Wednesday, 10 September 2008

A rant

It's obvious from a recent article in The Guardian that Nirpal Dhaliwal doesn't like Hindi films. And he hates Rock On. Good for him. But then why do we have to suffer his asinine Hindi film reviews, week after week? Every week Guardian's website has some weird headline regarding the latest Hindi film which is followed by an even weirder analysis of the film. Often comparing it unfavourably to some stupid Hollywood film.

That is Nirpal Dhaliwal. Guardian's man in Mumbai, Delhi and India. Sent to mock Hindi films, and Indians, and report on all that is wrong with them, or so it seems.

But first Mr. Dhaliwal establishes his credentials as a virtuous citizen of this world and thereby usurps the right to mock Indian hypocrisy via films. In fact we stand no chance in front of his moral upbraiding. He is so full of self-righteous concern about India's problem that he chooses to vent all his anger on films. And then too, instead of trying to understand why Hindi films move masses across class, caste and linguistic borders he earns his remittance by supplying lazy articles mocking them. And can they be more generic? Or more pandering to western tastes?

He is most of the time preoccupied in comparing Hindi films with Hollywood ones- no sex, so little gross stuff like puke or people getting smash drunk, everyone is a polite, mollycoddled uber nerd. He loves the word mollycoddled. It is his biggest grouse against us. We are mollycoddled urban Indians who like to watch tame films about mollycoddled uber nerds living with their mums. God forbid if a film about molycoddled beings becomes a hit. For then he becomes especially vicious. It's almost as if he wishes he was mollycoddled. Some kind of Freudian obsession maybe.

His latest moralistic rant against Rock On is so full of western clich├ęs that the only granny rocking here is Mr. Dhaliwal and his outdated "westernized" perspective. The reality he feels most Indians ignore is actually our life. We live it everyday. Even after Mr. Dhaliwal puts away his pen after the mandatory tribute to the beggar under the underpass to enjoy Delhi's nightlife or to listen to Joy Division to articulate his frustration. We'll be living it even when he packs his bags at the end of his Indian summer.

His jaded analysis trying to relate the film to MTV-addicted-middle-class-urban youth is so juvenile that it can only be countered with laughter. He is so cavalier that he doesn't even pause to clarify what he means by middle class urban youth. Surely now that he is living in India he doesn't think that the Indian middle class is a monolithic, monochromatic whole. Further on he continues his argument by dividing India into two clearly demarcated rich and poor classes. Yes, the rich are mollycoddled, bourgeois hipsters living with their mums in short bad people and the poor, helpless, dispossessed who don't channel their rage to form Punk and Rock bands like in the West, are the good people. Maybe he secretly wants to write a Hindi film script. And after annihilating weak trash like Rock On that hides the ugliness of India he concludes by lamenting how Indians don't articulate 'the anger, melancholy and haunting beauty of what I see around me everyday" by following in the footsteps of British bands. Does he even know what he is talking about?

The point Mr Dhaliwal doesn't seem to get is that Indians have a distinct culture and taste and style. The day MTV started playing Hindi film music and McDonald's started serving McAloo Tikki burger India once again redefined modernity. And it was distinctly Indian. And we like our films that way too. Distinctly Indian.

The question for Mr. Dhaliwal is can Indians lay claim to a modernity that is far removed from what the West considers it to be? Can Mr. Dhaliwal and Guardian ever acknowledge it? And do Indians care for their acknowledgment?

So, why is Guardian giving such mediocre write-ups such prime space on its website? And why does it need to have some guy mock Hindi films and Indians when clearly his views are almost meaningless. Surely, Guardian doesn't think projecting cobwebbed ideas about India is in. Yes, India is the flavour right now. But somebody needs to update Mr Dhaliwal and Guardian that looking at India from 'western tinted' glasses is so old-fashioned. India and perceptions about India have moved on. Maybe its time to move on from Guardian's jaundiced outlook too.

As for Mr Dhaliwal maybe he should move on to Bob Dylan.

You try so hard
But you don't understand
Just what you'll say
When you get home
Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?

No comments: