Kumail Nanjiani's 'Big Sick' inspiration
Kumail Nanjiani's 'Big Sick' inspiration

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Kumail Nanjiani's 'Big Sick' inspiration 02:53

Kumail Nanjiani has no shame in his rom-com game

Updated 1:58 PM ET, Thu February 22, 2018

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(CNN)"The best movies are ones that make me sort of feel everything... I like movies that really kind of put you through the wringer. And I don't mean that in a necessarily negative, sad way. I mean movies that exhilarate you, movies that surprise you."

In a perfect world, Kumail Nanjiani's musings on the term "rom-com" would be turned into their own college course.
The subject comes up as something of an aside during his interview with CNN, but he takes the bait with the passion of a philosopher who's been asked the meaning of life.
It's fitting, of course, because "The Big Sick," an Oscar-nominated story co-written by Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, in many ways reinvigorated the genre when it was released in June 2017.
"Now, I think 'rom-com' is sort of being used to mean something that's unimportant, or trifle, or surface, or shallow and so it has sort of become this negative connotation," he said.
This is a product, he theorizes, of the early 2000s, when rom-coms were being cranked out at breakneck speed, giving the genre a bad reputation.
"But, you know, I'm a big fan of rom-coms. Out my top five favorite movies maybe, all of them are rom- coms in some way or another," he said.
Gordon, meanwhile, falls on the other side of the rom-com fence.
    "She doesn't love rom-coms. The ones she loves are the ones that sort of deconstruct the genre in some way, whereas the ones I love are the ones that define the genre," he said.
    That makes sense, considering "The Big Sick," a story based on the couple's real-life saga, sort of does both.
    The movie is at the same time a classic obstacle-ridden love story, a medical drama, a tale of that awkward first-encounter with a spouse's parents, and an examination of a person's relationship with their culture.
    To the latter point, Nanjiani acknowledges that with such a lack of stories told from a "South-Asian perspective," there's always "the pressure to represent a huge group of people that cannot be represented by any single story." His hope, however, is that the movie results in more stories from more diverse perspectives -- a thing industry decision-makers are finally seeing as a lucrative move.
    "Hollywood is finally realizing that stories from the perspectives of people who don't generally get to tell stories are not just good for, you know, society; they're actually good for moneymaking," he said. "I hope that we're heading toward an industry that's more inclusive, that celebrates different voices, that celebrates different experiences and that treat people from different groups equally."