Introducing Issue 85 cover star, Kumail Nanjiani

Kumail Nanjiani’s journey — from Karachi to L.A., from nerd to leading man — has been an emotional one. The star of The Big Sick talks to scott harper about vulnerability, racism, and how America is still in thrall to its “sexy, seductive” story.
  • fashion director Chloe Takayanagi

  • by Scott Harper

  • photography Kurt Iswarienko

Kumail wears a green suede two-piece suit and a grey wool roll-neck jumper, Ralph Lauren Purple Label.

The subtly implied, schmaltz-free happy ending is one of romcom screenwriting’s magnum effectum. Executed well, it makes tear ducts behave like windscreen sprayers. It can also persuade cinemagoers, in future, to rush for the exit at the first sign of the two protagonists dashing towards each other in a packed street — hopefully making it to the popcorn stand seconds before the smooching embrace begins. It can also, albeit momentarily, make films about unripened romance (Lost in Translation, Brief Encounter) feel cold. (Don’t even start me on the deft-but-cruel emotional toying of The Graduate’s denouement.) A movie that hit the bullseye with guided-missile precision was released in 2017. For those who haven’t encountered it, The Big Sick — described by The Guardian as “a stranger-than- fiction date movie of enormous charm and sweetness” — starred this issue’s cover star, Kumail Nanjiani, as a reluctant Chicago-based Uber driver and aspiring stand-up who embarks on a romance with an audience member, a white psychology student, Emily. Pressured by his Pakistani parents, who are cajoling him into a law career and an arranged marriage, he initially gives in and chooses their way over his own.


Scott Harper


December 2022


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