Dan Baron (director)
107 Minutes (length)
11 February 2018 (released)
Bree Larson plays a scientist who creates GM rice. This is an international revelation and as such her crafty boss (played with ease by Donald Sutherland) sends her to India to sell it to farmers, suffering from a lack of good rice grain.
Oh my god. Where can I start with a film like Basmati Blues? It’s not as offensive or drenched in ‘white saviour’ issues as some have protested. It also is not as badly written or directed as some have expressed. It is however naïve, wrongheaded and awful in so many aspects that it can only be seen to be believed. The idea of a white scientist going to India for reasons of grain cultivation is not absurd, history teaches us about Norman Borlaug who did just that. It also teaches us that India has a well-developed grain and seed cultivation programme, numerous skilled people in agriculture and a keen set of government bodies dealing with this. Its not that they don’t need western help, its more that they work in partnership.
Then take its ethnic obsession that is a real problem. If I am being frank this exists with both Indians from outside of India and westerners too. Both covert India as a concept, which for generations we have been sold via tradition and mass media. It is expressed as a mixture of cultural snapshots that focus on the Sari or classical dance moves or temple ceremony as singular attributes of India and THE ONLY ATTRIBUTES OF INDIA. The lead actor dressing as a poor farmer, yet seemingly being well educated is either offensive mockery of South Indians or worse still, the inability to think of India as anything other than a bunch of people dressed in Lungi’s, haplessly strolling around waiting for an intervention. It is as if in the mind of so many India has remained stationary since pre-Raj days. This is not as I have experienced, or I guess so many others have.
Modern and traditional live hand in hand with major developments in finance, infrastructure and society. Forgetting that modernity has a place in India is to play into the narrative of the extremist, who points to ‘this is what we are’ and validates it with Hollywood and others blessing. It is dangerous to even have this considered as the only representation of 1.3 billion souls. Sadly, it seems that Hollywood has become stuck in a regressive cycle of easy stereotype and even easier produce. Like the rice manufactured it feels false, tastes dull and is a poor imitation of the real thing. Fail to understand that India is so much more than this. Its power is that India is everything in a vast landscape that can’t be expressed by a single thing. Hollywood has a problem with distancing itself from myopic viewpoints.