The teaser of Tamil star-actor Dhanush’s international debut The Extraordinary Journey Of A Fakir is out. And it confirms our worst suspicions about what Indian actors are willing to do to be seen in “Hollywood films”(that’s how all international ventures shot outside Asia are known in India).
Is is bad enough that the film is adapted from a novel with a long-winded title –Romain Puertolas’ The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe—that unabashedly celebrates cultural stereotypes . Worse still,Dhanush grabs the opportunity to display his most pronounced interpretations of the ingenue’s touristic delight. He squeals, he moans, he sucks in his cheeks in stupefied wonder staring at firangimonuments, artifacts and , yes, the women too.
As his character Ajatshatru Patel(it was originally Rathod, but then Rajasthan tends to be aggressively sensitive to cinematic liberties, as Padmaavatproved) travels across the world in a suitcase and a wardrobe—he asserts all the cultural stereotypes associated with brownskinned ex-colonists: that they are extremely naïve and eminently flexible…in this case literally so, since Dhanush’s Patel can fit into any size and space, boxed or otherwise, and reach to any part of the world and make friends.
He is Raj Kapoor whose joota is japani, patloon englishtaani , sar pe laal topi rusi, phir bhi dil(and pugdi) Hindustani.
In the teaser we see Dhanush in various Indian headgear including a turban and a pugdee. A certain enlightened section of the Western audience thinks Indians wear exotic orientalism on their heads, midriffs, feet …everywhere possible. Dhanush seems to oblige the imperialistic palate for the exotic, pandering to the West’s insatiable hunger for post-Colonial revisionism .
Simply put, they want to feel good about us by making us look naïve to the point of being clueless. It is up the the enlightened Westerners to show the darkskinned Indian what hospitality is all about.
The most extraordinary thing about The Extraordinary Journey Of A Fakir is how much of the colonial prejudice has remained unchanged over the years. In the recent fiasco of a film Victoria & Abdul Ali Fazal slavishly hiphopped to a Western tune playing a glorified Indian slave to Queen Victoria. Here in this age-old Western perception of India as a land of magical fakirs, flying carpets and bed of nails, Dhanush who is one of TamilNadu and India’s most progressive actors, discards his habitual penchant for playing progressive parts to preen and whimper in servile delight as he gets a golden chance to do what many of his illustrious predecessors from Shashi Kapoor to Om Puri to Irrfan Khan to Priyanka Chopra and even DeepikaPadukone have attempted.
Be what Uncle Tom wants us to be.
When they ask us to bend we crawl.