A few months ago I bemoaned how white, how British and American the films I'd been looking at were - not that those facets are problematic in themselves, but that the films I was selecting lacked diversity. The original plan for the blog was to see 20th Century cinema from all angles, but in the end I watched very few films from outside Western Europe and the States. I put out a request for recommendations from less familiar nations, saying "these should be films conceived and made within the continent concerned," and, after seeing the American-Canadian film 'Life of Pi' (2012), I expressed an interest in some real Indian films, as opposed to films set in India but made for Western consumption.
The two I was lent were 'Slumdog Millionaire' (2008) and 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' (2012), and neither is really what I was after. These are British-funded films with white British writers and directors (indeed the former is directed by Danny Boyle, surely the most famously British director there is, after his Olympic triumph). They're both set in India, but have largely English dialogue, so they're Indian films to about the same extent that 'Das Herz der Königin' (1940) is a Scottish film or 'Shaft in Africa' (1973) is an Ethiopian film.
|Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) under interrogation
I was concerned that this film would show India only as an 'exotic' background, a colourful holiday location rather than a real nation of real people. Thankfully the screenplay isn't so blinkered as I feared, and gives a rather more complex picture of India. It's a mite more optimistic than 'Slumdog Millionaire', which tells of a nation rife with poverty and crime, while 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' is set in a country in which one can live without a door and yet have no fear of burglary.
|Dame Judi Dench and Bill Nighy, and plenty of other stars,
old enough to have earnt their great fame.
So, I still haven't seen any Indian films, at least by the criteria that I, and Wikipedia, like to judge these things. These two were both enjoyable, well-made films, and present complementary pictures of modern India ('Slumdog Millionaire' giving us Mumbai on the coast and 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' showing Jaipur in the North), which I'm happy to put together with 'The Jewel in the Crown' (Granada television, 1984) to give a richer understanding, but I can't help feeling my knowledge of the life in the Indian subcontinent is very much tinged by Western interpretations.
The only other recommendation I've had for Indian cinema is 'how about some Bollywood'; would I just be embracing a stereotype?