Young Gifted and Brown

Last night my friend asked me “Why do you like Hindi films so much?” I get this question relatively regularly, especially from people who grew up watching them, which I didn’t, and/or who grew up in India (which I didn’t). One of these days I’ll have to ask why they ask.

I replied to him that my answer depends on which film we’re talking about. I think if pressed I could come up with categories of films I tend to like (naming them could be fun – watch out for an update) and why.

His question has been ringing in my ears. Today I realized one reason.

Let’s take, for example, Karan Johar’s Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998). If that movie were made in Hollywood, the cast would have included probably no brown actors. All the characters running around in their Polo clothes would have flashed me right back to 8th grade, the year I made a bad decision to go to private school because I thought there I would get less stick for actually liking to learn (which is not the same thing as liking school, I should add). I figured if you were paying for school, it must be because you really wanted to go. The school was on the edge of town and every day I had to ride the school bus with all the kids sporting their Jordache, Polo, Izod etc. gear who would tell jokes like “Mexicans are proof the Indians f***ed the buffalo” and blow spit bubbles on me. Even my blue-eyed, blonde “best friend” would laugh. Not happy times.

I begged my parents to let me go back to public school after the first half of the year, but they refused. I realized other people pay for school so their kids can avoid the kids who don’t pay – education has little to do with the equation.

Now, until today I’ve never connected KKHH’s costuming with those memories of mine, and even after imagining a Hollywood version (which would no doubt be a poor imitation for many reasons to do with the differences in storytelling sensibilities), the Indian original doesn’t hold any bad connections for me. The Indian version isn’t connected to America at all, and I can enjoy those characters without the sense that I would be not only outside the story, but likely unwelcome if it were of American origin.

Koi Mil Gaya

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