Shrey Bhargava, the actor at the centre of the controversy over minority-race representation in the media, has been questioned by the police over an online posting he made, TODAY reported on Thursday.
When contacted by the media, Mr Bhargava confirmed that he had met with the police after police reports were made about the posting.
Last weekend, Mr Bhargava had posted on his Facebook page his experience auditioning for the upcoming Jack Neo movie, Ah Boys To Men (ABTM).
He said that he was asked by the casting director to “be a more full-blown Indian man” at the casting. Mr Bhargava said that although he felt uneasy about the request, he went ahead and performed as requested. It was only later that he took to social media to vent his frustration at being asked to do a stereotype character which he felt was insulting to his ethnic community.
His post quickly went viral and sparked wide debate online.
According to TODAY, the police had asked him about “the intentions [behind] his post”.
“Yes, I was called by the (police) for questioning,” Mr Bhargava told the press on Thursday. “I was informed there that there were police reports made. I was not informed for what or by whom, that was kept confidential.”
According to TODAY, Mr Bhargava said the police told him “not to worry about anything as I had done nothing wrong”, but also advised him to “be cautious about what I post online as people may misinterpret me and my intentions to my detriment”.
The police also told him to contact them if hate speech and abusive comments against him continued.
“The Investigation Officer and I agreed that I am absolutely against racial violence of any sort and, instead, was only seeking a healthy and productive discussion for the betterment of Singapore’s media landscape and society,” Mr Bhargava said. “Specifically, I wanted Singaporeans to engage in dialogue regarding the inclusion of minorities in the media, as well as to tackle the issue of casual racism in order to create a more inclusive and harmonious Singapore.”
J Team Productions, the company behind the casting and movie, had said earlier in response to the controversy, that it had requested Mr Bhargava to perform the scene in various ways, which included one as a “full blown Indian man.” This, they said, was to test his “versatility” as an actor.
Mr Bhargava denied that this was what occurred.
“This is not true,” he said. “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’… The J Team’s statement has misrepresented the facts… It has painted me in a damaging and deceptive light. It seems as though I over-reacted, or worse, that I lied.”
The J Team also did not test for versatility, Mr Bhargava said.
“Instead, they defined for me what being Indian ought to mean and that is the crux of the matter… What did they mean by “Be more Indian”? Do they have a premeditated idea of what it means?… And why is being ‘more Indian’ supposed to be ‘funny’,” he asked.
The J Team, along with with ABTM4 producers and mm2 Entertainment, said in its earlier statement:
“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. It is our aim to make ABTM4 as enjoyable and popular as the previous movies among Singaporeans.”
It is unclear who had made the police report which led to the police interviewing Mr Bhargava.