B for Bollywood
I do not take well, to the question where I am from. We have moved so many times that there is no 'permanent' home. Just a string of homes which were inhabited for three years each. If you persist I will let you know that I am Indian. Back in Malaysia no one would believe me when I told them I am from India. It's the headscarf that threw them off. See, they can't believe that there are Muslims in India. The first time I went to the 'International' (my foot) café in my Uni, the Bangladeshi server at the counter started speaking to me Arabic. It's highly possible that I ran away that time, leaving his 'ahlan wa sahlan' hanging in the air. Since then I've had loads of people come up to me and play the guessing game with my nationality. 'Are you Yemeni? No? Omani? Saudi? Sudanese I know! Pakistani? ' They almost never get it right. And I love to see the game draw to an end as I reveal to them my real origin. 'What? NO WAY! So you are Hindu?'.
Sigh. Better than the time someone asked me if I 'speak Hindu'.
I can't really blame them though, to an international audience, Bollywood and curry blind all other diversity that exists within the great subcontinent.
I have never been able to escape the glittery shadow of Bollywood which follows Indians around wherever they go. I have had taxi drivers in Malaysia exclaim ' Amita Baccha! Sharoook Kaan!' when they discover I am Indian. Then there was a student (who went on to become a very close friend) who asked me if we actually dance on the streets in India. Thank you, Bollywood, for making us look like a bunch of loonies who just need a whisper of an excuse to bring out all the bling and bhangra on the streets. *slow clap*
Since going abroad and seeing everyone's fascination with Bollywood, I've really begun to hate it. And I mean some serious hate here. I hated Bollywood so much that I made sexist gender portrayals in Hindi films my dissertation topic. This is probably my second biggest regret in life (the first being getting talked into getting side bangs when I went for my last haircut). I now had to watch four Hindi films a million and one times. And I kid you not, this is some major mind numbing stuff. The last semester of my degree saw me in the library with my laptop, willing my eyes not to bleed as Salman Khan did yet another Physics defying, gag inducing stunt, hoping all the while I don't get caught with this.
|Dabangg poster. Not my property bro!|
This was when my other friends were rocking themselves to sleep with Marx and Foucault. They were courting all the theories and here I was, with the most ridiculous lyrics stuck in my head in a loop accompanied with all that screeching which passed off as singing... I really earned my degree, dear reader. This dissertation tested my endurance to the limit. There were moments when I thought I'd rather jump into the campus lake and let myself be consumed by the zombie ducks than watch Salman Khan kill yet another villain with his nostrils WHILE wooing his lady love who has an IQ in the negative. Then there was the constant teasing from my friends who went 'Oh, your thesis is so easy! You just have to watch movies!!'. If I hadn't loved them so much I might have pushed them into the above mentioned lake.
What I realised, when travelling abroad and while bluffing my way through the thesis, was that Bollywood's reach is really unprecedented. In India and outside. And it doesn't make me proud one bit. It is embarrassing, in fact, because I feel it has just made caricatures out of us. In the international playground we are that weird kid who runs around screaming and finally falls off the slide head first making all the normal kids laugh. No, sir, I do not like it one bit.
I don't want the first thing people think when they hear 'India' to be 'Slumdog Millionaire'. ( I am not kidding when I say I have had people tell me "Oh, you are Indian? I LOVE Slumdog Millionaire!" Oh really? that's weird, 'cause I don't remember producing, directing, or acting in that movie). We already have enough stereotypes to be mocked with till the end of time, so we don't really need a couple of hundred more each year (Fun Fact: Did you know that Bollywood releases 800+ films EVERY YEAR?).
You might be thinking 'now this is one angry woman!'. Well, I am angry! I had to watch Salman Khan kill people with his armpits for three bloody months!