If Hollywood wasn’t forced to, it would still probably think that we are a country of snake charmers. We’re not.
What we are is the biggest market for friendship bracelets. So needless to say, it shows in the movies they make, where Indian characters fill the diversity quota while the film gets away with being unfathomably stereotypical and insulting.
1. The Patil twins in Harry Potter during the Yule Ball.
While everybody with the exception of Ron was given a wardrobe to make the world envious, the Patil sisters’ wardrobe was the sartorial equivalent of trash bags. They were given the exact same clothes because apparently, that’s what twins do. Not to forget the bright pink that did not do any justice to the lovely actresses.
2. Fisher Stevens in Short Circuit is literally a white man doing brown face and an atrocious accent.
The character is unrecognisable to any Indians who watched the film because nobody sounds like that. It’s just ridiculous and racist. To his credit, Stevens did a lot of research and tried to be as authentic as the character without making it a stereotype, but there is only so much an actor can do.
3. But nothing comes close to being as racially stereotyped, as Apu from The Simpsons.
Apu was so offensive that even a documentary called The Problem With Apu got released in 2017, deconstructing the racial stereotypes and microaggressions of the character. A few years ago, Apu’s voice actor Hank Azaria even apologised and stepped down from the role.
4. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire, Million Dollar Arm, The Darjiling Limited portray India as a giant slum with technological advancements of the 60s.
In an attempt to create, what experts call ‘Oscar bait’, Hollywood has almost always portrayed India as a giant slum, with the yellow tint and the unhygienic conditions, a backdrop of shoddy collapsing buildings and half-naked children running around. Mind you, all of this does exist in our country, but it isn’t all there is, is there?
5. Take 2012’s The Avengers for example. Bruce Banner came to India to hide. It’s a country of a billion people. He could have assumed a different life in a city or a town and nobody would have cared. But he had to play doctor to the sick in a slum in Kolkata.
Why is it that every time Hollywood has to show India and Indians, it’s always slums?
6. Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom literally showed India as a country of monkey brain-eating, human sacrifice cult producing brown people.
Amrish Puri was a great actor but what the actual hell was that film? Every second of that film was an assault on common sense and so so so… so so racist. And BTW, this wasn’t like the 50s or something. This was well into the 80s. We had a pretty thriving Hindi film industry back then as well.
7. In The Big Bang Theory, Rajesh Koothrapali is a North Indian man from Delhi, whose parents are doctors, live in a palace and have elephants for weddings.
That statement gets weirder with every progressing word. None of that makes any sense whatsoever. Who in Delhi is having elephants at their weddings? More importantly, who’s making sure those mammoth turds are getting cleaned off the streets the next day?
8. If you are not from around here and you watch Eat, Pray, Love you will think that this was a Hindu country where people from only one religion live. It’s not. It’s really freaking not.
And not just this one film, any portrayal of India or reference to the country is always synonymous with one particular religious identity. This is particularly ridiculous because we are not a Hindu country. Hell, as of 2019, there were almost 3 million atheists in the country. New Zealand’s whole population is 4 million. Do the math. India’s Muslim population is the third highest in the world.
9. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel seems like an old British man’s idea of what India is or is supposed to be or possibly a memory from some obscure story their great-granddad told them while they were here.
It isn’t as racist as it is stupid. Surely, the story is set in India and but it isn’t about Indians, so it makes sense that the Indian characters simply become part of the stage but my god, the film uses stereotypical arcs for laughs. You have Dame Maggie Smith just being racist on a wheelchair and the audience is meant to laugh because that’s just how old people are apparently.
10. Movies like Slumdog Millionaire and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, etc also propagate the myth that we all just randomly sync into choreographed dances to Bollywood songs at a whim.
First of all, Bollywood isn’t the only industry we have. Secondly, not every Indian wedding needs the couple to be married for a month. That’s just Priyanka Chopra’s personal choice. Also, its demeaning when Hollywood just propagates that all our lives are just one lavish Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, except we are all also very poor at the same time.
My god, they gave Slumdog a ton of Oscars, didn’t they? What a bunch of pricks!