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Dhanush’s International Debut Propagates The Most Sickening Colonial Stereotypes

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.

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