Monday, August 15, 2005

On cue, a 'leading' British historian and a Tory shadow minister have, according to the TOI, pounced on 'The Rising'. The makers must love this free publicity. I wonder if there were similar outbursts accompanying the release of 'Braveheart'. Pity the likes of John Mason (author of 'The Men Who Ruled India' and other such tributes to the glories of the Raj) aren't around, because I'm sure they'd have weighed in on this and that would have been amusing.

Personally, I'm always amused by people trying to read too much into commercial films, whether from Hollywood or Bombay, whichever side of the political spectrum they happen to come from. I'm not making some kind of general argument for taking films, even popular films, seriously as social commentary, just against judging a commercial historical film (whether Braveheart, Lagaan, Mangal Pandey, or Gladiator) by the parameters of academic history. I'll get around to making a case for taking films like this as exercises in mythologisation, if I may be permitted to invent a word, in a separate post. In the meantime, I am as ever amused that 'leading British historians' think that the East India Company and the British Empire were essentially benign exercises in bringing the light of modernity to the benighted Orient. Actually, I doubt that the historian quoted had as simplistic a take on all this as is being made out by the TOI, which couldn't decode a subtle argument if hit in the face with it (but let's face it, no pun intended, that subtle arguments rarely, er, hit one in the face to begin with). If for nothing else, though, we need to thank the Empire for providing us with the opportunity to relish the spectacle of people frothing at the mouth at the thought that perhaps the Colonies were not quite as happy to have the British ruling them as the British were to be ruling them.


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