“This is America,” Jisha says, leaning forward to pat Sita’s face. “Try to enjoy it.”
The way a webseries works is based on an exchange of witty one-liners and the audience’s forgiveness — amateurish, lo-fi moments of breathless over-acting or bedrooms hastily turned into club scenes propel the story forward inelegantly yet earnestly. “The Fob & I,” a new webseries exploring the cultural tension between Indians and their American diaspora counterparts, relies on this exchange.
While the story trips along with all the elegance of the thousands of amateur webseries that came before it, stuck in bits of over-acting or infeasible moments of scripted nonsense, “The Fob & I” is charming overall. It follows the burgeoning relationship between Indian transplant Jisha and Indian-American native Sita. Both have their expectations on how the other should act and both enlighten the other about the ways of the world.
Starting with scene in a mitai shop reminiscent of American Desi, “I’ll have some of the squares and some of the round ones…,” “The Fob & I” feels like home. It never tries to explain how Sita doesn’t know intrinsic parts of the Indian identity and it allows you, the viewer, to run along behind her picking up the sagging pleats of her sari or a fallen Ganesh poster. Sita contains multitudes — she’s brooding yet insecure, in the know yet totally out of it, fearless and scared.
Jisha, her alter ego and B-side, is conversely airy, happy and tulip-like as she lands at LAX demanding a lower taxi fare or staring her strange, American cousin directly in the face as she pushes her way into the apartment they share. She’s effervescent and defies the gravitational pull of reality. Her life is all Bollywood dance sequences and mustard flower fields, as evidenced at the end of the series by the actual Bollywood dance sequence which takes place both in both a mustard flower field and a fro-yo shop.
“The Fob & I” is, at its core, easy watching. It engages calmly with issues of racism, colorism and appropriation without belaboring the point. Fundamentally, though, it’s just sort of amazing seeing two brown faces share the same screen at the same time. And they’re developed. And they’re heartfelt. And they’re flawed.
“We wanted to start a discussion about how the show was about creating diversity, but a diversity that meant more than having two brown characters on screen,” Meena Ramamurthy, the director of the series, said. “With two Indian protagonists, we had the ability to show how complex Indian identity can be, even within itself.”
For a story that’s based on the same “racist” concept put before Aziz Ansari’s character in “Master of None” (a “fobbish” Indian comes to live with his American cousin and hijinks ensue), “The Fob & I” both embraces stereotypes and shakes them off unapologetically. It’s definitely worth a half hour of your time to watch the whole season.
“The Fob & I” launches Dec 9. You can watch the series here.