The Diasporic Identity Through Film

It has been said, in order to understand what someone has TRULY been through, you have to be able to experience what they have gone through. When being able to relate to someone without any prior experience on the situation at hand, it is hard to give any type of valid argument or input. The only device we can rest on to help us with the experience are films, literature, discussions and education.

Two films that cover many different avenues of Indian diaspora and Indian transnational identity are Mississippi Masala and The Namesake (which also by coincidence are made by the same director, Mira Nair). The transition from a place that you only knew to be your home to another place, another land, can make for one of the hardest transitions a person could go through. But then add into account that the place you called home was also your culture—which taught you how to feel, how to go about life, how to wrap your mind around the way your live. Mix that with uncertainty of making your living adjustment to your own identity and self-worth, and you have that exploration in these two films.

One film dealt with an Indian family that choose to move to America for opportunities that their country could not provide at that time, while the other film dealt with a family that was forced out of their home (that was not native to their ancestry) and moved to America. The causes for the families came from an honest and factual place while the collective delusion is birthed through their children. Gogol and Meena are the products of what evolution looks like and the representation for 2nd generation immigration.

Gogol struggled with the soil he was born on compared to the expectations that his family had for him. In a perfect world, he would just be able to grow up as a part of the human race and find his identity with that. But just like history helps us it also harms us, and Gogol’s culture played a big part in him having an identity crisis. It was not until his father died when he realized that he had not yet explored truly who he is or what he can become. In the film, he went from two different extremes only to find himself searching with clarity in the conclusion. His mother in the film (a native Bengali) played almost as a foil to Gogol, only to find that there was more to her life than what she could define as her “home”. Both found peace in knowing that they didn’t know where they culturally could find an identity, but knew it rested more in where their lives were going.

Meena had different struggles of a love she found that was nowhere near her race. She started to begin to fall in love with an African-American man who had great moral character, respected his family, gushed full of responsibility, and was a hard working class man. The problem for Meena was that her Indian family did not accept that, based on solely that the man she loved was black. Even though the country her father loved so much was Uganda (an African country) and his best friend who pushed to save his family’s life was black, but he couldn’t open his mind to something that was foreign to him. There is hypocrisy that bleeds with cultures and how things should “look”. Meena ran away with her newfound love, to create a life that she choose for her happiness and her father started to understand that home is where is family is, not where they came from.

To consider somewhere to be home, would be a place where we find comfort. Meena’s father lived in America for twenty years and never considered it to be home. Why do we hold on to things from the past so dearly even if it could be proven to be cancerous to our livelihood? Does that mean that we should forget where we came from or preserve our culture for the sake of someone else’s comfort? I imagine that these answers can be answered in more examples from experience, in order to make a stronger more prosperous human race.

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