As an NRI and a fan of Indian films, I have a real quibble with Indian cinema. Or more specifically, Indian filmmakers who portray NRIs on the mainstream screen.
I have had the misfortune of watching Yaadein, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Mujhse Dosti Karoge (all the way through), Salaam Namaste, and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom (which I had to turn off within 30 minutes of the film).
There are many errors filmmakers make about Indians living abroad. The ones I am going to list are my biggest pet peeves:
1) All Indians abroad are rich: PFFT! As someone who lives in a very Indian community, I do not see the grand mansion ala Yaadein or Mujhse Dosti Karoge. Nor do I see many having properties that are considerably expensive. Most Indians here live modestly, even if they are ridiculously rich. The only Indian that I recall has a mansion in that manner is Lakshmi Mittal and the members of Sahara Parivar group.
2) Our accents don’t seem to change: While a considerable number of the Indian community still has an Indian accent, the second generation has a fusion accent between British and Indian. Think Bend It Like Beckham. None of the actors playing NRI characters seem to put the effort into changing the accent. Argh!
3) Our clothes are ridiculous: If you go to London which is the most metropolitan of cities, you will not find us dressed in the ridiculous outfits that Pooh wore in K3G. There is a lot of fusion with worked kaftans and kurtis and Indian jewellery, but we do not dress like whores.
4) All of us crave the mother country: Yes, a considerable portion miss it, and the older generation does go on about how great it was and how unbelievably uprooted we are but for the most part we don’t crave it. We don’t even miss it. How can we care as much as you can about your roots when you haven’t grown up there?
5) Everything is a step away: Geographically, filmmakers mess up London (can’t say about the other places). Oxford Circus is a gazillion miles from West Hampstead. The church that Hrithik Roshan goes to in the film MDK is in central London, but he lives in West Hampstead which is very far in the North. His school would not be that far away.
6) Oh the inaccuracies: Then there is the factual error — there is no London University (as suggested in MDK). There is a University of London which is basically a collegiate of all the best universities in and around London — Royal Holloway, Imperial (though as of last year, this university is independent), King’s College (another fact they got wrong in K3G – they didn’t use the King’s College building and it doesn’t have a radio station), and UCL to name a few.
In Jhoom Barabar Jhoom Preity’s character was a complete idiot. We don’t sound like that, and we don’t think like that. However Abhishek got a considerable number of British Asians down to a T.
Kareena’s character in K3G was nothing like what British Asian girls behave like in private or public. Most of them won’t be found in mini-skirts or sluttish outfits. There are a few, but for the most part, we aren’t like that.
So here’s a plea. From a film-goer to a film-maker, please portray us NRI’s the way we are and not the way you think we are.