The battle over The Simpsons' Apu escalates with Adi Shankar's new challenge

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Apr 30, 2018

Adi Shankar, Hollywood upstart-turned-producer, has never been one to wait. And so after writing an open letter to the producers of The Simpsons last week to address the swirling controversy over the show's depiction of its lone Indian character, Shankar is now actively seeking to fix the show himself.

On Monday, Shankar announced that he was seeking submissions for a Simpsons spec script that focuses its plot around Apu, a supporting character that has transformed into a flashpoint by critics who call him a racist and outdated stereotype. The winner will have his or her script delivered to the Simpsons' writers room and executives at Fox, with the recommendation that the writer is hired for the following season. Should that not happen, Shankar, the producer of Netflix's Castlevania and the upcoming film Bodied, promises to produce the episode himself as part of his own burgeoning "Bootleg Universe" series on YouTube.

The controversy came to the forefront upon the release of comedian Hari Kondabolu's documentary, The Problem With Apu. Since then, fans and critics have called for changes to the character, a simple-minded and heavily accented Kwik-E-Mart attendant, pleas that have been dismissed by Simpsons producers. In a recent episode, the show shrugged its shoulders at the public displeasure, and series creator Matt Groening brushed off the controversy in a recent interview, saying "people love to act outraged," which of course led to even more outrage.

In an email conversation with SYFY WIRE, Shankar says that he never heard back after publishing his open letter to the show's producers last week. A representative from Fox told SYFY that the network had no comment on the contest.

Shankar's contest asks for scripts that "in a clever way subverts him, pivots him, intelligently writes him out, or evolves him in a way that takes a mean-spirited mockery and transforms him into a kernel of truth wrapped in funny insight." The jury, which is still adding members, consists of Amar Shah, Nayan Pardari, Sheetal Vyas, Rupak Ginn, Michelle Matsunaga, and Nancy Redd.