), Manish Dayal (Actor, The Resident), Melanie Chandra (Actress, Code Black), Sri Rao (Writer/Director, The Actress) and Aneesh Chaganty (Writer/Director, Searching).
“If you have the privilege of climbing the ladder, you gotta send it back down,” said Naran, Dodani and Chhibber in a joint statement. “That’s one of the core principles of The Salon, and we are thrilled to have Reena, Rishi and all our mentors on board to help us identify promising young talent and pair them with kind, passionate leaders who can serve as a guide and friend in this wild industry.”
The Salon was formed in 2019 and served as a forum for South Asian artists and executives in the entertainment industry. The group hosted networking events and facilitated meetings. The Salon is looking to launch a development program to grant funding to narrative films by South Asian filmmakers the U.S. For full details on the mentorship program visit thesalon.xyz/mentorship.