Archive for Outsourced

OUTSOURCED vs. LOWES

Posted in Activism, Art, Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2011 by irydhan

Originally Posted on ILLUME magazine.

Everyone has been talking about the controversy surrounding Lowe’s Hardware stores pulling their advertising from TLC’s “All American Muslim” reality TV show, because of the email campaign from Conservative Christian “Florida Family Association.”

But besides the few email complaints to Lowe’s or signing of petitions online, there hasn’t been much creative response from the Muslim-American community.

That’s when the comedic duo, Rizwan Manji and Parvesh Cheena (of “Outsourced”), along with writer/director Gregoy Bonsignore decided to take matters in their own hands and create the fake ad, “The Un-Aired Lowe’s Commercial.”

We got to talk to the three about why they made the video and what they thought of the controversy about the show.

Why did you guys produce this video?

Rizwan: Myself, Greg and Parvesh were sitting around Parvesh’s place talking about this whole Lowe’s situation and I kept seeing all the reaction all over Facebook and Twitter.  So we thought, as artists we can use our creativity, to make a funny video which makes a point about a greater issue. So within an hour of coming up with the idea, we went down to Lowe’s and started filming it!

Gregory (Director of the video): We wanted to do a satirical piece to show the type of “stereotypical scary” Muslims which the Florida Family Association are so concerned are not being shown on the TV program.  The video was shot on multiple iphones, in case we got kicked out of the store quickly.

Have you guys watched “All American Muslim” and what do you think about it?

Rizwan: Yes, I have seen it and like it.  It’s a typical reality show which shows the daily lives of people and I have been to Michigan before to shoot a film.  It’s an accurate portrayal of the people there, who are very friendly and I enjoy the show.

Gregory: I have watched it and although its format is not very unique, it’s subject – Muslim-Americans is what makes it interesting. It shows that Muslims now have their own reality show like other groups about suburban life in America.

Parvesh: ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM seems harmless. Please. Everyone is the same. We are all Americans. Sheesh.


What do you guys think of the reaction from groups such as the Florida Family Association and Corporations such as Lowe’s who have pulled their advertising from “All American Muslim”?

Gregory: I’m not really surprised with the reactions and totally bigoted response from some of the public, because there is not enough education about Islam in America.  But for a corporation like Lowe’s to react in the way they did, is totally unacceptable.

Rizwan: The biggest shock for me was that Lowe’s sent a letter to the Florida Family Association thanking them for pointing out the concerns of the show and asking them to pull their advertising.  It’s not okay that they caved in this way.

Parvesh: Lowe’s pulling their spots is silly and just so dumb and really foolish for a major company. I liked Lowe’s. I used to love their ads that added the letter T to the end which became Lowe’sT. Ha. Bad Lowe’s. They should apologize!


Do you think there is any correlation with how “Outsourced” was cancelled and the reaction that “All American Muslim” is getting, that the American public is not ready to see different ethnic and religious groups on TV?

Rizwan: There was also a loud and vocal minority who expressed some hatred about Indians and having a show like “Outsourced” on mainstream TV.  There were also some facebook hate groups and websites which made threats against us, but I don’t want to be pessimistic about it.  It was only a small, yet vocal, minority. We did not get any advertisers pulling ads from “Outsourced” and there was a good amount of viewers, but we just ran out of time to increase our viewership.

Parvesh: OUTSOURCED getting pulled doesn’t really have any racial correlation, In my opinion. We just got bad ratings when they moved us to 10:30pm for a show that became popular with families. Bad scheduling killed the show but we gotta move on.

Gregory: As a writer and director myself (Greg was a writer for the show “Lie to Me”), I feel that TV tends to normalize things.  From past shows which had African-Americans and women early on, it helps the viewers to get to know these different types of people which they may not normally get to interact with. I believe it’s important for more shows about Indians, Arab-Americans and Muslims to be on mainstream TV.  We are currently working on a TV pilot about a Muslim American family which we are pitching to producers and hoping to get into development soon.

Rizwan & Parvesh

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Rizwan Manji: Taking Jobs From White America

Posted in Books/Magazines, Islam, Media, TV/Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2010 by irydhan

I interviewed actor Rizwan Manji from NBC’s “Outsourced” for ILLUME Magazine (www.IllumeMag.com).
He talked about what its like to be Muslim in Hollywood and the importance of  ‘good Muslim’ roles.

How did you get the part of Rajiv Gidwani on NBC’s “Outsourced” ?

I was sent the script for the Pilot and thought it was hilarious.  As an Indian, I could relate to some of the characters who share the same culture as me, and this was the first time that I have heard of a major TV sitcom about South Asian culture.  I initially was called in to audition for the role of Gupta (played by Parvesh Cheena) and did not get the role, but after the producers could not find a suitable actor for the role of Rajiv, they called me in again and I got the part.

Many people who watched the pilot episode, felt the show was filled with too many stereotypes and was not really a funny show.  How do you respond?

The pilot episode was basically a quick introduction to all the eight main characters.  We basically have 22 minutes to introduce each person and you don’t really have much time to go into that much detail of each character.  It is a pretty standard set-up as most TV sitcoms and if you have seen other shows such as Friends, etc. you will see that in the beginning they quickly introduce each character and you see how each character is on the surface (i.e. so and so is the dumb character, etc.).  The main goal of any sitcom is to entertain and establish an audience who is willing to come back to watch again.

Will the TV show go into the different religions of the characters or stay focused on the culture of India?

Currently there is one call center worker, Samina, who is a Muslim women who wears Hijab (played by a Non-Muslim) and she does interact with my character (my character is Hindu) in a future episode, but at this point in time the TV series is not focusing on religion and when references are made it is mostly the Hindu religion.

As a Muslim of South Asian descent, you are familiar with the tradition of parents limiting their children’s field of study to medicine or engineering.  How did your parents react to your decision to get into acting and were they supportive of you?

I was pretty lucky, because my family was very supportive of me.  At first my parents did not really understand why I wanted to be an actor and also how I would be able to make a living out of it, since they came from a background, like most South Asian parents, of leaving their homeland (Tanzania), going to another country (Canada) and working hard to allow their children to go to a good university so they can become a doctor or lawyer, etc.  My parents never told me no for acting, but they did encourage me to go to school and get a degree as a back-up plan.  I did go to school in Alberta for one year, but afterwards decided that I want to study acting at the “American Musical and Dramatic Academy” in the United States.  It was difficult to get in and also I didn’t have any money to pay for tuition, so I obviously had to ask my parents for help.  I thank my sister, who really was able to sit down with my parents and convince them that this is what I really wanted to do.  Now, my father is really excited about the whole acting thing and whenever he spots an opportunity for a South Asian role, he tells me to apply for it and kinda acts like my manager!

As a Muslim, do you think it is important for more Muslims to get involved with acting in TV and Films?

Definitely.  Muslims need to be involved and active.  TV is watched all over the world, especially TV which is produced here in America.  It is the most visible platform we have now.  If majority of the world sees only evil Muslim characters and roles on TV, that is detrimental to everyone, not just Muslims.  There needs to be a greater presence of Muslims on TV.

Were you offered any negative roles in terms of portrayal of Muslims and how did you respond?

Yes, I received many offers which portrayed Muslims in the stereotypical manner of just killing someone and yelling something in Arabic.  I turned down many of these roles.   But some of them I did debate whether to take them or not.  For example, I was offered several roles to be a terrorist  on the series “24”, which I turned down, but in the last season, they had several characters who were “good guy” Muslims (such as Anil Kapoor’s character).  So when I was offered a job to play a small role of a bad guy, I accepted it, since I saw that a major character was portraying a “good brown Muslim person”, so it wasn’t a one sided thing, where all the muslim characters are bad.  But I do struggle with these roles and turn down something if it makes me feel uncomfortable.

What advice do you have for young Muslims who are interested in becoming actors?

If it’s your passion, then go for it.  But don’t think that you will become rich quick.  It’s a struggle and is not easy work.  I have been working in this business for 15 years now, and had to do a lot of side jobs along the way.  There is very little money in the beginning.  But if you like it and have a passion for it, then do it!