Diaspora and Transnationalism

The idea of a Diaspora is interesting to me. I think of how, why, and what happens to a community of individuals that is displaced to an area outside of their native region. When we look at the Indian American diaspora we see a small (1% of population) that is successful in comparison to other immigrant communities. My own father is part of a Nicaraguan/Latino diaspora in Detroit Michigan. He traveled to the United States as a child during the Nicaraguan civil war and has since become an American himself. What I find interesting about this is the transformation that this immigration has on the community of people around that region and the people themselves. I can tell you that part of the latino diaspora  is heavily embedded and maintained by the similarities of food and religion. In Detroit there is even a town called Mexican town and is heavily concentrated by latin Americans who own a ton of restaurants and stores. It is known for the authentic Mexican cuisine and many of the people only speak Spanish and have immigrated to the U.S only recently. I find this is in comparison to the Indian diaspora that is known for its Indian food to many Americans and its Hindu religion. What I find although the culture has slightly changed for my dad, he still tightly hangs on the the traditions of the past. It is almost like a nostalgic idea to think of his homeland and this nostalgia drives him to think of his homeland with passion and love. I would think that many Indians view India in the same way and hold on to india in this nostalgic manner. Just like mexican town, I imagine there are communities of Indians that hold tightly onto their traditional food and religious identity


Politics and Cinema- A comparison

Politics plays a huge role in the production of films. A few semesters ago I took a class on the role of female actors in Hollywood. We dissected the history of female actors in movies ranging from the beginnings of cinema until now. We saw the transformation of the female role from the simple object of male desire to becoming lead characters in the movies. We also dissected the current issues faced by female actors including wages, roles, and the continued objectification of women. What is interesting is how the politics of the day shaped the narrative in these productions. Even today we see the constant hand of politics meddling in the production of the movies we love so dearly. I want to compare these changes in Hollywood to that of Bollywood and the changing dynamic of movie production due to the change of the political landscape.

Just like the in the American movie scene, the Indian movie scene has drastically scene the role of women change. The transformation of Indian politics and the continued progression of Indian politics toward a western edge has moved the role of women into a more central role. We see in movies like slumdog millionaire the Indian women play the role of the desired object, but at least we see her as a character that is slightly developed into an intelligent and rounded character. The same has to go with Bhumika where a women plays the central role and is developed into a dynamic and interactive character. If our class was to look at much older films and the begging of Bollywood I believe we would see this degradation of the female role just as what happened in Hollywood. This all occurred due to the change in politics in India and the emergence of the independent women. The question that I have is the direction to which Bollywood will move in accordance to the gender politics of India and the continued transformation of India into a more western political ideology.

The Indian Diaspora and Bellingham Riots

The Indian Diaspora within the United States has a rich and fascinating history. There are over 3 million Indo-Americans within the United States with the largest influx of immigrants occurring after 1965. The center of this community and the most heavily populated center lies in the New York region with the area around San Francisco compromising the largest west coast community. This community only compromises 1% of the American population, but is starting to see much more rapid growth and is projected to rise sharply in the coming decades. This Indian community has one of the highest socioeconomic classes compared to other immigrant groups and many of the Indians that migrate to the U.S look to better financial and education opportunities. My interest in studying this Diaspora is the interaction they have had with the wider community of Americans. In doing so I wanted to look into the case of United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind and the Bellingham riots. In both of these cases we have examples of past discrimination against Indian Americans. In the Bellingham riots a group of white men attacked the home of Indians whom were Hindu and in the United States v. Bhagat Singh the Supreme Court held that Indian Americans where not white persons and therefore could not be naturalized citizens. What I find interesting about this case decision is that it ties in very closely with the concept of imagined communities. In this case instead of having an imagined nation we have an imagined community of individuals that are held together by race. This connects with the issue of terrorism today and how Americans view darker skinned individuals. There are many cases where Indians have faced discrimination due to their appearance and mistaken Identity as middle eastern. What I would like to dispel is the idea that an imagined community based on race is anything but a detrimental view and that in the hope of erasing these imagenary ideas we can get rid of the negative stereotypes so many individuals hold.

Orientalism in Ghandi

The movie “Ghandi” is a prime example of the different ideas of orientalism in India. Particularly the character that portrays Ghandi and the changes that he undergoes as the movie progresses. My question in this portrayal of Ghandi is what point the author is trying to make to his audience and what point did Ghandi make when he changed the way he looked through his clothes or lack there of. I would first like to answer the why Ghandi choose to change his attire from the English lawyer suit and tie to the skimpy loincloth that he wears near the end of his death. In his mind this act is a way to show his Indian heritage and to prove that in order to live life properly simplicity is key. The director plays on this garb change and many times in the movie they place Ghandi next to Nehru to show this distinct contrast in what they wear. They also portray Nehru in a somewhat negative like compared to Ghandi, which makes the way he dresses almost a detriment to his character. The author is trying to provoke the image of Ghandi to the audience and trying to appeal to the visual distinction Ghandi has from the rest of the wealthy and powerful figures in the movie.

Its interesting to compare and contrast Indian Jones and Ghandi when it comes to how the natives are portrayed. In Indiana Jones the loincloths the Indians wear are supposed to make them appear more savage. However, that is in sharp contrast with the attire Ghandi wears which are supposed to show his wisdom in matters of life. There is a definite difference in these films based upon the target audience I feel like. Indiana Jones is made for the american viewer while Ghandi was made for the Indian viewer. In either case, the loincloth is symbolic for both movies and plays a crucial role in how the audience views the characters.

Class Distinctions old and new

Gangs of Wasseypor shows a mix of the new world order with that of old world india. What I find old-school is the intent and class devisions that have been around in India for centuries. In order to better understand these classes I believe it is important to have a background knowledge of their beginnings. The beginnings could come from Indian rule back from even more historic occupations of foreign leaders and through previous religious control. This old school india cast system was the foundation for class devision in India and set people up within a system of oppression. This system was later refined through British control and the effect of globalization in the modern world. What still exists of this system could be the foundation for the varying degrees of class seen in the show.

What I would like to point out in the show is the interaction of this old school class system in contrast to the new system of classes seen in Gangs of Wasseypour. Old school caste systems were implemented at birth and would follow an individual throughout their life. It was very rare to ever transition from one class to another. In the show we see actual transition between classes for a few of the characters including the main character Sardar. We also see that Sardar is corrupted by this class change and in the end ultimately leads to evil deeds. It would have been seen as negative to change classes in India in the past, although today it is seen in both a negative and positive light. With the introduction of neoliberalism we see this new era of economic modernization and mobility that allows for individual empowerment through work and effort, but we also see this disruption of class movement and the negative effects this can have on an individual.

We also see in the movie this enlightenment of the lower classes. Those that have less behave in an objectively more moral fashion. We have seen this in almost all the movies we have watched throughout this class and it is interesting to see the transition that takes place in Sardar when he reaches higher classes. The higher he climbs the more corrupt he becomes. I wonder what the author was depicting in this class transition and what was his ultimate goal. In any case I think this enlightenment speaks to the everyday individual and makes Gangs of Wasseypour a sequel to some of Hollywoods more gangster epics.

Slumdog Millionaire

One often questions what the director was thinking during the creation of a film. What is the purpose of the film and why does it portrays certain characters in certain shades of light? One character I would like to specifically dissect is Salim, Jamal’s brother and one of the main supporting actors of the film. The first question I would like to ask about Salim is what does he represent? From my perspective I would describe Salem as the lost and contrasting figure to Jamal. Jamal is the protagonist who is the depiction of what an Indian “should be” and how they “should act”. Jamal plays the important Indian figure that represents the wrong reaction to the issues the movie represents. The main theme of the the movie could be described as the socio-economic situation of India and the inhumane poverty that occurs with the rule of civilized Indian Tyrants. Jamal is the character that breaks this glass ceiling of poverty through courage and through a heart of gold for his fellow Indian. Unlike other Indian movies that depict the antagonist as an outside source such as the British, Slumdog millionaries antagonist are rich and powerful Indian men. For that reason the movie points the focus inwards on Indian society and its structure, not upon an outside source and therefore needs Jamal to show how Indians are often forced down the wrong path.

Juxtaposing the two figures of Jamal and Salim gives us the needed material to see how the two opposing sides of society interact. This contrast in characters first shows up in the scene where Salim collects the autograph of his favorite writer. This scene represents the two ways an Indian can react to his desires either by taking the easy road that so many others take(Salem locking in Jamal), or the hard road that will turn out more profitable in the end. It was the hard choice of jumping into the pile of poop and sacrificing his smell and body that inevitably allows him to collect his autograph. Another scene that contrasts these two brothers is the night that they make Latika the third musketeer. Jamal takes the high rode and thinks of another instead of himself, yet it is Salim that wants to let her freeze in the rain. Another recurrent theme of the movie I liked was the depiction of Jamal and the disbelieve that others had of his success at the gameshow. I thought it cut threw the stigma and stereotype of the unintelligent poor indian and tried to tear apart this common notion. Ending back on Salim, the movie does show that it is possible to reconcile past mistakes with good deeds, it might just be costly to pay for those mistakes. Salim commits the selfless act of letting Latika go even under punishment of death. In that ending, Salim is reconciled with his evil deeds and the audience would see him once again as a poor Indian boy who tried his best to stay alive.

Gender and the Female Role “Mirch Masala”

Gender and sexuality in India has a very rich history. India was one of the first cultures to look at sex scientifically as compared to socially, which led to many of the first books on sexual behavior and desires. This sexual history has been a manifest of the many religious and indigenous peoples that have arisen from this vast region. In the movie ” Mirch Masala” we see this gender play a huge rule in the narrative of the main character Sonbai. What interests me most about this movie is the dynamic played in the protection of Sonbai. This interactions of the forces that protect or attack Sonbai write a narrative and theme that would be seen as feminist at the time of the production.The author “Ketan Mehta” pits the two genders against each other with only a few exceptions, specifically the Abu Main the old gatekeeper. Just like the other films Lagaan and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai we seen the main theme of the film gender roles within purely indigenous indian society bend but not break. The character that draws my interest is Abu Main as he breaks with the gender trend of males in the village. The village subedar is the male antagonist that portrays the male gender as a animalistic power hungry figure bent on individual conquest. However, I see the main role of men in the film as simply accepting the norms of village and accepting of male dominance. That is why the depiction of the old gatekeeper fascinates me. He is portrayed as an old wise man that has seen many years, similar to the schoolmaster who is also wise. Both of these figures bend the traditional gender roles of the village and oppose the condemnation of Sonbai. They are depictied in a positive light by the director and you can tell that he was trying to show how these two figures are above the other males of the village.

The last point I would like to make about the movie and its dynamic is how women view Sonbai in the film. Originally they are upset about Sonbai for upsetting the balance of the village and causing a disturbance. They too wish to see the conflict end and peace return, however we see a very vivid statement at the end of the film. When the film ends the women of the village retaliate against the Subedar in protection of Sonbai and he is humiliatingly defeated. I believe the author is speaking to the power of women and the believe that it will ultimately be up to women themselves to free themselves from the constraints of a patriarchal society. Men such as the schoolmaster and the gatekeeper which portray male figures in support of the female struggle for equality are overtaken, and it was ultimately up to the power of the females in the film to fight for equality and freedom.