Vishaal Reddy, an Indian American actor and now director, is currently in the process of producing his upcoming five part mini-series Insomnia, a dark comedy that follows a queer Indian guy’s journey as a secret male escort.
According to Reddy’s Kickstarter campaign, “The series explores the unique challenges of being an escort in the 21st century, while also delving into the themes of sexuality, race, and mental health”.
Reddy plays the main character Nikhil Rao, a New York City-based writer and insomniac who masquerades as a male escort during dusk. He justifies his side hustle as a means to provide financial support to his relative suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. He soon realizes, however, how liberating being an escort really is, imbuing him with a feeling of authenticity he struggles to reconcile with.
An incident at a NYC Bar inspired Reddy to write this series. Unable to fall asleep one night, Reddy decided to meet up with his friends for some drinks. At the bar, he was approached by a man inquiring about his interest in male escorting, promising Reddy big bucks and a lot of fun. Declining his offer, the man responds by saying “You’re right, Indian people don’t do these kinds of things”.
It was that racist remark that ultimately became the catalyst for the series.
Reddy sees his series as instrumental towards challenging the lack of nuanced South Asian representation in mainstream media. Indian characters often are restricted to common roles such as tech guys, deli owners, and doctors. Reddy wants to upend that narrative through Nikhil’s subversive story.
“When we look at the current media landscape with regards to the depiction of dynamic South Asian characters, we don’t see ourselves reflected” Reddy states on his Kickstarter campaign. “We want to challenge representation of South Asians in media with characters and stories covering the spectrum of South Asian Americans and exploring their lives in a three-dimensional way.”
Reddy also notes how Insomnia challenges the desexualization of Indian characters depicted in the media.
“There is often a narrative that we aren’t sexual or desirable and I think that’s absurd!” Reddy states in an interview with The Teal Mango. “Indian people are some of the most dynamic, intelligent, and beautiful beings in this world and I would love to see more of us reflected in our art.”
The raunchy Insomnia teasers show just how serious and devoted Reddy is towards revolutionizing South Asian American narratives depicted in the media.
In one teaser, Reddy’s character Nikhil is seen revealing sexually explicit information about his escort experiences to his support group. Another teaser shows him speaking directly to the audience, revealing that he is naked and handcuffed to a bed as the camera slowly pans out.
While the teasers’ humorous depiction of Nikhil’s blooming sexuality suggest that the series will remain light, it is interwoven into a darker, more complex narrative illustrating Nikhil’s identity crisis and its ties to mental health.
Reddy tells Teal Mango his character got into escorting to help a relative, but quickly realizes the work is not only enjoyable, but also helps him deal with his mental health struggles.
Now that Reddy’s Kickstarter campaign has exceeded its goal of $25,000, the miniseries is expected to be released this fall.
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