Open Topic

This class has been a real eye opening experience for me and I really do mean that. I have kind of been the person that has always been shouting America is the best. I am a patriotic person. I served in the military. I am a proud American. However, I was also an ignorant American as well. I have said many times that the greatest experiences that I’ve had are when I get to leave the United States and see the world. Having been to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Bahrain, and Turkey has shown me parts of the world I’d never see otherwhise. However, I’ve still remained ignorant to the struggles of different groups from around the world.

In souteast Asia there is a huge problem with sex trafficing and under age girls being sold into a life of abuse. There is a problem with sanitary conditions for people all over Asia. Food is hard to get in some places. Yet all I can think about is what I’m having for dinner or why does McDonald’s always screw up my order? It’s embarassing to think that I might not be as opened mineded and willing to help others as I thought I was.

Maybe I need to travel more but instead of going to the tourist attractions, I should take my ass to places where people genuinelly need help. Seeing my father come back from his mission trips in Honduras really opened my eyes to the joy that he receives when he helps people. I honestly believe the problem with America today is that we’re too selfish. We have the ability to help others yet we lack the desire to do so. In conclusion, I’m glad I took this class because I needed to be reminded that America is a great country but it has great problems. I will aways remember to see the other side of the coin before I make any judgements.

Advertisements

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?

Gender and Family in Namak Halaal

Gender

I found the representation of gender in Namak Halaal to be predictably patriarchal. The female characters are often objectified, and presented as untrustworthy and helpless, while male characters are presented as masculine and clever.

In the scene where Arjun is singing to Poonam at the event, he tells her,”You are desirable…You are like a statue…Where you’re from, who you are, what your name is…Oh forget all that! We don’t care!” While I am sure the intention is to describe how much Arjun admires Poonam, his words and perceptions of her reduce her identity to that of an object to be admired. Her true identity and personality are disregarded at the whims of Arjun who, however unintentionally, finds it easy to place Poonam into a small box that reflects his (and society’s) idealistic views of femininity.

Much of the drama and confusion in the film stems from Dashrath’s distrust of Savitri. Despite her continued devotion to her family and her husband’s wishes, Dashrath refuses to believe that Savitri didn’t kill Bhim. While this does give the film an opportunity to emphasize Savitri’s strength and loyalty later on, the idea of women being untrustworthy is later reinforced with Nisha’s character. Nisha, a character that is also objectified throughout the film, is hired to murder Raja through the use of her seduction. In this way, not only is Nisha presented as an untrustworthy character, she is being used as a pawn, an object of blame, and an object of desire.

Overall, the portrayal of men and women in Namak Halaal reinforces several patriarchal ideals, not only erasing the female perspective and voice but also setting unrealistic expectations and representations of men. The men were often portrayed as unthoughtful, making remarks such as, “I want a room that’s as beautiful as you are,” to complete strangers and requesting women be sent to their rooms. They are also portrayed as the masterminds to all attacks, counter-attacks, and schemes, in which they often use women as side characters and objects. Going even beyond that, men are expected to keep “their women” safe – again reinforcing the idea that women need to be kept safe and that men are the only ones who can save them.

Family

The representation of family in Namak Halaal is complex and intertwined with the ideas of sacrifice, debt, and loyalty.

The film sets the tone for complex family ties as Girdhar, Seth Raja’s step-brother, organizes an attack to kill Seth Raja and his son Raja to gain wealth. As the attack happens, Bhim Singh sacrifices his life to protect Seth Raja due to a debt and a sense of loyalty. Continuing this sense of loyalty to his employer, Bhim makes his wife Savitri promise to raise Raja as her own son and to protect him at all costs. It is because of this promise that Savitri, Arjun’s biological mother and Raja’s adopted mother, sacrifices her relationship with Arjun, her perceived innocence in the death of her husband, and her home. This promise also led to Dashrath, Bhim’s father, to become Arjun’s guardian, as Dashrath was convinced that Savitri had betrayed her loyalty to Bhim and killed him.

In the film we see the main character, Arjun, following the footsteps of his father to protect Raja. While Arjun is not in “debt” to Raja as Bhim was to Seth Raja, he was brought up by Dashrath to be loyal – a consequence of Dashrath’s perception that Arjun’s mother was unloyal. It was in this way that Raja and Arjun began their relationship as friends, which is later recognized to be a sort of brotherhood.

While I have attempted to describe the situations which led up to this complex sense of family, it is difficult to do without the use of a chart or visual. The overall theme in the film regarding family was that family is not always made up of those who share your blood – that family is ultimately constructed by trust, sacrifice, loyalty, and love.

 

Gender, Sexuality, Society, Equality

Society often dictates what is acceptable and what is the “norm”. And sometimes the larger collective isn’t always right and people get abused and taken advantage of because of it. With Bhumika we see Usha earning a living as an actress and in her caste she is typically not allowed to marry but she does anyways. This represents difficulties for Keshav but I argue that it represents issues for a lot of men. I know that in today’s age we tend to think of ourselves as more knowledgeable and therefore more understanding but I do think it’s an inherent thing for some men to feel emasculated when their spouse makes more money than they do (whether it’s a heterosexual relationship or not). I just feel that it’s in men’s nature to desire to feel this way. However, where some men differ with this is how they react to it. Obviously we see Keshav’s reaction to Usha’s behavior throughout the movie and meet it with disgust.

In the article I thought it was interesting that the author talked about what exactly the movie seemed to be about.

“Sexual difference and female subjectivity are the pillars around which Benegal situates his analysis of women’s subjugation. He moves from an exploration of the self to an exploration of subjectivity. The relationship between self and society seems to get deliberately subverted and here lies his failure to comprehend the complexities and the essence of women’s problems and see only the phenomenal level of what appears to be the issue at stake.”

Ranjani Mazumdar

I do feel that it was a hypocritical thing of Keshav to do where he suggests that Usha use her sexuality in order to make more money yet by the end of the movie he becomes violent and jealous of her relationship with Vinayak. I don’t really know how to explain this. I would like to think that this was/is just a director’s representation of what things COULD look like yet I know better than to think that this doesn’t happen even today.

The one thing that I found interesting too was the idea of non-marriage for people of this acting/musician caste. I feel confused honestly at how I should feel about all this because one hand I see how women can be treated yet at the same time I feel it’s a culture that has been in place for some time and who am I to decide what another country should or shouldn’t do? I know that here in the United States we wouldn’t feel like an actress or artist of some sort shouldn’t get married but in other places perhaps they do. As you can see, I’m conflicted. I try and see both sides of the argument yet both sides make no sense but at the same time make complete sense.

With these movies coming out such a long time ago I wonder how things are in India today in regards to these issues of women’s rights and how they are treated in and out of the home. While looking at various articles I came across an article written by the BBC called “How India treats its women” and this article talks about the alarming number of rape cases going across the entire country. At one point in the article it says that there are six various politicians who had rape charges against them at the time of this article (December of 2012). The most surprising thing to me about all of the numbers and stories was that India at this time had a large number of women in positions of power.

“This in the country where the leader of the ruling party, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, at least three chief ministers, and a number of sports and business icons are women.”

Soutik Biswas

And again I feel like I don’t know how exactly to feel about all of this. I feel so appalled that these numbers are so extremely high. I will post a link to the article from BBC and if you read it you will see for yourself that the numbers are astounding. I guess this changes a lot. How can it be that women have positions of power yet women are still mistreated? For me it all comes back to the beginning of my post and societal norms and the views of caste in the Indian culture. Perhaps it’s a system that feels that some people aren’t worth the trouble. I don’t know exactly how it would be said or felt but that’s just how it comes across to me. At the bottom of this page I’m going to post the numbers from the BBC article and the link to it if anyone wants to read it. It was written in 2012 and I hope that things have gotten better for women in India but I’m not 100% sure if that’s the case.


This Is A Link To The BBC Article If You’d Like To Read It
All of the following is from the article from BBC:

With more than 24,000 reported cases in 2011, rape registered a 9.2% rise over the previous year. More than half (54.7%) of the victims were aged between 18 and 30. Most disturbingly, according to police records, their victims in more than 94% of the cases knew the offenders. Neighbors accounted for a third of the offenders, while parents and other relatives were also involved. Delhi accounted for over 17% of the total number of rape cases in the country.

And it is not rape alone. Police records from 2011 show kidnappings and abductions of women were up 19.4%, women being killed in disputes over dowry payments by 2.7%, torture by 5.4%, molestation by 5.8% and trafficking by an alarming 122% over the previous year.

Deaths from fire-related incidents, they say, are a major cause – fires in India kill each year more than 100,000 women. The researchers say many cases could be linked to demands over a dowry leading to women being set on fire. Research also found a large number of women died of heart diseases.

 

Display of objectification in ‘Mirch Masala’

The consistent message throughout the film, Mirch Masala, is a critique of the gender relations between men and women, specifically, the ways in which women are treated as objects of male desire. One of the examples provided by the film is the scene where the Subedar, portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah, is in the hut with the young woman, imposing his will upon her. She seems completely willing, which can be a red herring to the audience. The act of forcefully imposing sex upon a women in itself, to a western audience, is far from the norm. However, as this is a Bollywood film, the intended audience is likely not those from the West. The director chooses to employ specific tactics to heighten the tension of this scene, which is a way of implicitly critiquing what is happening.

The setting is within the women’s home. Choosing to encapsulate within four walls give the viewer the feeling of being trapped, especially as the Subedar is standing in front of the door, seemingly blocking it. It’s as though, like the woman, there is no escape for us. Secondly, the film gets a quite grainy here, and coupled with the choice of lighting, which is overly dark, it has a gothic or horror tonality to it. The woman chooses to play a record, which ends up stuck repeating the same words. Similarly to the setting, this suggests the feeling of entrapment. As a familiar example, it reminded me of the film 1408. In the film, John Cusack is trapped within a hotel room, and he wakes up every morning to the alarm clock repeatedly playing “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters. Lastly, the director uses the camera to display power dynamics between the Subedar and the women. Consistently, he is shot from an upward angle, as though the viewer is looking up at him, putting him in a position of power. The tension built throughout the scene makes the Subedar’s actions appear inherently wrong, especially as he being overly aggressive with his female counterpart.

The election and misrepresentation

DISCLAIMER: I am attempting to write this on the eve of the election without letting any personal political affiliation seep through. Hopefully I can.

Dear Class and fellow voters,

Here in beautiful Ohio we are lucky to get the opportunity to experience pretty much every political ad imaginable, and this year it is the worse than it has ever been. With both sides spending unprecedented millions, through both campaigns and by third party PACs, and the audacity of the advertisements has reached historic proportions. I have the great pleasure of getting up at 6am everyday during the week, and at this time of day it is literally every commercial on: one side followed by the other side, both local and national races. I thought I had seen them all, but today I got to see these two amazing examples, and it made me think of things we have discussed in class.

Professor Jani has touched on the subject of perception several times in our discussions, usually in the contexts of the novels we are reading, but the related topic of representation and misrepresentation has also come up (e.g. the NewsWeek cover). The framing and of these two ads plays on people’s fears, prejudices, and insecurities in a back handed manner to serve a purpose other than the topics broached by the political campaigns. These are two, albeit horribly one sided, examples of how certain groups related to the presidential candidates are portraying their message while simultaneous juxtaposing their opponents to so-called enemies of the US—namely communist countries, one of which no longer exists. Watching either of these ads made me sick and sad about what has become of our election process. Both ads are applicable to many different topics we have covered in class, and appeal to the culture of fear we have been over inundated with for too long.

Please take a look and keep in mind that these are just two, in my opinion gross examples from one side. If you know of other gross representations from the other side, or any side, please post them. These are just the two misrepresentations I found troublesome, and I know there are more out there.

http://ecnpac.org/videos.html    (it is the first video, top left hand corner, and listen to what is playing in the background, Gosudarstvenny Gmin SSSR)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYKAbRK_wKA

Sincerely

A concerned citizen of Ohio/US (an aspiring global citizen)