Basmati Blues: The borderline racist, rice-farming musical film Academy Winner Brie Larson does not want you to see
Brie is known for being part of woke, indie films and to watch her in this horrible Hollywood/Bollywood mashup was pure torture.
Academy Award winner Brie Larson is one of the most talented actresses of our time. From playing the disgruntled teenager Kate in 'United States of Tara' to the brave Ma in 'Room,' Brie has displayed an array of emotions on the screen, having even landed an Academy Award win at the young age of 26.
Now she is adding a new feather to her cap by joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe as one of its most iconic characters - Captain Marvel. According to one the most common comic book lore, she is an officer in the United States Air Force and it would be quite exhilarating to see Brie take on this fearless role.
Why then did she have to mar her impeccable resume with a role as inexcusable as Linda in the recently released 'Basmati Blues'? In the film, she plays an American scientist who goes to India to teach the farmers there how to farm.
This is the official summary for the film: A scientist (Brie Larson) creates genetically modified rice with her father (Scott Bakula), and their boss (Donald Sutherland) sends them to India to sell it to rural farmers. Initially ignorant about the country, she is brought to earth by the savvy but welcoming Indians and falls for a college-educated farmer, Rajit, who is fighting for the rights of the local rice farmers. When she discovers that the business deal will destroy the farmers' way of life, she and Rajit must work together to stop it.
Pretty harmless, right? If you ignore the overwhelming white savior complex and the pathetic excuse to incorporate Bollywood dance numbers in a Hollywood film, that is. Unfortunately, the part about American seed companies trying to sow their GMO seeds in Indian farmlands is far from fiction. This is why despite the red signals that the synopsis and the weirdly cut trailer gave off we decided to give this movie a chance.
Well, we did and honestly, 'Basmati Blues' isn't as racist as it is peppered with clichés. However, it does not offend the Bollywood sing-song trope as much as it does the 'La La Lands of the world. If it was meant to be a Bollywood tribute, the film has definitely missed the mark.
Unfortunately, a tribute is what they went for, and a tribute is what 'Basmati Blues' clearly not. “Basmati Blues is a love letter to multiple eras of Bollywood cinema, musicals, and classic Hollywood romantic comedies. We are confident that the film, when seen in its entirety, will bear out our appreciation and respect for India and its people," the brains behind the film, Monique Caulfield and Danny Baron, said in a statement that was released after their film’s trailer was heavily criticized on social media, for “cultural misappropriation”.
It goes without saying that idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of any place look like utter chaos to anyone who is foreign to it. This is the same issue that 'Basmati Blues' faces in India. While it is clear that there is no malice in the creators' interest in setting their story in India, the nonchalant stereotyping, which includes Linda stepping on poop, befriending a goat and getting fascinated by people eating off of banana leaves in India, lands somewhere between irksome and problematic.
This absolutely cringe worthy love story – very loosely put – also features half-naked children running with tires and blocks of cow dung decorated all around the country – because, why not.
Not a single character in the film – at least the ones who do have any speaking roles – have an actual Indian accent, despite being set in the country. For some inexplicable reason, Monique and Danny decided to fill all the roles with Americans – both white and brown-skinned ones. You have a country with a population of close to two billion people, and could not find a single Indian born and bred actor for a speaking role?
Even geographically speaking 'Basmati Blues' made a bunch of blunders. Despite being set in the south of India, the characters in the movie are seen dancing to music from various North Indian ethnicities, the traditions and cultures of which are as distinct as that of European nations.
Just for chuckles let us consider the fact that the particular village in the state of Tamil Nadu looks like Kerala (because that is where the shooting took place owing to lush greenery) and here people dance to Punjabi music, drink northeastern tea, and stay in Rajasthani houses. Each exotic-sounding word in the previous sentence is the name of different states of India, and they all have very distinct characteristics.
Despite all this, the most offensive aspect of the entire film is the utter lack of chemistry, especially when it comes to the music. There is no doubt Utkarsh and Brie are both talented singers – we have proof for this. When it came to singing a duet though, they sounded more like a cacophony of pitch-deaf hyenas than a talented musical duo. Moreover, there aren't enough songs to generate anything resembling a musical flow.
What Utkarsh and Brie lack in musical chemistry, they definitely do not make up for it in acting chemistry by any means. They look like two people acting at green screens rather than a romantic couple who fell in love while working together on a heroic cause.
On the technical side, it is a poorly edited movie, where there isn't any smooth transition between scenes, with even straightforward montages making for a painful watch. Direction is possibly the most unforgivable sin in the entire debacle. Danny is blind to the flippant racism in the film and overreaches for a cinematic experience that clearly cannot be achieved with anything short of heavy research, well-placed funds and an acute eye for errors.
Ultimately, this movie is nothing more than an insult to human intelligence that hits the bullseye of cinematic mediocrity, one that would have been nothing more than a blip in our radar, had it not been for Brie. Thankfully, it does seem like both her and Utkarsh have realized that 'Basmati Blues' is one of the biggest mistakes of their respective careers and have refrained from promoting the film.
It is perfectly understandable that the very girl who refused to even acknowledge Cassey Affleck while handing him the Best Actor award at the 2016 Oscars because he has been accused of sexual assault has an issue being associated with one of the most racially insensitive movies to be released this year.
Brie, we loved watching you be the tough Envy in 'Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,' girl-next-door Molly in '21 Jump Street,' passionate counsellor for troubled teenagers Grace in 'Short Term 12,' perseverant kidnapping victim Joy in 'Room' and pretty much everything else she has done. We are also excited to see you embody a powerful superhero for one of the biggest movie franchises in the world, but please consider 'Basmati Blues' your one and only hall pass.
To be fair, the film was shot in 2012, long before Brie knew any better – way before her Oscar win – take a look at the Blackberry she is lugging around for proof. There is no way she is repeating this mistake again.
Utkarsh, meanwhile, may not have become as big a star as his co-star but he too, has his share of success, what with prominent roles in 'The Mindy project' and 'White Famous'. As someone who experiences racial stereotyping in Hollywood firsthand, we cannot help but assume this will be a first and last for the rapper.
Many others who stood in the exact same spot as Brie have bounced back. We are sure she is more than capable of the same. After all, if we can forgive the colonialism apologetics who made 'Victoria And Abdul' and Dame Jude Dench for actually starring in it, may be forgiving Brie and forgetting she was ever in 'Basmati Blues' isn't that hard a task.
Then again, if nothing else works, fans can hope for Brie's Captain Marvel to have the superpower of deleting this film from its existence.