|The Simpsons character|
|Voiced by||Hank Azaria|
Operator of the Kwik-E-MartChief of Springfield Volunteer Fire Department
Sons: Anoop, Nabendu, Sandeep and Gheet
Daughters: Uma, Poonam, Priya and Sashi
|The Simpsons||"The Telltale Head"|
Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a cartoon character in the animated television series The Simpsons. He is the Indian immigrant proprietor of the Kwik-E-Mart, a popular convenience store in Springfield, and is well known for his catchphrase, "Thank you, come again." He is voiced by Hank Azaria and first appeared in the episode "The Telltale Head".
Role in The Simpsons
In the episode "Homer and Apu", Apu claims to be from Ramatpur. Apu is a naturalized US citizen, and holds a Ph.D. in computer science. He graduated first in his class of seven million at 'Caltech' — Calcutta Technical Institute — going on to earn his doctorate at the Springfield Heights Institute of Technology.
Apu began working at the Kwik-E-Mart during graduate school to pay off his student loan, but he stayed afterward as he had come to enjoy his job and the friends he had made. He remained an illegal immigrant until Mayor Quimby proposed a municipal law to expel all undocumented aliens. Apu responded by purchasing a forged birth certificate from the Springfield Mafia that listed his parents as US citizens Herb and Judy Nahasapeemapetilon, but when he realized he was forsaking his origins, he abandoned this plan and instead successfully managed to pass his citizenship test with help from Lisa and Homer Simpson. Thus, he refers to himself as a "semi-legal alien".
During 1985, Apu was a member of the barbershop quartet The Be Sharps, along with Homer Simpson, Barney Gumble, and Seymour Skinner. Upon the advice of the band manager Nigel, Apu took the stage name "Apu de Beaumarchais" (a reference to Beaumarchais, author of The Barber of Seville). Apu is a vegan, and enjoys the Cheap Trick song "Dream Police" even though he does not know all of the words. He also claims the title of the Fifth Beatle, although Paul McCartney (who first met Apu during The Beatles' stay in India) rolls his eyes at that claim. Apu is a massive cricket fan, as shown in the episode "Moe Letter Blues".
In the episode "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons", Apu enjoys a brief period as Springfield's leading ladies' man after being spontaneously drawn into a bachelor auction. He spends the days following the auction on a whirlwind of dates which come to a sudden halt when his mother announces it is time for his arranged marriage to a woman named Manjula, whom he had not seen in years. Apu tries to get out of the arrangement at first, with Marge Simpson pretending to be his wife until Apu's mother finds her with Homer, but he is won over when he meets Manjula face-to-face at the wedding, and the two decide to give the marriage a try, with Manjula noting nonchalantly that they can always get a divorce. Later the two actually do fall in love. In the episode "Eight Misbehavin'", Manjula receives too many doses of fertility drugs, leading to her giving birth to octuplets: Anoop, Uma, Nabendu, Poonam, Priya, Sandeep, Sashi, and Gheet. This causes difficulties for the family, but finally they decide to get on with their life. During the episode "Bart-Mangled Banner", when the town changes its name to Libertyville to be patriotic after it is claimed Springfield hates America, Apu temporarily changes his children's names to Lincoln, Freedom, Condoleezza, Coke, Pepsi, Manifest Destiny, Apple Pie, and Superman.
Apu and Manjula have a mostly happy marriage, despite understandable marital problems caused by Apu's workaholic nature and long hours, and the strain of caring for eight children. A further strain came up when Apu was unfaithful to Manjula, causing him to briefly move out and even making him contemplate suicide. He and his family are devout Hindus, and he particularly venerates Ganesha.
Sanjay (voiced by Harry Shearer), Apu's brother, helps run the Kwik-E-Mart. Sanjay has a daughter named Pahasatira, and a son named Jamshed, all of whom share the Nahasapeemapetilon surname. Apu has another younger brother, who is only mentioned in "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons", where Apu was shown on a chart as the oldest of three. Apu also has a cousin living in India named Kavi, also voiced by Hank Azaria, who helped Homer while he was in India. Kavi works for several American companies taking service calls using General American, cowboy, and Jamaican accents.
Apu is a playable character in The Simpsons: Hit & Run video game. His quest in the game is to redeem himself for unknowingly selling the tainted Buzz Cola that has driven the residents of Springfield insane. Apu also makes an appearance in The Simpsons: Road Rage as a passenger and unlockable playable character.
Apu first appeared in the season one episode "The Telltale Head". Various accounts of the character's creation claim that while creating the character, the writers decided they would not make him ethnic, as they felt it would be too offensive and stereotypical and did not want to offend viewers, but that the concept stayed because Hank Azaria's reading of the line "Hello, Mr. Homer" received a huge laugh from the writers. Azaria, however, has disputed this account, claiming instead that the writers asked him to create a stereotypical Indian accent for the character. Azaria has said that he based Apu's voice on Indian convenience store workers in Los Angeles with whom he had interacted when he first moved to the area. He also loosely based it on Peter Sellers' character Hrundi V. Bakshi from the film The Party, whom Azaria thinks has a similar personality to Apu.
Apu's first name is an homage to the main character in The Apu Trilogy directed by Satyajit Ray. His surname is Nahasapeemapetilon, and it was first used in the episode "A Streetcar Named Marge". It is a morphophonological blend of the name "Pahasadee Napetilon", the full name of a schoolmate of Simpsons writer Jeff Martin. In the season seven episode "Lisa the Vegetarian" it is revealed that Apu is vegan.
Apu married Manjula in the episode "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons". Rich Appel first constructed the idea for Apu's marriage. Andrea Martin provided the voice of Apu's mother in the episode, recording her part in New York. She wanted to get the voice perfect, so in between takes she listened to tapes of reading lines for Apu, to make sure her voice could realistically be Apu's mother's.
Reception and criticism
Apu is one of the most prominent South Asian characters on primetime television in the United States. Hank Azaria has won three Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance, winning in 1998 for his performance as Apu, again in 2001 for "Worst Episode Ever", and a third time in 2003 for "Moe Baby Blues" for voicing several characters, including Apu.
It has been argued that the portrayal of this character is a racist caricature. Comedian Hari Kondabolu noted the negative reaction to Apu in the Indian American community in a Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell web exclusive segment. Comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani has also criticized the character, and recalled that early in his career he was asked to do the "Apu accent" as a stereotypical version of the "Indian accent" (although Nanjiani is Pakistani, not Indian). In a 2007 interview, Azaria acknowledged some of this criticism when he recalled a conversation with the writers of the show during the inception of the character: "Right away they were like 'Can you do an Indian accent and how offensive can you make it?' basically. I was like, 'It's not tremendously accurate. It's a little, uh, stereotype,' and they were like, 'Eh, that's all right.'" In a 2013 interview with the Huffington Post, Azaria said it should not be expected that the character's accent would "suddenly change now" or that the character would be written out, saying, "I'd be surprised if [the show's writers] write him any less frequently because he's offensive." As of 2016, Kondabolu is set to produce a feature-length documentary entitled The Problem with Apu, on the subject of "how this controversial caricature was created, burrowed its way into the hearts and minds of Americans and continues to exist —intact— twenty-six years later."
Apu's image has been widely licensed, on items ranging from board games to auto air fresheners. In July 2007, convenience store chain 7-Eleven converted 11 of its stores in the United States and one in Canada into Kwik-E-Marts to celebrate the release of The Simpsons Movie. There was a mild controversy when the promotion offended members of the Indian-American community who felt that Apu is a caricature that plays on too many negative stereotypes. Despite this, 7-Eleven reported that many of its Indian employees reacted positively to the idea, although it was noted that it was "not a 100 percent endorsement".
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