29 May – Singaporean film "Ah Boys To Men 4" held walk-in auditions last weekend and one actor apparently left the auditions feeling "disgusted" for being "reduced to [his] accent".
Singaporean Bachelor of Fine Arts student, Shrey Bhargava took to his Facebook on 27 May to speak out against the production team for their alleged racial stereotyping and insensitivity during the auditions.
For their recent auditions, Jack Neo's "Ah Boys To Men 4" had an opening for an Indian soldier character.
Entering the audition room, Shrey said he was asked if he was a local. Exiting the room, he felt like "a foreigner in my own country".
At first, Shrey spoke his lines with "colloquial Singlish" before he was asked by the casting director to be more Indian by imitating an Indian accent to "make it funny", even after he protested by stating that "not all Indians in Singapore speak with a thick Indian accent".
Shrey felt that the decision to have the minority characters have an accent so the majority characters can find it amusing was a blow to diversity in a Singaporean film.
Shrey's post has been shared over 4,100 times as of today.
In response to his post, Singaporean blogger Xiaxue also took to Facebook to share her views on the matter, starting with a string of curse words beginning with the letter 'F' which can be summarised as her demanding Shrey to get off his high horse.
She followed up with: "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."
Evidently, Xiaxue made her opinion of Shrey very clear. She felt that he was blowing a norm in the entertainment industry way out of proportion.
She stated that "movies are chockful of stereotypes" by drawing up Hollywood examples – the cast of "The Big Bang Theory" being depicted as socially awkward virgins and Melissa McCarthy often taking on the role of the klutzy sassy fat lady.
For local examples, she highlighted Irene Ang being seen as hilarious in "Phua Chu Kang" for being the caricature of a loudmouth Chinese auntie and even Jack Neo, the director of "Ah Boys To Men 4" himself, having portrayed the character Liang Si Mei as a typical uneducated and kiasu Chinese auntie.
Near the end of her rant, she wrote: "Stop being so hypersensitive and uptight ffs."
Of course, Shrey didn't take her rebuttals lying down and Xiaxue wasn't the only person to comment on Shrey's first post.
This cycle continues even today and the back-and-forth of social media posts have grown to become a full-on saga.
It would take all day to summarise every argument and rebuttal, so we leave you with the gist of the posts that started it all to draw your own conclusions and come up with your own opinions.
You can find their original posts on their respective Facebook pages.
According to Today Online, the fourth instalment of the popular Singaporean film will focus on the reservist training and the Singapore Armed Forces' Armoured Formation unit. Filming is expected to commence this June and the release date is slated for the end of the year.