Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Non-Indian fans of Bollywood part II

Thanks to Memsaab, I was alerted to a Times of India article on non-Indian fans of Bollywood: "Bollywood's phoren fan brigade," by Ashwin Ahmad. It's similar to Nisha Susan's article in Tehelka a few weeks ago; in fact, since it uses most of the same sources, it seems pretty directly inspired by Susan's thoughtful original.

But Ahmad is far less scrupulous than Susan when it comes to his sources. Both Memsaab and I are misquoted in the article (the misquote of Memsaab has her giving an opinion on a Bollywood film which is the opposite of the one she actually holds; the misquote of one of my blog comments renders it nonsensical). Surely it doesn't require a great deal of effort to quote a blog comment (or in Memsaab's case, an e-mail) correctly: all one has to do is select, copy and paste, no?

Worse than misquoting me, though, Ahmad mischaracterizes me. "Pesimisissimo [sic], who describes himself as a Bollywood loving white guy, feels the need to make it clear that he's not a hippy [sic] or gay." Nowhere in my blog have I ever "felt the need" to discuss my sexuality. Frankly, I'm not eager to claim membership in a group which has been responsible for most of the violence, racism, imperialism, exploitation, environmental damage, and bad fashion sense that has plagued humanity throughout history. Nor does the word "hippie" ever occur in this blog, except in this sentence. I write about punk and post-punk music because (as I wrote in a previous post) it helped to shape my sensibility, not out of hostility to a cultural movement that was first declared dead in 1967. (From the Wikipedia article on the Diggers, a radical mid-1960s San Francisco collective: "In October 1967, they staged The Death of Hippie, a parade in the Haight-Ashbury where masked participants carried a coffin with the words 'Hippie--Son of Media' on the side"). Ahmad could have checked my hippie/gay defensiveness or lack thereof simply by sending me an e-mail, which he never bothered to do. And to add insult to injury, he misspelled my name! I feel like the proverbial guy in the restaurant complaining that the food is terrible, and the portions are too small.

To end this post on a positive note, model journalist Nisha Susan has a delightful blog, The Chasing Iamb...and why you shouldn't choose blog names in a hurry. And, cementing her place in my affections, she's a fan of the brilliant Alison Bechdel, author of the comic strip "Dykes To Watch Out For" and the memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.


  1. Although he did email me, he seems to have mostly gone through my blog and picked out bits and pieces and then pieced them together willy-nilly along with some stuff he made up out of thin air :-)

    Ah well, such is the price of fame.

  2. Memsaab, thanks for your commiseration. If I had just been misquoted I think I would be less irritated. Ahmad abridges and alters--without any indication--what I wrote, and garbles my final sentence so that it doesn't make any sense, but I can deal with being made to sound like an idiot.

    However, saying "Pesimisissimo [sic]...feels the need to make it clear that he's not...gay" is tantamount to calling me homophobic. That Ahmad could so deliberately misread me is pretty appalling.

  3. perhaps he thought hipster meant hippie... if he was capable of that i am not surprised that he thought camp meant gay...

  4. I think you're right! He's taken the sentence "I want to make it clear that I'm not some hipster whose ironic or camp 'appreciation' is really a form of mockery" from my post "Why I love Bollywood" as a declaration that I'm not a hippie (whatever that would mean in 2008) or gay.

    His misinterpretation would be hilarious if it didn't make me seem like a reactionary...

  5. I only read the article once and somehow missed that - very irritating indeed. I was unimpressed overall, I must admit; it seemed so similar to the Tehelka piece (and he asked me very similar questions, so I shoudln't be surprised) that I'm not sure of the point of writing it at all.

  6. Ahmad clearly cribbed from Susan's superior original piece. The only question is whether he did it at the instigation of an editor, or on his own. I agree--what's the point of doing it second, and badly?

  7. For some reason, I dont think I much appreciate the journo's whole division of Bolly lovers into "foreign" and "Indian" and whatnot. The article also almost makes it sound like Indian cinema is in NEED of validation :S It IS a bad copy of the Tehelka original, but [sigh] what would you do...:S

  8. Hi,there. An old friend sent me a copy of that article a little while ago, but I didn't think much of it. I suspected it wasn't very accurate either.

    On another subject that you brought up, interesting to see that you are someone for whom punk rock and postpunk were once so important, who now loves Bollywood. The same exact things could be said about me. Maybe there are a few of us, who might fit into another special cateogory, which will inspire someone to write another bad article someday.