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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 24 of 29 Student Paper rope-walking, fire-walking, snakecharmers, scorpion-swallowing, dungeon of snakes, elephant rides, “sleeping on bed of nails”, holy men with matted hair and beads, sati, tribal dances, exaggerated costumes, drugs, Kamasutra, dancing girls and so on. In such narratives, the Western characters enter the plot mostly as a spectators and tourists who are dazzled by the alien land. In movies such as Bonnie Scotland, India is seen through this “Mysterious” lens when the British general says to his soldiers: “India is truly a land of mystery. It’s strange and difficult for explanation.” Similarly another officer in Around the World in Eighty Days remarks: “India is a land of mosques, minarets, elephants, snakes, superb ravishing goddesses – women.” Though relatively less prevalent, “The Magnificent” stereotype shows India to be a land of lavish, luxurious, wealthy indulgences. Such narratives focus on lives of Maharajahs, Maharanis, palaces, feasts, festivals, treasures, gems, gold, jewels, precious stones, palanquins, court dancers, plenty of food and wine, decorated elephants, bejeweled weapons, silks, brocades, ceremonies and processions, servants, servers, horses, hunting, polo, expensive drinks, chess, card games and the like. In such narratives, Western characters appear as British soldiers who work in tandem with Indian royalty or as “Robin Hoods” who help the poor Indian people to revolt against this rich class of Indians. The above findings provide overwhelming evidence that a very definitive pattern of stereotypical portrayals of India and Indians appear in films made in U.S and U.K. In trying to locate predictor variables that could explain and tell us why such stereotypes exist, the study reveals some useful insights. The level of stereotyping seems to be lesser in movies directed by Indian film-makers. Whenever Indian authors have written the

Authors: Ramasubramanian, Srividya.
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background image
A Passage to India
Page 24 of 29
Student Paper
rope-walking, fire-walking, snakecharmers, scorpion-swallowing, dungeon of snakes,
elephant rides, “sleeping on bed of nails”, holy men with matted hair and beads, sati,
tribal dances, exaggerated costumes, drugs, Kamasutra, dancing girls and so on. In such
narratives, the Western characters enter the plot mostly as a spectators and tourists who
are dazzled by the alien land. In movies such as Bonnie Scotland, India is seen through
this “Mysterious” lens when the British general says to his soldiers: “India is truly a land
of mystery. It’s strange and difficult for explanation.” Similarly another officer in Around
the World in Eighty Days remarks: “India is a land of mosques, minarets, elephants,
snakes, superb ravishing goddesses – women.”
Though relatively less prevalent, “The Magnificent” stereotype shows India to
be a land of lavish, luxurious, wealthy indulgences. Such narratives focus on lives of
Maharajahs, Maharanis, palaces, feasts, festivals, treasures, gems, gold, jewels, precious
stones, palanquins, court dancers, plenty of food and wine, decorated elephants,
bejeweled weapons, silks, brocades, ceremonies and processions, servants, servers,
horses, hunting, polo, expensive drinks, chess, card games and the like. In such
narratives, Western characters appear as British soldiers who work in tandem with Indian
royalty or as “Robin Hoods” who help the poor Indian people to revolt against this rich
class of Indians.
The above findings provide overwhelming evidence that a very definitive pattern
of stereotypical portrayals of India and Indians appear in films made in U.S and U.K. In
trying to locate predictor variables that could explain and tell us why such stereotypes
exist, the study reveals some useful insights. The level of stereotyping seems to be lesser
in movies directed by Indian film-makers. Whenever Indian authors have written the


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