Monday, August 9

On Yahoo FTP: Hollywood’s Spiritual Hopscotch

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(The following post was first published on Yahoo! Fit To Post here.)

A message for Ms Julia Roberts on behalf of my fellow Indians: we are cautiously happy that you have embraced Hinduism. According to reports, your family goes to the temple together to “chant and pray and celebrate”. “I’m definitely a practicing Hindu”, you are reported to have said. We may be buying Ms Gilbert’s book and we will buy tickets to your movies, but please don’t expect us to buy your words.

Don’t get us wrong: under normal circumstances, we would have whole-heartedly believed you. We love to include and be included. This is not the most private of our weaknesses. All Indians felt included when Obama said, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus…” at his inauguration speech. And not all Indians are Hindus. And Obama was talking about Americans. This trait also shows up when we refer to Indian-Americans as ‘Indians’ when they become famous. We laugh when Russell Peters makes fun of how we wash ourselves, and we grin and bear crappy movies like ‘Lady in the Water’. In American Idol, we wildly cheer for Sanjaya and Anoop, knowing fully well that they won’t get anywhere, except on shows like Survivor. And then we root for them there.

Despite this obvious weakness, the reason we’re not fooled by you is that you are announcing these beliefs at a time when your movie based on ‘Eat Pray Love’ is about to release. This kind of timing seems like, for lack of a better word, movie publicity. Besides, the Hindu identity cannot possibly co-exist with other facets of your personality. We have to work hard to preserve this identity in India where it withstands daily torture from radical, foreign concepts like ‘Friendship Day’, ‘Valentine’s Day’ and pub culture. It will crumble when trying to assimilate with a radical Hollywood star who appeared in a TV series called ‘Friends’, a movie called ‘Valentine’s Day’ and still probably frequents pubs.

Today you may be a Hindu, eat only Italian food and love only people from Bali, but we know that tomorrow if you are cast in ‘Shrek 5: After forever – Why are we doing this to ourselves?’, you will be convinced that ogres exist and fairy tales are the reality we choose to hide from by living our normal lives. (This, in turn, could be a sci-fi action movie with many super-slo-mo shots. Mr Nolan, I’m available to write the script.)

Here’s a suggestion though: if you want to take up Hinduism seriously, you will be subject to the strict standards of its most visible leader. Out of respect I will refer to this leader only as Rajan Zee, President of Universal Society of Hindu-ness (not the real organization name) or as he’s known in lazier circles – the PUSH. After Gisele Bundchen (umlaut omitted to protect privacy) evinced deep interest in Hinduism by saying that she enjoyed Hinduish things like yoga, meditation and sarees, she was offered advice by the leader [1]. You will also need to give a similar opportunity to the PUSH administration, who will ‘be glad to help in your spiritual exploration’, if your journey isn’t already over after reading Ms Gilbert’s book.

Once you become Janaki Rani, do not to expect star treatment in India. We have plenty of good female actors of our own, including the uncrowned queen of vegetarian Ham, Kareena Kapoor. According to the very objective opinion of her cousin and debutant director Sidharth Malhotra, she has surpassed you in a remake of one of your movies. That’s all right, she can copy your roles, but you will copy her religion. And when you do, there’s nothing to fear – if there’s one thing we’re good at, it’s being inclusive.

[1] See hyperlink for full story and real name of Mr Zed

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