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Wizard of Oz

HBO's gritty prison dra-ma Oz explored issues of race, crime and justice with a heady dose of violence and sexuality. The force behind the show was Tom Fontana, who wrote most of the episodes. But look up the credits at and a surprising name pops up -- Sunil Nayar, a desi writer who wrote at least nine episodes.

We live in a time when South Asian actors are making a name for themselves on television, in films and theaters. While actors like Kal Penn, Ajay Naidu, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Naveen Andrews and Asif Mandvi are familiar to a lot of Americans thanks to their films and television shows, Nayar stands alone as the only Indian American to make it into the prestigious league of writers -- on a list where few foreign sounding names show up.

Oz closed in 2003 after six successful seasons. And Nayar has moved on. His name often shows up in credits on CSI: Miami.
For a man so proficient with words, he has yet to give a major interview, and little is known about his personal life. What we do know, however, is India Abroad is his mother's and grandmother's favorite publication!
Photo: Sunil Nayar
Between 2004 and 2007 he wrote 16 episodes for the top-ranked hit show. On eight of the episodes, between 2004 and 2005, he was also listed as its co-executive producer.

It was Nayar's talent that led to his next big break. Last year, Hollywood trade publications announced he had signed a two-year, seven-figure deal to develop new projects for CBS Paramount Network TV. CSI: Miami's key writer/producer Ann Donahue was quoted in Variety as saying: 'Sunil exemplifies why CSI franchise staffers are highly coveted across the television landscape.' She described him as 'immensely talented writer who is also a skilled producer.'

Nayar acknowledged that since he was coming from two very different shows, he would take the best of what he learned to develop his new project. 'I was the great beneficiary of being involved in both shows,' he told Variety. 'Miami is a procedural piece, and Oz was a character piece. I hope whatever I come up with will be a nice mix of the two.'

Will the next big television show spring from the depths of this man's mind? It could happen.