Namastey London, starring up-and-coming international stars Katrina Kaif and Akshay Kumar, is a film that triggered interesting remarks about Indian jingoism among British Indians who distinguished themselves from it.
The film depicts Hindu Pakistanis and Punjabis as brothers, and shows all Indians behaving with utmost tolerance among themselves, a take that I found highly contentious. As usual, all these British-based NRIs are shown inhabiting lavishly furnished homes, being hugely successful in business and the professions, and feeling perfectly at ease in the West, as seen in a range of other recent Bollywood films (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…, Hum Tum, Kal Ho Naa Ho). In addition, all the exploitative attitudes and racism are shown as coming from the snotty Englishmen.
I would include Namastey London for consideration in the context of a project that would pay attention to all those narratives that come from the former colonies with the intention to expose the arrogance of the West. A number of such films are being released every year around the world, seen and admired by scores of people, yet this strand of cinematic creativity and ideology remains unnoticed because these are films that come from a variety of countries. If one watches across borders and acknowledges the critical mass and the cumulative effect of their narratives, one would clearly see a growing trend.
The film is also interesting for its particular brand of nationalistic Indian propaganda. It makes overt references to another Indian national esteem project, the much superior Lagaan – Once Upon a Time in India (2001).
Namastey London became number 9 at the UK box office and was successful internationally. In spite its commercial success, however, the film received very little coverage in British media, with only bullet reviews of no more than 200 words, usually making some dismissive remark. This in itself is a particularly noteworthy, as its pronouncements on the British surely deserved some analysis. The script of the film has been almost immediately selected to be kept in the Academy of Motion Picture’s library of scripts.
© Dina Iordanova
10 July 2008