India is no doubt a country filled with many charms and a deeply rooted background. It is baffling to many who are Indians themselves. Hence, it comes as no surprise that many of those that are visiting, are often left perplexed -especially those that are well-known figures from the world of Hollywood.
Hollywood has always had an interesting dynamic with anything Indian. Be it the actors and actresses of Indian origin to concepts and faiths from the Indian subcontinent to the food consumed by the common Indian person. Most of the portrayal is considered ignorant and borderline offensive to outright disrespectful. The characters played by the performers are stereotypical and misappropriated.
Most celebrities go on record talking about how it had been a ‘journey’ to research about that specific element of ‘Indianness.’ Culture for us is a collective of many things learned and acquired. For them, it is an alluring world of mystique and ‘exoticism.’ One comes across this particular word- exotic- in many of the narrations about what they associate with the culture of India, which in itself is not a singular concept but a multitude of collective manifestations.
The stories that revolve around India, all paint a similar picture. The depth and the variety that we see around us do not get reflected on screen. It is always some spiritual journey or rags- to-riches story. While these are indeed part of the bigger picture and compelling narratives, there are many other stories that are yet to be told. So many different chronicles yet to be explored.
Besides the reel incidents, in reality, the famous people who inhabit Hollywood display a fascination in their personal lives as well. Numerous examples can be quoted of them sporting tattoos with motifs, sayings and symbols from India. They go on to unleash a rambling and passionate explanation of how much it means to them without fully grasping the significance.
Many run into hot water due to their revelations in interviews which promoting their films. The Indian market is one of the biggest box offices in the world and in the name of appealing to the audience; boisterous statements are made that are against the sentiments of the masses. Cultural appropriation is something that is commonly quoted as the reason for the outcry.
It is worth noting that with the pure intentions and an effort to know more about the culture of the country, they can strike a chord with the people. All it requires is approaching the subject with respect. So, let’s hope to see something other than snake charmers and spiritual babas.