Sunday, June 21, 2015
Welcome to Karachi is offensive in too many ways
I recently had the misfortune of sitting through the "comedy" film called Welcome 2(?) Karachi whose "plot" can be summarized as follows- two Indian misfits and simpleton end up in Pakistan where they end up with the Taliban and hounded by the CIA because they mistake them for the Taliban. They make their escape only to be detained by Pakistani authorities but a good natured and beautiful ISI agent(?!!) ensures their release all the while foiling a terrorist plot by the Taliban. All the while feted by both India and Pakistan.
Firstly the movie is not very funny even as it is supposed to be a slapstick sort of comedy. The actors are talented but there is only so much they can do with such an ill conceived and semi literate script.
However the movies contains a great deal of post colonial tropes and memes and pretty little lies that modern day Indians are particularly attached to.
Firstly let us examine the treatment of Americans and their mission in Afghanistan and the tribal lands of Pakistan. Ill conceived as it may be , it is highly unlikely the CIA station chief would be cackling like the Joker in Batman as he watches drones pulverize their victims. The CIA like any other intelligence agency recruits only sober ,analytical and somewhat cold blooded individuals for such positions and not those who are near orgasmic as they watch their enemies get obliterated. Furthermore drone operators are stationed in Nevada or Florida and not anywhere near the kill zones.
Soon enough they are apprehended by the CIA. This gives the film makers the opportunity to introduce more ill informed racial politics- It is noble black operative who sees the injustice of it all and commits a court martial worthy offense by freeing them. I don't know in what world these Bollywood dopes are living in. Indeed black servicemen in the U.S armed forces would be the first to find such a scene offensive. And anyone who believes that African Americans are less racist than their white counterparts is living in a parallel universe. Survey after survey shows that blacks in America are the most opposed to immigration-both legal and illegal and are incredibly hostile to Asian and Indian Americans in particular. The dim witted Indian Americans thought they would placate blacks and show off their liberal credentials by voting for Obama in record numbers. Obama may have a soft corner for Indian Americans as he named nominated Indian Americans to the position of CTO, Surgeon General as well as a top prosecuting attorney for the highly prized Manhattan district.
Also not too many Indians or Indian Americans are losing sleep over the drone attacks in Pakistan. Well one guy is, but why care about the opinions of unstable cranks?
OTOH it was the same Obama who during the 2007 primary challenge chided Hilary Clinton as a representative for Punjab due to her support for outsourcing. Also he used Preet Bharara as both - his attack dog and shield as he prosecuted mostly Indians such as Rajat Gupta, Anil Kumar and Raj Rajaratnam (An SL Tamil billionaire but was with the in crowd of Indian Americans) for relatively trivial offenses as "insider trading" even as the economy was torn apart from far graver acts of malfeasance by those in Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and financial entities close to the administration.
Let us not forget the Devyani Khobragade episode. How often are ambassadors from friendly countries jailed and stripped searched even for serious allegations, forget dubious ones?
All of this doesn't matter to our dim witted film makers who have been trotted out the tired old Magic Negro/ Indian as savior from white bigotry at least since the incredibly ridiculous and offensive feature My Name Is Khan. This odious film even embarrassingly features an actor playing the current U.S President assuring the titular character that "your name is Khan and you are not a terrorist" right after Khan saves some black lives in the aftermath of a hurricane(a reference to hurricane Katrina where many blacks did die not due to the indifference of the Bush administration but the corruption and incompetence of the mostly black New Orleans city officials.) Bizarrely that movie also features a cringe worthy sub plot where a random white guy keeps taunting a Pakistan immigrant as "hey you fucking Paki" every day in New York City. Apparently none of these geniuses who made the film every spent any time in New York City which is famous for its deranged transients and homeless cranks of all races who pester pedestrians with all sorts of nonsense. One such individual tormented my sisters college friend because in the words of this learned man- chicken tikka masala helped start the French Revolution! And since she is Indian, she is surely responsible! Speaking of Pakis and cranks....
W2K also features a lithesome ISI agent played by Lori Gottlieb who is unconvinced that these two neer do wells captured by Pakistanis are Indian agents and convinced the good natured Pakistani government to free them and are eventually embraced by the hearty Pakistani people This again functions to serve two more lame Bollywood messages
a) Foreign women or women in general are naturally inclined towards compassion and possess the right insticts in dealing with Indians
b) Most Pakistanis are basically good
First lets deal with a). The literary device of foreign females falling in love with native men is really a symbolic victory and conquest over the enemy or occupying force.
In Bollywood , the frankly silly film Lagaan popularized this notion but it has older roots. Shyam Benegal ,if anything was consistent in making awful and politically correct films. In his time honored tradition of glorifying Muslims he portrayed a British woman falling in love with her Pushtun abductor in Junoon. Other movies from Mangal Pandey to Rang Bansanti and Pazhassi Raja all portray British women as enlightened anti imperialists which was either a cause or consequence of them falling in love with an Indian man usually a freedom fighter. This has very little to do with historical reality(apart from the frankly half mad Annie Besant who wasn't even British but Irish) but more to do with the Indian screenwriter's fling with some liberal white girl either in India or in his studies abroad in U.S or UK
The film maker simply transposed post colonial political correct talking points of college age 90s Western women onto the unwieldy mouths of Victorian era characters. British women couldn't give two hoots about the condition of Indian men or women as long as they were benefiting from it materially.
Here they scored a twofer by getting Lauren Gottlieb to portray the ISI agent. A western actress playing a member of the dreaded intelligence bureau of an enemy nation.
Average ISI agent
And since when are Pakistani women known for compassion towards India? During the atrocities against Bangladeshi women (both Hindus and Muslims) by the mostly Punjabi dominated Pakistani army , Pakistani women were asked as to how they felt that their men were raping who at the time were technically their fellow citizens. To which they replied- at least the issue of the rape would be better looking(due to Punjabi genes)
This is the reality of women (and men). What the limp wristed omega male writers and directors who pedestalize women don't realize is that compassion and sympathy are limited in both women and men and hence they prioritize these attributes for those closest to them. Women in general are keepers of the hearth and in most societies including India were fierce defenders of their homes and would goad their men into offensive wars against the enemy. As an example, Arjuna wasn't able to face Ahhimanyu's mother until he had avenged his death. All the while dealing with Draupadi and her separate vendettas which they had to fulfill. These women are not considered freaks but worthy of our admiration. And why not? Women are instrumental in giving men purpose and resolve be it in day to day humdrum existence or life and death matters on the battlefield. Let us honor them for their support ,motivation and perspective but let us not lose sight of the flip side of this nature and let their pleasing appearance fool us into thinking they are sugar and spice and everything nice.
It was after taking this account, Savarkar bewailed the restraint of Hindu troops when it came to raping Muslim women. He believed that such counter atrocities would quickly demoralized the enemy and compel them to respect their new Hindu overlords. He went as far to claim that the honor of violated Hindu women would be healed if Muslim women suffered the same fate. And who knows he could be right. Revenge is a dish best served cold, schadenfreud and all that.
A Savarkar associate; Nathuram Godse was quite popular with refugee Punjabi and Sindhi Hindu women who suffered various indignities at the hands of Muslims and held Gandhi squarely responsible for their traumas
Now on to b)
Finally the delusion that Pakistanis want peace just as Indians do. I have doubt as the self delusions of Indians especially the dhimmified Punjabi film makers who populate the Mumbai film industry. Of course in their case deeper cultural factors maybe at factor such as Punjabiyat- the pan Punjabi culture,customs,cuisine ,language and clothing which dominate the popular cultures of both countries and the crank notion of martial races which hold the "poorbiyas" and southerners in contempt due to a thoroughly ignorant and skewed reading of Indian history. Before the Sikhs, the last Punjabi to win any battles was probably Harshvardhana who was a Jat from Haryana, Haryanvis(basically an poorbiya people "stuck" in the northwest) would take offense to being lumped in with Punjabis but lets be a bit generous. Punjabis strike me as the type of people who simply go with the flow. Right now the winds (as of yet) blow towards secularism and Muslim appeasement and if Punjabiyat demands that it be so they placate it . Sikhism is an exception in Punjabi history than the rule (and it was really militarized in Bihar by Guru Gobind Singh). Now they are a defanged and toothless group, first used up and spit out by the British and then Indira Gandhi provided the finishing touches the destruction of their glory.
All in all the Indian populace has to suffer the Punjabi complexes and dysfunctions due to their control over this very powerful medium. Therefore I say to those who blame the pro Islamic bias of Bollywood on some Muslim mafia(which is more interested in profit than furthering an ideological agenda) that they are missing the forest for the trees
Now you may that this Rao is being a tad cruel- picking on a silly movie like Welcome 2(?) Karachi which is the desi equivalent of other esteemed fare such as Dude Where's My Car? Well I say to you seeing how this highly objectionable feature manages to combine all the misinformed history, illiterate geopolitics, coarse and dangerous sentimentalism and vulgar self flattery into one revolting package, all Bollywood movies dealing with any foreign policy differ from this film only by a matter of degree , not content.
We make silly movies because we are a silly people. Punjabi or otherwise. Unless we wake up we deserve to find out what the world is really like -the hard way.