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Dhoom 3 – fun and great twist on white James Bond using non white countries as exotic playground

December 26, 2013 1 comment

Dhoom 3 was amazing! Such a good movie. Really high production values and lots of fun. I think as my first Bollywood film it may have set future expectations unrealistically high. And the big baddie was a white corporate exec called Warren Anderson! Surely it can’t be a coincidence that this is exactly shared with Union Carbide’s chief exec, himself responsible for the corporate manslaughter of thousands here in Bhopal?!

USA was used as the exotic backdrop and the white cops were kinda dumb and useless and needing the assistance of the smart (in all senses of the word) Indian cops. It was the Indians who had the fancy moves during the chase scenes and the white cops who had the big smash ups. In fact apart from one white character (and she could speak Hindi) the white guys were either dumb or evil. But after decades of the reverse (eg this year’s “Captain Phillips”) this seemed just!

In particular a river chase scene invoked all those James Bonds where river boats are ripped through – but this time its brown guys using a white city as a playground. Somehow I enjoyed that. And I really like that unapologetic self-confidence rather than the internalised-racism self-cringe.

I thought my initial 2 days of travel plus jet lag had intensified and clouded my emotions and so biased my love-at-first-sight reaction to even Mumbai airport, but no, its getting deeper every day. I became unmotivated to learn any more Hindi last week as it won’t be useful after I travel south next month, but I’ve picked it up again this week (today I learned to (sort of / badly) count to 100) because I think I will come back here, to Bhopal. And so much of the north to see I will have to make at least one more trip to this gorgeous country.

Also on the way home and still feeling invigorated from the movie, I got my hair cut right back – I’d let it grow to about an inch so it would be less shocking out here. But after a fortnight I realised that the best thing I can do is wear Indian clothes, which anyway are gorgeous. I am white and that is enough to get stared at off the beaten track. I can’t fade into comfortable background however long my hair gets, so I might as well have the hairstyle I want! India is very diverse so can probably handle this weird chick with shaved head. So I went into a barber’s, showed him a photo of me with a shorn head (I long ago learned that I will otherwise get disbelief that I understand what I am asking for) and now am again bald. :)

Endnote : the gender politics in D3 were pretty standard – female characters pretty and used for love interest and eye candy. Please don’t go see this movie thinking its particularly progressive. I just enjoyed it that’s all.

Bhopal diary snippets – first 10 days.

December 22, 2013 Leave a comment

I meant to have written more, to document and describe the situation as I learned, but it is still too overwhelming and confused in my brain. I have been keeping a daily diary, and intend to continue to throughout my trip. So here are some excerpts. I would like to be able to write something more coherent, but nothing coheres, there is just a jumble of feelings (mostly anger and sadness) and images and data swirling around. I could write something but it would be formulaic and I would be more conforming to a rhythm of am article than actually saying anything meaningful because there is no narrative in my head yet.

Read more…

Union Carbide factory, Bhopal

December 14, 2013 1 comment

We walked hardly 5 minutes through the densely populated district from the clinic and suddenly we were at the union carbide factory gates. This factory filled with toxic chemicals to make pesticides, with untested technology and equipment, had been built right where thousands of people lived. And yet after it was no longer profitable, union carbide (now wholely owned by Dow Chemicals) did not keep up the maintenance despite leaving there tanks of MIC – the highly reactive and deadly gas that leaked and destroyed so many lives.

The factory is now just an iron skeleton with old pipes and tanks and machinery surrounded by trees and flowers. Parts reminded me of a video game with iron stair cases climbing up to exposed platforms from which hang thick vines.

The tank itself which finally, inevitably given the negligence, leaked causing so much harm is lying peacefully on it’s side, surrounded by verdant life. The guard who showed us round is one of the thousands of survivors from that night who still has extensive health problems due to the inhaled poison.

A lab was there – big bottles of chemicals just there, many broken. A packet of bright orange powder split open on the floor. Nobody has come to even make a pretense of cleaning up this contaminated abomination. The perpetrators walked free. The local people still suffering from their negligence and inhumanity.

Near the gate, on the way out, I noticed a small garden had been made by the guards. Just a few flowers but obviously being tended with a raised edge so it can be watered.

The factory was so peaceful. So horrible. So beautiful in rewilded post industrial decay yet with such horror associated. I’m still overwhelmed with all I’m seeing and learning here so can’t really process much.

Here humans prioritised profit over other humans and devastated a community.

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