Career

Why this creative Auckland couple are saying no to parenthood

Creative couple Ankita and Calvin reveal why they’re boxing on without kids
Ankita Sigh has her hands around Calvin Sang's neck, both smiling for the camera in front of a purple background

The project was their baby and potentially the only baby this couple is likely to have – if you don’t count their dog Maple!

Aucklanders Ankita Singh and Calvin Sang have created an episode for the TVNZ+ Motherhood Anthology series, which examines a woman’s wish to not have babies and potentially disappoint her mother, and choosing instead to pursue a mixed martial arts (MMA) boxing career.

Give Me Babies was written by Ankita, 28, and directed by her partner Calvin, 29, after a walk with Maple during Covid lockdowns. TVNZ had called for pitch ideas and the pair felt inspired to explain their stance on parenthood from a cultural perspective.

“We were thinking about ways to combine our Chinese and Indian cultures, and thought we could make something ‘Chindian’,” says Ankita. “In a lot of South-Asian cultures, there is that pressure for daughters to have kids. I’ve never wanted children.

“Luckily for me, my parents are super-chill. My mum Vandna is like, ‘Live your life because kids will ruin your life. Just get everything out of your system before you have kids.’ I think she’s hoping… I think she wants grandkids, but it’s not as intense as the pressure in the episode.”

Actresses reacting shocked to something they're being shown on an iPhone
Give Me Babies explores a mother-daughter dynamic.

Calvin is grateful his parents Mel Ling Lee and Darryl Sang don’t put any pressure on him, “but they do babysit Maple quite a lot”! he jokes.

“We always said that Ari, the main character in the show, is like the baby that we want to have – a Chinese-Indian baby; an MMA cool fighter woman. But in essence, the show itself was the baby that we birthed – a Covid baby.”

The couple had worked together and started to become close shortly before the pandemic hit in 2020. On long walks, they talked about their cultures and would go on to use these themes in their storytelling.

Calvin explains, “Chinese and Indian cultures have a lot of similarities, and a lot of differences as well. They’re very food-focused, very family-focused – the family as a unit is quite important; there’s this respect of elders.

“We started talking about showing this interesting mash-up of cultures that we don’t really see a lot of on screens. Generally, if there’s an interracial couple on screen, one of them will be a Western culture. We’re an interracial couple from two different Asian cultures, so it was really cool to have that as a backdrop.”

Ankita and Calvin in front of a brightly coloured mural around a golden doorway
The couple’s story highlights their unique cultural perspective.

For Ankita, who was the first South-Asian female playwright to be commissioned in New Zealand, it’s the mother-daughter relationship she hopes will resonate.

“It’s just about the mother and daughter having to have a difficult conversation, and reach a new understanding. That’s quite relatable for a lot of people.”

So, too, is the diverse family dynamic.

“We both have families that are quite unconventional – my mum lives in India, my dad Anil lives in Hamilton. I’m a creative and I’m kind of like the black sheep of my family. Calvin comes from a creative family.”

With his parents living just down the road, Calvin says they are also emotionally close, and his mum and dad are “the biggest cheerleaders from the sideline” for this and his “daytime job” as a creative director of his own production company. He is proud that they even feature as extras in Give Me Babies.

What Ankita and Calvin have learned while creating their take on babies are lessons for any parent – compromise and good communication.

“You’ll have different expectations. As long as you communicate and talk it out though, you can figure it out,” says Ankita. “I can be the most honest with Calvin, whereas with other collaborators, I tend to hold back a little bit. I do get emotional as well, but he’s grounded and he’s just super-chill. He can handle a lot. He can hold a crew of 100 people and be directing action on five hours of sleep with an emotional girlfriend saying, ‘It has to be like this.’ He’s an amazing leader.”

Calvin behind the scenes of filming. pointing to something on a screen and explaining to a colleague
Behind the scenes with Calvin.

Calvin says he enjoyed the collaborative process.

“I thought it was really interesting to do it with your significant other,” he tells. “Developing the story together and casting, and figuring out all the different things and making those decisions… There were a lot of sometimes heated discussions and some creative challenges that naturally always happen when people are collaborating together.

“I’m really happy with how much we’ve pushed each other outside of our comfort zones.”

Ankita agrees. “For us both to have gone through a journey like this together really only makes our relationship stronger.”

Give Me Babies is part of the Motherhood Anthology, streaming now on TVNZ+.

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