Tuesday, 7 February 2006

Not the only white guy in Mumbai

Hi readers . . . and hi Mum! ;)

I've been watching some pretty heart-wrenching documentaries here at the Mumbai Film Festival. Watching docos seems to be a fast track to learning about the world. Many documentaries have an Indian element, but a couple stood out. I tend to make friends with the people who make films I like, so I'm pleased to say that Rajdeep Randhawa is now a close and personal friend of mine.

Rajdeep made a 47 minute documentary called, "Ek Tha Lal Pari." Shot mostly cinema verite, it documents the problematic relationship between a eunuch and her lover. It's an on and off relationship, but the two are still very much in love and have lived together for 20 years! In India, eunuchs live in enclaves. They are ostricised by society, but also revered and considered to have many spiritual powers. So they earn money by performing special rituals at marriages, births, deaths etc. It is a special honour to be blessed by a eunuch. To cross one would result in bad fortune. In one scene, a ritual blessing is performed by several eunuchs at a married couple's home. Anyway - I won't say what happens in the end, but it was an excellent first film.

I also met a British filmmaker who worked in the BBC Documentary Film Unit for 30 years before deciding to settle in India. Holy Men and Fools, documents a journey through the Himalayas with a living Baba (Indian spiritual leader) and his disciples. It's like a mini-quest, but with interesting characters. He should get a few sales with this, so look out for it.

Y'know, it's pointless describing films when I'm staying here in Mumbai. The other day I walked into a Chai (Indian tea) shop alone and several guys stood up to let me have the booth. Hot Chai was immediately set down on the table and everybody suddenly became very considerate. I thought, Uh oh - here we go. I'm about to get ripped off. But when I paid for it, the guy asked for 10 rupees - just like he had with everyone else. I left feeling a bit confused. Why all this red carpet treatment? I get stared at a lot. Often I'm the only white guy walking. But it's not intimidating. Is it curiosity?

I asked my Indian friends. At first I thought it was because white = cash. But it's much more complicated than that - and it goes right back to the British. Many people in India feel that the government isn't doing its job properly. It's a big job, but there are problems with corruption etc. Apparently most Indians (these guys reckon 90% of Indians) feel that India was better when teh British were here. Things ran smoothly - there was organisation, people had a place and there were fewer poor.

White guys are considered to have this extra thing about them. Some people think that they are more intelligent, better educated, wiser and that they have the skills to run things better. More acumen. By treating whites with respect, it is thought that a bit of this extra stuff will rub off on you. As Indians are very religious people, this ties in well.

It's all about luck, karma and anything is possible here . . .

(to be continued)


Anonymous said...

Hope you learn a lot while over in India.

Your blogs are very interesting.


Anonymous said...

I've read all your blogs since Day 1. Have you ever thought to write a book other than make films?


Akshay said...

Jamees, I suggest you stay on for Experimenta. Its a great film festival.

Mister Trivia said...

Greetings Ed,

I've been reading your blogs on Mumbai and as M has said - it's very interesting. (And enjoyable).

Catch for the unedited highlights back in Perth.


Mr Trivia

yaksh said...

we wish to treat the guests walking to our door as "ATITHI DEVO BHAV" (This is in Sanskrit Language) it means- "The Guest is the Form of God".

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your visit to india with us. It is an interesting read, however, you have mentioned that 90% of indians think that india was better under British rule. Well i would like to differ on that, because INDIA has never been this strong before....Also commenting on an Indian giving Superior treatment to a NON INDIAN over an INDIAN. I think it is more of an human tendency (read curosity) to know about a person who looks and sounds different.

Edwin James Lynch said...

Well, that's an interesting take. Sorry about he hyperbole.