research question #7
Here's a political/cultural question from my friend Dr. Michael (anthropologist, high school teacher, fellow Fulbrighter, and keen observer of Indian cinema) (and poser of questions 1 and 3):
I'm happy to collect answers or further questions here. (And thoughts from anyone [as long as they're not troll-ish] are welcome.) I've never thought about this particular point before, but he does start me thinking about what popular Hindi cinema does to influence its primary audiences' perceptions of one another.
Kal Ho Naa Ho was a big hit in the NRI market a few years ago. It was set in the States and appeared one year after the terrible communal violence in Gujarat. The male leading character (SAK, not SRK) comes from a typical Gujarati NRI business-oriented family, and there is a scene at the wedding or engagement party where his family members sing a song about being "G-U-J-J-U...what a community." It is quite funny and intended simply to be comedy, period. [You can watch it here.] But what I am wondering is how such a number is received by non-Gujaratis. I have a feeling that many in India have a negative reaction to anything Gujarati not only because of what happened in 2002, but also because of Gujarati voters' overwhelming support for Narendra Modi in the most recent elections. Modi is not simply a BJP type nationalist; he is former RSS Hindutva extremist who many believe (or wish) could be the next PM of India. I am trying to get a "read" on how much Gujarat and Gujarati NRIs are tainted by Modi and the politics of Hindutva, or alternatively of how much pan-Indian support Modi really has - but I am inspired to ask because of the "G-U-J-J-U" scene in the movie. Many in India might not find a song about "Gujjus" being "What a community" as so funny, after all. I would love to read responses! BTW I am fully aware that non-Hindus and secularists and leftists and Congress Party affiliates loathe Modi. I am wondering how "ordinary" Indian film viewers react to that particular scene, that's all.
And moreover, in India communal violence is mostly perceived to be initiated and sustained by politics and most of the people do not attribute such mindless violence to people as such.
And also the most common perception of Gujratis is that of simple, hard-working, non-violent and family oriented merchants. This perception has been formed over centuries and I do not think it will be tarnished by any one incident no matter how ghastly that incident was.
Try to understand
I hate Bush but should i hate u?
and another thing u are idiot.
Life is short. there are hundreds of films that are waiting for u to give you a sea of pleaser, why are u wasting your time dear ?Go ,find it and Enjoy........
As everyone else has pointed out that jokes/songs in hindi films about particular traits of communities is in general accepted by the audience with a sense of humour.
Indians, whether living in India or overseas seldom associate funny/ humour laden film incidents to real life poliitical situations.
On the other hand they do enjoy watching good films based on real incidents (political or otherwise) and films that focus on issues such as corruption, violence etc.
I just get tickled when we get a shout-out in Bollywood, even if it's a fleeting thing as in 'Mississippi Masala' or in this classic Amitabh/Parveen Barbie (I love that Beth!) tune from 'Khuddar'.
I don't know, where did idea came from. And to all of you, I assume anybody has been in Gujarat at all, Modi is the Best CM Gujrat has ever got. OK, NOW I M NO BIG FAN OF HIM. Even I do dislike him many times. But given his dedication to development of the state, he surely is going to stay.
Dear Beth, Gujju song, made no harm to community, too. Its so much fun actually. Don't we see Punjabi jokes here, there and everywhere? Just like that.
I'm Muslim, my parents are Gujju, and in my household, we code-switch like crazy between English, Hindi and Gujarati. Dr. Michael is absolutely on the right track on what someone of my demographic would feel of Modi.
There are very few people who I believe are genuinely evil. Modi tops that list with a select few.
We the Indian people seem to want to have it both ways. So Mr. 'no big fan of him' who 'dislikes him many times' might be very forgiving if 'his dedication to development of the state' involves wiping out people of another kind. Give me a break!
I'm still waiting for people of the state to take accountability for the leader they elect. What bothers me most is that Modi still enjoys immense popularity there -- ref: the overwhelming support for him in the most recent elections. And as Sanket says, too often it's just 'brought up as a horrible event' -- okay, so it happened, let's move on and elect the same people again, so they continue to spread their hatred. Where's the rationality in this?
It's fact, not fiction, and Gujarat and to some extent, even India, has yet to wake up to it (by choice, I think, which is not surprising, because majorities always rule). It's a classic example of the risks of democracy. (Not saying it's not the best alternative, but my point is, it's not perfect).
Ironic it is that it was a member of the RSS Hindutva extremist factions who assassinated the Mahatma Gandhi, himself a Gujju who did us and still does us all proud.
I have been reading your blog for a while now, but don't think I have ever commented. In fact yours was the 1st blog I came across reviewing Hindi Movies from a non-Indian / western point of view. What an eye-opener it was to see such different perspectives on movies that I had grown up watching !
It led me to discover many other similar blogs like 'MemsaabStory' etc. I have even heard your interview on (I think ) the Kamla Bhatt podcast.
Anyway, coming back to this particular song from 'Kal Ho Naa Ho'. As far as I could tell, this was a tongue-in-cheek parody of how the Gujji community is perceived.
In England, where I grew up, & it looks like the States also, there is a (friendly ?) rivalry between the Punjabi & Gujrati communities & this song was just playing on that, nothing else. In this case I think Dr. Michael has read way too much into the song. It was (pardon my language) a 'piss-take' song, but one done in jest & not meant to offend too much.
Anyway, that's my two-cents worth.
Take Care & keep up the good work.
I gather from your postings also that you are a Shashi Kapoor fan. I have a documentary on Rajesh Khanna from '73 that has a brief interview with Shashi also. Also have many pics & articles. Let me know & I can maybe send over a few ...
Beth, I should have said this eons before when I discovered your blog, but thanks for the entertaining and enthusiastic reviews.