From Girls to Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23 to even 2 Broke Girls, female friendships have been finally getting the primetime series treatment — but sadly they’ve been missing diversity. That’s where Meena Ramamurthy’s new web-series The Fob and I aims to disrupt the status quo. The premise is simple. Ramamurthy says, “The issue of race and culture was really at the forefront of the creation of the show. Increasing diversity is a constant issue, but it requires a lot more than just putting characters of color on screen.”
Uttera Singh, who stars as Jisha in the series, says, “The concept drew me to the show. I was waiting to work with Meena and I finally got the opportunity to do so. I wanted to participate in it because I’m a true FOB and I love being one in America.” Shefali Deshay, who stars as Sita, says, “I was drawn to the show as a medium of expression. It negates so many stereotypes and educates the public while still making people laugh. It’s wonderful to play the role of Sita, whose overt cynicism is padded by a layer of vulnerability and insecurity underneath it all. It’s relatable to so many young women, namely, Indian young women, out there.”
The Aerogram had a chance to chat with Ramamurthy about The Fob and I and how it holds up against other depictions of female friendships on television now.
What might you say to critics who may argue that this series reinforces negative stereotypes of desis from India — i.e. “the fob”?
Actually the premise for the show is about flipping stereotypes of what it is to be Indian and Indian American on their head! The joke is that Sita, our Indian-American character, expects Jisha, our Indian character, to fall into those old tropes.
How does the series disrupt this expectation?
Each episode is centered around how Jisha and Sita learn to understand one another — and their respective worlds better. Throughout the first season, we show Jisha to be more progressive and outgoing than her American counterpart. She is a far cry from clichéd roles of desis working at a call center.
Did the actors bring any personal experience to their roles?
Uttera, who plays Jisha, is very dedicated to keeping the character away from caricature. As an Indian immigrant herself, she understood how to capture the character in a way that reveals the real struggles someone “fresh off the boat” faces. In addition, the series plays on the idea that while those old stereotypes linger may linger in Western minds, the Indian society today is actually more progressive.
Who were a few of your TV/film influences in producing this series?
Our main influences were stories rooted in female friendship. Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Bridesmaids‘ Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig. Influence also came from co-writing the series with my talented friend Natalie Stone!
How do you think The Fob and I may reshape shows featuring these kind of friendship dynamics?
Well, by having two Indian protagonists, we had the ability to show how complex Indian identity can be, even within itself. We had the opportunity to say, “Hey, just because there’s two brown characters on screen, doesn’t mean they’re the same person or represent the same things!”
You can check out episodes of The Fob and I here.