Nationalism: Imagined Reality, Inclusive Exclusion

One of my favorite parts of film, literature, and even culture is the consistent need of contradictions. Without  Hyde, Jekyll would not exist as we know him and so in. In Anderson’s article we were introduced to the idea of a nation being imagined rather than truly concrete. Anderson’s article poses many useful points, especially when watching this week’s film, Lagaan. It shows that while a nation is somewhat figurative, to the people who identify as being a part of the nation it is a very real and powerful entity. Similarly we know the film is just that, a film, and an article is just an article. But by seeing them as windows to the lives the the people they focus on, the audience can imagine them as real. Without our reality we cannot imagine, and without imagination we cannot see the realities of others.

The contradictions between reality and imagination are fascinating in this way because they are so difficult to fully separate. I am aware that Great Britain heavy-handedly colonized India, but until I can see a semi-stylized imagined representation of these events in a film or book, I cannot see it as a reality compared to my world. I can’t fully grasp it in my mind. Though semi-historical films such as Lagaan cater to an audience in terms of entertainment there must be a certain level of truth to the fallacy. One without the other would first off prove to be a less entertaining experience, but also miss the point of demonstrating the emotion of the story.

Two other themes to Lagaan, and the culture of the period as well as the Anderson’s article, are the opposing actions of inclusion and exclusion. Throughout all of Lagaan we see groups of people come together who couldn’t have been more at odds. Bhuvan invites muslims, hindus, a Sikh, and even an untouchable to come together for a shared purpose. Elizabeth uses her influence as an english woman to aid the local villagers against her own family. The entire movie is based on the joining of hands, or cricket bats I suppose, in oder to defeat a shared enemy. But, and this is a big but, at the very end we see the one person we most wanted (I most wanted) to be included in the jubilant ending very blatantly excluded. There is a line that Elizabeth cannot cross despite the fact that she has been flirting with it the entire film. She is welcomed most happily into the underdog circle but is quickly, and easily excluded because of her nationality. While a line between the two cultures does not truly exist, in this circumstance, and this moment in history this invisible, divisive line does become a reality.

It’s these contradictions that make literature and film so fascinating to me. Real life is absolutely brimming over with contradictions, and as such these representations of our lives must act accordingly.



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