Krishna Shastri Devulapalli | White lies, brown noses
Deccan Chronicle.| Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
No one is lying sleepless and chanting the Hanuman Chalisa over our skyrocketing economic, military, yogic, and, above all, cinematic power
Here's how they see us brownies: cheap, efficient, trouble-free labour.(Representational Image/ DC)
While the Oscar ceremony was in progress, as the rest of the world obsessed over Will Smith’s slap, Indians were more concerned about a slap of a completely different kind, the one apparently delivered on the unsuspecting, nonviolent cheek of our most ancient nation by the Oscar committee: the ignoring of Dilip Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar in their "In Memoriam" segment.
Aiyyayyo, how could the amazing, world-record-setting Lata Mangeshkar, the Nightingale of India, who sang more songs for more movies than the all the ones shown in all the Oscars put together be ignored thus lamented a chorus of betrayed Indians on social media. Newspapers highlighted this terrible oversight, nay, injustice, perpetrated by the racist Oscar chappies on these two legends when even the BAFTAs had honoured them, dammit.
(It may be important to note here that, in his lifetime, Dilip Kumar himself didn’t give a rat’s rear-end about Hollywood. He had famously turned down – and, if his interviews are anything to go by, had zero regret about refusing – a pivotal role in Lawrence of Arabia, the one that went to Omar Sharif, making him an international star overnight.)
Soon after, I came across the grand celebration – fan-made or sponsored, I’m not sure – of an Indian cinematic "achievement" all over social media. Fans were in paroxysms over a newly released, pan-fried-Indian movie which had collected more money in the US and UK than two Hollywood big-ticket releases. And this, apparently, meant that we had arrived, and that Hollywood’s knees were knocking in fear, and that it was only a matter of time before James Cameron would be second assistant to Boyapati Srinu.
No mention was made of course that both Hollywood films had released weeks earlier, and were on their way out while our film was in its first week. No mention was made either of the fact that those tickets were priced in the region of $15, while our film’s were going at $25. And, most importantly, that every last dollar for our film was coming from screaming, loutish, regressively-caste-obsessed locals who are presently overseas, and not from hordes of heaving-bosomed white women like the ones seduced by the fancy footwork of our protagonists, or white men who were vanquished by our CGI in the self-same film.
Why do we need the Oscars, Grammys, or IHOP, for that matter, to pay tribute to our film folk? Why do we think they ought to care? Why do the overseas box office figures of our films matter so much to us? Why is the white man’s endorsement so important to us in all fields?
Conversely, why do we see our dismal position on the world hunger, poverty, press freedom, women’s safety, pollution indices, all from reputed Western surveys, as totally false, biased, and mere conspiracies to bring disrepute to our mighty nation – inventor of plastic surgery and pre-Vedic aircraft – by evil white folk who are terrified of our growing power?
Why do we imprison visibly uncomfortable white leaders in inappropriate, over-long, completely un-Indian bear hugs, arrange grand welcome parties for them, give them cutesy Gujju names on one hand, while we tell the same people not to interfere in our "internal affairs" if they so much as mention yet another human rights atrocity perpetrated with utter impunity on our glorious soil?
Who are we?
Are we the resolute, make-in-India, British-Italian-Mughal-destroying atmanirbhar patriots who have finally managed to erase the pernicious influence of the foreigner on our incomparable land, who don’t need validation from them any longer, and are currently going through an Indian Renaissance comparable with the Golden Age of the Guptas?
Or are we snivelly little brown folk, unable to get past our pankahwallah antecedents, dying to have the goras look at us, like us, say we pass muster, put their arms around our shoulders, and invite us to their parties, willing to rub our bodies with Fair & Obsequious if that’s what it takes?
Let’s break that down.
Here’s how we see the whiteys: we puff up our chests and strut about when they acknowledge us, sulk when they ignore us, and bring in their mothers and sisters if they criticise us.
Here’s how they see us brownies: cheap, efficient, trouble-free labour. Or a large, gullible market, willing to fork over the moolah. (There’s one-and-a-half billion of us teeming about on this hapless planet, remember?)
That has been our relationship with them, that’s what it is now, and that’s what it will be forever.
PS: No one is lying sleepless and chanting the Hanuman Chalisa over our skyrocketing economic, military, yogic, and, above all, cinematic power.
So let’s all calm down and figure out why our collective self-esteem is so life-threateningly low.
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli is a humour writer, novelist, columnist and screenwriter