Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Many Indias

As an Indian, you ask yourself which picture of India is closest to mine when you watch Mumbai Salsa followed by Matrubhoomi. The five thousand year gulf separates the zeitgeist of the two movies yet they are both supposedly representations of present day India.

Salsa as the reviewer points out is a desi-fied "Friends" with the action taking place in Mumbai. The women are depicted as willful, wanton and determined to have as much or more fun than the boys. Female empowerment is about sexual gratification without emotional involvement and prioritizing career over marriage and family. Despite the cliches and hyperboles that riddle the movie, there is some truth in what is being portrayed.

Then there is Kalki of Matrubhoomi, the modern day Draupadi married to five brothers and turned into the resident sex slave for them and their father. Her father is paid five hundred thousand rupees and five cows by the father for the grooms. You prefer to believe this is a futuristic dystopia movie and not what is actually happening in India today. Whatever your personal values, you would much rather all Indian women were at liberty to lead lives that even remotely resembled that of the Salsa gang. That is the utopia Manoj Tyagi is peddling.

The incongruence between the nymphomaniac Neha asking a man if he was any good in bed before agreeing to date him and Kalki shackled to a teether in the cow shed alongside the animals and being subjected to interminable rape is unbelievable. Even as a born and raised in India desi, I have a lot of trouble keeping my version of India straight in the face of such contradiction. It is hardly surprising that the Western world resorts to convenient stereotypes.

Yet India must not be alone in such glaring cultural anomalies. Any country with an older native civilization that is imposed upon or influenced by a very different foreign one is likely end up the way India has. Parts of the country, sections of society have moved far ahead of the others to a point where is no point of reconciliation between the two. Therefore, as astonishing as it seem Neha and Kalki co-exist at the same point in time less than a five hundred miles apart. The former spends her nights at clubs and bars the later in a cow shed.

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