Back in 2007, when Namastey London released, I was in 7th grade. And I loved the film. It was everything we needed in a hit film. It confirmed all the biases my parents had instilled in me at a very young age. I loved that we beat the English at Rugby. I laughed when Akshay Kumar suggested that they didn't want to play cricket because they had seen Lagaan. And then he had that awesome monologue.
For some reason, I rewatched it yesterday, after 13 long years. And holy hell, this is a regressive movie if there ever was one.
1. The movie shows women having no agency of their own. Rishi Kapoor's character basically forces his daughter to get married in a country she's never known, against her wishes.
Katrina Kaif's Jazz is shown to be an independent woman, which is somehow projected as a bad thing. So her dad forces her to go back to his ancestral village and get her married to a desi munda, to get her back on the right track.
2. The movie also follows a tired old trope of showing everything Western as decadent and everything Indian as pure.
Now, that's some bullcrap, isn't it? Back in the day, Manoj Kumar used to do all these deshbhakti films, which were supposed to be patriotic but were mostly about telling women what to wear and how to behave.
3. The movie is a prime example of the hypocrisy of the Indian diaspora in the West, who want the economic opportunities these countries provide and so, like to live there but not a day goes by when they don't moan about missing Indian CuLtUrE.
Arey bro, itna dikkat hai West se to India wapas aa jaao. I mean, every time someone complains about the state of OUR country, we send them a message asking them to move to our neighbouring countries. But apparently the same rules don't apply to us.
4. The movie vilifies Jazz for having free will, making her own choices and living her life by those choices.
The narrative of the film makes Jazz fall in love with Arjun in the end, justifying her father tricking her into marrying the man. And we are all supposed to just ignore the fact that she was manipulated by both her father and her alleged husband.
5. Rishi Kapoor wears the Union Jack as underwear and makes a lot of jokes about it.
Personally, that's fine to me. England was our coloniser so screw their flag, their queen and all that comes with it. That said, if the shoe were on the other foot, our whole country would be crying murder.
6. The film ends with Jazz leaving her career, friends and basically dropping her whole life and future to be in a village in Punjab. Which in itself wouldn't have been an issue if she weren't manipulated into it.
Again, personally, I love Punjab. It's an amazing place. That said, the movie sends a very clear message that it's okay for women to sacrifice everything for the sake of marriage and husband. Now, you dress it up as love or whatever, but putting a rose on a pig in the mud can't hide the fact that it's a god damn pig in the mud. No woman should have to sacrifice their lives, and careers for anything.
7. Even if we ignore most of this stuff, wouldn't it make more sense for Arjun to just settle in London?
We go to the West because we have successfully identified the West as a better place. It has more opportunities, financial and otherwise. Also, Arjun can speak English. He does in the end to everyone's surprise. So why wouldn't you just live with your wife, whom you love, who also has a pretty great job with awesome money in England, instead of making her live with you in India?
8. Why was a woman, who was born in England and identifies as British forced to accept Indian culture?
Let's be clear here. She wasn't born in India. Her parents might be Indian but she's definitely not. She's never been to India. There's absolutely no need for her to accept the culture of a country she doesn't identify with. And there is nothing wrong with that. Forcing her to do so is nothing more than jingoism.
9. The movie shows drinking and smoking as bad, not because it messes up your health but because you're a woman
Apparently, it's somehow worse if you're a woman. IDK, it just seems like a crap ton of patriarchy.
10. The movie draws a false equivalence between Indian women being independent and not being Indian enough.
Women can be Indian and be independent at the same time. These are not mutually exclusive terms. The movie however, makes it seem like being an obedient woman and not drinking or partying or having a career or making a choice of life partner is something Indian women do.
11. Also, Akshay Kumar's character is so god damn creepy. He was always around her and couldn't take no for an answer.
He was like Casper the Ghost, only with a degree in Desi moral education. Like bro, you don't want to party, don't party. Why are you being a prick about it? Also, when the woman's already told you to piss off a few times, it's your cue to piss off.
Most of this film is just old desi men being creepy and dictatorial WTF!