Basmati Blues: 'Just how did this get made?' and other thoughts, on watching Brie Larson-starrer

'I was, of course, scared to watch Basmati Blues,' writes Kuzhali Manickavel. 'While one sort of knows what to expect from racism from the 1800s or the 1980s, the mind boggles to consider what the new millennium will offer: is this going to be about white people coming to save the Indians except there’s internet? Do the Indians need saving because they are Indians, even though they have cell phones? Is India going to scare the woke white person, like it usually does? Why does India do that anyway? And is it racist for a country to be scary to white people?'

Kuzhali Manickavel March 09, 2020 09:21:51 IST
Basmati Blues: 'Just how did this get made?' and other thoughts, on watching Brie Larson-starrer

'Allegedly Problematic' is a monthly column by Kuzhali Manickavel, which takes a cheeky look at literary/cultural offerings from the past that would now be considered, well, problematic — and asks, 'But are they really?'.

Read more from the series here.

***

Fam! It’s time, once again, to brandish our internet swords and rally a death cry to those who dare to slander our great nation on the TV, movies and stuff like that. Granted, this column was supposed to be about all kinds of offensiveness, not just Indian ones. But given the current climate, I feel I should use my internet platform to show that I am very loud at patriotism, just like all the cool kids! So here we are today, defending the nation against a movie called Basmati Blues.

Fam, my toes are curling just typing that out. Who thought that would be a good name for a movie? (Illustrious Acquaintance said it was probably someone with a lot of money and influence aka someone who can do that because they can.) I am, of course, scared to watch this. While one sort of knows what to expect from racism from the 1800s or the 1980s, the mind boggles to consider what the new millennium will offer: is this going to be about white people coming to save the Indians except there’s internet? Do the Indians need saving because they are Indians, even though they have cell phones? Is India going to scare the woke white person, like it usually does? Why does India do that anyway? And is it racist for a country to be scary to white people? I JUST DON’T KNOW FAM!

Basmati Blues Just how did this get made and other thoughts on watching Brie Larsonstarrer

A still from Basmati Blues

Naturally, we will kick things off with some research. Which means we will Google "Basmati Blues", casually glance at the first three search results, and then go back to watching those washing
machine videos on YouTube. Here is what we found out about Basmati Blues.

— Lots of one star reviews. Like, LOTS.

— It stars Brie Larson, who won an Oscar for her performance in a movie called The Room. She is also Captain Marvel. Life is weird you guys.

— The tag line for the movie is ‘Journey to a place with a rhythm all its own’. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?

— It also stars Scott Bakula who was in Quantum Leap, Tyne Daly who was in Cagney & Lacey, and Donald Sutherland who… is Kiefer Sutherland’s dad. Request all to refer to previous comment re life is weird you guys.

— This movie is supposed to be a tribute to Bollywood. Therefore, it is interesting to learn that the writer and director of this tribute to Bollywood admitted that he never actually watched a Bollywood movie until he thought of this great idea. So it’s not like he said, oh I’ve seen so many Bollywood movies, I am moved to make a tribute movie about them. It’s more like he said, so I heard about this Bollywood thing? And I don’t know what it is actually but Imma make a tribute movie about it.

Because I am jealous by nature, I immediately wondered why this sort of thing doesn’t happen to me. There are millions of things I don’t really know about and yet I am never given the opportunity to make a movie about them. This despite being a woman of colour who actually lives in India — like not spends-six-months-of-the-year lives here but actually lives here all the time. That’s supposed to be the golden ticket of tokenism, no?

But you know what fam? Tokenism is racist so let us cease being racist and ask some important questions. Will I actually watch Basmati Blues? Will I pretend to watch it and really watch washing machine videos instead? Stay tuned for our next rapturous instalment to find out!

Kuzhali Manickavel is the author of the short story collections 'Insects Are Just like You and Me except Some of Them Have Wings' and 'Things We Found During the Autopsy', both available from Blaft Publications

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