“The grassroots people of Nepal, and especially rural women, are extremely aware of their rights and it will be almost impossible to ignore them in coming years.” These were the words of Shahrzad Arshadi, a Canadian filmmaker who is making a movie on the social status of Nepalese women. She was speaking on an interaction program “The Dreams and Realities of New Nepal” organized by South Asia Research and Resource Centre based in Montreal on April 29, 2006.

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Media portrayals of South Asians have progressed little since Peter Sellers played a desi oaf in The Party, and Disney is the number one culprit. At least Aladdin featured a brown hero and heroine. Little did we know that Disney was reserving its worst transgressions for 1994’s Jungle Book. The greatest insult in Disney’s treatment is not the casting, but the plot of the film itself. Sam Neill plays the father because his ancestors spent generations in the British army in India. Neill enjoys the luxury of reliving colonialism, but this time without a conscience: the natives are savages with designs on white women, so they deserve whatever they get.

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“INDIA UNTOUCHED: Stories of a People Apart” – The 110 minutes long film (in Hindi, Bhojpuri, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam, with English sub-titles) is perhaps the most comprehensive look at untouchability ever undertaken on film. Director Stalin K. spent four years traveling the length and breadth of the country to expose the continued oppression of Dalits, the ‘broken people’ who suffer under a 4,000 year-old religious system.

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Every few months we are witness to the imagined persecution of Gandhi. The latest is an advertisement for a credit card firm in South Africa where the Mahatma’s lips are shown moving to convey that he is speaking on behalf of the brand. The ad agency, getting all defensive, has come up with a ridiculous excuse: “Gandhi is featured alongside other icons who stood for fighting against injustice and for the rights of the man in the street.” What does the possession of a credit card have to do with justice? How many men in the street use plastic money? Predictably there have been protests, and these are even more ludicrous.

(click here to read more from Counter Currents)

Barbaric Brown Men and Civilized White Ladies

By Amina Rai, Usamah Ansari and Sumayya Kassamali

As diasporic South Asians, the event of Partition has left a salient mark on how we imagine history. Vic Sarin’s “Partition”, starring Kristen Kreuk (as Naseem Khan) and Jimi Mistry (as Gian Singh), is not only offensive to this history but confirms a colonialist civilizing logic and the supposed barbarity of South Asians. Yet in discussing this film, one must begin by asking why it was made. Indeed there are many “Parition films” made in Bollywood and Pakistan. Some examples are “Veer Zara”, “Khamosh Pani”, “Gaddar”, “Hina” and “Pinjar”. It is clear to us, then, that “Partition” was made to give a western audience an essentialized vision of our inherent barbarity and present a longing for a colonial past – something these other films could not accomplish. Casting Kristen Kreuk to play a South Asian woman and of course using inconsistent Indian accents are just two examples of how the desired audience is implicated in the film.

(click here to read more from Naghma-e-Bulbul)

Water: Drenched in ‘Colonial Benevolence’

With Vancouver International Film Festival tickets in hand, the three of us waited in a ridiculously long queue to enter a film that was five years in the making: Deepa Mehta’s Water. The hype has been intense because filming was shut down in India, forcing the production team to relocate to Sri Lanka. No doubt, we thought, the lineup represented interest in the controversial stances Mehta has made in past films, and we were eager to watch her latest instalment in the element trilogy that included Fire (1996) and Earth (1998). Unfortunately, we were disappointed – and at times offended – with both the film and our theatre experience.

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Blackened FridayBy Farzana Versey

“Shiiit, we missed the blast!” I turned to look at the late entrant into the cinema hall. He carried a rucksack and was with a friend; they appeared to have just returned from college. They must have been around 18 years old.

The film was ‘Black Friday’, touted as one of the most realistic films ever made in India. It traces the journey from the bomb blasts of 1993 to the trail of the culprits, the enquiries and the evidence. For the teenager, the “Shiiit, we missed the blast” is not only about the first one shown on screen. He missed the real one. This is history for him. History is irrelevant.

(click here to read more from Counter Currents)

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