Tuesday, August 22, 2006

I’m a stranger here myself.

Meet my old friend, the apocryphal Martian, this time a movie critic to boot and quite up to speed with the big picture of the very latest earthly affairs. On his recent unannounced visit, he dropped in at a multiplex in South Mumbai and painstakingly watched all the Indian movies showing on all the screens. Then, before leaving, he vouchsafed me his startling conclusion. “You guys no matter where you live, whether in India or abroad, have all turned NRIs or POIOs at heart.” Noticing the effect of his words on me, he condescended to reveal his reasons for the extraordinary observation. “Just look at the locales your movie makers opt for. How does a boy who hails from a remote village in Punjab dream of frolicking with a Westernized girl in Switzerland?” “Errrr. Maybe, he was a Swiss goatherd in his previous life,” I butted in hesitantly. The Martian guffawed dismissively – or made an impatient snort that sounded like a human guffaw. “More likely, your Bollywood moviemakers imagine all their compatriots to be closet NRIs/POIOs because they themselves are exactly that. This is not a recent acquisition, mind you. Foreign locales have always fascinated your film folks. It makes better sense to use them now, I grant you. It strikes a chord with the genuine NRIs/POIOs and they end up making more money.” And, finally, this parting shot: “Have you noticed how contemptuous these NRI/POIO-minded moviemakers are of average Indians? For instance, in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, when Nandini’s husband takes her to Italy in search of her lover, the footage is actually shot in Hungary with no attempt made to camouflage the signage in the local language or even obvious landmarks on the assumption that the audience won’t be able to catch on. Is it not the pinnacle of arrogance?” One thing kept bothering me after he left for Mars. How could a purely apocryphal being be so insightful?

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