Police say 'no criminal offence disclosed' after questioning actor Shrey Bhargava over Ah Boys to Men 4 Facebook post

Shrey Bhargava said that he was called by the police for questioning on May 31, 2017. PHOTO: FACEBOOK / SHREY BHARGAVA

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean actor who wrote a viral Facebook post alleging racism during an audition for a Jack Neo movie was questioned by the police for a report made against him, but the police said no further investigations would be conducted as no criminal offence was disclosed.

Shrey Bhargava said that he was called by the police for questioning on Wednesday (May 31) and was told that police reports were made against him.

He said that he was questioned about the intentions behind his post.

The 22-year-old actor wrote on Facebook on Saturday May 27 that he felt insulted after he was asked to do a caricature Indian, to portray "a full blown Indian man" with a thick accent and to "make it funny" during an audition for the upcoming Ah Boys To Men 4 film.

The post was shared widely and it ignited a debate about "casual racism" in Singapore. He also came under attack and was called a crybaby and a hypocrite.

Shrey said that police officers were friendly when they questioned him and told him not to worry as he has done nothing wrong.

Responding to The Straits Times on Thursday (June 1), the police confirmed that a report was lodged.

"After looking into the matter, it has been assessed that no criminal offence was disclosed," said the police spokesman. "Police will not be conducting further investigations in relation to the case."

Shrey said that he showed the police the hate messages and abusive comments he has received and was advised to contact the police if the threats worsened.

"I was advised to be cautious about what I post online as people may misinterpret me and my intentions to my detriment. I will keep this in mind for the future," he added.

The producers behind Ah Boys to Men 4 - ABTM4, mm2 Entertainment and Neo's J Team Productions - had said on Monday May 29 that Shrey was asked to try different ways of presenting the role of an Indian soldier during the May 27 audition. They said that "it is not uncommon during auditions that casting directors decide to test the versatility of actors".

They said that Neo, a Culture Medallion recipient, is acutely aware of race sensitivity and will be careful when dealing with such a matter.

Shrey has taken issue with their statement. "They said that I was tested on my 'versatility' and actor's range by asking me to perform the scene in different ways, including once with the Indian accent. This is not true. I was asked to do the scene only twice. The first time I did without direction. The second time I did after being given the direction 'be more Indian' and to do it again as a 'full-blown Indian man'."

He asked the producers to release the tapes of his audition to help clear things up.

Responding to critics who said that he had put on accents in past performances, he said: "The accent is not the problem - it becomes a problem when the only role for the minority in a film is a racial caricature made to be amusing for the majority and the accent's sole purpose is to feed that stereotype."

He added: "Why is being 'more Indian' supposed to be 'funny'?"

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