Crazy Rich Asians director Jon M. Chu has expressed regret for the way the 2018 comedy depicts South Asian people, saying he failed to fully humanize the Indian characters who were mostly domestic workers and security guards.
In an interview with Insider to promote his latest movie In the Heights, Jon Chu responded to criticism of Crazy Rich Asians that arose around the time of its release for its allegedly stereotypical portrayal of Indians, who represent the third largest ethnic group in Singapore.
Chu said he “totally gets” the criticism and added that the Indian characters should have been “more human.”
“That’s a lesson that I did not understand until it happened,” Chu told Insider. “I was like, this is a book that exists, and I’m making this book into a movie. I can’t add a new character into this book.”
The movie’s South Asian characters are “just sort of there,” he added. “I don’t give them the space to be there.”
In one scene, armed Indian guards are portrayed as threatening when they surround the car of one of the movie’s affluent characters.
“Looking back, I should have had a joke there [for the guards] being like, ‘These idiots,'” the filmmaker said. “There’s stuff to do to make them more human instead of just, like, these guards.”
“I didn’t understand some of the other contexts to that,” he added. “So hearing it from people, for me, it was a learning experience.”
Around the time of the movie’s release in 2018, some media outlets questioned the scarcity of Indian — or “brown” — characters for a movie that is set in Singapore. The movie’s principal cast consists of ethnic Chinese characters from Singapore and the U.S.