TL;DR – It started with a hot potato, and is now a game of ping-pong.
Now this is fast becoming one of those stories that turn into some never-ending saga with exposés being published in fairly rapid intervals. So, let’s bring everyone up to speed.
It all started on Saturday evening
So actor-cum-host, Shrey Bhargava, shared his experience from auditioning at the Ah Boys To Men 4 on Facebook.
Xiaxue got into the game late night, Saturday
Xiaxue then posted her thoughts about the episode. Whether you agree with her, it’s still a good, delicious read. I personally love it whenever she does one of her good old lashing-out posts like this one.
It’s a rather long post; if you have no time to read it, then just read the first and last paragraphs. She started with,
First off, get the fuck off your fucking high horse. You are an actor, or trying to be one anyway. Actors are hired to act in a fictional ROLE. Not as themselves, nor what their perception of the role should be like. Sometimes the roles are comical caricatures. You object? Good, go write your own movie and star in it.
And she ended with,
Stop being so hypersensitive and uptight ffs. The self importance masked as noble social justice is palpable. Through your post, you claim that ABTM is racist but all the exchange showed is that they find the accent funny and think the movie audience will like it. You, on the other hand, find the accent embarrassing and disgraceful, and think you are one of the Singaporean Indians who are better than those who speak like that. I’ll leave this here to let people decide which is worse.
Shrey’s second post Sunday morning
Shrey explained how in Singapore, minority roles can be hard to come by,
“Minority actors do not have the privilege to pick and choose what to audition for. And I know I speak for countless minority actors who have had to suck it up and keep auditioning for roles that demean them or the community they come from just to sustain a living.”
He also tried to rally fellow Singaporeans to make that change for better shows and films,
“Comedy is funny when it reflects TRUTH. Intelligent witty comedies, always are tragic stories that reflect the truth of a character’s suffering, and a character’s misfortune is what makes it funny. But it has to be true!
It’s time for us to as a nation say, we’re above such shallow comedy. We want local films to grow, local culture to evolve, our industry to prove that we are a society that sees beyond each other’s race to appreciate humor.
We decide what we consume. Let’s reclaim our local shows and films and make them something we can be proud of – something ALL Singaporeans can be proud of. Now wouldn’t that be awesome?”
Xiaxue’s response to Shrey’s second post
Surely Xiaxue wouldn’t NOT say anything about Shrey’s second post.
“Shrey has written another post boohooing about how racism (yawn), how minorities don’t get roles easily in singapore, and how the Chinese are blind because we have privileged.
Cut your crap. If a Chinese director wants to make a movie about Chinese NS men, that’s his fucking prerogative. If it features Indians or Malays as token characters, that’s also his freedom and right. Why? You think every local movie needs to have an Indian main character then it’s not considered racist is it?”
And then this from Maxi Lim Sunday night
Heard of Maxi Lim? Maybe not, but you might remember the Wayang King, Aloysius, from the Ah Boy to Men series. Yup, that’s him. So Shrey had contacted Lim before the audition and asked him to help put in a good word for him. Here’s what Lim had to say,
“I get it. You are upset with the casting team with you speaking in a thick Indian accent when you felt that Singaporean Indians don’t do so. You know I like your work a lot, I have always been open about it and nobody is doubting your acting skills here. I have seen you acting in films with a thick Indian accent before, so what is this? And only until this casting you are upset? Double standard here? Or are you creating this saga to self-promote?
The fact is when so many people are “missing the point”, it is simply because that point is just not substantial or just plain twisted to fit your agenda.
You mentioned you put on a fake Indian accent, performed, felt horrible and left disgusted. There were times I knew I messed up an audition or perhaps felt unfair about certain requirements and left feeling not good. But did I take it all up online? This simply reflects your lack of professionalism and putting the race card into the picture is so wrong.
So you remembered to come to the audition in uniform but forgot you are here for a comedy casting? Leave your ego at the door.”
Lim wrapped up his post with,
“Lastly, if you are cast, I hope you stand on your beliefs and reject the role.”
Late Sunday night, Xiaxue proved she’s still queen
She posted on Facebook again late Sunday night, with this
‘BREAKING: SHREY BHARGAVA NEWLY DEMISED ACTING CAREER’.
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.
Fucking hypocrite of the year. Now it is 100% clear. You are not above stereotype humour – in fact, you seem to thrive solely on it.
And Xiaxue even put together a clip to prove her point. “Don’t say I don’t provide evidence. I painstakingly recorded my iMac on my phone and pieced it all together ok.”
Shrey left a comment on Maxi Lim’s post
So Shrey saw Lim’s post and he went to leave a comment here. Shrey also published the entire comment as a Facebook post on his Facebook profile. It’s a really, really and I mean really very long comment; according to Shrey, here’s what he’s asking for,
“All I’m calling for is mutual respect. I’m not name calling, insulting or “backstabbing” anyone.”
Here’s Shrey saying Xiaxue has defamed him
At this point, I’d hazard a guess that Shrey’s probably feeling all caught up, if not choked up, with mixed emotions. The online comments, the trolls, the questions and the doubts… It might even feel like it’s him against the world.
“I will first admit that my very first attempt at stand up comedy – 3 years ago, mind you – was a terrible performance and I realized after my performance that in many ways it was racist – like how you pointed out in the video. And thank you for that. I will apologize for that very performance.
However, other than that, everything else you are saying here is doing nothing else but to paint me in a untrue and horrible light. I have absolutely no issue with the use of accents. In the other roles that you have edited in the videos here – I was made to do them by the directors and was doing my job. But see – that’s where the problem is. I, as a minority actor, am constantly being made to play stereotypical roles with the selfsame Indian accents. So saying that I am a hypocrite who performs those roles and speaks out against them also makes no sense. Also, my point isn’t that the accent is a problem – it is when the ONLY role for the minority in a film, is a RACIAL caricature made to be amusing for the majority. That’s when accents become harmful. Otherwise, they add authenticity to the role.
So, no I am not saying that there shouldn’t even be roles with accents or that actors shouldnt be made to do accents, I am saying that accents should not be used to simply to define a racial group and make the character (who is the SOLE representation in a film for that ethnic group) funny based only on his race.”
I hope that by putting both sides of the story in one place, more people will read both sides of the story. Go on, read and make up your own mind how you want to change your own behaviour to reach out and better understand people of a different race from you. I think we all need to be more sensitive towards one another, especially when it comes to race. Constructive discussion is good, but not when they’re negated to senseless accusations and name-calling.