Cantonese-Hindi film ‘My Indian Boyfriend’ criticized for racial insensitivity over Chinese movie title

The Chinese name of the movie, which plays on an ethnic slur, literally translates as “My Boyfriend is Very Bad.” Photo: Facebook/My Indian Boyfriend
The Chinese name of the movie, which plays on an ethnic slur, literally translates as “My Boyfriend is Very Bad.” Photo: Facebook/My Indian Boyfriend

A bilingual Cantonese-Hindi film praised for spotlighting the South Asian community has attracted criticism over its questionable Chinese movie title.

The movie, titled “My Indian Boyfriend,” is called “我男友係好差” in Chinese—appearing to incorporate the racial slight “阿差” (a cha) for South Asians.

The pun gives the title the meaning of “My Boyfriend is Very Good.” But taken literally, since “好差” (ho cha) means “very bad,” the name in Chinese directly translates to “My Boyfriend is Very Bad.”

One person wrote on Twitter: “Not sure whether I should be happy about representation or angry at the casual use of a racial slur.”

“My Indian Boyfriend” tells the love story of a young Indian man and a Hong Kong Chinese woman, and how their traditional families view the cross-cultural relationship.

The movie, shot in September 2020, is set entirely in Hong Kong, although the original plan—shelved due to COVID-19—was to have one part of the film staged in India.

While it has not made its cinematic debut, “My Indian Boyfriend” was screened at a film festival in India last month, where it was presented with the “Special Jury Award.”

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The film is directed by Indian director Sri Kishore, who is based in Hong Kong and married to a Hongkonger. (The movie, he said, is partly inspired by his personal life.)

In a response to Coconuts, Sri Kishore explained there are no ill intentions with the title and that it should be understood in context.

“Being a South Asian myself, I strongly swear that there are no reasons to do anything racist,” he added.

Coconuts has also reached out to Karan Cholia, who played the male lead in the film and is a fluent Cantonese speaker, for comment.

“My Indian Boyfriend” is expected to hit local cinemas in June or July. Ahead of the debut, the movie has released the music video of one of the film’s songs, “Indian Curry.”

It’s not the first time the movie’s Chinese title has become the subject of controversy. In September, Hong Kong Unison—a non-profit that supports the city’s ethnic minorities—explained that the phrase “a cha” is often linked with negative images of the South Asian community, and is also used to disparage the group.

“It doesn’t have to be about the motive of the person saying it, but rather the society’s long-standing habits,” Hong Kong Unison wrote in a Stand News editorial.

At the time, actor Justin Cheung, who also stars in the movie, said the film’s title could be discussed and changed if it is seen as racist.

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