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A Passage to India: Images of India in U.K/U.S Feature Films from 1930-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  A Passage to India Page 23 of 29 Student Paper places, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, murder, robbery, skeletons, skulls, blood and sorcery. Sometimes the wild stereotype is subtler where the Indian character might be depicted as someone who is unsophisticated, awkward or highly emotional. The Western characters in these movies are usually contrasted by being depicted as civil, cultured, good-natured and calm living in a more organized world. Often, their mission is to try to civilize the wild Indians. For example, as typical of this formula, the Colonel in Wee Willie Winkie talks thus about Indians: “For thousands of years, these Pathans (Indian tribes) have lived by plundering. They don’t seem to realize that they would be much better if they planted crops, traded, became civilized.” Similarly in The Jungle Book, we see several instances where Kitty (the sophisticated lead British heroine) tries to make Mowgli (the wild Indian Mowgli) learn English and wear “decent” clothes. Another narrative genre/formula that is used in movies depicting India is what we call “The Wretched”. Here India is shown as pathetic and sad state. Common ways in which such an image is created is by showing homelessness, starvation, famine, disease, natural disasters, extreme climates, filth, dust, slavery, child labor, illiteracy, superstition, fatalism, huts, dilapidated structures, pestering beggars, rags and tattered clothes. We see this formula used repeatedly in movies such as The Rains Came. For instance, Major Rama says: “…people (Indians) are crying for help after centuries of disease and poverty and superstition”. Most often Western characters enter these narratives as good Samaritans who save helpless India victims from death and destruction, especially in the clutches of nature and of the indifferent exploitative system of class and caste hierarchies. Stereotypes that relate to “The Mysterious” depict India as strange, dream-like, sensual and bizarre. Narratives that use this formula depict fantastic spectacles such as

Authors: Ramasubramanian, Srividya.
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A Passage to India
Page 23 of 29
Student Paper
places, human sacrifice, animal sacrifice, murder, robbery, skeletons, skulls, blood and
sorcery. Sometimes the wild stereotype is subtler where the Indian character might be
depicted as someone who is unsophisticated, awkward or highly emotional. The Western
characters in these movies are usually contrasted by being depicted as civil, cultured,
good-natured and calm living in a more organized world. Often, their mission is to try to
civilize the wild Indians. For example, as typical of this formula, the Colonel in Wee
Willie Winkie talks thus about Indians: “For thousands of years, these Pathans (Indian
tribes) have lived by plundering. They don’t seem to realize that they would be much
better if they planted crops, traded, became civilized.” Similarly in The Jungle Book, we
see several instances where Kitty (the sophisticated lead British heroine) tries to make
Mowgli (the wild Indian Mowgli) learn English and wear “decent” clothes.
Another narrative genre/formula that is used in movies depicting India is what we
call “The Wretched”. Here India is shown as pathetic and sad state. Common ways in
which such an image is created is by showing homelessness, starvation, famine, disease,
natural disasters, extreme climates, filth, dust, slavery, child labor, illiteracy, superstition,
fatalism, huts, dilapidated structures, pestering beggars, rags and tattered clothes. We see
this formula used repeatedly in movies such as The Rains Came. For instance, Major
Rama says: “…people (Indians) are crying for help after centuries of disease and poverty
and superstition”. Most often Western characters enter these narratives as good
Samaritans who save helpless India victims from death and destruction, especially in the
clutches of nature and of the indifferent exploitative system of class and caste hierarchies.
Stereotypes that relate to “The Mysterious” depict India as strange, dream-like,
sensual and bizarre. Narratives that use this formula depict fantastic spectacles such as


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