deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
[personal profile] deepad
Dear Racialicious,

I see that you managed to post a review of a Hindi film--My Name Is Khan, written by Arturo R. García.
Let me introduce you to an astonishing concept - Bollywood films are actually consumed in the country they are made in, by actual Indians!
And, even more shockingly, those Indians manage to somehow make their way through the slums and dogs to write reviews of those films! And post them on the internet, even!

Since I know you would never stumble across these links otherwise, here are what some of My People (including the desi brigage abroad) had to say about the movie that your reviewer thought this of:
But in a world where Jeff Dunham is considered funny, it’s tough to imagine that more people don’t need to be shaken by them, or to see the characters of Khan and Mandira so unabashedly in love with San Francisco, or the POC allies they pick up along the way. So, even if the film threatens to veer completely off the rails in the third act, when we see stand-ins for both Hurricane Katrina and Barack Obama, the feel-good ending at least legitimately feels good.


The Vigil Idiot: Unintentionally Funny, Must-Watch Bollywood Movies: My Name is Khan:



Baradwaj Ranjan at Biological Conclusions:
There’s one kind of moviegoer who values well-intentioned purpose over personality-driven conflict – the kind that assesses the impact of a narrative based on the heft of its neon-lit message – and then there’s the moviegoer who’d rather watch stories about people and not issues, and who doesn’t mind message-movies as long as the message is buried someplace deep below the lives of the characters. The former is the type of viewer who possibly wakes up with a broad smile and hugs everyone in the vicinity and is complacent in the belief that the ills of the world can be cured by a celluloid-strip band-aid, preferably one with tiny heart-shaped designs.

I am not that viewer, and I’m sure there are other crusty curmudgeons who feel borderline-insulted when lectured at by fat-cat filmmakers with more money than they know what to do with, so that they can ease their conscience about having made all that money in the first place.[...] One of the most embarrassing passages here involves a Southern black family right out of Gone with the Wind – they sho’ ah po’ but ah’ll be damned if dem don’t take time off their cotton-pickin’ lives to praise the Lawd. (And when disaster strikes, wouldn’t you know it, Khan is the only man in all of America who hunkers down to help.)


Mircea: Provincializing America? My Name is Khan and Modernity:
Previously, Hollywood filmmakers would throw up a hasty sketch of a foreign country where the workings of that society, including timelines, would be hopelessly blurry. And of course it would all be defensible on the grounds of artistic licence! [...] But here, we have a Hindi blockbuster taking the same kind of sloppy liberties, and the result is oddly exhilarating. Thus, most average Americans are shrill caricatures, racist and suspicious and decidedly unfriendly ... politics don't exist (conversely, do Slumdog or City of Joy ever discuss the intricacies of party politics and opinion polls?)[...]
The most head-scratchingly bizarre choice of stereotype is the pre-Civil War Deep South village milieu Johar constructs (on a set in Bombay), with Big Mama Jenny and her little boy living in a shack and praying at the local church with all the other black folk. Prima facie this is all immensely racist, condescending, and ham-handed. There is a wish for some kind of alliance between the oppressed here (singing "We Shall Overcome" together, the convoy of good-hearted Muslims delivering supplies through the waist-deep water when no government aid arrives), but having no understanding of the experiences of minorities in post-industrial society (Katrina affected the poor urban population, not some idyllic hamlet where cows outnumber people 3 to 1) and pulling out the worst from the "yes'm massa" bag of tricks is no way to go about it. [...]
Yet there is something very telling about this crude attempt to "provincialize America," as Dipesh C. would say. Johar does not merely see America from another (outsider) angle and thus renders it unexceptional, he in fact robs it of the modern and the universal. [...] [...]Whereas a Western filmmaker would undoubtedly present similar critiques of government inaction or illegality from the realistic, gritty and ultimately liberal point of view that produces "social pressure" for reform, Johar is after the sentimental generalisation that is not so easily resolved.


Pulkit Datta at the NRI.com:
The greatest downfall of the script – written by Shibani Bathija – is the entire detour in Wilhemina, Georgia, where Rizwan meets ‘Funny Hair Joel’ and ‘Mama Jenny.’ This sequence is riddled with stereotyping of African-Americans, starting with the portrayal of Mama Jenny as a very large maternal figure. In the church scene, it is the African-Americans who break out into song – “We shall overcome,” which becomes the real theme song of the film – when none of the Indian characters in the film were allowed that diversion (an otherwise grand departure for Johar). When a devastating hurricane causes flooding in Wilhemina, why is Rizwan the only person in all of the United States to land at the scene to help? And if he, and the dozen others he inspires to help, can easily wade through the flood water to get into Wilhemina, why can’t the helpless African-American residents walk their way out? The scenes in Georgia seem out of place even with the visual texture of the film, and the town of Wilhemina appears artificial. Ultimately, this Georgia segment becomes the climax. Rizwan becomes a hero when he really didn’t need to be, and it is these heroics that convince the nation that he is not a terrorist.


Blogeswari:
Rizzu suddenly becomes MGR in Buddhan Yesu Gandhi pirandadu song and saves people from the hurricane, in the climax. Karaj Jogar in a bid to take his film to the International level brings in yet another Forrest Gump moment - a fat Mama Jenny and her scary hair son. Totally absurd this one is. Neither you nor Jogar has any idea on why the characters suddenly pop up on screen singing "Hum honge kaaaaamyaaaab" in Englipees.


Phillygrrl on Sepia Mutiny:
And then there is the racism. Rizvan’s character, perhaps because of his Asperger’s, is given carte blanche by the writers when it comes to interactions with the film’s African American characters. I flinched when Khan repeatedly called one of the major characters ‘funny-haired’ and found himself mothered by a happy-go-lucky Aunt Jemima-ish mammy archetype in the Deep South. Hey Bollywood, black people in America don’t live in shacks. And they certainly don’t need a savior vis a vis SRK. Ironic that a film whose main goal is to decry the stereotyping of American Muslims itself stereotypes African Americans.


Aseem Chhabra for the Mumbai Mirror:
In the second half, the film’s protagonist Rizvan takes a long bus journey, supposedly in search of President George W Bush. The journey is random, as he takes an illogical path arriving at one point in Georgia. That is when the film falls apart, as Johar introduces us to a group of African Americans – complete stereotypes, caricatures from several decades ago, living in an idyllic rural setting, where churchgoers wear what appear to be clothes bought from flea market, singing We Shall Overcome, as a flocks of ducks observe all of this activity.

It would be harsh to call MNIK a racist film. Unintentional as it might seem, but in portraying African Americans in such a laughable and embarrassing manner, the film comes across as insensitive to the race issues in post-Hurricane Katrina America. By the time an African American actor portraying President Barack Obama appeared on the screen, a lot of people at the press screening were snickering. And, I kept sinking deep into my seat.

And of course, all this is not even counting desi chatter about the Shiv Sena thuggery against the movie or Shahrukh Khan's detention at a US Airport.

Seriously, India has the dubious distinction of being a post-colonial country with a huge English-speaking voice, in print and online. Was it that hard to find a desi blogger who could review the movie for you? Who could call out the racist shit in the movie for what it was, situated in the context of insider knowledge of Bollywood?

Signed,
An Indian Reader of Your Blog
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deepad: black silhouette of woman wearing blue turban against blue background (Default)
Deepa D.

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