For those who missed out on the saga online over the weekend, an actor Shrey Bhargava shared his experience auditioning for a role in Jack Neo's upcoming Ah Boys To Men 4 (ABTM) in which he ended up feeling discriminated against based on his race.
Basically, his main gripe was:
– He was asked to speak with a fuller Indian accent despite being able to speak in Singlish like a true blue Singaporean.
– He felt he was reduced to a caricature of his race as not all Indians speak with an over-the-top Indian accent.
– Even though he had qualms speaking in a fuller Indian accent as instructed, he did it anyways but felt terrible afterwards, attributing his acquiescence to having internalised casual racism.
– He believes it is time for Singapore to move on and make mainstream movies that do not perpetuate stereotypes for the entertainment of others, namely, the majority race.
His post had over 4,000 shares and attracted over 1,000 comments that were a mix between supporting Shrey's stance and those who disagreed with him.
"Hypocrite of the year"
Xiaxue also took time to trawl through Shrey's social media feeds to collate videos of Shrey doing stand-up performances and skits where he uses accents, including Indian ones.
Xiaxue called Shrey a hypocrite for using those accents and then turning around to lambaste the ABTM audition.
Here's a sampling of Xiaxue's post accompanying the video:
"Shockingly, he even has a stand up comedy routine that is ENTIRELY based off mimicking accents and NOTHING ELSE. Don't say he is forced to do accents in shows because he gets no roles otherwise - NOBODY WROTE HIS STAND UP ROUTINE FOR HIM BUT HIMSELF.
In the standup, Shrey reduces many races to caricatures, and teaches the audience how to mimic both North and South Indians.
So get this... HE HIMSELF CAN DO ACCENTS TO GET THE AUDIENCE TO LAUGH, BUT GOD FORBID JACK NEO DOES THE SAME."
Here's the video compilation:
Messing with Singapore's racial harmony
Xiaxue also accused Shrey of demonising ABTM because he "was asked to act a part he feels is beneath him". She charged that Shrey knew that "citing racism will get him sympathy and outrage from people who love to feel like they have moral high ground."
"I'm going down hard on him because peace and harmony in the country is not easy and god knows our country went through shit for what we have today. I do not appreciate people causing racial riots in the country by creating tension by playing identity politics."
Shrey responded to Xiaxue's post calling him a hypocrite, and said that she had missed the point of his post -- that minorities were being pigeonholed into stereotypical roles or racial caricatures.
Shrey also said he had "no problems with accents, or performing accents" and apologised for his first stand-up comedy which was featured in Xiaxue's video. He said it was racist in many ways.
He added that bashing him for "on playing the accents in the first place is a strawman argument because it detracts from the issue at hand."
Xiaxue subsequently revealed that Shrey was also made to do accents during his audition for Crazy Rich Asians. To which Shrey reiterated that he had no problem with accents and clarified that the issue he had with ABTM was that "the whole character on its own is made funny by overplaying the "Indianness" - that the character in the film is reduced to that - and that too the only character in the film representative of the minority community."
For the full exchange between Shrey and Xiaxue, you can view it in the post here: