Producers of Ah Boys To Men 4 respond to racism accusation

Director Jack Neo (standing, fourth from left) with the cast of Ah Boys To Men 3. PHOTO: SPH

SINGAPORE - Production company mm2 Entertainment has today responded to a Facebook post by an Indian Singaporean actor alleging that in an audition for the upcoming Ah Boys To Men 4 film, he was asked to give an exaggerated and demeaning portrayal of an Indian character.

In an email statement to The Straits Times, the producers said that "it is not uncommon during auditions that casting directors decide to test the versatility of actors".

The statement, sent on behalf of mm2, director Jack Neo's J Team and other producers, went on to say that such testing "inspire(s) directors with new ideas" and "helps the casting directors in the casting of future productions".

"(Director) Jack Neo is acutely aware of race sensitivity and will be sensitive and careful when dealing with such a matter."

The Facebook posting by actor Shrey Bhargava on Saturday (May 27), talking about how he was asked to "portray a caricature" of his race has been shared over 4,000 times and generated over 1,300 comments.

The majority of the commenters slam that actor for "complaining about the slightest thing", or tell him to "stay at home", and "using flawed logic because Chinese play ah bengs".

Attempts by The Straits Times to reach out to Mr Bhargava were unsuccessful, though he has posted rebuttals and clarifications and has kept his Facebook page open to comments.

Singaporean film producer Justin Deimen, 31, who is of mixed Indian-Dutch descent, does not know Mr Bhargava personally but applauded the actor's courage in addressing the issue of stereotyping in Singapore films.

"We are a multiracial society, and we should not be relying on stereotypes in our films," he told The Straits Times.

"It was a risk for him to speak up, and he would not have said it unless it was something he felt needed to be said... This use of racial stereotypes in Singapore comedy is a conversation that was going to happen, sooner or later."

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