Arranged marriage? Not Likely!

Actor, writer, producer Farhan Arshad 06OX 08C tackles arranged marriage - with humor.

By Michelle Valigursky and Nicholas Sommariva 15C

Though Farhan Arshad 06Ox 08C didn’t take part in an arranged marriage, the thought of one inspired him to flip the concept on its head.

Arshad

Farhan Arshad describes himself as “Creator of Brownies, screenwriter, Sony TV Comedy Development, and an enthusiast of awesome things.” Follow him on Twitter @Farhan_Arshad.

His original web series Brownies is a moc-u-mentary about a “kid who wants an arranged marriage, but his parents are against it,” he says.  As a young man of Pakistani descent, Arshad understood the incorrect cultural perception. He explains, “One of the better stereotypes (or less dangerous) is that we all have to get arranged marriages. That was one of those questions people would ask me a lot.”

For a funny man like Arshad, life’s dramas often make great comedy. As a comedic writer whose witty work has graced The Colbert Report and The Daily Show, Arshad recognized hit potential in the oft-asked marriage question. When asked by friends who his arranged bride might be, Arshad would make a joke out of the situation.

“Someone took me seriously, and when I worked in development with MTV Networks Digital, I got a phone call from a reality TV show,” he recalls. “The meeting was borderline insulting. They wanted to follow me around for nine months, interview my family and friends, pick ten dates from single-girl profiles, then set up one-hour dates with the girls and their parents.” If the date were a success, “the show wanted a wedding three days later. The second season was to have been year one of marriage.”

Food for thought, yes, but a good idea? Not for Arshad (happily married to his wife of one month, Saara). As an actor in an age where few leading men are minorities, the idea of a starring role appealed to him. But this particular match just wasn’t right.

“Before the meeting happened, I’d already wanted to write a web series on arranged marriages, but not in an obvious way,” he explains. His initial concept didn’t fully come together until after his meeting with the reality TV team. “It was then I realized exactly what I had to do.”

Raising initial production funding for Brownies was easy. “My friends and I spent $50 to produce the first two episodes,” he recalls. With those underway, they contacted okcupid, a popular online dating website that agreed to give Arshad a small sponsorship. For production to continue, the group needed to obtain additional funding. Arshad relied on a Kickstarter campaign to publicize his efforts. “I didn’t need a lot of money to make this happen, but the extra money goes a long way when we need to buy equipment.”

Brownies, now in its seventh episode and first season on YouTube, has earned quite a loyal following. In two months, the pilot episode earned nearly 200,000 views.

With the comic timing of Parks and Recreation, The Office, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Brownies and its creator are earmarked for success.  In fact, Arshad is hush about details of a deal that may be in the works with MTV.

For this political science turned creative writing major, a class in screenwriting changed his future and led him to pursue his master’s degree in screenwriting from Northwestern University. “I fell in love with that first Emory class and gave it all my attention,” he remembers. Now, Arshad’s professional future looks bright, and it’s safe to say he won’t rest soon. His sights are set on creating the next Friends or Seinfeld.

“In an industry like this, you can't control how talented others are but instead what you can control is how hard you work. In the end, I think work ethic will help you achieve your dreams. You can also control how much you shower, so if your dreams aren't working out at first, don't forget to bathe.”

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Michelle Valigursky