A PopChips commercial featuring Ashton Kutcher was pulled from the Internet after offending members of the Indian community (and beyond), and now two actors are speaking out -- though with somewhat different perspectives.
Kutcher, a spokesman for PopChips, was recently slammed for a commercial where he plays a character by the name of Raj, a fictitious Bollywood producer. The actor donned brownface, Indian garb, a mustache, and spoke in an accent. An outcry followed from those who thought the commercial racist.
PopChips founder and CEO Keith Belling addressed the backlash on the company's website: [O]ur team worked hard to create a light-hearted parody featuring a variety of characters that was meant to provide a few laughs. [W]e did not intend to offend anyone. [I] take full responsibility and apologize to anyone we offended.
Minhaj was decidedly more huffy about the whole thing, and he wasn't above using the F-word, either. He described the commercial as extremely offensive and slammed Kutcher's accent.
No Indian people talk like that, he said. We don't sound like that. If you're going to do an impersonation, do it correctly.
Minhaj spoke about how Asians and Indians are the new clownable minority and said that PopChips would not have dared to make a similar commercial depicting a member of another race or ethnicity.
We're dope, we're awesome, we're in rap groups, we're leading men, we're killing it right now, and you are pulling us back, he said.
Mohindra, on the other hand, used humor -- and a much softer tone -- to deflect any would-be tension. Looking directly at the camera and addressing Kutcher, Mohindra plays a fictional character with a very long and complicated-sounding name.
But you can call me Kimmy, she tells Kutcher, adding that she's his biggest fan.
I know that a lot of people are mad at your right now, she said. About a billion.
She decides to give Kutcher tips on how to make fun of Indian people. Rule Number One: you must be Indian.
She said Kutcher's accent was good and thought his outfit was awesome.
She had mixed feelings about the mustache, though.
That was like a cross between what my dad looked like in the 1970s and my hipster tekkie friends in Silver Lake so that kind of worked, she said.
Mohindra, who wrote the sketch, described her intentions to Colorlines.com.
I made this video because I believe you can respond to ignorance with love and humor, she told the website. The Popchips ad was a definite fail, but it's less important to spend time hating on the company or Ashton Kutcher and more important to learn from the mistake.
Check out both Minhaj and Mohindra's video responses here. What do you think of their reactions to the PopChips fiasco?