Friday, August 12, 2005

'Rising' excitement

OK, lame attempt at pun. Going to see 'The Rising' (or, it seems, technically, 'Mangal Pandey - The Rising', since we're watching the Hindi version rather than the English version, which is called 'The Rising: the Ballad of Mangal Pandey') tonight. Very excited because I love Aamir Khan and anything he does, I really enjoyed Mirch Masala, which was directed by Ketan Mehta, who's also directing this, and because I think the Revolt of 1857 makes for a great topic for a film. I've already been reading the few reviews that have been published (the film was seen by some reviewers at Locarno, hence the advance reviews). So far they seem in general to be favourable, using adjectives such as 'robust', 'stirring', etc.

I'm particularly curious (though unconcerned, as in this is something I'm curious about but which I don't really care about, something i thought i should clarify given the Indian media circus' generally asinine preoccupation about 'the reception in the foreign media' , 'crossover potential' and the like) about the reception this receives in Britain. It never deases to amaze me that even supposedly informed British critics (and academics) seem taken aback at any criticism, implied or overt, of the Raj and of the conduct of British people during the colonial era. From another angle, this has been in the news recently for Manmohan Singh's controversial remarks at Oxford where he had the courage to suggest what every thinking person with some knowledge of history understands, which is that for all its flaws, colonialism ended up having some consequences, usually unintended, which impacted the receiving societies positively. Whereas I think that what Singh said was perfectly reasonable - in other words, India is better off today than it had it never had to encounter a post-Enlightenment Britain and its ideas, what he also said was eqwually important, which was that that encounter was inherently unequal and imbalanced (implicit in this critique, I think, being the idea that it is quite likely that a voluntary exchange would have had many of the same benefits without some of the adverse consequences). Yet, in many encounters with British people who should know better, what has always sturck me as profoundly strange (not to mention irritating and infuriating) is their complete inability to acknowledge or even counteance the idea that colonialism was both a profoundly humiliating and in many ways negative experience for the colonised people, and that many of its adverse consequences are being felt even today.

Instead, it often seems to me that even British people who have studied the history of the period see the Raj as one long succession of tea-parties and hunts, punctuated with bouts of energetic and uplifting railway-building and with the most important thing being that in the end Indians were very pleased to be left with the English language and cricket, and that by and large we're 'grateful' to the Raj for something, the something usually being an implied package of English, cricket, tea, and .. civilization, I guess. So it's all very well for Indians to be mature enough to engage seriously with the idea that there were intended and unintended 'good' consequences of the Raj, but equally, it's important for the British to realise that it's ridiculous to expect Indians to look on the Raj as some sort of golden age, and that to do so is, frankly, stupid and wrong: it was not, it had pretty damaging economic consequences which generally outweighed the positives, and the positives thewlselves were less positive than they would have been if the civilizational encounter had been one among rough equals (as indeed it was in the time of Akbar and Jahangir, when the first European traders arrived in India). So I'm curious to see the reaction to the Rising, which is likely to have some amount of Brit-bashing in the form of nasty colonial officer stereotypes.

Aamir Khan is so hot. As is Rani Mukherjee, who I love in all her gravel-voicedness, at least post-Saathiya. She just seems unable to do wrong these days - loved her in Paheli, Bunty Aur Babli, and can't wait for tonight...


Blogger eM said...

Aamir Khan is SO not hot. Went for Rising premiere party last night, and saw him with his girlfriend and dude, he's put on sooooooo much weight and his eyes are all puffy and he's all bloated. Not nice.

11:22 AM  

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