Last week, the actor shared a series of photos to Instagram showing himself and his wife Emily Gordon celebrating the holiday at home.
In one of the photos, which has since gone viral, The Eternals star can be seen seated at a table with a gingerbread house and a plate of food in front of him.
While the picture seems innocuous, it prompted varied responses from fans on social media, with some alleging that the photo, which sees Nanjiani wearing a semi-fitted green T-shirt that displays his muscles, is evidence that the actor used steroids for his upcoming superhero role.
Nanjiani previously opened up about the physical transformation he underwent for the role in a cover story for Men’s Health in March, where he revealed that his physique is the result of hours spent in the gym and a strict diet.
The resulting body-shaming over the 42-year-old’s appearance prompted fans to come to Nanjiani’s defence, with many pointing out that building muscle is often expected from actors who play superheroes – and that other actors do not face the same backlash or accusations of steroid use.
“Chris Pratt can bulk up for a Marvel movie and everyone is cool with it. Kumail Nanjiani does it and people call him ‘grotesque’ and assume he’s using steroids,” one person wrote on Twitter. “I hate it here.”
Others suggested that the criticism Nanjiani, who is Pakistani-American, faced was rooted in racism.
“Body shaming Kumail Nanjiani for…being jacked? Is way weird. Especially since all the Chris’ have done the same super-soldier program and never got any flack for it. I wonder what the difference is?” another person tweeted.
Someone else wrote: “I’m confused. Are y’all really mad about how Kumail Nanjiani looks in an upcoming Marvel movie?
“Does nobody remember what Chris Pratt or Chris Evans looked like before landing superhero roles? Or do we just reserve that kind of criticism for people of colour?”
Nanjiani first unveiled his new physique in December 2019, when he posted shirtless photos of himself to Instagram.
“I never thought I’d be one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless, but I’ve worked way too hard for way too long so here we are. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain,” he captioned the photos. “I found out a year ago I was going to be in Marvel’s Eternals and decided I wanted to transform how I looked.
“I would not have been able to do this if I didn’t have a full year with the best trainers and nutritionists paid for by the biggest studio in the world.”
And while the actor said he is happy with his transformation, he also acknowledged why he had never looked like that before.
“It would have been impossible without these resources and time,” he added.
As of now, Nanjiani has not addressed the backlash surrounding his recent photo.