The Tiger of Eschnapur: Fritz Lang's 1959 film is peak white dude's vision of a made-up India
'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.
Before we embark on this scintillating column about a movie called The Tiger of Eschnapur (whaaaaat!), does it behoove us to say something about fascism? Very smart people have told me in no uncertain terms that fascist things are totally not happening in this country right now. It might look like they are. But they aren’t. Also, let’s not forget that it is the nature of many internet writers like myself to prettily dip our toes (just the toes, mind you) into big words like ‘fascism’ from time to time because we believe that when we do this, we win.
I myself believe that I have repeatedly won at racism by writing this column (you’re so welcome, fam). However, after going on Insta and seeing that NONE of the cool people were talking about protests or fascism (like, NONE), I’ve come to the logical conclusion that nothing fascist is happening and everything is cool! So haters to the left and keep being awesome India!
Besides, would it even be appropriate to write about The Tiger of Eschnapur if fascism whatever lol was happening? No it would not. But since we have established that everything is super-amazing, we may now proceed to whine about how yet another obscure old movie was being mean to India. So here we go!
First of all, maybe you are thinking, what is this Eschnapur? Is it accessible by rail? Is it having modern amenities? The answer is 'no' to the last two questions and 'haha lol' to the first one. Eschnapur is a made-up place which looks and sounds suspiciously like some white dude’s idea of what India probably is but who cares really, lol. You know, the India where you just get to make everything up because you are a white dude.
Just in case you forgot, India is an actual country that is real and exists. It has people and trees and mountains and lots of other things (but no fascism!). So why create a made-up version of something that actually exists in real life? Because the made-up version of India fits my story better! This is an incredibly effective narrative tool to use, especially if you are privileged to do so — if a country that actually exists refuses to fit the requirements of your awesome story, just make shit up. It’s totally fine. I mean like, especially if it’s a country like India or Africa or something. Africa’s a country, right? I guess it is now!
I know, I know, this isn’t the first time this has happened, blah blah blah, so boring to read this whining about the same thing over and over again. I know! I mean, it’s boring for me to write also! But let us consider that this is the mind space from whence this entire movie is coming from. My dudes, that is a really weird mind space to be in! Can you imagine what this movie is going to be like? I can’t even bro!
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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Updated Date: Jan 10, 2020 09:41:04 IST