World Literature in English, Spring, '98

Students' Final Take-Home Exams
Spring, 1998

Diaspora in the postmodern metropolis¡Xthree films Masala/Rude/Eldorado
Tina Pan
Tina Pan
In the film of Masala, the postmodern elements are used in a way to shorten the distance between the great masses and the complex relationship between the Indian diaspora and the immigrants and the local whites. In the very genuine Indian culture located in Toronto, the identity of these Indian descendents or immigrants tends to have several choices. This fact also complicates the choices among various social positions such as that of a bourgeois or that of a working class. The very surrealistic or parodic insertions on western popular cultural or artistic forms can indicate some modes of thinking as to the reception of western culture to the first generation of diaspora and the second. For example, the musical and the production of the TV program in the beginning give us a chance to the variety and the possibility of merging different kinds of art forms from different cultures in one film. It can be some kind of a warning as well that we can not overlook altogether in the optimism of postmodern plurality. Media in this work extends the limited space of the Indian immigrants, and it also echoes the conditions implanted in the colonized homes back in India. It is a double or second colonization of western-style TV programs or films. Although, India has the biggest film industry in the world, the populace can not avoid being controlled by the invasions of the commercially superior and technically advancing media such as television.

The couple is the focus of the action. Their participation in a musical is significant in that a ridiculing effect of the sheer worship of the American Broadway production is achieved. Of course, it can also mean to add to the serious theme some merry elements. Except from extending and expanding the space and possibility in contrast with the drab and dull immigrant life in a foreign country, the use of these media can be very powerful in its implications, like what I mentioned in the previous paragraph. Does this mimic or parody produce some fictitious side effect in the drawing near the audience? I can understand the burlesque potential in this kind of parody or re-adoption of western art forms, but I do doubt the significations of the demonstrations. To rise a bit above the discussion of this dubiousness, the combination of these art forms exactly reflect the urban conditions of these characters. In the space and social surroundings, they are faced with all kinds of information and imposition of different media. The post- industrial products must work against or for the identification with a variety of cultures. The airplanes fly over the city dwellers every day, but here it is very interestingly used as a metaphor pointing both to the traumatic experience of Krishna and to the haunting idea of being in an one-or-the-other position. The positive influence of the media is the way it can be manipulated or shaped into the ideal tool for communication, even one with one¡¦s past and inner cultural identity. The grandma¡¦s contact with Krishna the god shows the glimpse of hope and possible extension and communication with the unknown and perhaps with the uncontrollable factors in urban life. The media also endows an ability of imagination on the characters. The model of airplane and the magic videotape are the extreme cases where postmodern technology and the people in it can work in the barren and dried-up state.

Like its self-reflexive character, the film can be limited in the sense that a lot of stereotypes are also transmitted through the images as the negative impact can be implied along with the western media. These types of the Indian cultures must take the risk of being misinterpreted and generalized or simplified in the representation of two-dimensional media. However, it is inevitable and strategic eventually that all post-colonial or third world countries have to opt for the modern techniques in developing and re-affirming the national or cultural identity.

In Rude, we come to testify a more ambiguous reference to immigrant cultures and issues of the positioning of these younger diasporas. With the religious allusions behind the context of the film, it is still a story happening in a post-modern metropolis. Very artfully, the background of the religious or folk belief can be displayed in the graffiti or frescoes backdropping the majority of scenes. The content of these paintings are relevant to the biblical apocalyptic connotations and thus linked to the time of the event and the comment and tone of the DJ. The form of the art plays a realistic role in the urban problems of the marginals. Without any escape into an outer space, the enclosed atmosphere created by the camera is very well correspondent to the ¡§no-way-out¡¨ situation or mindset of the characters. These characters though being in a city established previously by WASPs, they have to confront the multi-fold problems of their survival as a descendent of immigrants and as the marginals. In this perspective, all of the three films somehow lead us to the exploration of the same question. How are the younger generations dealing with the inner and the outer diaspora that they are associated with or branded with? The panning of the radio station where Rude was seated is the manifestation of her omnipotent and godlike power. Her comment or incitement becomes the very media (voice) that penetrates the life of all the characters. Its symbolic influence is so great that the actions are under its control and then come to a certain realization or compromise in the course of the film. Unlike images embodied in the graffiti and the camcorder, the voice of Rude

directs the course of the film, just like the mystique movement of the sun over the city of Toronto and somehow urges the changes of the characters, either on the inner or the external actions. The technologies in this film serve as the tool of inner meditation and self-criticism. Also, it has the portending function. It directs the conflicts of the episodes and the examinations of each character and finally the accumulation and convergence of the climaxes. It is interesting to consider the overpowering status of media in the film.

In contrast, Biname¡¦s Eldorado deals with these technologies a lot diversely. The DJ in the film is both a commentator and an active participator in the everyday life. His words reflect a certain reality of city life and the qualms of the youngsters must have in surviving. Working along with the montaged images of cars and the soundeffect of industrial stage of urban development, this penetration of voice/media does achieve to wrap up the episodic trait of the film. Actually, being a part of diaspora or the city nomads, the dramatic acting of the DJ also takes the role of being challenged and sabotaged later with the changes of the characters. I can detect the counteraction or back-to-simplicity attempt in this movie, be it intentional or coincidental. The complexity of postmodern elements is so strong and commanding at first that the characters start to seek some simple interactions and less standardized or stereotypical city encounters. They try to leap out of the modes of human associations. Again, they become individuals wandering in the realm and influence of the city and its media. The architecture as the concrete part of the city reflects the bodily growth of these characters. They can not avoid the contact with these concrete elements, nor the penetrating voice of the city. The images and the sounds are everywhere. The machines and the sounds they produce are so imposing and influential that sometimes the characters can not escape from the power of the city. When we discussed the film and the importance of media in it for our group report, we question the equivocal role of these postmodern media, especially that of the DJ and radio programs. The space it creates is not another space extended through hyper-reality; instead, it excavates downward in the vertical manner to let introspection happen within the characters and their coincidental interactions. With the display of all kinds of possibilities offered by media, the director seems to focus on one last resort to which the lost spirits of the city can go to¡Xthat is a space out of the reach of the post-modern loss of reality. Only in the inner irrelative can they find the solid reconstruction and learn to establish human bond without being controlled by the external imposition or factors of the environment. All the same, there remains the doubt of the symbiotic relations between the urban environment and the characters. Though they intend to live outside or without the influence or impart of those outer elements, they must deal with them and even work within them every day. Their itineraries signify their intent of co-existing with these threats and attempt to live with them. The last scene symbolizes the real projection into the past and the future, and the vista produced by the railway track gives the depth and alternatives other than the present style of life.