by Diya Barmecha
The movie, White Tiger was released a few weeks back on Netflix, and features the child of a rich businessman,named Ashok played by Rajkummar Rao and his driver Balram played by Adarsh Gourav. In one short scene sitting, setin a small dhaba (restaurant) Ashok after living in the US said to Balram, “You know this is the real India.” However, Balram described India as something else. He said, “There is an India of light and an India of darkness” These two interpretations are made by characters that reside in India, they aren’t able to see India. So how do filmmakers or other viewers interpret India?
Filmmakers try desperately to show the “real India” but they all end up putting forward the same things and miss out the land of diverse culture and exotic mysteries. The White Tiger, which was based on a 2008 book by Aravind Adiga may not have shown the real India, but at least it featured real Indians. This is one of the few Hollywood movies that was shot in India and comprises only of Indian cast.
In the past, there have been movies where Hollywood or British actors paint their faces brown to pass as an Indian. For example, in “A passage to India”. Indian representation, however, has come a long way from those days.Even Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” which was supposed to be set in India, was shot in Sri Lanka. They showed the “savage” nature of our culture with people eating snakes and monkey brains. Even in the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” there was a home for British expats in Jaipur. It may not seem feasible from the view of many Indians, but that’s how the filmmakers and movie industry have visioned it in various movies.
To truly represent India in all of its truths, one has to live in India. All the films about India that have gotten international attention are film adaptations from books which are written in English. This would mean that the main audience would be international. Other mentions of India primarily the themes of Mumbai’s big slums and New Delhi’s big class divide. Isn’t the real India more than just these themes? Shouldn’t the filmmakers be aiming to capture India is all of its reality — good and bad?
Balram in The White Tiger was right to say that there is an India of light and an India of darkness, but what he failed to mention is that there is a big part of India that is in between the darkness and the light. The movie highlights the struggles of being a part of a lower socio-economic class and how they are pushed around. In the movie this was interpreted as a rooster coop.
The roosters in a coop at the market watch as each one gets slaughtered and yet they do not rebel or try to break out of the coop because they have accepted their fate. Similarly in India, people watch as the wealthy and the powerful walk over the others and yet they are unable to do anything. Balram has the belief that the culture of a traditional Indian family makes sure that the rooster coop ways are kept alive. This exists because if a servant tries to disobey his master, the master will punish the servant’s family as well. Towards the end of the movie Balram has the realization that to break free from the coop one must be willing to sacrifice everything. Their morality, values, and even their loyalty to their family.
The real India as we can see is an India of light and an India of dark but what many fail to mention is that there can be a transition of many people from the dark parts of India into the light ones. These transitions as mentioned above require the letting go of morality, values and loyalty. The interpretation of real India lies hidden to people in foreign nations as well as people residing in India as well.