BizAsia talks ‘Three Shades of Brown’ with new director Shai Hussain

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There is no dearth of talent in the UK but for innovation, it is sometimes all about being at the right place at the right time. That coupled with a passion for a creative subject and the want to create something extraordinary is arguably all you need to be on the way up. Shai Hussain has that and is literally on the brink of bringing something new to the British Asian arena in the form of a brand new web-series titled ‘Three Shades of Brown’. With scriptwriter, DJ and News Editor tags to his name, Hussain is now turning director and producer for the first time with ‘Three Shades of Brown’. The web-series plays on very stereotypical and definitively different characters in the three main leads: a rude boy, a freshie and a coconut. BizAsia caught up with Hussain to delve a little more into his sensibility as a newbie director, having the wealth of experience he has in various roles in British Asian media before the creation of ‘Three Shades of Brown’.

Who am I?
My name is Shai Hussain and I�۪m the creator of ‘Three Shades of Brown’. I�۪ve previously written for ZEE TV�۪s soap drama ‘Cloud 9’, BBC Asian Network�۪s ‘Silver Street’ and penned original radio dramas ‘Reality Check’ and ‘Resolutions’ (co-write) for BBC Asian Network and ‘Til Jihad Do Us Part’ for BBC Radio 4. ‘Three Shades of Brown’ is my first time producing and directing.

What is ‘Three Shades of Brown’?
Three Shades of Brown is a new comedy webseries about a ��rude boy�۪, a ��coconut�۪ and a ��freshie�۪ who live in a flat. The pilot series focuses on how these three very different young men come to move in together.

Aren�۪t those terms a tad offensive?
It depends on your level of political correctness. But yes, they are all terms to describe the most common stereotypes of South Asians ��� respectively, the guy who�۪s trying to be black, the guy who�۪s trying to be white and the guy who�۪s as brown as possible. It�۪s by breaking down those stereotypes in this show that I want to show that above everything, we�۪re all human. And crazy.

How did the concept come about?
I can�۪t remember clearly, but it began as a simple joke of ���A Rude Boy, a Coconut and a Freshie walk into a bar��_.�۝ I never got to a punchline.

Why a webseries?
The webseries format is yet to take shape in the UK like it has over in America, but I thought it would be good to get in before the stampede. There�۪s also a gaping hole in the British-Asian sitcom webseries niche. There�۪s a definite audience for it as proven by Diary of a Bad Man, and it�۪s never been easier to go out and make a film. Equipment is more affordable, social media takes care of your marketing and there are always actors looking for work. Especially for this project, the amount of unutilised British-Asian acting talent is astonishing, so I was quite lucky to get great people involved before their careers take off!

Was TV never an option?
Actually, the webseries was initially a 30-minute episode of a 6 part TV series I tried to sell unsuccessfully. There was great feedback, but the majority of production companies had their own excuses. I�۪ve been writing scripts professionally for eight years now, and was fed up of the waiting game of ��please the agent, please the script reader, please the commissioner, please the producer�۪ etc. I have a batch of over a hundred concepts and twentysomething finished scripts, but what�۪s the point when nobody will ever see the end-products?

I feel that the gatekeepers of TV commissioning are still mainly heterosexual, middle-class, white men, so the majority of TV is still favouring the characters more preferred by these folk ��� unless you have a track record like Anil Gupta or Richard Pinto, then at least they�۪ll commission us ‘Citizen Khan’. These commissioners rarely take chances on worlds foreign to them, so an increasing number of stories led by South Asian, black, LGBT and even female characters are flourishing on the web.

There may not be a lot of financial gain from the web (yet!) but you get to have all the creative control you want. So at least if it�۪s awful, you only have yourself to blame. However, if the right company was to come along to pick up ‘Three Shades of Brown’, I would definitely be open to talk. Money isn�۪t everything, but is undoubtedly a necessity!

Check out the trailer of ‘Three Shades of Brown’:

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‘Three Shades of Brown’ stars Muzz Khan (‘Four Lions’), Omar Khan (‘Cloud 9’) and Navinder Bhatti (‘Amar Akbar n Tony’). The series will launch internationally on Monday April 14th. You can find out more about it at www.threeshadesofbrown.co.uk.

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