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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 4 of 29 Student Paper the cultural riches approach where India is often represented as the land of milk, honey and apsaras in unrealistic and an almost-dream like fashion (Narayan, 1997). Taking films specifically as an example, Ella Shohat (1991) pointed out that in Hollywood movies where Third World locations act as the backdrop of the narrative, Westerners are almost always at the center of the story and the Third World people, especially the women, are marginalized. They are usually present only as embellishments that help define the heroic nature of the Western man or simply to make the cinematic locale look authentic. The role of the Western characters is complex in these narratives but in contrast, those of Third World characters are simplistic and almost predictable. We see that there is a hierarchy within the movie where Western characters are given a better-privileged position than non-Westerners (Shohat and Stam, 1994). According to Mitra (1999), the main motivation for the stereotyping of Indian characters in Western movies is to create a distinction between Western and non-Western characters. Therefore, the images of peoples of India in movies such as Octopussy and The Man Who Would be King, focus of skin color, dress and physical characteristics that serve to create this contrast. For example, turbans and saris are often used to make Indians look different from the American characters. At another level, there is also a focus on everyday practices (often spectacular) that are used to signify the place and orient the audiences to the locale by depicting symbols that denote the location – religious worship (for example, animal sacrifice), food habits (like eating snakes), modes of transportation (rickshaws and trains), marriage rituals and death rituals (like sati). In the present study we sought to find out if an objective evaluation of movies on a scene-

Authors: Ramasubramanian, Srividya.
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background image
A Passage to India
Page 4 of 29
Student Paper
the cultural riches approach where India is often represented as the land of milk, honey
and apsaras in unrealistic and an almost-dream like fashion (Narayan, 1997).
Taking films specifically as an example, Ella Shohat (1991) pointed out that in
Hollywood movies where Third World locations act as the backdrop of the narrative,
Westerners are almost always at the center of the story and the Third World people,
especially the women, are marginalized. They are usually present only as embellishments
that help define the heroic nature of the Western man or simply to make the cinematic
locale look authentic. The role of the Western characters is complex in these narratives
but in contrast, those of Third World characters are simplistic and almost predictable. We
see that there is a hierarchy within the movie where Western characters are given a
better-privileged position than non-Westerners (Shohat and Stam, 1994).
According to Mitra (1999), the main motivation for the stereotyping of Indian
characters in Western movies is to create a distinction between Western and non-Western
characters. Therefore, the images of peoples of India in movies such as Octopussy and
The Man Who Would be King, focus of skin color, dress and physical characteristics that
serve to create this contrast. For example, turbans and saris are often used to make
Indians look different from the American characters. At another level, there is also a
focus on everyday practices (often spectacular) that are used to signify the place and
orient the audiences to the locale by depicting symbols that denote the location –
religious worship (for example, animal sacrifice), food habits (like eating snakes), modes
of transportation (rickshaws and trains), marriage rituals and death rituals (like sati). In
the present study we sought to find out if an objective evaluation of movies on a scene-


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