This week’s episode of ABC2′s Dumb, Drunk and Racist is its most volatile so far.
In January a crew from Cordell Jigsaw came under attack from locals whilst filming the doco series in Alice Springs.
Two women broke camera gear and smashed up the foyer of the hotel where the crew and cast were staying, following an incident at Todd River.
In the episode that airs on Wednesday night, the visiting Indians can be seen running in fear of being attacked with rocks.
It follows earlier episodes in which they visited Cronulla Beach, Villawood Detention Centre, Lakemba and Melbourne after dark. The premise to show 4 visitors the best and the worst of us has certainly seen them facing some tense situations.
So was it all for show? And was it fair to Amer, Radhika, Gurmeet and Mahima?
Radhika Budhwar (pictured, right), a Conflict Management Trainer, says filming the series for 3 weeks was an intense experience, but one she valued very much.
Producers and presenter Joe Hildebrand (pictured, centre) kept the itinerary from them in order gain genuine reactions on screen.
“We knew nothing about what our day would be like or what the next 20 days would be. So we never went into anything with any kind of trepidation or any feelings of fear. We were just thrown into it. That made it difficult but it made it easy as well. Now when I look back I think ‘Oh my God how did we do this?’ she says.
“However as Indians, and I can’t speak for the others, we are very resilient.
“It would be one of the most memorable things I would have done in my life. It’s impossible to get an opportunity to do what we did.
“We were thrown in the deep end and our reactions are what they were after. But I don’t think that will ever happen again in my life, so to be able to experience Australia and society and so many different kinds of people in different situations –I think I was very fortunate to be able to do that.”
With filming sometimes requiring 15 hour days, the range of activities sometimes became mentally draining: facing Muslim racism in western Sydney, being confronted by anti-asylum seekers at Villawood Detention Centre, and watching footage of riots at Cronulla Beach.
“It was really intense. I don’t know if it was that intense for everybody but I found it very intense because I would think about it a lot through the day. We were doing so much just to assimilate,” says Radhika.
“I thought filming so much it would be exhausting but mentally and psychologically that involvement itself was exhausting.
“Dealing with that when you came back into your room at the end of the day and dealing with everything you had gone through, that took a lot. More than the physical.”
Amer Singh (pictured, left), a 21 year old student, broke down after learning of the Cronulla riots.
“I’m from India so I’m no stranger to violence or riots. Even during school and university elections there is a lot of violence. But that’s the first time I’ve seen people enjoying themselves getting drunk, including where someone was smashed (assaulted), just for the fun of it,” he says.
“That’s what upset me.”
He also bravely rode in a van plastered with anti-Muslim statements through the streets of Lakemba -all to understand the two sides of the multiculturalism / racism debate.
“That was pretty intense. We had one lady catcall and another lady shout ‘Muslims suck!’ and there were a lot of people looking at us and were clearly put off by the van,” he says.
Radhika tries to put some perspective on the experience.
“At the Detention Centre it was the reactions of the people. The absolute hatred and the intense anger they had against multiculturalism and refugees. It was the human emotions that were really stunning because coming from India, standing there in what seems like a really fortunate country you see the small-mindedness of people,” she says.
“For us in India riots are not something new. Anybody who is living in India and is deeply connected with India while staying here, it’s there. It’s a part of my life. It’s a fear I always have in the back of my mind.”
More positively, the show also saw them playing football with Muslim-Australians, learning about wearing a burqa and this week they meet Indigenous elders and Koori children.
But it is the incident near Todd River that has attracted the most publicity.
“When we were walking along Todd River nobody was really filming. It was just Joe talking to us,” Radhika insists.
“The director and Joe and the crew never told us it was dangerous or anything like that, however when I looked back, even that night, they were very wary. They were purposefully avoiding it (filming). We didn’t know why at the time. None of us knew it was dangerous because until then we’d had great experiences with the Aboriginal elders and the other Aborigines.
“But the two ladies who attacked us were drunk.”
In the episode the crew is told by locals, “We don’t like people who take video in Alice Springs,” before the situation turns hostile.
While the incident raises questions about the power of cameras to enflame situations, Amer agrees alcohol played its part.
“We were filming on the other side of the road near a hotel, asking us some questions. That’s when these ladies walked up behind us and started to break the camera. I can understand how a camera can provoke someone to that extent. But they were pretty intoxicated and we could smell the alcohol. It was completely uncalled for and unprovoked,” he says.
“But they didn’t really go for us, they just went for the crew.
“One of them picked up a rock and threw it at one of our producers.
“But there was no violence against me, just concentrated against the crew.”
Was he worried producers had placed him in a potentially dangerous situation?
“Dangerous is too strong a word, but it was the most dodgy moment,” he says, seemingly having picked up some of the local lingo.
Despite such volatile situations, Amer rejects suggestions he was a Reality TV ‘guinea pig.’ He defends the mix of positive and negative experiences the Producers put him through.
“I’m not really sure what’s on the cutting room floor but they definitely showed both sides which is why I pretty much love Australia and plan on coming back,” he says.
“‘Love’ is a strong word, but I think it’s a great country. I met some amazing people. Every country has its bad element.”
Meanwhile, Radhika is blogging about her experiences at radhikabudhwar.
“I would do it in a heartbeat,” she says.
“There was never any pressure that we had to say anything. But personally I was battling not sitting on the fence.
“The show was aiming at looking at stereotypes, and it wasn’t at all about what the Indians think. So keeping that in mind I tried very hard to get off the fence and let myself be honest.”
Dumb, Drunk and Racist airs 9:30pm Wednesday on ABC2.