That Are Not Always Right

In American film and cinema, there are always carefully strategic devices that are placed in front of audiences that speak smoothly to your subconscious. There is a reason why the majority of black films deal with the cliché issues and genres. There is a reason why in a majority-white cast, to have an Indian, Asian, African American, or Mexican cast in a lead role would be an anomaly. There is the age old debate that an artist that is from a different race, would never be able to encompass the true essence of the subject from another race. But the last time I checked, race was a category.

Webster defines it as “a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock,” or, “a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics,” or even, “a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits.” Only one of these define anything that has to do with behavior of some sort, not any type of skin color.

Which gets me to thinking about the movies Lagaan and Mississippi Masala. Both films depict the majority of the “white race” as evil, greedy, and conniving. For the two films they also have Indian directors. Lagaan shows the British that have authority over Indian villages and in a game of cricket will allow for the Indians to not pay taxes for three years if they win. Mississippi Masala has many different representations of white people, but the one that sticks out to me is the college kids that rented a hotel room. They were noisy, drinking underage, and destructive. In my experiences with my friends who are white and strangers who are white, these images are not the only representation of how white people are. However, if someone who has never experienced a white person before only sees these films, how do you think they would feel about white people? I am assuming the same way the white American that has never experienced the minority American, but has watched nothing but American films. The representation for all of us is horrible. Let human nature be the determining factor and not one’s race be the determining factor.

Politics Is Cinema

My true belief is that every great story has some form of politics in it. When stories were created way before cinema ever existed, there was “something” to be taken away from a story. In order for someone to genuinely be entertained, it has to have substance that can instantly be applied back to the audience’s reality. We are cerebral characters, and the stimulation has to be there, whether it is the plot that has that something, or the story structure has that something, there is always more to a story than entertainment. That “something” is social commentary, politics, or an education tool. I would dare to say they are synonymous when dealing with film.

From every film that we watched in class, there was some form of those 3 “somethings”. Gandhi was a film about a great leader’s life, but even in telling his life story, there was his life’s mission he was fighting for being taught to the audience. In Gangs of Wasseypur, it was an entertaining crime movie that pushed a lot on class roles and gender roles. Even something as mainstream as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai had pushed for a type of social commentary on a very broad level with gender.

No matter what film or story it is, there is always some type of gem to be taken away from a film. The question is: are you just going to be entertained, or are you going to find that gem?

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.

Slumdog Millionaire

This was a kind movie, which showed what the perseverance of a lower class kid who had nothing made for he tries to push through. The main character, Jamal, was put in a hard situation of crime and poverty that tested his character. The movie had all of the right elements to make an interesting and intriguing movie.

Even though there isn’t a dramatic character arch, the relationship dynamics are beyond fascinating. Jamal and his brother growing up without any true parental guidance and how they came up together, then watching how different they turned out the older they got gave depth to these character. Here are two boys that share similar hereditary traits but their decisions molded who they became as young men.  The character, Latika, also grew up with the two brothers and became more helpless because of her situation.

Latika turned to a life of prostitution, Jamal’s brother turned to a life of crime, and Jamal left doing petty crimes and joined the legit working class. All of them still somewhat being interconnected, this story turned from a struggle story that butterflied into a love story. There were so many layers of different stories that gave the story of the slumdog Jamal a true triumph story. I would recommend anyone who likes a solid character story to watch this film.

Family Name, Khan’s Gang

The equation of money and power have been debated over many different groups throughout many different continents. It has been said that money gets you power. In the 2012 movie “Gangs of Wasseypur”, gave a great surface level analysis on what it means for people to have that power.

The first level would always be to identify what is important to you. In all classes, of all races, family and religion seem to designate with all. Even people who do not believe in any religion seem to base their faith heavily on not having one, which lends an emphasis on it, still. In the movie, the main character, Sardar, had a father that was from a lower class Muslim family. He was very ambitious and hardworking, willing to do anything to secure something for himself and his future family he was trying to create. In the midst of raising his son (with the death of his wife because of childbirth), Sardar’s father was killed by an up and coming business lord who was as ruthless as him. As Sardar grew up, his vengeance for his father controlled his life. Power blinded what greatness that was in front of him: his children, his wife, and even loyal partners/followers, destroying all of their lives around him.

Culturally, with women not having the proper independence as they should, left Sardar being able to hop from any woman as he pleased without having any true repercussions. The major repercussion starts to bleed down to the very lives he helped created. The men who followed Sardar along with Nagma and Durga, fell under Sardar’s power and in return it destroyed a lot of their lives physically and mentally. Greed caused extortion and other things for Sardar. In return, it created more enemies for Sardar and his family.

In this movie, neoliberalism was the cause for a lot of power that was gained and lost with Sardar’s greed for revenge. In the end, Sardar was brutally attacked by the same people he was trying to destroy for his father’s vengeance. For three generations of the Khan Family became victim to the same thing that gave them their name.

Role Within A Role

Culturally, there has always been a major emphasis on the way that the roles of gender play in one’s society. It permeates through every social and family structure, paving the way for a strong and long history of influence. In Bhumika, the character Usha, as a child, lived in a time where the men were the head of the household. Without any hesitation, Usha’s father would willingly discipline his wife but give his daughter compassion and freedom in the way she can think. Throughout the movie, Usha has a gift of being able to entertain that affords her the opportunity to be an important role for her family. What becomes intriguing, is Usha’s freedom to have choices and what she decides with those choices. Ultimately, it seemed like all she wanted to do and be was the traditional housewife; from the men she chose to have relationships with, she fantasized about something that she thought was there but never really was. Her husband had a hard time being in the role he was in with their family, because he was not the traditional “man being the bread winner”. Usha’s family suffered from this, with miscommunication with her mother and her expectations, her daughter and how she should be influenced, and Usha’s fight to connect her happiness while confining to what is expected of a woman. In conclusion, Usha finds herself alone because she cannot follow the role that her culture asks of her. Years of tradition cannot be broken with just one person.

In the movie Mirch Masala, one of the characters that wanted to get her daughter an education said that change would have to be a slow process that could come with time. The whole plot of that movie concluded with a radical action against what the community’s role should have been. Collectively, the village stood up for not just one woman, but for the freedom to what they should be allowed to be.

Nationalism with Imagination

With the divisions of the different nations, and their culture that enriches their soil, there always seems to be pride that turns that division to oppression. In nature, there has always been a primal instinct to be the dominate species. In mankind, there is also a primal instinct to be the most dominate human that can break down from race, nationality, and even gender. The pride of loyalty to a nation deserves to be celebrated, but at the cost of someone else’s livelihood nationalism could cause severe destruction. Countries that have exaggerated resources tend to favor dominating other countries and other countries with different races of people. It is towards many different countries favor to educate the people who are not familiar with their culture. Gandhi created a non-violent movement that required for the oppressor to see the tragedies that they were creating. The results created a difference that kept evolving way past Gandhi’s time. Even after many deaths and lively sacrifices gave a new way towards looking how nationalism can be productive.

In Benedict Anderson’s The Nation as Imagined Community, he says, “what makes the shrunken imaginings of recent history (scarcely more than two centuries) generate such colossal sacrifices? I believe that the beginnings of an answer lie in the cultural roots of nationalism.” The solution lies in something that is also creating the problem. The systemic cultivation from nationalism that was built can also be deconstructed by the way that it was created, giving a whole new definition of peace. Pride for one’s country can uplift a community while giving respect and peace to all nations. Or is it all just imagined?