What you do when you ‘exoticise’ India?’

31st May 2012 0 By Nandini

Still for 'Himself he cooks' in beeld voor beeld festival

The theatre is full. Not an empty chair.

It’s not the first time in the Netherlands that I have sat at the edge of my seat drinking in the beauty of images made and woven together through a film by ‘Western eyes’ looking at the land of my birth. Then slowly I have watched with growing apprehension what they choose to leave out of the frame and what they choose to put into it and how they do it.

I ask myself, ‘Why do they continue to ‘exoticise’ India’?

We see garlic being cut by crowds, potatoes peeled, tears rolling down the eyes of onion cutters while hands are in musical rhythm, balls of flour being flung and directed with a hoe, rotis being flopped with immaculate precision, metal plates flung from out of the frame at a man holding a plate like a bat hitting what comes at him so it falls in a pile at his feet, bowls being washed by people in neat lines. For most of the 65 minutes, there is no comment and no other input from the directors. None of the people speak into camera and in fact they don’t speak to each other either. As someone in the audience commented, they don’t interact at all with another human being – physically or verbally. They sometimes stare into the camera and the camera stares back (or the other way around). The filmmakers ask no questions and get no answers. What we see mostly is exactly – the choreography – the dance of the joint actions of people of cutting, cooking, serving, eating, cleaning.  Most of this adds up to one message: this is how they do it there. The wonder filled eyes of the camera taking in the ‘otherness’ of what is before it. Images that re-inforce what every orientalist has done.


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