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The Big Sick
by Karen Pecota

Based on a true story The Big Sick follows the development of the love story between Emily V. Gordon (Zoe Kazan) and Kumail Nanjiani (plays himself) ) while one is in a coma. Director Michael Showalter couldn't wait to put this uncanny story on the big screen after the connections made from producer Judd Apatow with Nanjiani bonding over shared interests, one being comedy.

Apatow had never heard a love story anything like Nanjiani and Gordon's. He says, "I thought it was incredible. It was true and heartfelt." He continues, "And, it was set in the comedy world, which has always has fascinated me." In a meeting to pitch the screenplay idea with a couple other producers Nanjiani shared his story. Each one was moved by the gut-wrenching but funny yet challenging and beautiful courtship-journey he and Gordon found themselves traveling. More compelling was that Nanjiani brought with him some show-and-tell mementos he had saved throughout Gordon's illness, i.e., hospital visitor IDs, notes, signs, etc.

The screenplay began its three year journey in close collaboration with producers Apatow and Mandel, writing dozens of versions. Gordon explains, "There were so many way to go because there were different angles to the story: a struggling comedian, a guy with a Muslin family living in America, a guy with a sick girlfriend." Mendel adds, "We pushed them really hard and there were times we wondered whether they would keep at it." He continues, "They would do a draft and be all excited about it thinking ok now we're really getting somewhere only to receive an even bigger see of notes than they got from the last draft." This scenario went on for over two solid years. Ending in a beautifully written story of love.


In 2006, an unlikely meeting took place at a comedy bar with Pakistan-born Kumanil Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Nanjiani (plays himself) is living in Chicago, building his career as a stand-up comedian. Emily (Zoe Kazan) a grad student who has earned her masters in couples and family counseling begins her career as a therapist.

The two had a fun time bantering each other upon their first encounter that leads to a one-night stand. Neither is looking to be in a serious relationship and Emily makes it clear she will not be hanging out with him again. Nanjiani is fine with that and explains his "two-day rule" for dating and the time he allows to spend with one person. Intrigue between the two grows finding it more difficult to adhere to the dating rule Nanjiani proposes. The two simply enjoy each other's company too much to end their countless encounters.

Nanjiani's challenge is that he knows his conservative Muslim family will not approve of a courtship with Emily because they are working hard to arrange a marriage for him--Pakistani style.

A regular routine occurs to pacify Nanjiani's parents. He spends time with Emily and then heads to his family's house for dinner. Promising his parents that eventually he would marry someone they chose. During every family dinner the doorbell rings. Nanjani's mother asks, "Now, I wonder who that could be?". Week after week the charade continues as a Pakistani girl appears yet one more time to entice Nanjiani for a marriage proposal. Emily is a secret to the family that only Nanjiani holds.

A strange illness puts Emily in the hospital. An immediate decision needs to be made to put Emily into an induced coma to save her life. Nanjiani is called upon by the medical team to make the immediate decision and does so with grave agony. The two barely know each other. With no previous association, Nanjiani connects with her parents in North Carolina to relay the shocking news. For the next twelve days, all hell breaks loose in Nanjiani's world. The experience he will forever be grateful for because of The Big Sick. (Karen Pecota)