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-by David J. Lieto (The Squeeg)

ray-01.jpgNormally, I cover the goings-on of a little town called Las Vegas. Every so often, however, I come across a subject that deserves special attention.

Shades of Ray is a new comedy by director/writer Jaffar Mahmood that is set to hit the festivals this season. Jaffar, a graduate of the Peter Stark Producing Program at USC, has been a friend for some time now, and when I was presented with the opportunity to read his screenplay, I jumped at it.

The story revolves around Ray Rehman, the son of a Pakistani Father and Caucasian Mother. His father, played by Brian George, wants his son to marry a Pakistani woman, but Ray has already asked for the hand of his Caucasian girlfriend. Although she hasn’t given him an answer yet, Ray is fairly certain his Father’s wishes are not going to be met. That is, until his Father and Mother separate and the former shows up on his doorstep.

In order to cheer up his father, Ray agrees to meet with the Pakistani woman his Father has spoken of, Sana. Because she is of mixed decent, like Ray, they hit it off immediately. According to Jaffar, “although he [Ray] didn’t want to have feelings for her [Sana], he can’t deny having a connection with her.” The only problem is that his girlfriend/fiancĂ©, Noel, still wants him. So now Ray is not only trying to reunite his parents, but he’s also contending with the two women in his life.

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The film stars some of this year’s new television talent. Zachary Levi, who plays Ray, is the star of the new NBC series Chuck (Premiering Monday, 9/24, at 8pm on NBC). He is joined by Bonnie Somerville, of ABC’s Cashmere Mafia, and Sarah Shahi, from NBC’s Life. Also, as mentioned above, Brian George - remembered for playing Babu Bhatt on Seinfeld - co-Stars along with the Emmy Award-winning Kathy Baker from Picket Fences.

Shades Of Ray is far from being a typical romantic comedy. It’s loosely based on events in Jaffar’s life. Jaffar and the Ray character share the same heritage. Jaffar’s father, a doctor in New Jersey, hails from Pakistan and, like Ray, his Mother is Caucasian. The experience of such a background was the motivating factor behind writing the script.

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“There’s been several films that analyze the relationship between two people of different ethnicities - Jungle Fever, for one,” says Jaffar, “But there’s so few American movies, if any… [that examine] what’s it’s like for the product or offspring of two ethnicities coming together - the kid - and how that effects him and the way he sees himself. Shades of Ray is my way of exploring that issue.”

While trying to raise money for the film, Jaffar had been informed by a handful of executives at production companies in Los Angeles that he’d have a much easier time getting his family comedy made if he changed the ethnicity of the main character to being half latino or black. “Those are proven minority markets” is what he was told. In response, Jaffar says, “Maybe we can add South Asian to that mix if Pakistanis and Muslims weren’t only portrayed as three things in American film: the terrorist, the cab driver, or the convenience store owner. Ray is a kid from New Jersey who has conflicting pressure from his parents on who he should marry. He’s struggling to find success at work, struggling to make his parents proud, struggling to make himself happy. These are problems that anyone from any background with any religion can relate to.” Only time will tell if Jaffar is right.

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Comments:

21 Responses to “Shades of Ray: An Interview with Writer/Director Jaffar Mahmood”

  1. Nicole Says:

    I am very excited to see this film. Not only does it sound like an amazing movie, but I also happen to love Sarah Shahi and I just know that she will shine in this role.

  2. Greg Kahn Says:

    I saw the film and its pretty bad. Lots of overacting and bad performances. Its supposed to be a comedy but its not funny. Its also extremely predictable. The situations are very trite Zach did a good job with the terrible matterial though. Its lucky they acst him before Chuck, cause there’s no way he would have taken this career destroyer after landing that show. Some of the smaller cameo roles like Zacks father (Brian James I think is the actors name) is quite good. Rays best friend, though, is way over the too and thinks he is funny. They left lots of hammy and schticky things in that make the movie pathetic and annoying. The story is unbelievable - an American kid who’s soon-to-be-divorced father tries to set up with the ideal girl friend/future wife. I mean come on — MAYBE in the 1950… Or MAYBE in Pakistan, but it just doesn’t ring true here and now… And that could be forgiven if the directing was better, but its amazingly flat and in-artfully crafted. There are no exciting camera shots or angles. In fact the only scene that looks semi-professional is the scene at the pool at night. My advise: Save your money. Not even a worthy DVD rental unless you are a huge Zack Levi fan .

  3. Robert Says:

    I couldn’t disagree more with Greg Kahn and his views on this film. First of all, he obviously knows nothing about the immigrant mentality. Ever meet the first generation American born child of an Asian, Latino, or South Asian parent? Talk to them and you’ll quickly learn that almost all immigrant parents want their children to settle down with someone from their own cultural background. And that’s happening today. All over America. Secondly, to refer to Zach Levi’s father in the film (who is name is Brian George) as a cameo role means Greg completely missed the point of this movie. It’s a father/son story. Brian George, who is fantastic here, is the co-lead! Zach is also amazing with his flawless comedic timing and I like how he shows a dramatic side you don’t see too often in “Chuck.” Sarah Shahi is breath-taking in her role. It’s only a matter of time before she’s a huge star. As independent movies go, I thought this was a little gem. It’s funny, poignant, topical, and thought provoking. You should definitely check it out.

  4. Mel Says:

    saw it… loved it… want it on DVD

  5. Yarah Says:

    where did you guys saw the movie!? please i would kill to see it! contact me please chikasexy_chris@hotmail.com

  6. Mikaela Says:

    yeah Im eager to see this but Ive heard nothing about release dates for the dvd or any cinematic releases at all.

    any info about where you saw it would be appreciated!

    cheers

    mikaela_rc@yahoo.co.uk

  7. Little Girl Says:

    I saw a clip for this film at an OPEN film festival, and I really loved it. It made my laugh harder then I have at a movie in a while. The dad reminds me of a friend of mine’s father, along with several of my uncle’s. Maybe me being Pakistani, born and raised in America makes me have a better insight into what he was going through, but I know a lot of people who would enjoy it. I thought that Mr. Levi did a good job portraying someone who was american, but hindered by his families expectations along with the public’s assumptions. Mr. Khan’s review could be true for someone who probably never has properly made friends with someone like Ray, or else he would understand that these types of situations happen more often then not.
    I have high hopes for the movie, and hope it makes it to cinema’s, because it shows that Pakistani’s go through the same everyday trouble’s as European-descent Americans, but with more pressure from their families.
    I can’t wait to see the whole movie!

  8. Robert Says:

    Check out:

    http://www.myspace.com/shades_of_ray

    or

    http://www.shadesofray.com

    for a teaser trailer and info on Shades of Ray.

  9. Jeetinder Roth Says:

    I was really disappointed with this movie. I saw lots of good reviews, and rushed out to see it, only to discover it was nowhere near as well crafted as the multitude of reviews on IMDB had me believe. I also realised that all of the reviews were actually from the Director’s friends and family (and possibly the Director himself under various pseudonyms).

    Acting: below average. Directing: very poor. Script: decent. Photography: give me a break.

    I like to give new directors a chance, but when they are obviously trying to increase exposure through bogus reviews I realise that perhaps marketing and not directing is what Jaffar Mahmood should be doing, as he’s a lot better at that (although still pretty amateur!)

    Remember, if the film is good a distributor will pick it up. In this case, I sincerely hope not.

  10. Yahudi Singh Says:

    This film is an insult to the world of film-making. It should never be released. I just feel sorry for the cast members who agreed to be in this piece of rubbish. I was so bored, and physically sick after the movie. At least I should get a refund on my popcorn and coke, as they ended up all over my shoes. In fact, I should claim for my shoes as well. The cheek of it!!!

  11. Dude Says:

    This is an awesome film. It is hillarious and really funny. However, Mr. Kahn and Singh do have a right to share their views but unfortunately they have no taste in films. Its definitely worth watching the movie and ignoring their comments.

  12. Pete Ingrams Says:

    Interesting to note that the comment above from Dude is in fact from Jaffar Mahmood himself. I know that because he told me himself, and as I said to him, “who are you to decide whether or not someone has good or bad taste in films just because they didn’t enjoy your movie.”

    By the way the movie does suck big time, but that’s just my opinion.

    I’d love to see a real review on this movie as opposed to all the “friends and family of Jaffar” stuff we have seen so far. They are testament to the real value of this movie i.e nothing.

  13. independant Says:

    I watched the movie and loved it. i came across this site as i was searching for more info on the director.

    i am surprised to see some of these negative comments and attacks on the director and i can only wonder why would simple moviegoers go to such extent unless they have a hidden agenda against him.
    i would recommend to anyone to find out for themselves and judge.
    i thought it was, and for such a small budget movie, a nice pleasant film.
    thank you

  14. Wen Says:

    i love this movie :) it’s such a great movie!

    lol and i liked your part in the movie too lol

  15. Keisha Says:

    I enjoyed it. I didn’t realize how hard it is to find your true self when being of a mixed background. I definitely haven’t seen it from a Pakistani point of view. This was a refreshing film about life and love…

    Now I want to learn more about the differences in american and Pakistan culture but the film isn’t a documentary, lol. Great job to producers actors, writer and director.

    Also I just saw the film on Netflix watch instantly.

  16. Parvez Mahmood Says:

    This movie is the finest movie I have ever seen. It deserves multiple oscars and every other award going. The directing is beyond hitchcock, and the editing makes thelma schoonmaker look like mickey mouse.

    If there’s one movie that should be on every film school curriculum that movie is shades of ray.

    A lesson in perfection.

    By the way, Jaffar Mahmood is my son, but that doesn’t influence my opinion on this movie.

    I find it all so typical nowadays that Jewish run Hollywood won’t acknowledge the work of a muslim director.

  17. Dee Says:

    I thought the whole point of the movie was to not be constricted by ethnicity, and to choose who you love based on the individual. i dont think the movie convincingly portrayed that he wasnt in love with the white woman he originally asked to marry. The proposal was very cute in the beginning, and other than a weirdness with her family, how did he all of a sudden fall out of love with a woman hed been dating for 2 yrs and asked to marry? all for someone he just met that has the exact same ethnicity as him. its like the whole movie someone is shouting in the background, yay for loving whomever, no matter what race or religion, but then towards the end he chooses his own race cuz he can relate to her better. Plus a large part of the movie deals with all the problems his parents have due to their different races, and even his best friend ends up with a white chick. to me, the message of the movie is ultimately anti-interracial relationships. confusing. being a halfie myself, i guess im disappointed with the obscurity of the movies final message.

  18. Arshud Mahmood Says:

    You know something, this movie caused tears to spill down my cheeks and collect in a warm pool beneath me knees, as I lay prostrate on the floor in absolute awe of the directors underrated skills as a director. I have watched a total of 5284 movies in my lifetime, from my early days in Pakistan, from where I gained my insightful knowledge of the world, and continued through to my current role as a philanthropist and businessman. This movie rates at number 2, after Eastern Son, in which I have a starring role.

    The intense, if somewhat serene, nature of the film, juxtaposed with the racial tension of 21st century America, brings about languid feelings of discomfiture in the bowels of me and my kindred spirits. Not only do we have a new directing talent that puts the Spielbergs of this world to shame but a script that outdoes Hitchcock in terms of suspensive latitude. I simply cannot get over it. It brings me to tears even as I write this.

    I have watched this film a total of 321 times, and every experience generates a greater emotional interest than that of marriage, death and birth combined. I myself have written a number of firsta rate novels and Jaffar Mahmood is my first choice as director when these are evntually made into films.

    Rejoice, say I. This director is nothing short of genius. My God, I’m coming.

  19. Chuck Says:

    Three years down the line and this turkey is dead. No distributor wanted to pick it up even for a DVD release. That’s pretty poor.

    I saw a recent interview with Zach Levy and when asked about this movie he quickly changed the subject. How embarrasing.

  20. Patrice Says:

    I just watched Shades of Ray and I loved it. Lot of laughs, tougching moments and great casting.

  21. Guzel Says:

    It’s after the comments party has finished, but still want to add.

    I watched this movie on Netflix (which BTW so far offered me horrible cmovies on 7.99$/month plan, except for foreign movies) so that means this film was picked up for distribution against predictions in the comments.
    I am a mixed, too, but coming from Central Asia. The conflicts described in the story are all too familiar for me. The movie just reminded me of my parents who made their own choices: marrying outside their ethnic group AND living outside their culture, - and who still insisted that we, their kids, try to maintain their ethnic identity. How ironic.
    3 years ago Dee commented that the movie’s message is unclear. I think the message is to both parents and children to try to better understand each other. The parents can’t demand their children to do things that they did not; and the children have to give their parents credit for the risks they took.
    I observed that as people age, their priorities shift. When we are young, we base our choices on physical attraction, lifestyle ambitions and seek new experiences, and as we grow older, we become more risk averse and seek comfort among the people we grew up with.

    I was a little taken aback by the fact that none of the lead actors had any relation to Pakistani culture. Zach is Welch, according to Wiki, Sarah is half Iranian, half Spanish, Brian George who played Ray’s dad is Iraqi Jewish - British - Israeli, and Gerry Bednob is of Indo Trinidaian heritage. I wondered if the movie was too offensive for Pakistani or Indian actors? However all of the actors I mentioned probably know a lot about the implications of mixing different cultures. And of course the Zach and Sarah very good looking.

    Overall, I enjoyed the movie and would recommend it to my friends and family

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