Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What?? A POST?!

Hello, friends!! I'm so sorry it's been a while since I've written and I feel like I should at least partly explain why. First of all, I got quite ill with the flu last month and it took me a long time to get back to my normal energy levels, even after I went back to work. It didn't help that we've had a difficult winter in my part of America and a long winter makes me feel very depressed. So, even if there had been a lot of good releases, I don't think I would have felt much like writing about them anyways.

Which brings me to my second point. Secondly, we're in the middle of the filmi fallow time. I wish the studios wouldn't do this but… well, what can one do? The only film I've been interested in is Badlapur and unfortunately it left the theater before I could see it.


In the next couple months the films I'm looking forward to are Broken Horses, Furious 7, and then… Gabbar in May if that's still the expected release date. I'm also mildly intrigued by Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!.

Anyways, I should also mention one of the reasons I had a lack of motivation to write was that I was contacted by a graduate student studying "International" Bollywood fans. For some reason it made me really depressed. The navel-gazing pointlessness of academic "fan studies"; being one of the few international fans who isn't an SRK-loving rom-com-loving "convert" but knowing that for better or worse that image is "our" public face; and just the sense of entitlement among some international fans that we "deserve" access to these movies even if that means intruding on desi spaces. (Uh, no, my desire to see a movie does not trump a minority group's desire to have a separate cultural space outside of majority white space.) It just dredged up all the reasons I stopped interacting with most of "international" fandom in the first place and made me depressed to be reminded of all the SRK blah blah blah romance Om Shanti Om hilarious camp wigs nonsense I've tried to avoid for my own mental health.

But that said, I came across a great quote in a book of "newly discovered" fairy tales from Bavaria I'm reading:

"A world without fairy tales and myths would be as drab as life without music." --Georg Trakl

And film without myth (or music) certainly is drab. That's for sure.

Why waste time on drab films when I can get everything I want and more in a single J-Pop music video.

Well, friends, if I can get my act together I would like to re-watch some of the 1990s films I saw ages ago and see how they're different to me now. I can never forget that moment when I realized I'd completely misunderstood Dil Se. I wonder how many other movies there are like that for me…


Kimberly Tully said...

Glad you're feeling better! I'm looking forward to seeing Badlapur as well. Also Bombay Velvet and a few others. It is a slow time and I'm basically caught up with what I can purchase on DVD. Haider was the last film I watched and I'm still mulling it over.

Re: the international fan studies
I have mixed feelings about what you've written. I recall a time when you wrote more "fangirl" type posts on romantic comedies like Jab We Met and gushed about Hrithik. That's exactly the kind of fan (SRK fan or not) that you're now distancing yourself and your work from, if I'm reading this correctly. And this passage about international fans that think they "'deserve' access to these movies even if that means intruding on desi spaces." By writing and hosting a blog dedicated to filmi topics from a Western point of view and interviewing Bollywood actors, isn't this exactly what you've been doing? I've enjoyed and appreciate every minute of it and I don't mean to be harsh, but we are what we are. I think (and hope) that many international Bollywood fans like myself evolve as time goes on. I was drawn to the romantic comedies first but as time went on they're a much smaller percentage of the Hindi/Indian films I watch. I think some personal navel-gazing is merited for international fans, so as to check any inclinations towards appropriation of a culture that is not ours. However, I can't forget that I would much rather try to expose myself and others to all different kinds of culture than police what is consumed in our multicultural society.

Divya said...

Welcome back FG, I am glad you are posting again. Hope you feel better. The Flu is terrible,I had it last year and never ever want to go through that again.
Regarding your tiredness over international fandom, you are one of the very few international people who watch and review Tamil films without pointing and laughing. Something even some desi English language reviewers can't seem to do these days. I totally understand if you no longer want to, but I just wanted to say I really appreciate your writing on SI films. Also may I suggest that you check out the trailers for Uttama Villain and OK Kanmani. You might enjoy them.

Filmi Girl said...

@Kimberly Point very much taken. :)

I hope that one thing that hasn't changed over the years is that I like having my statements challenged, constructively.

I mean, I still gush and enjoy things like Jab We Met (perhaps not so often in print anymore) but that kind of interaction came to feel like a shallow appreciation the longer time went on and more than that, just plain wrong to me. The more I interacted with people without the "Western fandom" mentality (of any sort--Harry Potter, Dr. Who etc.) the more I came to find it difficult to enjoy Bollywood in a "Western fandom" way. So I may have started that way but ten years later things have changed. I've changed.

Re deserving access--I don't think non-desi fans have a "right" to intrude on desi spaces in the West. The more I came to understand that "Bollywood" really is code for something bigger in the diaspora, especially second generation, etc. an us vs. them thing. The more I realized that I really had no place in some spaces, no matter how much I liked the films themselves. Who am I to intrude at a cultural event for South Asians just because I like Aamir Khan or whatever? It just came to feel wrong.

Divya said...

@FG.. As a Indian may I add my perspective. I don't speak for all Indians or members of the diaspora but when I see international fans at events and even in movie theaters, my first feeling is one of awkwardness and then embarrassment. Are they here to laugh, to make fun of the songs and the overblown melodrama(to them) are the thoughts that pass through my head. I at least have still not gotten over my feeling of colonial inferiority it would seem. The point I am trying to make is, its not your presence, its your intent that matters. Recently I saw the film Jupiter Ascending. It was overblown, melodramatic and just plain masala. I kinda loved it. On the other hand people in the theater were outright laughing at the serious bits and vocally making fun of the movie. I ended up wondering if this is what they would do if they saw a masala Indian film. All I am saying is, International fans are welcome, especially gushing fan types since they are obviously not deeming themselves superior to the entertainment on offer. Critical types are also welcome, as long as they don't bring their baggage of cultural superiority.

Filmi Girl said...

@Divya Your reaction is exactly what I'm afraid of causing!! I do try to be respectful and just enjoy the show but it's like... I don't want to ruin people's fun with my presence. That's why I'm so grateful my local multiplex started screening Indian films! I can more easily blend into the background there. Everybody was always very kind to me at the Indian theater but I always felt like I was intruding.

I think it's good for internatinoal fans like me to put some separation between "cultural tourism" and "watching a film".

Divya said...

@FG .. I definitely didn't mean to dissuade you. Part of it is just my own sense of inferiority and is my problem, not yours. You won't ruin our fun for sure though .. you may have noticed that us SI fans are a rather raucous bunch :). Please do continue to watch and comment on Tamil films especially. There are some really good things happening on that scene. Bollywood with its Anurag Kashyap et al and overall attitude change towards sex and violence seems to be where Indian cinema is heading. But to me the songless ness, the sex ..everything just seems like a pale imitation of Hollywood. Tamil cinema (Jigarthanda, Mudasupatti, VIP) seems to be getting more fresh and innovative while still looking like nothing in the West. Though of course we have our share of duds.

Kimberly Tully said...

"Who am I to intrude at a cultural event for South Asians just because I like Aamir Khan or whatever?"

That's what I thought you were getting at and there I am much more in agreement. I am much more cautious in this area. And what you said, Divya, really resonates with me, too! I've only seen a couple of Hindi films in theaters and even in the multiplexes I feel awkward at the thought of making any South Asian Americans in the audience feel uncomfortable (it goes without saying I hope, that I'm always respectful and have never gone to an Indian film to make fun of it, only to enjoy it!).

I've attended Diwali shows several times on college campuses where I've worked or been a student, sometimes with Indian American friends and sometimes with white friends, and those don't worry me as much since one of their express purposes is outreach to the non-Indian community on campus. In fact, I'm so excited to be living near my alma mater again where I get to go see one of the country's premiere Hindi/pop fusion accappela groups sing in a couple of weeks! But events that happen in the public, academic space are definitely different than the public (but somehow more private) community events sponsored by the South Asian community.

Great thoughtful discussion is always good and I think that the reason I still enjoy your blog so much, FilmiGirl, even if you don't have as much gushing over stars or do your top ten lists anymore;), is because I'm struggling with some of the same issues you are, too.

Moimeme said...

First, welcome back, Filmi Girl, and I'm glad you're now feeling better. I was getting worried reading your tweets.

In some ways I like it better when you post after a long break, because then the post is a lot more deep. :) So lots to think about and react to here, but for now I'll just say this: Since you *are* so different from most (or all) of the "international fans", if not unique, I think that makes it all the more important that you do participate in those kind of academic studies that you find so depressing, precisely to raise the kind of issues that you think about and that others don't seem to. I hope you'll rethink your decision.

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Filmi Girl said...

Really good things to think about!! One of the nice things about having been writing for such a long time is that I have such a nice group of online friends to discuss things with--even when you disagree with me, I feel like I learn from the disagreement!

And… yes, I also wonder about the negative effects of Bollywood PR firms watching international fans as indicative of what AMERICA wants instead of being a self-selecting group of people who don't want what America wants, which is why we're watching Indian films in the first place.

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