Thursday, May 04, 2006

India Revealed

I found the portrayal of lesbianism in Deepa Mehta's "Fire" very contrived. Seemed to me more like a device for controversy and resultant publicity. Shabana Azmi's acting was awesome as always but did not lend much credence to Mehta's lesbian angle. That said, I won't be in any hurry to watch her latest offering "Water".

Apparently Mehta's strategy for promoting her movies remains unchanged. The
NYT review of the movie by Elisabeth Bumiller, is as much an eye opener about India as Mehta's movie I am sure would be.

She says :

"This is the disturbing India of the Hindu widow, a woman traditionally shunned as bad luck and forced to live in destitution on the edge of society. Her husband's death is considered her fault, and she has to shave her head, shun hot food and sweets and never remarry. In the pre-independence India of the 1930's, the tradition applied even to child brides of 5 or 6 who had been betrothed for the future by their families but had never laid eyes on their husbands."

If I am reading this right, she is depicting modern day widows in India here and saying the only thing that has changed from the 1930s is the average age of the widow. For some reason, western media throws editorial diligence to the winds when there is so much as a hint of bad news to report about India. There is nothing like a dozen "satis" burning atop a pyre to singe the wings of the "emerging superpower". The subtext reads "The invisible millions beyond the shiny, modern face of the technology powerhouse still lives in the dark ages. This is a story of India's shame"

According to Bumiller :

The sorrowful film is nonetheless a triumph of conscience over blind faith, and a powerful message about how much, and how little, has changed in India. "I think it's slightly naïve for me to think that films make a difference," Ms. Mehta, the director, said in a telephone interview from Toronto, where she lives half the year, when she is not in New Delhi. "But what it can do is start a dialogue and provoke discussion."

Mehta's chosen vehicle for provoking discussion and dialogue is so wrong in so many ways that I can't even begin to count. Had this been a news story or a documentary that reached the farthest backwaters of India, it may have made a difference. Please Ms. Mehta, spare us the platitudes and stop insulting our intelligence. A Lisa Ray, John Abraham starrer to "provoke discussion" on the state of underprivileged widows ? Come on, give us a break. Unlike Elisabeth Bumiller, we are desi and know the score.

No comments: