Why the Role of Ali Abdul in “Squid Game” Matters

Anupam Tripathi’s character in the massively popular Netflix series may foreshadow an exciting future for global talent in K-dramas.

Amil Niazi

October 29, 2021

Why the Role of Ali Abdul in “Squid Game” Matters
Anupam Tripathi in "Squid Game" (Netflix)

Netflix has a monster hit on its hands with South Korea’s Squid Game. The show is the streaming platform’s most-watched original series, hitting number one in 90 countries. Even if you haven’t seen the show, you might still recognize the countless memes or the show’s eerie costumes, featuring black masks with circles, squares, and triangles that are sure to take over every Halloween party this year. The thrilling drama is Hunger Games meets Battle Royale, and pits 456 desperate people, all deeply in debt, against each other in a series of life-and-death competitions inspired by childhood playground games, such as ‘Red Light, Green Light.’ Only one player will ultimately survive to win a large cash prize; the rest will die.

Each player has a unique life story and approaches the game from a different place of desperation — this is what keeps the players in the game even when they learn the consequences of losing. The protagonist, Seong Gi-Hun (Lee Jung-Jae), struggles with a gambling addiction, tumbling through his days dodging dangerous debtors and skimming money from his ailing mother. (He goes so far as to steal money in the name of buying a birthday gift for his daughter.) Gi-Hun’s childhood friend, Cho Sang-Woo, once a model student, faces legal trouble after embezzling millions from clients. Another character, Kang Sae-byeok, is a North Korean defector desperate to bring her parents to South Korea and reunite her family.