Meet Utkarsh Ambudkar, the Indian-American, who hogged limelight at Oscars 2020

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Utkarsh Ambudkar performs onstage during the 92nd Annual Academy Awards. AFP
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Parasite director Bong Joon Ho from South Korea was not the only Asian to hog limelight at the Oscar award night at Los Angeles on Sunday.

The night also belonged to Indian-American singer-actor Utkarsh Ambdukar who performed a rap that impressed the audience at the half-time of the show-piece. The rap gave nods to winners of the night, including supporting actor winner Brad Pitt.

He won a huge round of applause for his conclusion that sounded a bit philosophical: 'Keep an open mind. I am sure you will find there is plenty of light here for us all to shine."

Who is Utkarsh?

Utkarsh, 36, is the son of Suresh Ambudkar and Indu Ambudkar, who had migrated from India to the United States in the 1980s. Both of them are research biochemists at the National Institutes of Health in Baltimore.

So Utkarsh grew up in Baltimore. He began performing ever since a wrist injury curtailed his basketball dreams.

Utkarsh Ambudkar, left, and Naomi Campbell
Utkarsh Ambudkar with his wife. AFP

He got his start as part of Freestyle Love Supreme, an improvisational hip-hop group, but he became popular for his roles in 'Pitch Perfect,' 'The Mindy Project,' and 'Brittany Runs a Marathon.'

According to a Forbes report, Utkarsh was subjected to racist slurs in the early stages of his career. This prompted him to partner with the black children in his neighbourhood.

Despite being part of the showbiz, reports suggested he never considered changing his Indian name to cater to unfamiliar audiences.

“People learned Galifianakis (referring to actor Zach Galifianakis). When, like, Johnny Depp does a British accent, or Angelina Jolie does an accent, it’s acting,” he said. “But when I do an accent, it’s not,” he was quoted as saying by Forbes.

Prescient predictions

Vanityfair reported that Utkarsh correctly predicted many Oscar winners during the rehearsal on Saturday night.

He had references to Toy Story 4 winning animated feature, Brad Pitt getting supporting actor award and Taika Waititi winning the adapted screenplay award.

Academy award winners are selected through the secret vote. Only two partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers - the accounting firm that oversees the selection process - know the results until the envelopes are opened on stage during the live broadcast.

Little wonder, then, that Utkarsh surprised many with his prescient predictions. Did he know the winners beforehand? "No, Utkarsh had not gotteen any tips on the secret vote," his publicist Craig Bankey was quoted, as saying, by Vanity Fair.

He said Utkarsh is adept in quickly creating rap lyrics. "In Freestyle Love Supreme, audiences give the performers certain words and topics to work into their raps, so Utkarsh was adept at making it up on the fly," Bankey said.

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