Monday, January 02, 2012

Connecting to Desiness

During J's winter break, we were visiting with a friend of DB's whose wife recently had a baby. It is not often that we get five days of the immersive desi experience so it was almost like a trip to India minus the cost and the hassle. We had freshly cooked meals four times a day - both DB and I love to cook so we gladly pitched in. The mom-in-law caught her desi soaps on the living room TV and after the kids and grandma went to bed, we watched a Bollywood flick. This family is all set to return to India in the next couple of years - it has been their plan from the start. The amped up desi ambiance around the house is supposedly for the benefit of the kids who will find the transition easier. They socialize only with their kind to minimize the impacts of a culture that will soon become foreign to the children.
As we watched some of the ridiculous shows grandma is hooked on to, we could not help comparing them to some of  the entertainment Doordarshan provided in 80s and early 90s when there were no other options. They were infinitely more sensible and represented the India that we lived in. These folks go back every year and spend a few months in their home town - unlike DB and I, they have never grown strangers to India. It was interesting to see that they agreed with us. We would all love to see Indian television do something that spoke to us and our desi-ness. It certainly does not to me and many of my desi friends - maybe desi-ness as an idea and identity is in a state of flux right now. Until we are able to find our true voice, the popular media will sound cacophonous.
In the middle of all this, I decided to check out Aravind Adiga's Last Man in Tower and retired hurt. Past page thirty or so, I could no longer keep up with the burgeoning cast of characters. Adiga had pulled off an afternoon desi soap on the reader. The plot does not flow or expand on it's own merits but is padded and propped by characters and stories that contribute nothing to the denouement.
Our hosts recommended that we watch the movie Kaminey since neither DB or I had watched it before. We were advised to follow the plot closely because it was a complicated one. I am guessing the idea was to go for edgy, ironic and different - take done to death the twins separated at birth story and turn it on its head. Every few minutes there would be a part that was really nicely done -with that came an expectation of more and better to follow, but that did not seem to happen. The whole experience was like a roller coaster ride with frequent ups and downs. May have been fun for thirty minutes and under but intolerable for a full length movie.
Reading this story out censoring the sense out of American TV shows made me think about how our friends are preparing for their family's return to India. Maybe all of this is symptomatic of the state of confusion we are in as a people.

1 comment:

ggop said...

How odd HC - they censor stuff like beef and intimate?
I bet you cannot watch most scripted programming on Indian TV. (Ditto with reality TV but that's applies for most shows here too)

I fondly remember Quiz Time with Siddhartha Basu in my school days. I cannot watch the maudlin Hum Log or Buniyaad ever again though. Call me a cynic :-)