Tuesday, June 3, 2008

American Movie de l'Inde

As a partial attempt to get out of the often limited Western world view, and a whole-hearted attempt to get out of paying for anything for a few weeks, I decided to break up my time in France with a trip to India to visit family. For years, the West has taken the rich expanse of Indian culture and placed these elements on overpriced messenger bags, crappy Yoga workout videos, and ill-fitted T-shirts. For decades, India has preempted this stolen culture by pirating every American movie known to man.

Fortunately, I mostly hail from Bangalore, where movie-goers can see a genuine copy of these films. So my cousins strapped me into a rik[1], and we sped[2] off to one of the new state-of-the-art theaters to watch an American movie on one of the most unceremonious days of the year – Christmas.

Ever since I was kid, trips to India meant two things for my cousins – a chance to practice their English, and an excuse to do all the crap their parents would never pay for without special, special occasion. On this special occasion, my visit meant my cousins could see a mainstream English movie. Their choice? “I am Legend”, starring Will Smith and throes of no-name actors playing “dead body 1,” “dead body 2”, “creepy zombie-like woman 1,” etc. Somehow this subtle cast of characters and the movie rating of “R” never send any red flags to Indian children nor their parents, so by my side were my cousins, aging: 21, 20, 17, 15, and 14.

14-year-old cousin, Pranav, decided it would be best to have 20-year-old cousin, Swetha, buy all six tickets at once. “Just to make it faster, you know?” So we got our tickets, stood in line, and had the ticket collector take all the tickets, tear them, and then prevent the younger two from entering. Apparently new movie theaters with unpirated versions of films require actual enforcement of rating laws. After, of course, you render all tickets non-refundable. Thus began the fighting…

Pranav, in his pre-pubescent wisdom, demanded to speak to the manager, which promptly began a thorough shouting match of how mature Pranav is, and how it is the “duty” of the manager to let him see the movie since the ticket was already sold and validated. My other cousins decided it would be a good idea to use me as a pawn, “But sir, she came all the way from the United States to be with us! She came all the way to see this movie!” This did little to phase the manager, who instead used this time to ask me questions about getting a student visa to New York. “I just love the movies, madam, I want to study film!”

Eventually, to avoid 7 headaches and missing the beginning of the movie, the manager agreed to let the two youngest into a Hindi movie for free instead of letting them into “I am Legend.” (Nevermind the fact that Pranav doesn’t speak Hindi, he’ll learn eventually). That left me and the three oldest to “I am Legend.”

“I am Legend” vaguely follows the theme of “Children of Men,” and “28 Days Later.” Mankind is coming to an end, and the plot of the movie follows one man’s attempt to keep going for the sake of continuing the human race. It is also one of the goriest and violent movies I’ve seen the past 5 years. In my cousins’ excellent research, they walked into the movie theater expecting a lighthearted comedy. Ha. 1.5 hours and 702487502 screams later, we walked out of the movie; they very visibly shaken, me in desperate need of Ibuprofen.

They asked the standard questions, “What did you think?” “Do you like scary movies?”, along with “Why the hell is it so violent?” “Why did we see that movie?” “When is the sequel coming out?” 30 minutes later, the two younger cousins came out of their Hindi movie, which apparently, was absolutely amazing. When asked of “I am Legend,” the three older cousins just squealed and rolled their eyes. Merry Christmas. Ho Ho Argh.

[1] rik - a yellow tin box with a small motor and three wheels, used as a taxi

[2] by “sped,” I mean we averaged about 20 mph

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