Budding actor angry over 'stereotype' audition
Mr Shrey Bhargava was upset after having to “portray a caricature of his race” at an audition
After nearly four hours at a casting audition last Saturday for the fourth installation of popular local movie franchise, Ah Boys To Men, Mr Shrey Bhargava left extremely upset, and eventually took to Facebook to express his unhappiness at having to “portray a caricature of his race”.
In his post, Mr Bhargava said the casting director told him to play “a full blown Indian man” and put on a thick Indian accent.
While he acted out the role, he felt it did not reflect reality as many Singaporean Indians do not speak that way.
He said in his post that it simply perpetuated stereotypes.
To date, his post has received more than 4,000 shares and numerous comments, either supporting or lambasting him.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, Mr Bhargava, 22, said: “I’ve been very heartened by the support I have been given. The support from family, friends, teachers, mentors, fellow artists and other citizens has really encouraged me to remain strong.
“When the backlash and smear campaign against me began, I felt personally attacked, threatened and publicly humiliated. I received messages and comments to my posts containing racist remarks and slurs, insults to me, my craft and my support system, as well as curses at my prospective career.”
JTeam Productions and MM2 Entertainment are producing Ah Boys To Men 4 (ABTM4), which is directed by Jack Neo.
In a joint statement to TNP, they said the casting director at the audition was looking for versatility.
“During the audition, Mr Shrey was asked to try out different ways of presenting the role including that of someone who speaks with an Indian accent.
“It is not uncommon during auditions that casting directors decide to test the versatility of actors by asking them to perform a wide range of roles and characters, not necessarily always according to the script requirements,” said a spokesman.
“This process sometimes unravels performances that inspire directors with new ideas to further enhance character developments in their movies... Actors attending such auditions, therefore, may not be able to draw accurate conclusions with respect to the portrayals of the roles without the context and final decision on the roles concerned.”
Mr Bhargava, an undergraduate at the University of Southern California, says he has been acting since he was five.
Currently home on holidays, he told TNP: “I have decided to move on from the incident and focus on how to drive this dialogue forward.
“I want to potentially find a way to reconcile both camps, understand where each is coming from and create a productive, respectable dialogue in order to reach an understanding that will help all of us to move towards a better, more accepting and harmonious society.”
While the producers have not got back to Mr Bhargava, their spokesman said: “The scripts of ABTM4 are still being worked on by the creative team. With his vast experience in making movies that are enjoyed by many Singaporeans of all races, director Jack Neo is acutely aware of race sensitivity and will be sensitive and careful when dealing with such a matter.”
Local actor Mark Lee, 48, who is known for “ah beng” roles, said: “I’m sure the casting director did not mean anything racist by it. It was probably to see if he (Mr Bhargava) fits the chemistry of the role or scenes he would have to act. It’s a comedy and should not to be taken too seriously.”