Even though South Asian actors have made modest gains on TV and in films, they still have a long way to go. And stories reflecting the lives of South Asians are even fewer. But Yumna Khan and Nida Chowdhry, first-generation Indian American and Pakistani American, respectively, believe that if “we want to see more representation in the media, we have to support it. We have to back it, fund it and watch it.”
The two filmmakers are collaborating on creating a six-episode dramedy, titled, “Unfair & Ugly,” showing Orange County through a South Asian, Muslim American lens.
The two, according to a report in The Orange County Register, met as teens in a youth group at the Islamic Center of Irvine, Calif., and now as adults have decided to join hands for this project. Chowdhry, now 30, went on to study film and media at UC Irvine, and Khan, 24, earned a communications degree from UC San Diego.
The title of the show, “Unfair & Ugly,” is a play on the skin whitening cream Fair & Lovely, and also challenges the mainstream narrative of Muslims. “We’re told we aren’t acceptable the way that we are,” Khan and Chowdhry write on their Kickstarter page. “We have to change and hide who we are, and present these one-dimensional ‘positive’ images of ourselves in response to the destructive narrative about us.”
Describing the show on the official website of their production company, Stranger Magic, Khan and Chowdhry write that “Unfair & Ugly” isn’t “whitewashed.” “It’s raw, real, and deeply human. It explores both the beautiful and less flattering aspects of our cultures through our own eyes. We don’t need to be fair-skinned to be lovely, and we don’t need to be saints or terrorists to be represented in the media. We deserve to see our everyday selves reflected onscreen,” they add.
Claiming to show Orange County, Calif., like viewers have never seen before, the show also highlights interracial relationships, intergenerational cultural differences, depression in youngsters and kids living a life divided between two completely different cultures.
“I’m not a real desi coz I don’t speak Urdu, and I’m not a real American because my skin is brown,” one of the characters says in the trailer.
“It’s to show that racism divides us all,” Khan told The OCR Register. “We want to create an opportunity for conversation. If we are willing as people of color to talk, it opens the door for everyone else to talk about it with their own families, communities and in their workplaces.”
Though the subjects are sensitive, the trailer shows that the show is packed with humor.
Khan and Chowdhry are still looking for takers, according to The OCR report, but they hope “Unfair & Ugly” will catch the attention of streaming media services such as Netflix or Hulu or a network such as HBO.
The trailer for the series was released Dec. 12 and Khan and Chowdhry’s media company, Stranger Magic Productions, raised nearly $39,000 on Indiegogo.
What the two filmmakers want to create is reflected in this sentence that they used to describe the film on the crowdfunding page: “We’re not waiting for the shows we want to see – we’re making them ourselves.”
Watch the trailer of “Unfair & Ugly” here: