Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wild Wild West

The current issue of Tehelka has an excellent point raised by a reader in the Bouquets and Brickbats section.

Daniela from Mumbai says:

YOU SQUEAL loud about the way ‘The West’ portrays India in Slumdog Millionaire. As a white woman, I feel embarrassed at how Bollywood and the Indian media portray the West. You may believe that India’s complexity surpasses the mental capabilities of westerners, while Bollywood has done an excellent job in portraying ‘The West’ to its own well-educated audience. Let’s see: white women enjoy wearing strips of red latex barely covering their pubic hair. White women want to be old Big B’s girlfriends and never wear more than underwear in his apartment. Most Australian women’s vocabulary does not extend beyond “Sorry?” but at least they wear hot pants to make up for their lack of intelligence. Also, in the West, male nurses are welcome to make advances to female patients in hospitals without ever earning a sexual harassment lawsuit. That is because the white woman really enjoys being fondled by Abhishek Bachchan, who — like most nurses — lives in a beach-front apartment. Drug dealers are Jamaican-hat-wearing white dimwits, and live close to brothels staffed with lusty white women, because each female tourist works the mattress for at least half of her Indian holiday. Perhaps this is why Indians ask me how much I charge for a pop, though I may be attired in full Indian dress, displaying my mangalsutra. Some of these Bollywood fantasies may exist in the West, but does that make them apt representations of an entire culture? And then again: does it matter? It reflects more on the Indian mind than the western, so why should people in the West bother? They don’t. Why do you? Your interest in the West barely outstretches white porn in Palika Bazaar and H1B Visas. I believe that Slumdog at least attempted to be somewhat interested in India, whereas Bollywood doesn’t go beyond Swiss Alps and the white woman because that is what audiences want. Danny Boyle has shown no malice toward India. I wonder sometimes whether the same can be said for Bollywood.

It's true, you know. I've always though Westerners are portrayed either as utter fools or ghastly villains in most Hindi movies, and I really don't see why.

I was watching Corporate last night (Why, I don't know; I have no particular high opinion of Madhur Bhandarkar's movies and why he gets so much hype is beyond me. Plus Corporate has got to be one of Kay Kay's worst performances) and there is this scene where the American investor is talking to the Finance Minister. Either the guy portraying that role was a really bad actor, or they just wanted him to sound like a blustering weirdo.

Look at Slumdog Millionaire, even. The scene in Agra where the American tourists express horror on seeing kids being beaten up, and are told, "This is the real India." To which the American dude responds, "I'll show what a real American is," and gives the kid a nice amount of cash. I mean, kya? What was that supposed to mean? What was the point of that utterly ridiculous dialogue?

Indians can be incredibly immature, especially in terms of what they find humorous. And since they do have this insatiable desire to get recognition for the rest of the world, they need to understand that all the great work they do, all the wonderful movies they make, are all likely to be of no use if we continue to portray Westerners in such poor light all the time.


R said...

I love the woman who wrote that letter. Someone had to say that. These idiotic whiny people need to shut up and get their head out of their bum. Not only was the SDM portrayal not wrong, its B-wood itself thats defaming the poor firangs (who are always white, btw). Hypocrites the lot of them. Someone beat them up. Preferably give them a verbal lashing and call them some names (like I did up there). This should be our mission. idjits.

The Seeker said...

That is a good point.

Anonymous said...

I live in Bombay, and I think Danny Boyle has done an extremely authentic job of representing that part of Bombay. Maybe better than Bollywood ever has.

Sure Bombay is not ONLY squalor but neither is LA ONLY about bikini clad women!

Zennmaster said...

I certainly would like women in Bikini's foreigners OR Indian to be shown in "poor light"... :P

But on a more serious note, there is a need for film makers to look at characters and story consistency more than anything else. Me reckon it is time people dropped the masala factor from the movies altogether...