Stereotyping and ignorance

Filmi Girl drew my attention to this amazingly uninformed review of the much-talked-about Rajnikant release Endhiran. Now I have not seen Endhiran and so cannot say if I would agree with Roger Moore’s assessment of the film’s merits or not; but that isn’t the point here. I do know that were I writing a professional review as a journalist I would try to avoid such easy-to-research mistakes as calling it a Bollywood picture and criticizing lead actress Aishwarya Rai’s singing voice. And if I did make a mistake (as everyone does on occasion) I would be a whole lot more gracious in acknowledging it than he was in responding to a polite comment pointing out that Bollywood is the term for Hindi language cinema and Endhiran is a Tamil film, where the industry is usually referred to as Kollywood.

Mr. Moore said:

You’re narrowing the definition of “Bollywood” to one the rest of the world might not agree with. It’s too long, it’s musical, it’s chaste and it is silly and it was made in India.

Who is narrowing the definition of “Bollywood” here?!

He goes on to defend his ignorance much in the same way racists do theirs: “I have seen lots of Indian films!” (“Some of my best friends are black!”) while continuing with condescending remarks like this:

And I had no idea the Subcontinent had taken possession of our beloved Americanism — “Dude.” It is, to borrow a phrase from you, “Very very silly.” To use a Yiddishism common in these parts, it is “kitsch.”
I see about a dozen Subcontinental films a year — and have for years. We have a South Asian Film Festival here, some Bollywood fare is brought in by a local entrepreneur who knows there’s a big Indo-Pakistani audience in Florida and I get a generous dose of films from there on DVD. “Endhiran” is better executed than some, but is vintage Bollywood (Kollywood, what have you) goofy.

Perhaps he just isn’t very intelligent: I understood almost immediately when I started watching Hindi films that the actors and actresses onscreen did not sing for themselves, and pretty early on I even knew that the playback singers were at least as popular as the film stars (and *gasp* learned some of their names!).

Beyond that he gives us this gem as if he is under the grandiose misapprehension that he represents the entire American public (which includes me for one):

I am writing for an American audience, friends. I’ve been [sic] scores of films from India. Satyajit Ray classics that transcend east and west, to cloying culturally narrow pop pieces from Bollywood and its imitators. And when I review them, be they “Lagaan” or “My Name is Khan,” I review them through American eyes. Hit in India or not, this one doesn’t offer much to Americans but a lot of UNINTENTIONAL laughs.

Why am I wasting my time on this review from an ill-qualified, immature, defensive, narrow-minded person? (I’m not even going to speculate as to why the Orlando Sentinel couldn’t find someone with better qualifications, not to mention critical skills, in a state with a “big Indo-Pakistani audience.”) I am positive that I wouldn’t find his reviews of American movies any more insightful or worth reading as thoughtful criticism; and his opinion doesn’t matter one way or the other to me at all.

But it is the kind of attitude that I face all the time with even well-meaning people who can’t understand my love for Hindi cinema. How to explain that you can’t sum up almost 100 years of movie-making in India with a statement as glib as “it’s too long, it’s musical, it’s chaste and it is silly…”? Does anyone try to sum up Hollywood in the same way?

Sure, almost all films have songs and dances. India is a country with a long history of song and dance as a primary form of expression. And many of those songs and dances are just plain gorgeous, both musically and in the sheer poetry of their lyrics. And there is a big wide world of diverse influences in them: something for anyone who tries to access it, as it were.

Are they long? Well, when not chopped into pieces by dvd manufacturers, yes they are. When people who have traditionally worked hard all day in a field (and don’t have a television or radio at home) pay for an evening’s entertainment—almost literally with their own sweat and possibly blood—they want their paisa vasool, especially when afterwards they return home to a place with no electricity. As Indian society gets wealthier (and busier, and evenings are thus truncated) I would bet the films will get shorter, although I could be wrong (and don’t really want or need to be right). I’ve seen quite a few 90-minute western films that seemed to me like they’d never effing end and I sit enthralled through Sholay at three hours.

Are they chaste? Well, it depends on how you define chaste, I guess. All I know is that I find plenty of heart-catching romance and sensual pleasure in films like Blackmail and actors like Dharmendra and Shammi. I don’t really need to see people sticking their tongues down each other’s throats, especially when their heads are the size of a freight train on the big screen.

Are they silly? Sometimes. Breathtakingly, maniacally, fantastically silly. But if silly is not your thing (poor you), there are plenty to choose from which aren’t. I’ve even written about some of them here, although I adore silly. There are lots of good knowledgeable writers out there who have written about even more of them. You can find them if you want to!

To overlook the ongoing and large-scale influences on a century of Indian cinema—endemic poverty, governmental interference through excessive taxation and censorship, thousands of years of history, the constant threat of war, and so on—is to blindfold yourself. To dismiss a huge body of work from people as diverse in talent and in perspective as anywhere else is just plain stupid. Do you have to want to watch Indian cinema? No. Is it okay to summarily dismiss it without really knowing what you are talking about? Again, I have to say no (although evidently Mr. Moore and no doubt others would disagree with me).

And let’s be fair here: plenty of Indians themselves dismiss their own cinema as worthless, and many have never seen a Mehboob Khan film, or even heard of Himansu Rai, or Faredoon Irani, or Khwaja Ahmad Abbas. Indians too put very little effort into making the depth of their cinema history accessible to we firangis who are interested. Films are badly subtitled, if at all (those of us who enjoy older cinema really suffer on that score), and many times the songs—which are often not mere “interruptions” but used to carry the narrative forward—aren’t subtitled even when the movie is. Picture quality is abysmal and nothing is done to find the best print which might be available: a vhs tape of someone’s vhs tape is converted (badly) to digital and slapped on a disc or two (which may or may not work) and sold.

All I know is that I watch plenty of Hollywood films too and see quite a few of the same issues for which Indian cinema is rightly or wrongly vilified: sloppy direction, poor camera work, trite or ludicrous stories, sexism, racism and so on. Do I love all Indian films? No, emphatically I do not. Lots of them ARE really bad, and some of the common tropes out-and-out enrage me as a human being. But my journey into Hindi cinema with an open mind has rewarded me in ways I never dreamed of, and for which I will be eternally grateful.

Masala zindabad!

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100 Comments to “Stereotyping and ignorance”

  1. Well said Memsaab! A lovely response to Moore’s uninformed and shallow “review” of Endhiran. I do hope you send a link of this to Mr. Moore. I fully agree: “To dismiss a huge body of work from people as diverse in talent and in perspective as anywhere else is just plain stupid,” and would add arrogant and even elitist.

    • Eh, he probably wouldn’t read it with an open mind :) And I really don’t care to waste my time trying to educate someone like him. But at least it helped me crystallize my thoughts for the people I DO care to educate about why I love Hindi cinema :)

  2. Although I have no interest in watching Endhiran and dislike most new mainstream Indian films, I completely agree. Just in case Moore (or his employers) googles his name, here’s something that will help this article move up the search results…

    Roger Moore Roger Moore Roger Moore
    Film Critic Film Critic Film Critic
    Movie Review Movie Review Movie Review
    Frankly My Dear Frankly My Dear Frankly My Dear
    Orlando Sentinel Orlando Sentinel Orlando Sentinel

    …hopefully he’ll be more informed by the end of his google search. If he is reading this; I’d like to read your response …because frankly my dear, ignorance is not always bliss.

  3. You go girl! And to think that this man is getting paid to be ignorant. What happened to QC?

    • Journalism (and I use the term loosely) in America has very little quality control. Editing is horrendous and I don’t believe that anyone employs fact checkers any more.

      I was watching television coverage of an event I attended on 9/11. It was a fire engine rally with a tribute to the FDNY, in which my boyfriend and others from our department participated. The news person on the scene said that there were 343 firefighters marching and over 300 fire trucks in attendance. This was from an eye witness who, apparently couldn’t take the time to count the perhaps 35-50 trucks and the considerably less than 343 ffs that carried the flag.

      I have no faith in the mainstream media – print or tv.

    • As I was writing this post I was thinking how easily it could veer off into a not-unrelated tangent on the quality of “journalism” in America these days—qualifications like knowledge of the subject, objectivity, research and other former mainstays of the profession have gone right out the window, replaced by ranting ignorant attention-seekers with nothing important to say.

      I just don’t even try to watch television news or read newspapers (online or otherwise) any more. It isn’t news at all.

  4. You have expressed your (and our feelings) wonderfully well.

    In fact, when one seeks to explore into the unknown, one must do it with an open mind and without pre conceived notions. It is very easy to be dismissive of things that we are unfamiliar with in our younger days, but we are supposed to get matured with time. It is clear that not all people become mature enough to appreciate things they are not familiar with.

    And I agree that the Indian movie industry are not helping matters as they continue to ignore their foreign audiences who are not familiar with the language and who may be interested in watching Indian movies.

    • To learn and mature you need to have an open mind and an ability to admit your own fallibility. It’s easier said than done, everyone struggles with it on occasion…but people really need to learn to THINK before they speak/write…

  5. You go girl. You said it. I am with you.

  6. Memsaab – my first thought, on reading snippets here of what Moore has written, “here we go again, another ignorant moron trying to get his 2 min attention”. I don’t know how wide is the circulation of Orlando Sentinel but i am hoping that it is one of those papes with several accompanying super market adds and coupons that nobody cares to see! My second reaction was ” why couldn’t this lazy paper editor get one of the American bloggers like filmi girl, memsaab, beth, sitaji et all to write a review on enthiran which i am sure would be more interesting to read then this guy’s drivel. Third thought was “should I write an equally lengthy, wordy article on what are the things i dislike in hollywood films? Then said nah to the third one coz i don’t want to waste my time. If he really disliked Indian movies then why is he continuing to watch them? For laughs? Then there is something seriously wrong with the guy to spend his precious minutes in seeing something he obviously dislikes!

    He claims above that he sees several films a year. Me thinks he pretends to be a nice and polite guy culturally sensitive to the desi pop in that state and gets Indian movie recos or DVDs.

    • He is obviously not worth dealing with just as an individual, but I fear that his kind of reviews are too often easy for American publishers to put forward as real criticism and they do nobody any justice—especially not people like those of us out here really watching films and blogging and LEARNING. It’s an epidemic of ignorance out there, and I can’t bear it really.

  7. Have left a comment on his post which goes as below:

    “Thanks Mr. Moore to have showcased your ignorance of Bollywood by using ‘Endhiran’ as a vehicle. I will now know which blogs to ignore and which ones to actually go through.”

    *tongue in cheek*

  8. Very well said. I appreciate your views. Let us respect the good stuff of Hindi cinema or say Indian cinema instead of brushing it aside in the overwhelm of Hollywood cinema. You are very much correct in saying that there are bad movies made in Hollywood too. To be frank and straight, even I found the much acclaimed and awarded Slumdog Millionaire a flawed one.

    Hearty compliments.

    Jitendra Mathur

    • Well I respect a lot of the so-called bad stuff too (I love B movies and think they are very underrated as good entertainment sometimes). I don’t mind his not liking Endhiran—I haven’t seen it, and maybe I would agree with him that its value lies in kitsch only (maybe!)—but I do object to his ignorant rantings at the readers who politely corrected his woeful lack of knowledge, and I find it shameful that a publication like the Orlando Sentinal—Orlando is a big market—would condone it too.

  9. Unfortunately, Memsaab, I have read tons of similar articles in American newspapers and magazines about foreign (= non-American) movies from ANY country, not only India. For years for instance, Mexican movies were considered as “inferior” to Hollywood productions, most of these judgments being based on drastically cut, badly dubbed prints. Japanese movies like the original “Gojira” was cut to ribbons, additional scenes with Raymond Burr commenting the actions were added, and the result was a much inferior movie. It’s the same thing with all these remakes of current movies from Asia and Europe, as if the American distributors really thought than American audiences were unable to understand a foreign movie in its original form. I’m really lucky to live in France, where each week a lot of foreign movies of all origins can be seen in theaters or on television, in their original language and subtitled (or dubbed for general audiences), and most of us can watch more foreign movies in one year than most of US moviegoers in their entire life. In brief, Mr. Moore’s article is just the reflect of his ignorance, as you noticed. And probably, his lack of curiosity for other cultures, considered as inferior, anyway.

    • Jean Claude, I can second the French appreciation of foreign films based on my experience with my gang of French friends at Bkk. Looking at the popularity of Hollywood movies among the various nationalities in our truly international /multi cultural campus, my French friends organised a French film festival for us which included a good selection of French films from the 60s to 2000 including the original French version of Three Men and a Baby. I can still recall their comment about the ending in the Hollywood version “ It has to be a happy ending coz it is a Hollywood movie”! At the same time they were always happy to see a Korean, Japanese, Chinese or Indian (including hindi, tamil, telugu etc) movies. They would even patiently sit through non subtitled movies and enjoy us friends filling them in as the movie progressed! My Belgian friends too were very appreciative of foreign films. All the Europeans used to share hilarious stories about their travels in India with me.

    • A lot of people everywhere lack curiosity about other cultures and other people in general. But most of them don’t pass themselves off as movie reviewers :)

  10. Uh-oh, Memsaab! Ever since I wrote it, I wanted to send you my review of Endhiran… Only, I didn’t know how to. It seems that another of your loyal readers has beaten me to it. In any case, please allow me to present a glimpse into my experience watching Endhiran at a theater in Maryland.
    Not for the faint of heart.

    • LOL! Now THAT is a review of Endhiran :) love the psychotic subtitle too, hilarious :)

      I am not sure I will watch Endhiran—I haven’t watched a lot of south Indian cinema, being sort of obsessed with Hindi movies to the point of not having much time for the other regions. Maghadeera is on my list, as are a couple of other Telugu films, but I think my next blockbuster watch will be Salman in Dabangg :)

  11. Socked it to him! Now he should try reviewing a good American film (Terminator anyone?)

  12. Thank you Greta for giving a well worded and well thought rebuttal to Mr. Moore’s review. It’s reviews like his, that give Americans a bad reputation all over the world for arrogance and ignorance.

    Films are not made in a vacuum and when a viewer watches any film with a critical eye, they must be aware of many things – the culture from which it came, the time period, the language and the audience at which it is aimed. To say that he reviews films from an American perspective is a lazy way to excuse his ignorance. Of course when I watch a film it is from an American perspective. It is also from a female, mid-forties, Midwestern perspective. That perspective could be further narrowed to St. Louis, MO, to being raised Catholic and having gone to Catholic school or any number of other things that are specific to me. However, I don’t feel that my perspective gives me license to be uninformed about the films that I watch, the books I read or the music I hear because they all too, come from a specific perspective. To know this and embrace it is to truly make the most of your viewing, reading or listening experience. And as a reviewer, to do anything less is lazy and irresponsible.

    To compare any mainstream film from any industry to an independent or art film from the same industry is apples to oranges. Mr. Moore’s refusal to acknowledge these differences just reveals him to be a hack.

    The fact that he is employed is no surprise, many newspapers of considerable size will take on just about anyone to review films. It seems quite apparent that it is one job that requires no experience or training. Many critics that I have read seem to have no formal training in film criticism or film theory. It’s just a shame that the few uniformed and ignorant are seen to speak for the rest of us.

    tldr; Moore’s a hack – more’s the pity ;)

    • Oddly enough, I just received this in an email. It is a link to a pdf about why the analysis of media is important and useful.

      Click to access teachingessay.pdf

      I think it makes better, the point I was trying to make above.

    • This whole blog reeks of my viewing Hindi movies as an American girl :) I can’t do anything about that, and don’t want to. It’s who I am, and it’s what I bring to the film, as you say (along with lots of other “stuff”)…

      That is a very interesting essay, love it. Lots of food for thought in it! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Hi Suzanne, Memsaab,

      You put your point so thoughtfully. I have been thoroughly enjoying memsaab’s blog. When I was growing up, in the 70’s and 80’s India, it was not considered very fashionable or “modern” to watch masala hindi movies. So if you were educated, intellectual, you would always dismiss them as trash. I remember having huge arguments with my very understanding and wonderful father who could not fathom why I enjoyed these kind of movies. As I grew older, for some reason, it was no longer low brow to watch them.
      However, I completely agree with you when you say that everyone can be narrowed down to specificities as per their identity – what you say was very well captured in one of Amartya Sen’s books, speaking of the stereotypical representation of Muslims.

      Hi Memsaab
      thank you for opening up a wonderful world where I can lose myself – and yes, I adore Shammi Kapoor too!
      Shubhra Aurita Roy

  13. That is one passionate piece of writing, Greta.

    One of the reasons your blog and you are so popular is your open mind towards Indian cinema.

    Like you’ve lamented many times about some Indian movies, there are those that are not well-made, lack content, are sexist and are even red-flag movies.

    But to rubbish Indian movies en masse is to do grave injustice to those movies that are made with a lot of care and attention, that are made with a social message, that are made with passion.

    Obviously Mr.Moore is not just ill-informed and close-minded, he is also outright rude and insensitive. It is precisely guys like this who give Americans a bad name world over.

    That such guys are allowed to write for a publication is a risk to society. I don’t know the readership of the Orlando Sentinel but I will not be surprised if some impressionable minds have formed an opinion of Indian movies based purely on this piece of writing.

    Hopefully they will read your blog post too to get a different opinion.

    *Sigh* Stereotypes are so easy to sell, aren’t they?

    • I spend a lot of time it seems on trying to make people understand why I love Hindi cinema so much. There is such a thick fog obscuring so much of it (which as I said is not entirely the fault of those of us in the west). Most people who question me about it are much nicer people and probably more intelligent than Mr. Moore, but they have the same pre-conceived notions that he does (but also, they don’t write about it for a newspaper).

      It was good to finally sit and THINK about the subject for a bit, and put it down for posterity :) So kudos to him for that anyway!

  14. I am so glad I never read ANY film reviews but those of our intelligent Bolly-bloggers. :D But then, what do I know? I rarely ever like any of the “intelligent” fare that “professional” reviewers recommend!

    Moore does come over as amazingly boorish in trying to defend his indefensible errors. To be fair, the man is entitled to his opinions and to making fun of a film. What I find maddening is the whole idea that Hollywood is “intelligent” and “realistic”. Really? Like in The Expendables and other brawn-minus-brain “action” films of that ilk?

    I do wonder why all those commenters on his post defended Endhiran by making a big point of his not understanding Indian culture, though. Last I checked, liking or not liking a robot (no matter how old or how badly made-up) had really nothing to with Indian culture! :D

    • I know…he says at some point that a film with an aging hero like Rajnikant would never make it into cinemas here…which makes me wonder if he actually sees any Hollywood films either.

      I think that most commenters were more interested in defending the film than in educating him—although those who did try to educate him were insulted in return for their efforts. He pretty clearly has no knowledge at all of Rajnikanth’s status, or of the status of many film stars in India—which IS an issue of understanding Indian culture, because we don’t worship stars as Gods in nearly the same way here. It is a fact which should inform any review of the film, whether you are panning it or not. To dismiss him as a badly-dressed old man is to miss the point.

  15. This is what I have posted as a comment on his article (FWIW):

    “Mr. Moore, you are totally entitled to your opinion of the movie and I will not question that right one bit.

    If you found the movie silly or distasteful or unappealing (for whatever reason), that is just fine. It is your opinion afer all. Although, the movie was made with an Indian audience in mind (whether living in India or as part of the huge Indian diaspora living overseas), so its lack of appeal for a “pure” American is hardly surprising.

    But like I said, you are entitled to your opinion of the movie.

    But to dismiss a factual correction by insisting that the movie is a “Bollywood” movie when it is not, to then justify your stand by appropriating for yourself the moral judgmental right for the movie on behalf of all Americans…now that’s being less than gracious (on the first point) and pushing it a bit too far (on the second point), isn’t it?

    Americans have unfortunately got themselves a bad image worldwide as being insensitive people, with little care or desire to understand about other cultures. This may be an unfair image but I must say your comments unfortunately do nothing to correct this impression. “

  16. Bravo Memsaab!!! You should be the “Global Ambassdor of all Indian movies”….or I guess you already are.

    Interesting observation about length of the movies varying with busyness (or richness) of Indians. The economist in me can imagine a chart comparing average length of Indian movies, and per capital income across time :)

  17. Great post from you and Filmi Girl i usually don’t waste time arguing with people on this matter. i usually just quote this from doc bollywood’s profile

    ‘Bollywood is like a ‘magic eye’ puzzle – either you just get it or you don’t’

    • I think that’s true as an entry point: initially I was drawn to it more for the loony aspects of the films I happened to see. But that was just the beginning…and I have since discovered that there is so much more to “Bollywood” than just crazy masala. That is what I wish more people understood!

  18. And interestingly enough, I see that either Mr. Moore or the Sentinel staff have removed the link to my post from the comments :) I will take it as a compliment!

    • It is a compliment!

    • Not to worry, someone has added it back again.

      • Ah no…he has closed comments now on his post after saying this:

        If you mean “Why didn’t you publish my link to MY review of this movie?” the answer is “Get your own blog and your own audience.” Don’t try to hijack mine. I don’t publish links in comments, as a rule, and never to reviews.
        Otherwise, I am leaving comments as is, publishing whatever remarks anyone wants to make on behalf of this silly, kitschy junk movie from India. Comment away. Virtually everybody defending it is, as we say here, “Sticking his or her foot in it.” Far be it for me to stop them/you.

        (Of course, he has stopped them by…um, closing the comments) :) At least he has gotten more comments on that one review than he has on all the rest of his posts combined. It doesn’t look like people generally read him and I guess it’s obvious why.

    • Its been removed and no more comments are allowed to the article. Mr. Moore has finally granted us permission to ignore him :-D

  19. Thanks for putting into words, what I have been thinking all the time.

    Many people, whom I try to get them acquainted with Hindi cinema, start watching them with their own ideas (prejudices) about it and thus end up seeing exactly what they wanted to see.
    That is why I admire each and everybody who watch Indian movies, though weren’t brought up on it.

    • You can’t force people to watch what they don’t want to. I don’t even try. If someone comes to me and says “I’d like to see a Bollywood movie” I am happy to oblige with one that might suit his/her own individual tastes…but otherwise I don’t ever make anybody watch with me.

      • Exactly my POV! If somebody evinces genuine interest and wants to see an Indian movie then I pass on my DVDs otherwise i just hear their view and keep going

  20. Memsaab, your rebuttal is timely and to the point. Unfortunately, Moore is not the exception, most of of the so-called journalist reviewers in India too fall into the same hack category. Reviews when done for the benefit of people should be non-judgmental, unbiased, independent and informative without giving away the plot twists. They should study your reviews to learn how to do reviews.

    • Honestly what I do here is not professional caliber criticism (or reviewing) either; my purpose in writing this blog is to share opinions on films I watch with like-minded people and talk about the people in them and the people who make them from a fan perspective. True film criticism requires a lot more knowledge than I have about film-making itself…but thank you! :)

      • As a movie-goer, I could care a less about professional criticism as I would rather prefer to form my own opinions rather then being fed by so-called professional, nor would I care about expert’s knowledge of intricacies of film-making as all I as an audience care about is quality of movie-watching experience. Rest is all subjective BS, does not matter where it comes from – experts, professionals, journalists or whatever.

        I think your reviewing style is best suited for informing the audience. Even though your reviews may have your personal opinions or be colored by a fan’s perspective, but one can easily get past them and find lots of useful information about the movies to help decide if a movie is worth watching or not. Your narrative creates right amount of information, curiosity and interest for the movie. Popularity of your blog suggests many people like to read your reviews and find them useful.

      • I find that bloggers like you with a passion (OCD?) for cinema and no intellectual pretensions write with more insight, and manage to to put in more fun in your reviews than professional reviewers. So many of them (who I know) are stuck-up individuals, and so consciously intellectual that they don’t trust even their own instincts.

  21. I think Manoj Kumar & this guy belong together. Imagine what would happen if, “Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein Band Ho Aur Chaabi Kho Jaye”; with the both of them.:)

  22. Roger Moore is a widely syndicated film columnist…his reviews appear weekly in the Durham Herald-Sun, which has fired all the local reviewers. His review simply indicates that he is not curious enough about a movie like Endhiran/Robot to bother contextualizing any of his comments. His reviews are never particularly challenging or enlightening, although they usual manage to avoid insult, not true in this case. If he’d done any research at all, even in that scholarly tome, Entertainment Weekly, he would have learned that this film was on the US Top 20 Box Office TWICE, in Tamil @ #12 and in Hindi @ #17. A first?

    • Are you freaking kidding me?! I actually (unlike he would do) went and pored through some of his other reviews of Hollywood films before I wrote this, and came to the conclusion that he was just a local hack—they were all remarkably content free, and contained nothing that a high-school kid couldn’t write (although they were less evidently clueless than his Endhiran review). Wow. I guess he is a perfect illustration of the endless dumbing-down of America and its journalism. Think I will go back to bed now.

      • Syndication seems to demand somebody bland, who will (usually) encourage people to spend their money on the typical Hollywood mediocrity. I believe Moore used to review for the Winston-Salem (NC) Journal and then fell in the honey pot in Orlando.

        BTW, Robot is totally paisa vasool, a CGI update of 70s masala filmmaking.

        • …Robot is totally paisa vasool, a CGI update of 70s masala filmmaking.

          Kinda depends on whose paisa you spent in the first place, no? :D Even the CGI wasn’t that great, as I have mentioned elsewhere.

        • You’d think there are enough good and thoughtful writers out there who need jobs…but you are right. Most people don’t want to have to actually think about anything any more and they will flock to those who don’t make them.

          KD: Laura spends her own paisa, and she is entitled to have liked it :)

          • Absolutely. I apologize to Laura if I’ve offended her with my remark. It was meant to be strictly tongue-in-cheek.

          • Thanks for defending me, Memsaab! On the whole CGI issue–it ALL looks as fake to me as a little model train tootling through fake trees on a piece of plywood. Suspension of disbelief is part of the magic of the movies. You choose to do so, or not. The technology is irrelevant.

          • I know Kausik meant no offense :)

            I actually PREFER the little model train tootling through little Happy Familyville type special effects…CGI is well on its way to ruining cinema everywhere since people (and filmmakers) seem to think it’s an adequate substitute for actual stories and talented actors. And yes I do know that I sound like cranky old person. I AM a cranky old person.

  23. WOW! That was some writeup in defense of Indian cinema. Thank you, very much. However when referring to Rajnikant it doesn’t matter to him what a Mr. Moore from America has to say. I just read an article in Mumbai Mirror (a Times of India publication), the response of his fans is mind blowing; he is their God. Now this reaction has aroused my curiosity about the film.

    • No, Mr. Moore is not going to affect box office collections for the film at all. But his attitude is so pervasive among Americans that I just felt I had to say something. I am tired of the uninformed prejudice against “Bollywood” that I hear all the time.

      I don’t know if I will see Endhiran or not…but his clearly ignorant opinion would not sway me on anything :)

  24. You know the way I rant about hindi films memsaab, and so often disagree with you, but he put my hackles up with the first 2 sentences!!

    And I find myself defending hindi cinema and music with gusto. But you are right, its only worth wasting your time convincing those people whose opinion you actually care about.

    keep writing!

    • Well nobody loses more than he does himself by being unable to hear even gentle corrections, let alone valid concerns over his approach and his lack of knowledge :) His problem!

      I’ll keep watching (and writing about) Hindi cinema, no worries on that score.

  25. I think I said this already but now can’t find it – a reason to bother to write something in reply to a person like him is not for him, but for his readers, that is often why I do things like that. People almost always read at least some of the comments on an article they’ve read to the end of, I think.
    Also – the writer’s editors might look at the comments. So it’s like a complaint to a licensing board – a comment opens a file, somebody who reads it might monitor him a bit for racism – or stupidity – in the future.
    And – I think he got a lot of readers for this article because of Indians doing searches for reviews of Endhiran.
    AND – I don’t think he even looked at Greta’s blog, as his snarly comment accompanying his deletion more or less accused the poster – me, not Greta – of posting a link to my/her own review of the movie, which isn’t what it was.

    • He is unlikely to learn from anything, but you (and others) made some very excellent points which hopefully will help some of his readers understand that not all “Americans” are that willfully stupid. I don’t much care if he looked at my post or not, but I am glad to have finally been galvanized into putting down my thoughts on all the wrong illusions floating around out there about Indian cinema.

    • If I were in Moore’s place (thankfully I am not !) I would have taken a look at Greta’s blog just to see what is it that makes her blog tick. If he has not done it, then I guess, he’s too full of himself. Either ways, its good for us.

      • Exactly—I have learned SO MUCH by following links which readers put in the comments here. But you have to have a desire to learn and a fundamental curiosity (and a willingness to admit you don’t know everything already!) :)

  26. Memsaab, his rejoinder in accusing you of using his blog to gain readership is laughable! I am sure there are thousands of genuine readers who visit your blog for your views and reviews of Indian cinema which even he can’t match. S Speaks volumes for the arrogance of the guy. I understand that one of your readers actually provided a link to your article. Virginia, u r right about readers reading the comments on blogs. Atleast I do read comments!

  27. To all Americans out there who have almost apologised for Moore’s boorishness and ignorance, worry not, we have many of our own. One man’s stupidity and lack of knowledge about the rest of the world’s cultures is no indication of a whole country’s mindset. Many Americans are acutely aware of being sensitive and informed–our own Memsaab is one of them. So let’s forget Moore and move on. (Having said that, have to say that Endhiran is a bore in the second half and not all of us are carried away by the Rajini cult.)

    • Oh I know—as I say in the post, a lot of Indians I talk to and whose views I read are just as uninformed and prejudiced against “Bollywood”…it’s human nature I guess.

  28. You are so qualified to write this, in fact you are better qualified than most indian film critics to write anything about Indian cinema, because you have watched so many films, because you have done so much meticulous research. It is because of you that I notice much more in the movies I watch now. I care to look at the decor, notice the name on drums, gasp at costumes and most important of all, notice the contribution of smaller artists who make the films so much more fun.

    I have to thank you for making movie viewing a much better experience for me.

  29. Very well said, Memsaab. Film criticism seems to be a soft job for most people, publications. Something anyone can do. Without any qualifications or even any love for cinema, Bollywood, Kollywood, Hollywood. Grrrrr!!

    • Well at least one can still find good critics/writers like you and some of the other bloggers around here when one wants to :) It does astonish me that most of them go unappreciated by mainstream media though. I’m glad Tehelka had the good sense to pick you up!

  30. Did he change the article after the criticism? I finally clicked on his link and I see little things like “Bollywood-style” now instead of plain Bollywood. I dunno though – I only skimmed it coz life is too short.

    I kind of expected there to be tons of this kind of stuff out there in the wake of the Endhiran mania that built up pre-release. I just thought it’d be a little more subtle? 2010 and all that. Anyhoo, that’s one critic who knows not to mess with Rajni fans now, lol!

    • He did change a couple of things (like added “is that her?” in the sentence lambasting Aishwarya’s singing voice) :D He still refers to it as Bollywood though.

      We’ll see if he is stalked now by rabid Rajni fans :) I wouldn’t want that fate myself!

      • Nah, Rajni fans and Rajni fan clubs are secure in their own kingdom and I don’t think will bother with this guy! Apparently Rajni has a huge fandom in Japan!

  31. This is from a man who was (probably) named after an actor most famous for starring in a string of English-language films more Bollywoody than anything Manmohan Desai can cook up?

    And he managed to put in a kind word about Satyajit Ray (the favourite director of auteurs like Akira Kurosawa and Martin Scorsese)? I think we should award him a Bharat Ratna as soon as possible!

    Bottomline: they will always find a way to package ‘white man’s burden’ for the new generation.

  32. Ugh – I buzzed through his review, “such as it is.” If you can’t stand a certain style of movie, then don’t try to review it. I’ve read reviews of amazing HK movies that miss the entire point of the movie because they’re too caught up in the “look at the funny foreign people” groove.

    Also, how did I miss when this came out?! I remember reading about it in Filmfare when they were making it, but then my subscription lapsed :) I have to tell my husband about it.

  33. You know. Next time I face this kind of shallow reaction (which is quite usual for me now), I will only show your article. Thank you very much for it. It sums up my feelings perfectly.

  34. Oh one more comment here – about Roger Moore’s deleting the link I posted – twice – to Memsaab’s blog discussion of his review of Endhiran, and his nasty (and ignorant) comment accusing me of looking to promote my own review (there is none):

    I have been thinking lately about unbridgeable gaps/Tower of Babel situations between people, and this is one: Moore seems to make an assumption that the *only* reason someone might post a link like this is for the purpose of self-promotion (“get your own blog”). The idea of people engaging, communicating, discussing, correcting each other, or arguing from a primary motive of curiosity, desire to learn, enjoyment of mental stimulation — I don’t think any of this occurs to him.

    When this is where somebody is coming from, I guess you can’t talk to him. But I’m still kind of surprised by it when I run into it.

  35. This is such a well written article!!! You have said everything I feel about this issue and have said it so much better than I could have thought of articulating it!!!!

    Thanks a lot for this post!!!

  36. I loved Robo as well and am a big fan of Rajni. I thought Ash was gorgeous in the movie. But I agree with many of Moore’s points. Lets face it ,Indian movies are just too long and can get very boring for a non indian audience. The most recent big blockbusters like my name is khan and three idiots were simply out stupid in the worst possible way. Indian commercial cinema will never be popular with western audiences. The are just too amateurishly made in every regard.

    • I know this comment is over a year old at this point, but let me just point out that 3 Idiots was incredibly popular with Chinese and Korean audiences (, That is about 525,000 non-Indians who loved the film enough to rate it over 9. ‘Non-Indian’ is not limited to the West, and you shouldn’t even look to the West for any sort of validation or approval because generally, Western audiences shy away from *anything* that differs in any significant way from Western culture, unless it’s been exoticized and made palatable enough via presenting it through a Western gaze. As for amateurish? Brother, the Transformers film series has made more money than what entire populations of a few small countries earn in a year (or several). Don’t tell me it’s ‘amateurish film-making’ that’s holding Bollywood back.

  37. Hi Greta, I agree with you that most Indians themselves have little knowledge of Hindi cinema- and I’m not even talking of regional cinema. There are plenty of priceless gems in Marathi and Tamil cinema (the two regional languages I’m familiar with), not to mention some great Hindi movies too.

    Thankfully there’s a new wave in Hindi cinema too, with directors like Anurag Kashyap, Neeraj Pandey, Vikramaditya Motwane, Sujoy Ghosh, etc who are making truly meaningful cinema.

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