Tete-A-Tamasha

By Pragya Gianani, Staff Writer

Welcome to Tete-A-Tamasha, your weekly dose of a brown girl playing into the brown girl stereotype of incessantly talking about Bollywood. “Tamasha” is Hindi for “a great disturbance” or “a grand performance”, which I think sums up the contradictory nature of South Asian film quite succinctly.

I don’t know what a non-brown person’s idea of South Asian film is, but I imagine it has a lot to do with random perfectly choreographed sequences and inexplicable singing. Like a musical, but, you know, diverse. I’m not here to disprove that assumption, because guess what? You’re right. We really love our singing, dancing and insane stunts that are not humanly plausible. South Asia specializes in fantasies and escapism. We like that ish! We were colonized for two hundred years, looted and virtually enslaved. Our idea of reality was pretty gruesome till only 70 years ago when we finally gained our independence. Let us live.

I also imagine people might not know that South Asian cinema is not encompassed within loud, brash, colorful Bollywood. Bollywood is particularly Hindi cinema, originated and contained within the city of Bombay. South Asian film consists of the cinema of South India (Telugu, Tamil, Tulu, Malayalam, Kannada and Badaga) and almost every state of India, each of which have their own vernacular movie industry. This is not including Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepalese or Sri Lankan cinema. I, as a North Indian, have been particularly limited by my restricted Bollywood upbringing.

This column is my attempt to actively experience all South Asian cinema, Bollywood or otherwise, and provide critical socio-political commentary, which is a fancy way of saying I have feelings about stuff and I’m gonna write them down once a week and hope someone cares.

But who am I? I am the Jon Snow of all non-Bollywood cinema. I know nothing. I am the Harry Potter of Bollywood cinema. I know some things, but other, smarter people help me along the way and I’m just lucky enough to survive somehow.

Real talk though, my name is Pragya, pronounced Prague, like the city, with a ya. It means wisdom, and I like to think that’s pretty legit. You can disagree. You’d be wrong, but feel free to disagree.

Meanwhile, here’s a fun fact to close the first column. Bollywood was, until very recently, almost entirely funded by underground criminals i.e. Indian mafia. Why? Because the Indian government did not recognize the Indian film industry as a legitimate recipient of business loans, which led to them requesting funds from those who had capital — criminals. One of the worst kept secrets of the Bollywood industry, all yours. Our movies were made by the mf-ing Indian mafia! Hollywood what? Angelina and Brad who?
For now, alvida. Phir milenge. (Goodbye. We’ll see each other soon.)

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